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So, let's say you're on a budget and you're looking for a good smartphone with a physical keyboard. Or, maybe you're not on a budget, you just want a phone with a QWERTY keyboard and there aren't many options out there. Either way, you've landed at the T-Mobile myTouch Q. Past myTouch phones have been top-notch and offered excellent performance and features. However, this myTouch is a little different. For one, it's made by LG instead of HTC, the company that made the previous myTouch devices, and the price is a lot cheaper. You may be thinking, "Wow, this is a great price for a brand that's earned a great reputation, but are these new models just as good or should I look at something else?"

If you follow the mobile industry, the differences between the new myTouch devices and the previous models are obvious. Whereas the last two myTouch phones were high-end "superphones", these new models are mid-range devices. Now, that's not a bad thing because it means you get a great price, but it also means that you can't expect the same kind of performance. The saying goes, "You get what you pay for", and in the cell phone world - with the myTouch Q - that is absolutely true.


Design & Features

The design of the myTouch Q is very different from it's brother (or sister), the myTouch, also just released by T-Mobile and LG. (Check out the written review of that phone if you're okay with a smartphone that doesn't have a physical keyboard.) For starters, the screen is smaller, coming in at 3.5-inches. This may be too small for some users. Thankfully, you have the aforementioned physical keyboard so you won't have to cram your thumbs on the small display when you type. The touchscreen is smooth and responsive. The display has a resolution of 320 x 480. This low resolution means that text looks pixelated. Graphics are rough and lack detail and colors are faded. It's definitely not the most impressive display out there, even for a mid-range device.

Naturally, the myTouch Q is thicker than most phones because of the slide-out keyboard. Still, LG has managed to fit in enough rounded edges and corners to make the phone feel slimmer than it really is. It's made entirely out of the plastic, but the extra weight of the keyboard gives it a solid feel. About that extra weight, it is a hefty device and you will notice it in your purse or pocket. The myTouch Q weighs 5.6 ounces and measures 4.7-inches tall, 2.5-inches wide, and .5-inches thick.

The volume rocker buttons are on the left side of the phone and the microUSB port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Power button are all on the top of the phone. Below the display are four capacitive buttons for Menu, Home, Back, and Genius Button functionality. The speaker grill is on the back of the phone towards the bottom. Underneath the battery cover, you'll find the 1520 mAh battery, SIM card slot, and microSD card slot. The phone ships with a 2GB card and supports up to 32GB of additional memory with a card. The phone itself has 2GB of internal memory, though not all of that is available to the user since some is taken up by pre-installed apps that cannot be uninstalled.


Usability & Performance

The myTouch Q ships with Android version 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) along with a customized version of LG's UI made for these myTouch phones. If you compare the UI of the myTouch and the myTouch Q, you'll notice some differences between the two. The version on the myTouch Q features lighter colors, whereas the version on the myTouch is darker. Some of the features that LG has added are a shortcut dock at the bottom of the homescreen that can be customized, toggles in the notification panel, a categorized app drawer, and a few additions to the Messaging and Phone interface. If the categorized app drawer isn't your thing, you can change it to Page view or List view. Along with these customizations, LG and T-Mobile have included some custom widgets like Application Manager, Battery, E-mail, Genius Button, MobileLife Calendar and Shopping List, Richnote, Sticky note, and T-Mobile TV.

Overall performance has been what you would expect from a mid-range device. It is powered by a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 processor and has 512MB of RAM. The processor scored a 1,204 on the Quadrant Standard test and recorded 34.232 MFLOPS in 2.45 seconds on the Linpack Benchmark. Pinch-to-zoom was choppy in the web browser and running multiple apps resulted in significant lag. Though it is unreasonable to expect anything resembling perfection from a mid-range device, I will still disappointed in the phone's performance. The lag and choppy performance was too frustrating at times. Opening and loading the gallery literally took 5-10 seconds on a regular basis and that's just one example of the lag I experienced.

I was very impressed and satisfied with the myTouch Q's physical keyboard. The keys are plastic and not raised very high above the surface, but the slightly rounded design and the fact that they are so easy to press (read: not too firm) made it a joy to use. Despite being island-style keys, they are difficult to differentiate from one another if you aren't looking at the keyboard. This didn't prove to be a problem for me, but if you're in the habit of not looking at the keyboard when you type, this may be something to consider. The four-row keyboard features a dedicated Space Bar row and primary keys for the comma, period, question mark, at symbol, and .com. There are also shortcuts keys for Menu, Text, Home, Web, and emoticons. The keyboard is well-designed and very comfortable to type on.

I've been testing out the myTouch and myTouch Q in the Dallas metroplex area. Interestingly, though both phones are nearly identical in every way and both use T-Mobile's 14.4 Mbps HSPA+ network, I've recorded significantly slower speeds on the myTouch Q compared to the myTouch. I'm not sure if this indicates that a different wireless radio was used in the myTouch Q or if it just shows how much data speeds can vary from phone to phone, even if they are the exact same phone. I reached a high of 5 Mbps on the myTouch Q but average speeds were 3 Mbps. The phone can also act as a mobile hotspot for up to eight devices. I had no trouble turning on this feature and connecting several devices to the network.

Pictures captured by the myTouch Q's 5-megapixel autofocus camera will be adequate enough for sharing with friends through social networking sites or MMS, but they're not going to blow you away. Colors showed up well but the pictures lacked detail. The camera has a flash, but pictures taken in dark settings with the flash turned on had a slight green tint to them. The myTouch Q's camera also captures 720p HD video, but the video is severely lacking in detail and audio quality was poor. We have uploaded an HD video sample that you can view for your own examination. Sample pictures can be seen in the video review of the myTouch Q.

One special feature that the myTouch comes with is the Genius Button. This app allows you to make calls, send texts, do a web search, and get directions by simply using voice controls. This is useful in everyday contexts, but even more so while driving. In testing, this functionality worked great and I had few problems. It's certainly not as advanced as other software out there, Siri comes to mind, but it understood most commands and is easy to use.

The myTouch Q uses a 1520 mAh battery. While using the phone for web browsing, social networking, texting, and making calls along with widgets and notifications running in the background, I was able to get through almost a full 12-hour day. Typically, 4G devices have significantly shorter battery life than 3G devices and this is true with the myTouch Q, especially given its small battery. Though battery performance will vary depending on your usage habits, you will probably have to charge the battery every night and you may want to carry a charger with you during the day just to be safe.


Conclusion

The myTouch Q definitely has some things going for it. It's a 4G phone with an excellent QWERTY keyboard, and features like HD video capture and Genius Button functionality catch your attention. However, after considering T-Mobile's other options when looking for a smartphone with a physical keyboard, the myTouch Q just doesn't stack up. Even after considering the low price, phones like the Sidekick 4G or even the myTouch 3G Slide will offer much better performance at around the same price. If a physical keyboard isn't a must, check out the LG Optimus T, HTC Wildfire, or the Samsung Exhibit 4G.


Wrap-Up

The Good: Excellent physical keyboard; Genius Button; 4G; decent camera quality.

The Bad: Poor overall performance; terrible video capture quality.

The Verdict: For the price, T-Mobile has better options.


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