Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
2/2/2012 3:13:00 PM
Great combination of QWERTY keyboard and touch-screen for fluid navigation, intuitive calling and texting apps, compact home-screen with app shortcuts and widgets
Mediocre camera, have to pay to use Windows Live Messenger
In the age of superphones with super abilities in everything from email to sat nav, any non-HSDPA, high-speed phone looks awful weedy in comparison. But even the so-called basic phone is picking up powers that standard handsets of a few years back would never have been able to muster. Like the Orange Rio, a ZTE-made BlackBerry lookalike that comes with a QWERTY keyboard, touch-screen and even not-unreasonable EDGE internet capability.
The Rio is pretty well made for a plastic gizmo, with a 2.5-inch touch display sitting above a full-size QWERTY. Its keys are a bit hard and require more pressure than say, a BlackBerry, but it’s a pretty great effort regardless. There’s the standard setup of letters and most used symbols as the default button, with both a shift key for capitalisation and a function key for a second symbol.
The screen is of the cheaper resistive variety, but though you have to press a bit harder for an input to be recognised, its accuracy is fine for taps and swipes – and for typing, you have the keyboard. At 320x240 pixels and just 256K colours, it is dim and blurry, so not ideal for anything movie-related. 5MB internal memory won’t hold much beyond contacts and texts, but the microSD slot supports up to 8GB more. Across the base of the screen are six buttons including dedicated browser and camera buttons and a D-pad.
This isn’t a smartphone but the home screen squeezes in two toolbars – one for widgets and one for apps – at the base of the screen. Texting is well implemented, unlike a shamefully large number of smartphones. So you can type a friend’s name into the To: field to bring up a suggested list of contacts, write your message then hit the central button to send. As the Rio supports slower EDGE internet, you can also pick up your email, and use Windows Live Messenger (rebranded as Orange Messenger). However, as there’s no Wi-Fi, you have to pay 5p per message sent via the Orange network – which is a bit cheeky. Why not make it part of your plan’s data allowance? There’s rudimentary form of multitasking here – each time you exit a program, you’re asked if you want to close it or minimise it. Of course, the more programs you leave open, the slower the phone becomes.
The Rio packs a two-megapixel camera with no flash, and as you would expect from a phone at this price the images produced are merely average. Colours in daylight are a bit washed out and clarity markedly blurs when zoomed in. Lowlight shots are very dark and colours barely distinguishable. The web is where you’ll really appreciate the touch display as using a finger to navigate websites is far more intuitive than the D-pad found on non-touch QWERTY-packing phones. The excellent Opera Mini browser is preloaded – it does a fast, masterful job of rendering non-mobile websites for a low-power phone. Using the touch-screen to select links and the keyboard to type in addresses or search terms makes for a fluid, natural experience.
The Rio does the basics perfectly and its touch-screen/keyboard combo offers a new twist on mobile web on a non-smartphone. It apes a BlackBerry at a phenomenal price but with Orange also offering budget Android smartphones for only a little more, you’d have to be specifically after a basic device to pick this over the recently launched Barcelona or Stockholm.