Archive for August, 2008

Motorola Q9h

Here’s my Motorola Q9h review.

It’s been a while since I’ve used a Windows Mobile Phone as a daily phone but I thought the Q9h was alright.

Physical Impressions:

Size wise the Q9 is similar to the original Q only it’s a little wider. The Q9h’s edges are more rounded so it’s nicer to hold in your hand. It doesn’t have the original Q’s ridges around the side mounted buttons which is nice.

The Q9h’s keys are covered with a soft rubbery material which keeps your fingers from slipping off the keys plus the keyboard itself is a little wider. It’s really nice as far as thumb board keyboards go.

There are lots of shortcut keys in front; browser, messaging, calendar, contacts, media player, camera and voice command. My original thought was that the keys were really annoying because I kept accidentally pressing them, however, after I got used to them, I really liked them (more on that later).

The navpad is nice and big. Unlike the Q, the Q9h doesn’t have a jog dial. I don’t miss the jog dial at all as I never found it very useful on Windows Mobile.

The display measures 2.4″ and has a resolution of 320×240. These are pretty standard but I found myself wishing it was bigger with more resolution – particularly when I’m browsing the web.

If you want to use headphones, you’ll need to use ones with a micro USB connector or a micro USB to headphone adapter. I’m not crazy about this arrangement since I find the adapters to be inconvenient to use. The same port is used for charging and syncing.

There’s also support for Bluetooth stereo headphones.

On the back of the Q9h are two very large (for a phone) speakers. They’re really loud compared to most other phones (even louder than the n95′s) and they sound pretty good. They’re so loud you can feel the Q9h shake if you turn them up.

On the left side is a micro SDHC slot. I used a 4GB card in there no problem.

There are volume, select and back buttons on the right side. To be honest I found the Q9h to be too thin to use these buttons comfortably and just used the corresponding keys on the front of the phone.

The one feature the Q9h is missing is WiFi. If you have a lousy data plan and or lousy network coverage and or travel frequently you’ll really notice this omission.

Software:

The Q9h runs Windows Mobile Personal (formerly known as WM Smartphone). It’s a pretty standard implementation. Besides the usual utilities, you also get Opera 8.65, McAfee Virus scan (not installed by default but there’s a link to install it), voice signal voice recognition software, Documents to Go and some misc extra settings i.e. music settings.

One of WM’s most useful features as far as being a phone goes is that you can look up phone book entries by just entering part of the entry’s name or phone number from the standby screen. The Q9h will automatically look for matches in your phonebook/recent call lists.

The message client handles email, SMS and MMS. The email client supports Exchange along with iMAP and POP mail boxes. You can view html emails fine though it takes a few extra button presses to do so.

One of the Q9h’s high points is that you get Opera as the default browser. Opera has lots of great features including tabbed browsing, different views, zoom settings, SSL support and Javascript.

While I loved the tabbed browsing you have to go easy on it because if you load too many pages, the Q9h gets bogged down. By default, the browser cache is a paltry 2MB. I don’t suggest you change it much because if you set it too high, the browser cache fills with 1000′s of small files which will slow the Q9h to a crawl.

Music and video playback is handled with Windows Media Player. It’s the same one you’ll find in other Smartphones. It sorts your songs by album, artist, etc. There is A2DP support so you can use wireless Bluetooth headphones.

You can adjust the bass in the settings menu (outside of Windows Media Player). There’s also a Spatial Audio feature (Virtual 3D sound) which makes everything sound confusing (you can turn it off or adjust the level of spaciousness).

The camera is a pretty standard 2.0 megapixel one with a flash. While it doesn’t have auto focus after using Nokia n95′s on and off lately, I really like how the Q9h’s camera takes pictures quickly. The camera app starts up a little faster and there is no auto focus lag. There’s a flash (LED) which has to be manually turned on when you want to use it. It stays on till you turn it off (as opposed to turning itself on only when you take a picture).

Picture quality isn’t great. I was mildly impressed that the Q9h does okay indoors with regards to taking blurry pictures. For whatever reason I didn’t take that many blurry pictures with the Q9h.

One nice extra is that you get Documents to Go. You can use it to view PDF files or create, edit and view MS Word, PowerPoint and Excel files. Yes, you can create. There’s also a zip file manager which is useful if you’re downloading programs straight to your phone. The PDF viewer seems to work better than other phone based PDF viewers. It loads PDF’s faster (because it only loads one page at a time) and is easier to read. Still, you got to be pretty desperate to use it.

Now I mentioned before that I liked all the extra application shortcuts on the keyboard. The reason I liked them is because the Q9h is pretty fast/responsive for a Smartphone. Once you’ve opened an application (for example Opera, Email, Media Player) you can quickly switch between the apps using the shortcut keys. It’s great. Unfortunately the Q9h does bog down sometimes but it’s not as bad as it is with other Smartphones. So I guess it’s both good and bad.

There is GPS support. Motorola doesn’t include a mapping program to use this (just download Google Maps).

Impressions:

Voices were slightly muddy but overall incoming sound quality on the Q9h is quite good. The only problem is that there is really noticeable buzzing if the backlight is on. So at the beginning of each call you’ll hear it. It’s strange.

The buzzing is also noticeable on the outgoing until the backlight turns off. Otherwise outgoing is also quite good.

RF performance is good.

Earpiece volume is great; the Q9h is a loud phone.

The Speakerphone is also very loud thanks to the pair of large speakers on the back.

Battery life is pretty weak. The Q9h will struggle to make it through the day. I guess it’s good that Motorola left WiFi out. Apparently some versions come with a bigger battery that sticks out.

Conclusion:

Despite the lack of WiFi I liked the Q9h. It looks cool, has a great keyboard, it’s relatively fast (for a Smartphone) and it comes with Opera. The device’s speed makes all the shortcut keys useful.

The only real downsides were the weird buzzing during calls when the backlight is on plus the less than stellar battery life.

Ratings (out of 5)

Build Quality 3.5
Battery Life 2.5
Phone Related Features 4
Ease of Use 3.5
RF Performance 4
Degree of Customizability 4
Overall (not an average) 4
*Please note these ratings are temporal and are really only valid for the date they were assigned. A phone which receives a rating of 5 a year ago will probably get a lower rating today.

Pros:

  • Fast (for a WM Smartphone)
  • Shortcut keys
  • Documents to Go with the ability to create files
  • Loud speakers

Cons:

  • No WiFi
  • Screen feels small
  • Buzz during calls when screen is on
  • Poor battery life

Discuss this review at HowardForums.com
Written by Howard Chui 08.22.2008
This article may not be reproduced without the the author’s permission.

7 comments August 22nd, 2008

Nokia n95 8GB review

Here’s my review of the Nokia n95 8GB.

Here’s a funny tidbit. I use a regular Nokia n95 sometimes. When I found out that Rogers was going to carry the Nokia n95 8GB) I was a little peeved ‘regular’ people on Rogers could have a cooler phone than me.

First Impressions:

The n95 8GB is quite similar to the original n95′s. Compared with the n95-1, the n95 8GB has more memory, a bigger screen, revised (smaller) front navigation pads, no camera cover and no SDHC slot. Compared to the n95-3 it’s the same thing though the n95-3 has no camera cover either.

The screen slides up to reveal the keypad or down to reveal some multimedia keys.

The navigation keys on the front are now smaller to make room for the larger screen. I found the 2 softkeys are harder to press because they’re flush.

The display has a thicker screen compared to my n95-3. I can tell because when you touch the display it won’t cause ‘waves’ on the screen like it does on the n95-3.

Like I mentioned earlier, the screen is a little bit bigger (2.8″ vs 2.6″) though it has the same 240×320 resolution as previous n95′s. I wish the n95 had a higher resolution screen.

Build quality is good. The sliding action is solid.

There are stereo speakers; one on each side. They’re extremely loud.

There’s a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack on the left side – you can use regular headphones with it.

The right side has a camera, gallery and volume buttons.

At the bottom is a mini USB plus a Nokia charging port. You can’t charge the n95 via the mini USB port (boo!).

Connectivity wise you get Bluetooth, HSDPA, WiFi, IrDA and GPS.

Features:

The n95 8GB runs Nokia’s S60 software. I’ve reviewed a bunch of other S60 phones in the past so I’ll only talk about it briefly.

S60 multitasks and switches between tasks really well, it lets you cut and paste and it has a lot of 3rd party software available for it. You can switch tasks by pressing the menu button to the left of the navigation pad.

When you slide the screen down (as opposed to up like on most phones) the n95 will switch to landscape mode. This is useful for when you’re viewing webpages or watching video.

As far as phone related stuff goes, you get a nice phonebook which syncs up with your computer. The messaging app handles SMS, MMS and email (POP3 and IMAP). There is a detailed call log which includes info on your data connections. There is also support for internet calling and video calling.

The gallery lets you view your pictures and videos in a stylish sort of wheel. While my first impression was that it was kind of slow it’s actually pretty fast when you consider that it’s handling pictures that are 5 megapixel images. When you first view your images it thumbnails them. After that it’s faster. You can access the gallery by using the gallery button on the right side above the camera button.

One of n95′s best feature is it’s web browser. It’s about as good as it gets on a non touch screen device. It renders pages like they’d look on your computer but fits passages of text so that it can be viewed without having to scroll sideways. Pages render very quickly and there is this nifty feature which shows you a thumbnail of the page while you scroll which helps give you an idea of where you are on a page.

There is support for tabbed browsing (up to 5 tabs) but I can’t figure out a way to open a new tab. You kind of have to get a page to pop up and then you can use that new page as a tab. My solution was to create a webpage which has links that pop up a new page and then browse to it. Just use this when you’re writing a page:

<a href=”http://wap.howardforums.com” target=”blank”>HowardForums</a>

Replace wap.howardforums.com with whatever site you want (keep the http://) and replace HowardForums with the link text.

The music player is pretty standard; it lets you sort your music by artist, album, etc. You can control the player using the media keys which you can access by sliding the screen down – neat. There’s a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack on the left side so you can use the regular sized headphones with the n95 8GB.

There are is a speaker on both sides of the n95 8GB. They sound decent and are ridiculously loud.

You get a 5 megapixel autofocus camera. As far as camera phones goes, the n95 8GB’s is right up there with the best. It takes great pictures outdoors and decent ones indoors. Low light performance is good.

There are tons of camera related features. My only complaint with the camera (and it’s a pretty big one) is that it takes a while to launch and takes a second to autofocus. Maybe I’m used to something faster but I find the wait sucks a lot of the fun out of using the camera.

Video quality is also quite good. It can capture video with a resolution of 640×480 which is similar to what you get with DVD’s.

When you’re using apps that access the internet, it treats your HSDPA/EDGE connections and WiFi connections the same way. A pop up comes up asking you to choose how you want to connect (network or WiFi APN). It’s a good solution. You can tell individual apps that you want to only use one connection if you don’t want to be bugged each time.

You can view Microsoft Office documents using QuickOffice (Word, Excel, Powerpoint). If you want to create or edit them then you’ll have to pay extra. You can also view PDF files though PDF’s are pretty useless on the n95 8GB’s small display.

The best thing about the built-in Maps program is that you can connect your n95 8GB to your computer to download maps to the n95 8GB. It’s good if you don’t have a big data plan (maps can consume a lot of data) or if you travel a lot (data roaming can be expensive).

If you’re used to most nav systems (like a TomTom, Garmin, or one that’s built into your car) you might find the Maps program to be a different paradigm. It’s hard to explain but I just never found it to be that intuitive to use. It’s not to say that I couldn’t use it but it required more thought to use.

It does have guidance though it’s not very useful plus it can have spoken word directions (you have to pay extra for it).

You also get a built-in radio (didn’t use it), Podcasting app, calendar (the to do list is located inside it, both sync with your computer), calculator, alarm clock, bar code decoder, notes, etc. A converter program is also included (useful if you travel a lot).

Usage:

Sound quality is excellent, both incoming and outgoing. Maximum ear piece volume is pretty good.

RF performance is very good and the speakerphone volume is very loud.

Conclusion:

It’s hard to fault the n95 8GB. Of course if you message a lot you’ll probably want a phone with a QWERTY keyboard. Besides needing a higher resolution display and being a little on the thick side, there isn’t much to complain about.

About the only thing that really stuck out in my mind while is that some may find it to have too many features. Don’t get me wrong, someone like me loves a phone with a million features but there were times when even I felt overwhelmed having to write about all of them.

Still, the n95 8GB is surprisingly easy to use. If you’re someone who doesn’t use phones that much you’ll find the n95 8GB will grow with you as you learn to do more with your phone.

Ratings (out of 5)

Build Quality 4.5
Battery Life 3.0
Phone Related Features 4.5
Ease of Use 4
RF Performance 4.5
Degree of Customizability 4
Overall (not an average) 4.5
*Please note these ratings are temporal and are really only valid for the date they were assigned. A phone which receives a rating of 5 a year ago will probably get a lower rating today.

Pros:

  • Fast
  • camera
  • lots of built in memory
  • loud speakers
  • free maps

Cons:

  • think
  • screen resolution could be higher

Howard Chui
08.20.2008

Discuss at HowardForums

13 comments August 20th, 2008


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