T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Photo Comparisons

There’s a lot to say about Danger and T-Mobile’s new Sidekick 3, and truth be told, most of it has already been said – and well – by MobileBurn’s Michael Oryl. So rather than rehash most of the commentary out there, our take on the SK3 is going to come in several parts, and focus on a few things that we consider to be interesting and worthwhile about this hybrid cell phone and data device. Part one deals with the new Sidekick’s camera and phone reception.

We’ve said a number of times that we were not impressed with the cameras on Motorola’s various iTunes phones: virtually every company is switching to decent 1.3 Megapixel (1280×1024) or 2.0 Megapixel (1600×1200) cameras these days, and Motorola has been releasing .3 Megapixel (640×480) phones for U.S. customers. Its first exception to that – the RAZR V3i – has a 1.3 Megapixel camera that’s so blurry that you can barely distinguish it from a .3 camera. So we were glad to see that Danger did the right thing with Sidekick 3, not only upgrading its camera from .3 to 1.3 Megapixels, but actually making very substantial detail gathering improvements in the process. This shot is from the SK2 – click on it to see a full-sized version.

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We did some direct indoor and outdoor comparisons between the Sidekick 2 and 3 cameras just to see how much better the new model performed. In both of our sample scenes below, you’ll see considerable improvements in the SK3, which are magnified even further when you open the shots in an image editing program and zoom in. To help you make the comparisons quickly, we’ve done some zooming and cropping for you. Below is the same shot as above, taken with the SK3, then a series of crop and resize comparisons. Again, you can click on this shot to see a full-sized version, which is much larger than the SK2 version. You won’t realize the scope of difference until you click.

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T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Photo Comparisons

This comparison shows how much additional detail the SK3 camera captures natively: the SK2 and SK3 pictures are cropped and shown at actual pixel size.

T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Photo Comparisons

This comparison shows how much better the SK3 picture looks than the SK2 picture when the SK3 picture is shrunk down to SK2 size. The detail difference is striking.

T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Photo Comparisons

Similarly, this comparison shows how much better the SK3 looks than the SK2 when you try to scale the SK2 picture up to match the native SK3 size.

For similarly comparative indoor shots and comments on cell phone reception, click on Read More.
In this second series of shots, the SK3’s strengths become more apparent: it is more color accurate (especially indoors) than the SK2 was, though it’s also fair to say that neither camera is truly great in this regard. You’ll also note that the SK3 camera remains noisy and a little less than perfectly sharp – not as bad as the SK2’s, but still not the rival of a dedicated digital camera. It also has a tendency to blow out highlights – bright spots in a photograph – rendering them all white, or super-bright.

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T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Photo Comparisons

This comparison shows how much additional detail the SK3 camera captures natively: the SK2 and SK3 pictures are cropped and shown at actual pixel size.

T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Photo Comparisons

This comparison shows how much better the SK3 picture looks than the SK2 picture when the SK3 picture is shrunk down to SK2 size.

T-Mobile Sidekick 3: Photo Comparisons

Similarly, this comparison shows how much better the SK3 looks than the SK2 when you try to scale the SK2 picture up to match the native SK3 size.

We’ve noticed that there’s still a shutter lag on the SK3 camera – somewhat annoying – but it’s compensated for by several major improvements. Our unit came with a 64MB miniSD card, which now stores lots of pictures – the exact number depends on the JPEG mode you’re in, and resolution, but ranges from around 60 to hundreds. The SK3 makes transfers from phone memory to the card’s memory super-easy, and also includes a USB cable that lets you transfer the photos directly off the memory card onto a PC or Mac. We found this process fast and easy, though it’s worth noting that the miniSD card won’t fit in most card readers without an adapter, so you’ll need to buy one or rely on the SK3 for transfers.

Phone performance thus far has been equivalent to the SK2, which is to say very good indeed. While we don’t get the impression that any reception improvement has been made – bad news for those who were hoping to go from 0 bars to 1 bar in their homes – calls sound as good on both ends as they did before, at least with both the speakerphone and the integrated microphone. This can’t be taken for granted, as the SK2 remains a performance leader in reception by comparison with many other phones we’ve tested on T-Mobile’s network, and the fact that SK3 appears to be as good isn’t lost on us. Unfortunately, callers said we sounded much worse when using the included wired headset – now with two earbuds as opposed to one – with a considerably lower decibel level and less clarity of our speech. (Update: A toggle in the SK3’s menus lets you switch the port to use a one-earbud headset, restoring the old performance.) More details to come.

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