T-Mobile seems relentless in releasing a series of PDA-styled phones for the business user at the moment. The latest model to hit the shelves in the UK is the MDA Vario a steamlined version of its MDA Pro. But can the operator hit the jackpot every time or is there a point were enough is enough?

Considerably smaller than the MDA Pro, the MDA Vario comes across as a chunky looking phone rather than an all singing all dancing PDA. The front is dominated by a large 240x320 64k colour screen (it’s a 640x480 screen on the Pro) with barely enough room for a few buttons at the bottom of the device.

It’s virtually identical in size to T-Mobile’s own original MDA and Orange’s M500 only slightly thicker (M500 is W58mm x L108mm x D18mm, the MDA is W58mm x L106mm x D18mm and the MDA Vario is W58mm x L108mm x D24mm). The extra thickness is due to the addition of a QWERTY keyboard that slides out from under the screen.

The keyboard is a nice touch, and certainly allows input like emails to be considerably quicker than tapping away at an on-screen keyboard. The keys are well spaced out, running down the side of the model rather than from the bottom like Sony Ericsson’s P900. T-Mobile has gone to the effort of making sure that when you do slide out the keyboard, the screen auto-rotates to the right orientation.

The reverse of the body houses a 1.3 Megapixel camera and while the quality of these types of cameras is getting better all the time, the images captured on it clearly demonstrate that the camera is part of larger device rather than a dedicated imaging product.

Inside and the phone comes with Quad band support for worldwide connectivity (a plus on the MDA Pro’s tri-band offering), integrated Bluetooth and 128Mb of ROM and 64Mb of SDRAM. It is also runs the latest version of Microsoft’s Windows Mobile (version 5) operating system giving it a lead over the Orange and previous MDA’s Windows Mobile 2003 offering.

Like other “Smart” phone offerings current from T-Mobile the phone also supports the hugely marketed and hyped Web‘n’Walk feature and you can surf the web in the same way as you can with the MDA Pro. In practice this means that if the website hasn’t been designed for use on a small screen (check out Pocket-lint.co.uk’s PDA version), the internal software will automatically rearrange the page so it can be.

That is all well and good, but without 3G connectivity loading pages via GSM is incredibly slow and is reminiscent of going back to dial up, there is some saving grace that the device offers wi-fi support, but this is only good if you are in wi-fi hotspot.

This slowness can also be found in the running of the machine and the Vario is noticeably slower than the MDA Pro - 195Mhz compared to the Pro's 520 MHz and while its not slow enough to cause alarm, you do have to wait that nanosecond too long for programs to open and applications to respond.

Verdict

Overall the MDA Vario a good little unit that adds a keyboard to T-Mobile's previous MDA offering and the similar Orange M500, however the system is a tad slow to use and the lack of 3G will serious hinder the ability to surf the web effectively.

If you are not sure whether or not to go the whole hog with a connected PDA, but want more than just a phone this will fit the bill, although you may feel by the end of it you've been given a raw deal when it comes to going online.