Using Web sites designed to check the speed of home broadband connections we got speeds of around 1.2Mbps regularly. That's not the maximum possible, but it is still very impressive. In places where HSDPA is not yet available, the MDA Vario II will drop down through the sequence to 3G then GPRS.
T-Mobile takes advantage of this 'mobile broadband' service by having a dedicated button above the screen that drops you right into its Web'n'walk homepage. From there you can search the Web using a Google search bar or, for simplicity and speed, just choose one of the many links T-Mobile has pre-configured for you.
There are a couple of pleasant surprises with the built-in 2-megapixel camera. When you switch it on using a button mounted on the bottom-right edge of the casing, the screen turns into a viewfinder in the usual way. Around the screen are icons, which when tapped give you easy access to settings and options. There is a macro mode and this is similarly easy to switch in and out of -- by flicking a switch on the lens itself which sits on the back of the casing.
If we have a grumble about the camera it is that the lens is not protected in any way -- it is not even recessed. This means you'll be advised to carry the MDA Vario II in the provided case to help avoid scratches.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are both here and it is nice to see infrared built in, too. Just like any other Pocket PC, the MDA Vario II supports mobile email and it's easy to set up your standard POP email account. Business users might like the Microsoft Direct Push support which means the MDA Vario II can synchronise with a work-based network running Exchange Server 2003. There is also support for another synchronisation service, BlackBerry Connect. Business user or not, the ClearVue PDF reader software that is added to the standard Windows Mobile software might prove useful.
It is without a doubt the fast HSDPA that steals the show. Having super-fast Internet access at your fingertips is fantastic, however there is a price to pay in battery life.
T-Mobile suggests you can get four and a half hours of talk out of the MDA Vario II. Play around with mobile Internet access too much, though, and you'll find this figure rather less. Similarly, if you are a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth fan you'll deplete the battery in under four hours. On balance, if you are going to use the MDA Vario II to its full advantage, we'd suggest budgeting for a daily charge.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield