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Motorola CHARM - Review


Motorola CHARM - Review

The Motorola Charm features a 2.8 inch touch display, 3MP camera, QWERTY keyboard and is powered by a 600 MHz processor.The Charm was made available in the U.S. through T-Mobile and comes with Android 2.1 Eclair in it's retail packaging with Motorola's MotoBlur UI on top. Motorola later released the Android 2.2 FroYo update for the Charm

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As touchscreens continue to dominate the smartphone market, there are still a few out there you prefer the solid feel or a BlackBerry style QWERTY keyboard. Motorola is ready to fill this requirement with the introduction of the Motorola CHARM. Since this is a company that's been experiencing a resurgence of late, thanks to a couple of recent top notch Android smartphones, the CHARM is the company's unique spin on the much wanted form factor that's been clearly non-existent with the platform.



Design

Although the Motorola CHARM sports a plastic exterior, we like how the rear is coated with that all too familiar soft touch material that complements the silver colored bezel outlining the handset. The handset feels quite compact with a thickness of 0.45 inches and a weight of 3.88 oz. Although not as tough as the DROID devices, the CHARM still feels solidly constructed all around to boost your confidence about its plastic exterior.

The CHARM comes with a 2.8 inch TFT touch display which has a lackluster 320 by 240 (QVGA) resolution. Granted though it's capacitive technology, which is responsive to the touch, its quality is almost appalling as text is extremely fuzzy looking while colors are washed out. It also experiences some viewing angle problems and is not very visible under bright sunlight.

Below the display, and above the QWERTY you will find three touch sensitive buttons, which luckily dont get in the way of an accidental press.

On the left edge, you've got the typical microUSB port and decently sized volume rocker that offers a decent response when pressed.

While on the top side, you'll find the 3.5mm headset jack and dedicated power button. 

On its rear, we're presented with the 3-megapixel camera, cutout for the speakerphone, and the somewhat novel (at this point) track-pad which Motorola aptly calls the “BACKTRACK.”

Removing the rear cover requires a lot of force since you'll have to yank it off, but once that's accomplished, you'll have access to the microSD card slot, battery, and SIM card slot.

Motorola looks to have done a fantastic job crafting the portrait style keyboard on the CHARM. Although there is no spacing between buttons, they're raised enough and curved toward the middle to provide a good distinction between your thumbs. The soft plastic keys also offer a good tactile response when pressed, but it's the layout of the QWERTY that makes it so easy to use – it's actually similar to what you see on a regular keyboard. Additionally, there are some dedicated buttons on there that will give you access to specific functions and even 4-way directional keys to easily move around the cursor when typing a message.


Hardware

The Motorola CHARM is powered by a 600 MHz processor which is adequate to browse through the device, but will be strained if you run an animated wallpaper or other taxing task.

The device comes with 113MB of internal storage, but Motorola has been kind enough to include a 2GB microSD card with the package. If you want more storage, you can add up to 32GB of microSD storage.

The constant traveler will find the Motorola CHARM sufficient for their needs since it boasts quad-band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) GSM and dual-band (1700/2100 MHz) UMTS connectivity – the latter of which relies on T-Mobile's AWS band for 3G speeds. Similar to its other brothers and sisters, the CHARM packs Bluetooth 2.0 to allow other wireless devices to connect to it while its Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n radio can alternatively be used for a data connection.

During calls, voices are extremely audible on both ends. The strong tones of the earpiece makes every word sound full bodied. Even though the speakerphone is able to produce some strong tones as well, voices were noticeably muffled sounding

For something packing an 1130 mAh battery, we were content to find it more than adequate in getting by a solid one day of normal usage – plus with some juice left over to start of the next day. But Motorola decided to be nice and include a larger 1420 mAh battery for good measure with an accompanying rear cover for it. Actually, it does add a little hump to the rear cover, but we didn't find it to be a problem. Nonetheless, you'll be covered with more than enough battery life with the two batteries included with the packaging.

Camera

The CHARM comes with a simple 3 megapixel camera, which only features digital zoom and panorama assist mode. Outdoor images are thoroughly disappointing with their uninviting quality and inaccurate color reproduction. However, things weren't any better in low lit environments and indoors since there is a good amount of noise and pale looking colors in our shots.

The CHARM has a maximum shooting resolution of 352x288 pixels and an extremely sluggish capture rate of 10fps. The captured video lacks any detail and playback is painfully slow as well. 

If you are looking for a device with a good camera, you should not be considering the Motorola CHARM.


Software

The Motorola CHARM runs Android 2.1 Eclair customized with Motorola's latest MOTOBLUR interface, which was showcased on the Motorola DROID X and the Motorola DROID 2. The interface offers seven homescreens and some exclusive widgets to suit various tastes.

You also get tight social networking integration that will attempt to do its best in pairing up your contacts with their specific accounts. Additionally, it's rather nice to view statuses or tweets directly from the homescreen without having to navigate away to a separate app.

The CHARM still features the onscreen keyboard, though it does tend to slow down your typing immensely with heavy lagging due to the low powered CPU. The issue is easily rectified by using the physical keyboard for all of your input. It makes sense why Motorola chose to hide away the onscreen keyboard under settings.

The CHARM comes with an impressive music player, powered by tunewiki. The interface displays the album cover, track information, and on-screen controls, but it'll even load the lyrics as the song is being played. In addition, the player is able to aggregate additional content regarding the music artist as it has the ability to search for music videos on YouTube. Finally, we are content in finding a pleasing audio output from the speaker – it manages to emit decent sounding tones without being strained.

Despite the small QVGA display, the CHARM is capable at regular video playback. Of course, you'll have to make sure you're viewing it from a direct 90-degree angle for the most optimal experience – especially when moving it slightly will cause you to lose some focus.


Conclusion

With its somewhat different form factor and QWERTY keyboard, the Motorola CHARM is actually a well rounded device and a refreshing sight from the usual Android phones we are typically presented with. Priced at $79.99 on-contract, it makes for a decent offering when you factor in its rare portrait style QWERTY, inclusion of Android 2.1, and its quality construction. When we think about it more, its pricing is definitely fitting for any feature phone we've seen Motorola produce, but it's even more exciting when it's an Android powered smartphone we're talking about. In the end, it might not be quite to the level of its high-end counterparts in performance, but it's more than acceptable and functional to get you by your daily routines.

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