Verdict: A chunky device, but it supports two SIMs which could be a real lure
Price: £397 SIM free
Pros: Supports two SIMs, TV Out, HSDPA, GPS, WiFi
Cons: Chunky, slightly slow screen responses at times, 2.5mm headset jack, disappointing keypad
Design: Possibly too large to double up as a handset for Saturday night, so you may still need a second phone
Operating System: Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
More Info: Acer website
Acer's recent entry into the Windows Mobile smartphone world comprised four handsets, collectively known as the Tempo series. Arguably, the most interesting of the four is the DX900, largely because it supports two SIMs.
If you find that idea strange, take a step back. You may be one of the many people who have two phones on the go, one for work, and one for non-work (er, that’ll be play, then). With the DX900, you can put both SIMs into the one handset and just have one phone.
This sounds appealing. It might be less so if one of your two phones is currently a small, sleek and good-looking handset, because the DX900 can’t really lay claim to any of those attributes. It weighs a hefty 147g and measures 106mm tall, 60.5mm wide and 17mm thick. It is a fully-fledged Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional smartphone, and has the size and weight credentials to match. So, those nights out when you want to travel really light may still require a second handset.
Acer has done a good job of allowing you to work with two SIMs. You can choose to have the SIMs from the same or different networks, or even from home or abroad, and you're given a choice with each call or text message to make it from the default Phone 1 or switch to phone 2, though it will automatically switch to the relevant SIM when you receive a call.
There is a SIM manager that lets you edit contacts on either SIM, and it is easy to choose which SIM to send an SMS from. You create an SMS in the usual way; then decide which SIM to send it from afterwards. On the main screen you can see signal strength for both SIMs at once, and it is a doddle to decide which to make a voice call from. The handset will also automatically switch to the relevant SIM when you receive a call. You can even use different ring tones for each SIM and disable one completely – turning off the work one at weekends, for example.
The screen is not particularly large by modern smartphone standards, being 2.8 inches across diagonal corners, but it does have a 640 x 480 pixel resolution and it’s sharp and bright. It is nice to see TV Out supported, which isn’t that widespread among Windows Mobile smartphones. Unfortunately, a cable is not provided so you’ll need to purchase one as an add-on to use this feature.
The 2.5mm headset slot won’t please anyone interested in using their smartphone for music listening, especially since 3.5mm headsets are the most common It is on the left edge, and so is located to cause pocket snags when a headset is connected. Buy an adaptor to 3.5mm and you run even more risk of snagging.
It comes with 256MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM, which is not overly generous considering a lot of the memory is used up by pre-installed extras, which in turn, affect the performance of the handset. However, you can boost the memory with a microSD card. The slot is conveniently located on the right edge next to the main on/off switch.
The Acer DX900 is a 3G device with HSDPA, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS, although second SIM can only deliver GPRS/Edge and tri-band GSM. The default browser is Internet Explorer, although you can download Opera if you want an immediate improvement in speed and functionality.
The phone has a gravity sensor so that the screen turns as you move the handset round in your hands so you can view web pages in landscape mode. Gravity sensors aren’t unusual these days, but what is a rarity is that you can set up an exception list so it won’t switch orientation when specific applications are running.
You can shoot video at a maximum of 640 x 480 pixels, which is ok, but be careful of the phone’s tendency to blur with any fast movement.
The main camera shoots stills at a fairly sedate three megapixels. It has an LED flash and self-portrait mirror. Like many smartphone cameras, the DX900 isn’t wonderful but it works okay for the odd snap. Don’t expect too much from that flash, though, as you need to be quite close to your subject for it to have any effect. There is also a front camera for two-way video calling.
Acer, like many others who use the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system, has decided to implement its own user interface (using a tweaked version of Spb’s Mobile Shell 2.1) to make things a bit more finger friendly. This gives you several screens of information that are designed to be easy to tap with a finger, and, as is the convention, you move between them by sweeping the screen. This makes it easy to get to contacts, the calendar, and the main menu, for example. The Windows keypad is small and the keys are almost impossible to use, forcing us to use the stylus. Acer’s attempt to remedy this problem with its own QWERTY Easy Keyboard made little difference; again we had to resort to using the stylus.
Microsoft Office comes preloaded as a full app so you can view and create Word, Excel and PowerPoint docs on the move. There is also GPS on board, and while there is no bundled sat nav software this can be easily remedied by the plethora of options available from the main providers
The other software extras which come pre-installed include Namecard Manager, which recognises business cards and sends their contents to the contact manager; a backup utility; Voice Commander for voice control; Location SMS for sending an SMS message with your location in latitude and longitude as part of a text message; Satellite Data for improving the efficiency of the GPS receiver; and Easy Keyboard.
The DX900 is heavy and clunky, and does not score well when rated against market leaders, such as the Apple iPhone. However, Acer has come up with an innovative solution for dealing with two SIMs in one handset, so if you are looking for a smartphone that can do this, it’s definitely worth a look.