Review: Sidekick 3
By the measurements alone, the Sidekick 3 doesn't seem that much smaller than the previous version. But looking at the devices side-by-side, it's obvious the new version is much smaller. It is narrower, which makes it more comfortable to hold as a phone than the previous version. It is also slightly thinner at the edges and more sleekly shaped, which helps it to slide into pockets better.
The Sidekick is almost always used horizontally, even if you're not using the keyboard. The screen is always oriented that way, and so that is how the device was designed to feel best in your hand. The sides where the navigation buttons and controls are, have been slimmed down and further tapered. This makes gripping the Sidekick easier.
The edges at the top and bottom (or what become the sides when holding the Sidekick to talk on it) no longer sport rubber bumper and now have a curved channel running down them. Your index fingers sit comfortably in this channel when holding the Sidekick normally, and they also make it easier to grip when holding it as a phone. However when holding it as a phone, the hard edges of these channels can become uncomfortable, especially on the thumb.
Other than the trackball, the navigation keys are now flush with the front surface of the phone, as is the screen. Although the buttons look like they are fixed and work by conduction, all the buttons do, in fact, press in.
We're not sure if it's because the screen is now flush with the phone or because of some other reason, but it no longer swings open as smoothly as on past models. It also only opens when pressed from the top right, flipping it up from the bottom left corner does not work anymore.
The other big change to the navigation buttons is the replacement of the 2-way scroll wheel with a multi-directional trackball. In addition to enhancing navigation, the trackball takes over light duties from the D-pad. The trackball is very easy to use, and you adapt to it very quickly. It makes most tasks quicker, from navigation to editing. So far it is under-used in games- we wish that the Sidekick 3 would have shipped with a Missle Command or Centipede remake instead of the usual Rock-n-Rocket Asteroids clone.
It is a shame to say, but the Sidekick II is still the king of QWERTY keyboards; not even the 3 can compete. The 3 features the exact same key layout, which is still one of the best around, but the keys themselves have changed. Gone are the large rubber-coated keys, replaced by hard shiny plastic keys. The keys have a slightly convex surface and are very slippery, which affected the accuracy of our typing, but not nearly as much as keys on the Q. Still, we can type with nearly 100% accuracy on the Sidekick II and only right about about 90-95% of the time when using the 3.
In addition to retaining an excellent keyboard layout, the 3 retains excellent usability. Holding the Sidekick with both hands wrapped around the sides, the keyboard is at an excellent depth for thumb typing and each key is large enough to hit without fear of mashing surrounding keys. The Sidekick keyboard is also one of the few with a full row of numeric keys, which makes things like entering phone numbers much easier.
Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.