The MDA Vario II is basically the Vario with go-faster goodies under the hood. So it’s a Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphone with clever slide-out QWERTY keyboard. 
Inside there’s a beefy 400MHz Samsung CPU; the display is a 2.8in 240×320 LCD touchscreen that changes orientation with impressive speed and smoothness depending whether the keyboard is out or not, and on board is a decent 2mp camera for stills and an additional VGA camera for video telephony. You get the Windows-standard 64MB user memory plus a slot for microSD cards.
And this time around there’s HSDPA at 1.8Mbps and standard 3G (both of which worked like a dream when we tested them) plus WiFi (which was a tad flaky at picking up T-Mobile hotspots away from central London though it was fine – and fast – back in the office). The other significant addition is a scroll wheel on the left side of the body, HTC’s first and an immediate success for navigating websites or moving around option lists. Pressing the wheel makes a selection. Other useful extras around the include a new “OK” button that brings you back to the ‘today’ screen and another that provides instant access to the comms manager (set up Bluetooth, WiFi and so on). We were also impressed with details like the discreet blue backlighting on the keyboard (so you can type in the dark!) and two separate software ‘buttons’ to start a call – one for voice, one for video.
The precision and solid feedback from that scroll wheel is typical of the overall build quality. It’s excellent, with absolutely no creaking, firm buttons, an impressive slide mechanism for the keyboard, and lots of metal in the construction – the thing does after all weigh 176g.
Quibbles? Well, it is a bit of a brick – very difficult to use as a handheld phone, for instance. Battery life was disappointing, especially if you’re doing anything other than GSM texting; the claimed talk time is 5hr, but we consistently averaged below 3hr in tests. The stylus is a telescopic device that feels a bit flimsy: ok, you don’t need a stainless steel rod, but this one feels as though it would buckle with an over-enthusiastic press. The only connector for headphones is the mini USB port, and USB-to-3.5mm-jack adapters are thin on the ground – but then the Vario II does have A2DP Bluetooth
support for wirefree stereo headphones, and that delivered a pretty good
all-round sound.
The Vario II is basically a badged version of the HTC Hermes which was announced way back in February at 3GSM, and it’s been sold to other networks and rebranders – this is the same phone as the Orange SPV M3100, for instance, and HTC is selling it itself as the HTC TyTn. But T-Mobile’s version is probably the one to go for, because T-Mobile has the high-speed infrastructure in place now (or Real Soon Now) for most of Europe and the contract deals on Web’n’Walk professional are pretty good.

l Crackerjack. A very impressive smartphone, great to demonstrate and an easy sell especially with Web’n’Walk packages. No GPS, but everything else. The smartphone of the year?



Length 113 mm
Width 58mm
Depth 22mm
Main display
TFT touchscreen, 65K colours, 240×320 pixels, 42x57mm
2m, 1600×1200 pixels, flash; secondary QCIF video call camera
3G and HSDPA (1.8Mbps), quadband GSM, Bluetooth 2.0, USB 1.1, WiFi
Standby 200h
Talk time 5h
Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0; Pocket Office (Word, Excel, Outlook), Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player; 64MB user memory plus microSD card 
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