Motorola DEXT/Android First Impressions Review

I loved the look of the Motorola DEXT hardware, the specifications aren’t bad on paper either, but I started using Android with much scepticism.

It wasn’t long, however, until it had won me over… at least in part. I’m still eager to get my hands on the N900 and a shiny new version of Maemo that looks light-years ahead of my N810, but I digress.

The DEXT is a pretty solid little handset with an all important slide-out keyboard which you simply couldn’t do without on such a social-networking centric device. The keyboard isn’t the best I’ve used, but it’s close. The keys have a significant bevel which emphasises their separation, making it easier to hit the right key and thus making typing bearable.

I much prefer a hardware keyboard to the frustrating virtual one in the iPhone and, in fact, the frustrating virtual one on the DEXT itself. I haven’t got on well with virtual keyboard since typing on a mobile device involved either stabbing at one with a stylus or learning a bizarre dialect of symbolic letters to meet the software half way in a parody of character recognition (a practise that made the PSION very close to people’s hearts).

The DEXT seems to be remarkably snappy for browsing and more, leaving me pocketing my N810 in frustration and doing my mobile forum frequenting on the DEXT instead. The webkit powered browser is, of course, very similar to that in Apple’s iPhone although the complete lack of pinch zooming is a very frustrating thing to come to terms with. Multiple windows are supported and can easily be switched between and identified using thumbnail previews. Of course, anyone with an ounce of experience with Android will already know this!

MotoBLUR is one of the DEXTs most touted features. Motorola’s social networking centric Android customisations are quite good, leading a dumped DEXT ROM to be quite popular amongst Android powered HTC handset owners. The mere fact that MotoBLUR has made it (unofficially) beyond just Motorola devices, thanks to a determined community, speaks volumes about just how good it is. I do enjoy having Twitter and Facebook on my home-screen, where people’s statuses finally get shoved under my nose… I don’t log into either service often!

The DEXT is a little fat, but still quite pocketable for a keyboard-endowed device. I’m a huge fan of the boltgun metal and black colouring, but the naff plastic battery cover with a perplexing array of large, inverted braille adorning it leaves much to be desired. More metal, please, Motorola, this almost wins the competition for worst battery cover I’ve ever laid hands upon. Although I think I’ve finally got the hang of getting the blasted thing back on again.

Much to the frustration of memory card junkies the Micro SD slot on the Motorola DEXT is internal, stowed away underneath the batter cover. Fortunately a card can be swapped in without removing the battery so I guess this could be scored as one less hole for dust and grime to find its way into.

The DEXT is clearly born to work in landscape mode, the USB charger is on the left-hand side which I think Motorola would like you to think of as the bottom. If ever a dock arrives for this phone then it’ll be a landscape one. Fortunately the headphone port is at the top and is dead centre. Unfortunately the camera is also at the top (or the far left in landscape) and seems to be precisely placed to take the most unwanted photos of your fingers.

The front of the handset is endowed with only 3 buttons. Menu, Home and Back. The 5-way navigator is on the left of the keyboard which is a particularly unusual design choice that also plagues us Nokia N810 owners. The navigator is absolutely beautiful for one handed operation of the web browser, but you have to have the keyboard slid out to use it. Suffice to say, one handed portrait web browsing is an absolute no-go unless you have freakishly small and accurate thumbs.

Last but not least is the silent switch, which you better damned well have some thumbnails to be able to operate, the volume control, a lock/power button and a camera shutter button.

Overall it’s a nice phone which doesn’t make me want to throw it down in frustration, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get one. My heart is still very much set on the N900, and the screen density of modern devices just isn’t fit for kludgy, fat fingered, inaccurate prodding.

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