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Review: The Motorola Q is RAZR Sharp

Review by Michael Oryl on Wednesday May 31, 2006.

motorola q · verizon · smartphone reviews · motorola news · smartphone news · michael oryl

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Since its unveiling last year at Motorola's MOTONOW event in Chicago, people have been hot to get their hands on Motorola's answer to the RIM BlackBerry. In fact, while it was still under wraps, rumors swirled around the internet of what people commonly called the "RAZRberry", which while less than original, turns out to have been reasonably accurate.

Now that it has finally been released on Verizon Wireless' CDMA EV-DO network, people have been going wild for the Q. And with good reason, it seems. It has the full QWERTY keyboard of its competitors, yet is lighter and thinner than any of them. In fact, Motorola touts the Q as the thinnest QWERTY device on the market.

Physical Aspects

Physically, the Motorola Q is much like a traditional RIM BlackBerry that has been stretched a bit longer, narrower, and thinner. It measures 116mm x 66mm x 12mm (4.6" x 2.6" x .5") in size. When compared to the Palm Treo 700p we just reviewed, the Q is 3mm longer (if you ignore the 700p's stub antenna), 6mm wider, and about half as thick. When you consider that the Q weighs only 122g (4.3oz) with a miniSD card inserted, you end up with a very pocketable device that weighs 15 to 50g less than the competition. That's something that Motorola can be proud of.

Of course thin and light are great, but the device and its keys, buttons, and controls all need to be usable. The Q does fairly well in that regard, though not exactly perfectly. There are no controls on the left edge of the Q, just the memory card slot, IR port, and USB port. On the right side, however, you will find a 3-way scroll wheel (up, down, and select) and a dedicated back button under the wheel. The wheel works pretty well, allowing you to quickly scroll through lists and menus, but sometimes seems to land between two detented positions, which makes selecting a particular item sometimes more difficult than it should be. But overall, it works well and the back key is very convenient.

Below the display on the Q are the two softkeys, a 5-way d-pad controller, the red and green call buttons, and dedicated home and back buttons. The d-pad is raised slightly from the face of the Q and has a nice edge around its perimeter that makes it easy to locate by touch. The direction action is nice, but sometimes the center select buttons seems to not register. This could be a software issue (OS lag or something), but regardless I feel that it needs to be improved a bit.

Similarly, the QWERTY keyboard functions well overall, but every once in a while it seems as if a keypress gets missed. Firstly, I'd prefer that the keys be made of a slightly softer material rather than the hard plastic that is currently used - something with a bit of grab would be a nice change. I also think that the keys require too much pressure to activate, noticeably more than the Treo 700p. From a usability perspective, I miss a left side shift key and a backspace key. Being forced to use the "back" button that is located to the right of the d-pad is mildly disruptive. In terms of the rest of the functionality, it is pretty good. Dedicated messaging, camera, and voice dialing keys are convenient, and the Alt key (located beneath the A) allows for easy access to the number keys and various special characters.

The back of the Q is where you'll find the lens for the 1.3 megapixel digital camera, along with its assist light (or flash). The portion of the cover that conceals the battery can be removed and swapped out for a different cover that works with a larger capacity battery. Lower on the back of the device is where a pair of stereo speakers can be found - admittedly not in the most optimal location. The only other feature worth noting is the presence of a 2.5mm headset jack located on the top of the device (not next to the IR port as seen on early Q prototypes).

The physical design of the Q is a good one. It is comfortable to hold and use, and fits into a pants or jacket pocket easily. The device feel solidly made, though the silver paint used looks like it chips pretty easily. After a week of solid use I can already see a few small chips that expose the gray plastic underneath. But while that might affect the looks of the device, it should have no impact on its function.

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About the author

Michael Oryl
Michael is the Philadelphia based owner and former editor-in-chief of MobileBurn.com. You can follow him on Twitter as @MichaelOryl

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