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Asus is probably best know for its laptop offerings, but the Taiwanese giant is nothing if not prolific and has its fingers in about as many technology industry pies as you can think of, from motherboards to servers. It has also been active in the highly competitive mobile devices space and now we have its latest smartphone, the P526, in for review.
It runs on the latest version of Microsoft's mobile platform - Windows Mobile 6 Professional - and as smartphones go, it's a bit of a looker. There's no glossy black plastic, candy red backlit keys, heat-sensitive keys or funky, 'innovative' design. It is, however, one of the slimmer smartphones around at just 16mm, it's very light at 115g, its grey plastic chassis is chrome-trimmed and it even comes with a smart grey leatherette case to protect the screen, and the overall effect is very pleasing on the eye. It's smart but unassuming, a bit like a well-tailored suit.
It's hardly surprising to find that there's no QWERTY keyboard here given how slim the P526 is. Instead there's a number pad under the screen, and the one here is an excellent example. The buttons have a slightly curved profile and are separated from each other making it exceptionally easy to dial numbers manually, and there are a few other nice touches to the control system too. Apart from the usual Windows soft keys and pick-up/hang-up combination there are also short cut buttons for the Windows Start menu and one to activate the Voice Commander software. Below the pick-up key is a button that is initially designated as a quick application launch key, but can be reassigned as a task switch button, allowing you to cycle quickly through open applications.
The good news continues. Along the right hand edge, alongside a memory expansion slot for microSD cards and the trigger button for the two megapixel digital camera, is a dedicated lock switch. It has long been a pet hate of mine with Windows Mobile that in order to lock and unlock the keys and touchscreen on most devices, you have to prod a couple of tiny on-screen buttons. It's not my idea of sensible user interface design. With the P526, however, that's a thing of the past. Just flick the switch and it's locked; flick it again and it's unlocked. I wish more phones would do something similar.