capsule review

Cingular 8525

At a Glance
  • Cingular 8525 PDA Phone

    PCWorld Rating

    The very fast data access offered by this PDA phone is undermined by poor battery life and a bulky design.

If checking e-mail or surfing the Web is sluggish on your aging cell phone, the Cingular 8525--the first PDA phone that's compatible with Cingular's fledgling high-speed HSDPA network--might be the answer to your prayers. For the most part, the 8525 delivers the broadband data speeds you'd expect. But poor battery life is an Achilles' heel for this otherwise capable handheld.

The Windows Mobile-based 8525 is not for people who like their handhelds sleek and skinny. The chunky, 6.2-ounce, 4.4-by-2.3-by-0.9-inch business-oriented device costs $450 (with a two-year contract) and sports an oversize (2.8-inch) 240-by-320 display that slides sideways to reveal a QWERTY keyboard along its vertical length.

You must rotate the phone 90 degrees to use its keyboard for data entry or to dial a number. To initiate calls when the keyboard is slid shut, you must use either a software keyboard or the navigation wheel at the bottom of the display to access a contact. The physical rotation can feel awkward, but at least the Windows Mobile 5 software is smart enough to display the screen contents vertically when the device is closed and horizontally when the keyboard is available. Keys on the 8525 seem to have been cut from a single sheet of metal; they aren't domed or separated. But the keyboard is wide for a handheld, and I found it usable for thumb typing e-mail and instant messages.

Browsing on the 8525 was more impressive: Though I encountered latency problems on some sites--I'd type in a URL and nothing would happened right away--HSDPA's superior download speed was evident once a page began loading. The high-speed successor to GSM/GPRS/EDGE service, HSDPA is the competitor to Sprint and Verizon's EvDO service. Cingular rates it at 400 to 700 kilobits per second, and charges the same $40 for unlimited access as it does for EDGE service. The overall experience was noticeably better than the snail's-pace surfing I endured with my EDGE-based Treo 650. Things speed up even more when you're within range of a Wi-Fi hot spot, since the 8525 also supports 802.11b/g wireless.

The quad-band 8525 (ready for use worldwide) proved surprisingly capable as a phone. Voice quality was crisp and loud in my test calls; callers reported that I sounded good, too. The built-in 2-megapixel camera produced better images than most phone cameras, especially indoors (thanks to a built-in flash). Cingular outfits the device with a full complement of Windows Mobile productivity apps.

Alas, the battery life in our lab tests was exceptionally poor: It lasted just 4 hours, 21 minutes, which ranks among the worst spans we've recorded. Overall, I'd recommend the 8525 to business users who don't mind carrying a few extra ounces (and an extra battery) in return for top speed and great voice and image quality.

Yardena Arar

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The very fast data access offered by this PDA phone is undermined by poor battery life and a bulky design.

    Pros

    • Delivers broadband data speeds
    • 2-megapixel camera works well

    Cons

    • Poor talk-time battery life
    • Bulky design
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