For years Motorola has produced handsets firmly based on its best seller, the Razr V3. Fortunately, the Motorola Q 9 (previously known as the Motorola Q q9 and Q 9h or Q9h) breaks away from the thin clamshell design we know a little too well and is a slim, BlackBerry-style device that features a full Qwerty keypad and Windows Mobile 6.
Motorola is starting to break away from its clamshell roots and produce handsets that look and feel different. The Q 9 is a smart phone designed primarily for texting and emailing. Similar to BlackBerry handsets, the Q 9 is wide enough (67mm) to accomodate a large screen and full Qwerty keypad, but it's also only 12mm thin, which means it fits in your pocket and doesn't cause too much disruption.
The keypad is really well designed and we found it good for writing out long emails and text messages. Each key on the keypad is raised in the middle, making it easier to distinguish between them, and the keypad is curved, which matches the movement of your thumbs better than a straight one.
The colour screen is relatively large and satisfactory for reading long documents and emails on, but we think it could have been made wider still. Also, instead of a scroll wheel for scrolling through emails, Motorola has added a simple up, down and select button system on the top-right side, which some people might not like.
The Motorola Q 9 runs on Windows Mobile 6 Standard, which among other things means it supports push email through Exchange Servers, in addition to letting you set up push email via a Windows Live Hotmail account. You now also have the option to access emails through a BlackBerry server, using RIM's Windows Mobile 6 application.
There's HSDPA (3.5G) connectivity for browsing and both Internet Explorer Mobile and Opera Mobile browsers are pre-installed. Unfortunately, there's no Wi-Fi, but Motorola claims this is to increase battery life. HSDPA can currently achieve speeds of up to 1.8Mbps in the UK and we found it worked well, making browsing the Web a fast and enjoyable process.
Email and processing features aside, Motorola has made sure this phone isn't just about business. The Q 9 also features Windows Media player that lets you watch online video and play MPEG4 and WMV video files among others, and supports a variety of music formats, including MP3 and AAC+.
You can listen to music using the proprietary headphones or use a pair of stereo-Bluetooth (A2DP) headphones. On the back of the Q 9 there's a 2-megapixel camera that takes acceptable pics for MMS messages and mementos, but don't expect to print out large, clear photos.
On the left side of the Q 9 there's a handy expandable microSD slot that supports up to a 2GB card, which will hold around 400 songs and plenty of shots from the built-in camera.
Other Q 9 features include light-sensing technology that optimises the screen's brightness depending on the ambient light, USB 2.0 connectivity for quick data transfer with your PC, and quad-band connectivity, which means you can use it in any country that supports a GSM network.
Audio quality during calls was good and unlike many other smart phones didn't sound distorted or muffled. The speaker-phone mode is loud and easy to access using a dedicated key on the keypad. The stereo Bluetooth works fine -- we used a pair of Philips SHB6102 Bluetooth headphones without any problems.
The picture quality from the 2-megapixel camera was, as expected, not great and most pictures looked blurry when printed out at full size. Looking at pictures and videos on the Q 9's screen, however, was good and you can use Sling Media's SlingPlayer Mobile in conjunction with a Slingbox to watch your TV on it too.
There are two processors inside, which means there wasn't much lag while starting and using various applications at the same time. Relative to other smart phones running Windows Mobile, the Q 9 was quick to respond and seemed pretty smooth overall.
Battery life was acceptable, lasting for over a day without needing to recharge. Motorola quotes it at 260 minutes worth of talk time and 510 hours of standby.
There are loads of rivals out there -- the BlackBerry 8800 has GPS, and the Samsung i600 and Palm Treo 750v also have Qwerty keypads, but the Q 9 beats them all on the strength of its keypad alone. It's one of the best we have ever used.
Add to that HSPDA connectivity and a decent-sized screen and you have a worthy rival to RIM and Palm's offerings. Our only niggles are the lack of a scroll wheel and Wi-Fi, but otherwise this is one of the best smart phones around.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide