Everybody has an email account, and for those worker ants unable to switch off, there’s email on the go via a broad choice of smartphones in the market such as my beloved BlackBerry Curve. Normally, I loathe using Windows mobile phones, but ever since Palm tweaked the Windows 5.0 operating system on its excellent Treo 750, I have gotten more receptive to Microsoft’s plan for global domination.

Smooth sailing: Windows works like a charm on the Motorola Q9.

So here I am, sitting in the weak winter sun at Cheetal Grand in Khatauli, my preferred stop on the New Delhi-Dehradun highway, accessing my email on Motorola’s latest smartphone, the Moto Maxx Q9. I am in Dutiful Son mode, ferrying my mother to warmer climes than the biting cold winter of Dehradun, where she stubbornly lives alone in the house that my father and she lovingly built room by room on their annual two-month vacations, usually when their various FDs matured.

Earlier, visits to Dehradun meant carting my Apple PowerBook, plugging in the telephone line and dialling the nearest gateway but, now, with EDGE GPRS connectivity throughout the route, email is a snap on my cellphone, currently the Motorola Q9, with which I am most impressed.

The Motorola Q9 isn’t the smallest of BlackBerry-style smartphones—that is, a handset with a large non-touch-sensitive screen and a QWERTY keyboard. The Q9 weighs a hefty 134g, is 67mm wide, 117mm deep and 11.8mm thick, about the size of the BlackBerry 8800. The main benefit of this large size is that the keyboard is relatively big. The keys are arranged in a shallow U-shaped arc and it is fairly easy to use the keyboard at a reasonable speed. The bottom row has a double-width space bar and several function keys that launch the calendar, contacts, music library, camera, voice control and phone dialler. Above the keyboard are the obligatory Windows Mobile smartphone controls.

The display measures 2.5 inches from corner to corner, and the LCD is sharp and bright, with a sensor that adjusts its brightness depending on the ambient lighting conditions. This sensor also automatically provides a blue background glow to the markings on the keys, the surround of the navigation pad and the separators for the flat Windows Mobile shortcut buttons. On the right hand side, a pair of scroll buttons is divided by a small select button which, when held down, allows you to use the scroll buttons for volume control. Beneath these, a back button cycles through opened applications and previous actions.

The Q9 has some enticing specifications. It is one of the first smartphones to run Windows Mobile 6, and is Quad-band with High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) at up to 3.6MBps. These speeds may be only a gleam in the Indian operator’s eye, but there is nothing like future proofing. For those who are interested, tech specs include a TI OMAP 2420 processor and 96MB of RAM with USB 2 for fast syncing and 256MB of on-board flash memory. Thus the Motorola Q9 performs exceeding well as a mobile email system, with enough space to store documents you may need when on the move. You can augment this readily using MicroSD cards up to 2GB, which you can swap easily in the slot provided on the left edge of the phone. Motorola has not included Wi-Fi connectivity—Bluetooth 2.0 is present, though, and you can add Wi-Fi with an aftermarket Wi-Fi MicroSD card for a few hundred rupees, if you care that much.

The Motorola Q9 runs on Windows Mobile 6 Standard which, among other things, means it supports push email through Exchange Servers, in addition to letting you set up push email via a Windows Live Hotmail account. You now also have the option to access emails through a BlackBerry server, using RIM’s Windows Mobile 6 application. Or, like me, you can set up your personal email—Gmail and Yahoo in my case—in a couple of minutes through the built-in Welcome Wizard and Yahoo Go apps.

Motorola has made interesting software choices, dropping Mobile Internet Explorer in favour of the Opera browser. The Opera browser has small-screen rendering technology which, simply put, means that it reformats web page content to match the size constraints of small mobile screens, eliminating the need for horizontal scrolling. Web pages can also be opened as separate windows, a worthy improvement over the Pocket Internet Explorer. Motorola has also decided not to include Office Mobile that allows you to edit, but not create, documents in Microsoft Word and Excel formats, and read PowerPoint presentations. Motorola has chosen the much better and useful Documents To Go instead, which allows you to create Word documents, edit Excel documents, read PowerPoint and PDF files and open Zipped archives. Also included is McAfee’s VirusScan Mobile software, which should instill confidence in Motorola Q9 owners.

Motorola has made sure this phone isn’t just about business. The Q9 also features Windows Media Player that lets you watch online video and play MPEG4 and WMV video files among others, and supports a variety of music formats. A 2 megapixel camera with flash caters for shooting photos and video, the latter at 30 frames a second.

With quad-band connectivity, you can use it in any country that supports a GSM network. Audio quality during calls was very good and the speakerphone is loud and easy to access using a dedicated key on the keypad.

The Motorola Q9 comes bundled with a raft of goodies. In the box are a portable USB charger that is small enough to pocket, to which you can plug in the phone for emergency charging; a 1GB micro-SD card; enough cables and adapters; and a handsome leather holster. What really clinched the deal for me, was the price—only Rs19,499. The smartphone segment has loads of choices, but at this price, its rich feature set, stylish and expensive looks and ease of use of the Windows Mobile 6 interface mark the Motorola Q9 as one of the best smartphones you can buy.

Tell Harsh what gadgets you want him to review. Write to gizmoguru@livemint.com