Motorola XT860 4G Gingerbread phone is one tasty cookie

Motorola’s conservatively designed but very capable XT860 4G Android phone sneaked quietly into the Canadian market several weeks ago via Bell Canada.

In the flood of touchscreen-only options out there, we hope the XT860 would not be overlooked by consumers because this powerful slider phone keyboard comes packed with a lot of top of the line features. A 1Ghz dual core processor, 4” liquid crystal display (LCD), and front and back cameras with video capability are just the beginning of the list of tasty goodies this Gingerbread device has to offer.

Motorola appears to have listened to users as it did away with Motoblur in this device, which runs of Android 2.3.4. Motoblur, a custom Android interface focused on social networking, annoyed a lot of people because it required users to create a Motoblur account before allowing access to the main screen. With the XT860, users now only need to log in to your Google account. We still found this quite annoying as it requires quite some time for first time users to sign in or create an account when what they really want is to start exploring the phone’s features.

The Motorola XT860 with QWERTY keyboard

Here are some of the phone’s key features:

  • Android 2.3.4 with custom Motorola overlay
  • 4-inch 960×540 resolution qHD PenTile LCD display
  • 1Ghz Dual-core TI OMAP4430 processor
  • 512MB RAM / 16GB Internal Storage (expandable to 48GB with microSD card)
  • 8MP back camera w/ dual-LED flash / VGA front camera
  • 1080p video capture at 30 frames per second
    WiFi (b/g/n) / Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP support / A-GPS, S-GPS
  • Micro HDMI output
  • 1540mAh battery with 15 – 24 hour battery life under normal use
  • Dimensions : 124 x 64 x 13 mm
  • Weight : 184g
  • GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900 (2G) / UMTS 850/1900/2100 (3G)
  • Runs on Bell’s HSPA+ network

The Motorola XT860 4G is available for $99.95 on a three-year term with Bell and $549.95 without a contract.

First impressions

Despite its weight and the slide out keyboard and large dimension, we found the XT860 suprisingly thin and easy to store in ones jacket or even shirt pocket. In fact with a thickness of 13 mm. Motorola claims it is the “world thinnest” slider phone.

We love the graphite and black muted colour scheme and find the phone’s design classy. At first look the phone is hardly distinguishable from other touchscreen phones in the market. That impression quickly changes, when you pull out the full QWERTY keyboard and discover how useful and thoughtfully it’s laid out.

For example, having a separate row for numbers makes typing so much easier. The addition of a dedicated OK button and a @ button make for faster text and email messaging. Like other smartphones, the XT860 had a volume rocker for easy audio level control. The phone comes with microUSB and mini HDMI ports on the bottom left corner, and the power and 3.5mm jack are on the top.

We found the phone to be very capable in multitasking, allowing users to do Internet searches even while various social networking apps such as Facebook and Twitter are still open.

Like Motorola’s Atrix, the XT860 has integration capabilities with Citrix Receiver. This allows the users to access cloud-based business application and virtual desktop functionality via Microsoft Office’s Web-hosted version.  

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Dual core processors
  • Great keyboard
  • Business oriented features
  • Greta battery life

Cons

  • Keyboard keys are too close together
  • 512MB RAM could have been bumped up to 1GB like in the Atrix
  • Camera images becomes grainy in low light
  • Phone gets hot after moderate use
  • Expensive

Call quality
Long before the smartphone, Motorola ruled the walkie-talkie world. The company’s strenght in remote communications is apparent in the XT860’s more than 10 hours of talk time and great sound quality. The unit’s second microphone which is used for noise cancellation made sure that we and the people we called scarely experienced any static. Reception was also very good even outside the Greater Toronoto Area on in places such as basements or stairwells where signals are usually degraded.

Display
Text was crisp and readable and images for the most were bright and with good colour saturation on the XT860’s 960×540 pixel resolution LCD display.

LCD backlight is major drain on battery life but the PenTile screen technology licensed by Samsung helps the XT860 cut down power consumption. When the image is mostly de-saturated colours, the technology significantly reduces the backlight brightness. When the image has bright saturated colours, the backlight brightness is maintained at higher levels. The system cuts power consumption by as much as 50 per cent compared to conventional LCD displays.

Camera
With adequate lighting, we achieve excellent detail and accurate colour representation with minor graininess on most shots using both front and back facing cameras for both indoor and outdoor situations. There was a bit of graininess in the images when photos were shot in low light conditions.

The camera controls on the XT860 are pretty simple and intuitive. However, it is disappointing that Motorola decided to forgo a dedicated hard button for the shutter. We found it very easy to accidentally trigger the phones touchscreen-mounted shutter release.

A nice feature is the auto upload of photo or video which enables user to automatically email their photos and videos of post them to Facebook.

Conclusion
The media and social networking features of the XT860 are a joy to use once you have gone through the required sign in with your Google account. The phones power, functionality and great call quality more than compensates for its uniform styling.

The feature that will probably be most attractive to business users is virtual desktop and Exchange support which we have seen lately in the Atrix.

Nestor ArellanoNestor Arellano is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and join the IT Business Facebook Page.

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