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HTC S310 Review

I just finished up my review of the HTC S310. They’re entry level Smartphone. Make sure you check out my S310 picture gallery too.

Physical Impressions:

I wasn’t impressed when I picked up the S310 for the first time. The plastic on the S310 felt kind of cheap compared to HTC’s other offerings. I think it’s the battery door which is the source of this problem – it feels really thin.

The keys are nice, big and feel okay when you press them. The only problem I have with them is the bottom row (the *, 0 and #). The bottom of the S310 slopes along with the keys which makes them difficult to press if you’re holding the S310 with one hand.

Lately all the Smartphones that I’ve tried have 320×240 displays so I was surprised when I picked up the S310. It has a 220×176 screen which took some getting used to. Once you get used to the lower resolution it’s not so bad since the S310 doesn’t really ship with any apps that really take advantage of the higher resolution

The display measures 2.0″ so it’s kind of small compared to other Smartphones. The size of the display makes the S310 look like a regular phone.

Another thing I noticed is that the S310′s viewing angle isn’t that great. While it’s not so bad that you can’t see anything unless you’re looking at it straight on it’s bad enough to be annoying. Even though it’s a TFT display I kind of wondered if it was a STN display of some sort.

Hands-free usage:

You get a speakerphone, USB headset connector (on the bottom) and support for Bluetooth headsets.

Miscellaneous:

You get 64MB RAM + 64MB ROM. It’s not as much as some other Smartphones but it should be enough for most users.

There is a miniSD card slot located behind the battery so you’ll have to turn the S310 off if you want to switch cards.

Menus:

The menus are standard Microsoft Smartphone. Top level icons are arranged in a 3×3 icon grid. You have to click ‘more’ if you want to see more icons. Icons have numeric shortcuts which you can use to quickly jump to a menu item. The speed dial can be used to launch programs.

The standby screen is called the Today screen. Besides showing standard standby screen info (network info, time, date, etc) you can launch programs you’ve used recently near the top.

Phone Related Features:

When you’re dialing phone numbers Smartphone has a feature called Smartdial. As you type in numbers, the S310 will search for matches in your phonebook and recent call lists – pretty neat.

The phonebook syncs up with Outlook on your PC.

When you’re entering phone numbers in your phonebook, the items are listed in one giant list. The address field is located pretty far down so if you want to enter that you have to do a lot of scrolling.

Connected Features:

There is no WiFi – only Bluetooth.

The Bluetooth does support A2DP which is a nice touch.

Sometimes you’ll notice the lack of WiFi because the S310 only supports EDGE. This can make the S310 less useful around the home or office.

There’s a mini USB connector at the bottom of the phone that’s used for charging, computer connectivity and headsets.

You can connect the S310 to your PC using Active Sync. With Active Sync you can manage files on the S310 and the memory card, install programs and synchronize the contents with Outlook.

The Email client supports pop3 and imap. You don’t get push email support. If you’re not using MS Exchange, the lack of push email isn’t a big deal.

Multimedia Features:

There is a 1.3 megapixel camera on the back. It doesn’t take the best pictures. The lens is slightly foggy and colours are off.

I like how the camera menus look. If you access the menu, it will remember the last item you were looking at which is a nice touch.

Music and video are handled by Windows Media Player. WMP can sort your music by album, artist, genre. If you are using Windows Media Player on your PC you can use that to load music on the S310.

WMP lacks an equalizer. The included headphones are thin sounding and there isn’t much you can do about this. If you listen to a lot of music don’t throw out your mp3 player just yet.

As I mentioned earlier there is A2DP support which is a nice touch given the S310′s price point.

WMP has a background play feature but if you want to change tracks you have to switch back to it which is kind of annoying.

Organizer Features:

You get a Voice recorder, alarm clock, calendar and todo list. Also included is ClearVue Document, ClearVue PDF, ClearVue Presentation, ClearVue Worksheet. Document, PDF, Presentation and Worksheet are Excel, Word, PDF and Powerpoint viewers respectively. You don’t get a timer or unit converter.

The calendar and todo list synchronize with your computer using Active Sync.

Impressions:

RF performance is pretty good.

Incoming sound quality not that great. There’s a lot of background hiss. People’s voices were slightly shrill sounding. Maximum earpiece volume is quite good.

Outgoing sound doesn’t have as much background hiss but voices are still quite shrill.

Living with the S310:

I liked that the S310 is small and light. It really doesn’t look like a Smartphone and I’m sure a lot of people will appreciate that.

If the S310 locks the keypad due to inactivity it will show the time in large text if you press any of the S310′s keys. This is really nice if you use it as a watch.

I could complain about how the S310 only has 64MB of RAM, how the display has a resolution of only 176×220, how the screen is only 2″, how it has no WiFI (same thing) but really I can live with all those compromises. I guess phones in general are at the point where even cheap phones have enough features. The screen’s limited viewing angle was kind of irritating but once you get used to this, it’s not so bad.

I hated how cheap the S310 felt in my hand. The feel of the S310 and its display are reminders that sometimes when you pay less you get less. The keypad was a constant source of annoyance. Whenever I had to check my voicemail and press the * or # buttons I felt like I was going to accidentally drop the phone.

Conclusion:

If you’ve wanted to try a Smartphone but balked at the price or perhaps found they were too nerdy for you, the S310 might be your ticket.

I wish I had a lot of technical things to say about it but at the end of the day, the S310′s strength is that it’s a sleeper. It’s like wearing contact lenses instead of glasses.

Ratings (out of 5)
Build Quality 3
Battery Life 4
Phone Related Features 3.5
Ease of Use 3.5
RF Performance 3
Degree of Customizability 3
Overall (not an average) 3
*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:

  • Inexpensive
  • Light and compact
  • Good RF
  • Long battery life
  • A2DP

Cons:

  • Music is thin sounding
  • Feels cheap
  • Screen has poor viewing angle
  • Sound quality is poor

Discuss this review at HowardForums.com
See the gallery here
Written by Howard Chui 02.06.2007
The HTC S310 in this review was supplied by Superior Gadgets
This article may not be reproduced without the the author’s permission.

1 comment February 6th, 2007

Nokia 6275i Review

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I just finished my up my review of the Nokia 6275i from Virgin Mobile. Make sure you check out additional pictures of it which can be found at my gallery here.

When I first think of Virgin mobile I think of hip advertising campaigns (okay, I’ll be honest; I think of nurses and hanukwazachristmas), prepaid service and cheap phones.

The Noka 6275i breaks from that tradition in that it’s a mid range phone with a cheap price.

Physical Impressions:

While not tiny, the 6275i is a pretty compact phone. You can see pics of it here. The large 2.2″ display makes it seem bigger than it really is.

When you squeeze it, the battery cover squeaks a little – otherwise it feels pretty solid.

The keys are quite large and easy to use. They depress with a nice click. There is a camera plus volume buttons on the right side.

Like I mentioned earlier, the display is pretty big (for a regular phone) at 2.2″. It has a fairly high resolution of 240×320 and can display up to 262K colours.

Unlike most Nokia phones, the 6275i doesn’t have a dedicated power button. To turn the 6275i on or off, just press and hold the END button.

Hands-free usage:

Like most newer phones, the 6275i has a built-in speakerphone (it’s kinda loud), headset connector (you actually get 2; a pop port connector plus a regular 2.5mm one on the right side) plus it supports Bluetooth headsets.

Miscellaneous:

There is 24MB of built-in memory plus a MicroSD slot behind the battery.

Menus:

The menu layout is typical of Nokias. The icons have been customized so they’re more hip. Take a look at my 6275i gallery to see what I mean. I thought Virgin did a great job with them.

The display has a resolution of 240×320 so icons and text look great.

Phone Related Features:

You get Nokia’s easy to use but fully featured phonebook. There can be numbers and information per phonebook entry (just like every other phone). When you’re searching for an entry you can type part of the name as opposed to just the first letter (again, most phones can do this now).

One thing I noticed is that the numbers are really big when you’re typing in phone numbers. That’s good if you can’t see very well. Still, most of the rest of the phone uses a fairly small font.

There is a voice dial feature but no voice commands.

Connected Features:

You do get Bluetooth support but its pretty disappointing as it’s basically for headsets only. You can’t use it to connect to your computer or do much else with it.

Connection to your computer is possible using a pop port data cable (my 6275i didn’t come with one). When you connect there are three different modes; the first is for syncing, second one is for printing while the last one lets you access the MicroSD (USB mass storage).

Speed wise, I transferred a 174MB file in about 9 mins 15 seconds which translates to about 313kb/s which isn’t very fast though it’s so-so for a phone.

Absent is a built-in email client and the browser seems to only support WAP sites.

Multimedia Features:

There is a built-in 2 megapixel camera. Pictures look amazing when you view them on the phone but they don’t look so great when you’re viewing them on a computer. Images are fairly noisy and the colour is slightly off at times.

Low light performance is pretty good. The 6275i can boost the signal so that you can see the subject you’re taking though it will be extremely noisy.

There is a built-in music play. It doesn’t let you sort your music by artist, album, genre, etc. so things can get messy if you have a lot of music. An equalizer is included so you can customize the music to your taste. Please remember the 6275i doesn’t come with a memory card or headphones so you’ll need those if you want to listen to music.
You will need compatible headphones if you plan on using the built-in FM radio since they act as an antenna. Either pop port or 2.5mm headphones will work with the radio.

Organizer Features:

The following organizer related features include: Voice recorder, alarm clock, calendar, notes, todo list, calculator, countdown timer and stop watch. You also get a unit converter, translator and world clock (they’re in the applications menu under games and apps).

The calendar, to do list and notes synchronize with Outlook on your PC if you have a pop port data cable and Nokia PC Suite. As usual there’s no iSync support for the 6275i at this time (wait a few months and I’m sure Apple will add it).

Impressions:

RF performance is very good.

While most CDMA phones are very clean but processed sounding, the 6275i is much less processed but slightly rough sounding.
Maximum earpiece volume is quite good.

Conclusion:

While I was disappointed with the 6275i’s lame Bluetooth support and user unfriendly music player, overall I enjoyed using the 6275i. It’s easy to use, has a great display with visually appealing menu icons, good battery life, memory card support and all at a pretty good price point.
It’s not a high end phone but it’s pleasant to use and has enough features to make it an interesting phone to use.

Ratings (out of 5)
Build Quality 3.5
Battery Life 4.5
Phone Related Features 3.5
Ease of Use 4
RF Performance 3.5
Degree of Customizability 3
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:

  • Large high res display
  • Fairly small
  • Good RF
  • Long battery life
  • Cool looking menu
  • Memory card support

Cons:

  • Sound quality is rough
  • Bluetooth is only for headsets

Discuss this review at HowardForums.com
See the gallery here
Written by Howard Chui 01.26.2007
This article may not be reproduced without the the author’s permission.

93 comments January 26th, 2007

T-Mobile’s exclusive white Blackberry Pearl

White PearlT-Mobile has officially launched the White Pearl. The Blackberry Pearl features a newer slimmer design with Suretype QWERTY keyboard, trackball wheel, 1.3 megapixel camera, microSD memory card slot and media player. 

You can pick up the White Blackberry Pearl for only $149.99 with two year contract at all T-Mobile USA stores now.

“The BlackBerry Pearl has set the bar for combining the functionality of a full-featured BlackBerry phone and the ultimate in style, all at an affordable price,” said Mike Butler, Chief Marketing Officer, T-Mobile USA. “Now, the white BlackBerry Pearl provides our customers with another effortless, yet stylish, option to stay connected with loved ones.”

 Source: T-Mobile

Add comment January 19th, 2007

HTC P3300 Review

Here’s my review of the HTC P3300 (click read more to see it).

Make sure you check out additional pictures which can be found at the gallery here.

Pocket PC’s hardware is very interesting to track. Back in 03 (or was it 02), Pocket PC phone edition came out. Basically the devices were Pocket PC with a phone slapped onto them. Since then, they’ve gotten incremental upgrades like faster processors, more memory, different types of memory, smaller memory cards, brighter screens that can display more colour, etc. They’ve also gotten added features like a built-in camera, Bluetooth, WiFi, QWERTY keyboards.

Anyways, the newest feature is a built-in GPS. Kind of like the one you’ll find in HTC’s P3300 (aka the Artemis). But GPS isn’t the only trick up the P3300′s sleeve. It has a new navigation pad which HTC calls.

New features are nice provided they work well. Read on to find out if this is the case with the P3300!

The P3300 I’m reviewing has been supplied by Superior Gadgets.

Physical Impressions:

The P3300 feels pretty solid and is surprisingly light. This is probably due to the fact that the P3300 lacks a built-in sliding QWERTY keyboard. Despite the lightness, the P3300 easily passes my squeeze test.

It’s covered with a rubberized paint job. It doesn’t feel cheap but it’s not as ‘grippy’ as the one on the Nokia 6126 but it is nicer than the Glofiish x500′s.

While there is no QWERTY keyboard, there are enough buttons scattered around the front to allow for easy one handed operation.

The front button layout works well. Notice the Windows, OK, GPS and browser buttons. There are power and camera buttons on the right side, a voice button plus a volume switch on the left.

One of the P3300′s special features is it’s navigation pad or should I say lack of a navigation pad. Instead you get what HTC calls the ROLLR. It’s basically a dial plus a trackball. There are two modes of operation. One uses the dial to scroll mostly while the other lets you use the trackball.

When you use the trackball mode there’s an on-screen pointer. It’s neat but from my experience it’s not very useful unless you’re using the included TomTom navigator (more on that later). Anyways you get an on screen pointer but I found it was easier to just use the corner of my thumb rather than the trackball. You can press in on the trackball to select something. Using the dial in this mode is pretty pointless since rotating it will scroll through menu items but pressing in on the trackball will select whatever the pointer is pointing at (scrolling doesn’t move the pointer). For example, if the pointer is on the top right of the screen but you use the dial to choose a menu item you can’t select the item by pressing in on the dial since the pointer is in the top right of the screen.

When you’re in dial mode, rotating the dial scrolls between menu items and pressing in on the trackball will select whatever you were pointing it at. It’s just like a regular navigation pad in this mode.

The P3300 passes my squeeze test with flying colours. While it’s light it’s also very solid feeling.

There is a stylus holder located on the bottom right. The stylus is skinny and doesn’t telescope. An extra stylus is included in the box.

The display is 2.8″ measured diagonally with a resolution of 240×320 and can display up to 65,000 colours. There are 4 levels of brightness. The screen is easy to read in all lighting situations and looks great.

Hands-free usage:

As far as hands-free usage goes, the P3300 has a built-in speakerphone (it’s pretty loud), a mini USB headset connector plus it supports Bluetooth headsets.

Miscellaneous:

There is 128MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM built-in. The P3300 is powered by a 201Mhz OMAP processor. Performance is about average though it feels really slow when you’re using Tom Tom (more on that later).

There’s a MicroSD behind the SIM card so you can’t change it without first removing the battery cover, battery and SIM card first. If you change your memory card frequently you’ll find this to be really irritating (make sure you get the highest capacity memory card you can afford).

The mini USB connector at the bottom is used for syncing, charging and headset duties.

The battery has a capacity of 1200mAh which is kind of small for a Pocket PC phone. Still, I found I got a few days of standby with light use.

You get a black horizontal holster with the P3300. It clips to your belt and works well.

Navigation:

Included with the P3300 is the Quick GPS program which downloads satellite location information so that you can get a GPS fix quicker.

Navigation duties are handled by Tom Tom. You get one free map with the P3300 but I could not seem to find a map for my city (Toronto) from the list of free maps.

Tom Tom is pretty easy to use. When you’re searching for an address, it seems to juggle the order of things around which sort of makes it easier to use.

See, when people give you an address it usually goes, street number, street name, city, province, postal code/zip code. With Tom Tom, you enter the city, then the street name and then the number. As you’re entering in the address, Tom Tom will present you with a list of possible choices (kind of like how Pocket PC/Smartphone’s smart dial works). As you keep typing, the list keeps narrowing. It’s kind of neat but the on screen keyboard could be a bit bigger.

When you’re searching for a point of interest, it follows a similar paradigm; you start with the city and go from there.

Tom Tom is somewhat easy to use. The big problem with it is that the spoken navigation tends to tell you about upcoming turns at the most unexpected times. It gets really irritating.

Another problem (that’s not necessarily confined to the P3300) is that the device feels kind of sluggish when you’re using Tom Tom. The nav roller kind of exasperates this problem.

Tom Tom likes to keep running even when you turn the screen off so if you forget to exit the program when you’re done, it has a nasty habit of draining your battery completely.

Menus:

HTC doesn’t include a special launcher program with the P3300 (like all their Pocket PC phones). Anyways, the P3300 has a windows key in front so you don’t really need a launcher.

Like all HTC PPC phones, there’s a communications applet which you can use to turn off the GSM radio, WiFi, Bluetooth, push email, volume, etc. You can access it from the today screen.

You don’t get a battery status icon that appears on every screen – just the today screen (and the power app). Since I rarely look at my today screen I find this to be really annoying.

Phone Related Features:

Not much has been changed from previous HTC Pocket PC phones with regards to the phone features.

You can bring up the dial pad and switch to the phone app by pressing the ‘send’ button. After you dial, the virtual keypad disappears. I found that kind of irritating although you can always bring it back by pressing the left soft key.
When browsing the phonebook, you can quickly jump to an entry by typing part of their name. The P3300 will automatically search the first and last name fields.

Phonebook information (including Caller ID picture) synchronizes with Outlook.

There is a voice dialing feature but no digit dialing feature.

There are two separate volume controls on the P3300. One for system sounds and one for the phone.

One thing you don’t get with the P3300 is a profiles feature to let you quickly how the phone behaves when it makes a sound. Still, you can quickly change the volume by pressing the volume icon that’s found at the top of each screen.

Connected Features:

Like I mentioned earlier, you can turn off the P3300′s connected feature (i.e. WiFi) using the included Comm manager program. If you move around a lot and need to turn features on or off a lot I suggest you remap one of the keys to start this program. It would be nice if you could access this program by tapping something at the top of the screen. There is A2DP Bluetooth support so you can use the P3300 with your stereo Bluetooth headphones.

The messaging client supports SMS, email (imap and pop3), MMS and Hotmail. If you want to configure Hotmail, you’ll have to do it from the Pocket MSN menu, then you can check it using the messaging app. If you want to start a new message and take a new picture for it, you’ll have to take the picture first.

The P3300 supports push email if you have access to Microsoft Exchange 2006 (I don’t so I didn’t get a chance to test this).

Internet browsing is handled by Pocket Internet Explorer. PIE hasn’t changed much in the past couple of years and its beginning to show its age (for example it doesn’t support frames). You can rotate the screen 90 degrees so that it’s wider which should make pages a little easier to read though you’ll have to do this via the system menus so it takes a few steps. This is actually a feature of the operating system. It would be nice if PIE had a menu option which let you rotate the screen instead of having to go to your settings to do this.

PIE renders pages somewhat quickly, has multiple viewing options, plus the bookmarks can sync with your Windows desktop. There are three viewing options: One Column, Default and Desktop. With ‘Desktop’, web pages are rendered like they would appear on a desktop computer (you’ll have to do lots of horizontal scrolling). ‘Default’ draws pages so that columns are usually one screen wide so you can read text more easily. ‘One column’ renders everything in line so you don’t have to do any horizontal scrolling at all. Also included is a Terminal services (aka Remote Desktop Protocol) client.

Multimedia Features:

There is a built-in 2 megapixel camera. While images are somewhat noise free (for a camera phone) there isn’t that much resolution. Using the camera is really slow; I’m talking about accessing the menus, using the zoom, that sort of thing.

There is no built-in flash. You’ll really notice this when it’s dark since the P3300 won’t boost the signal to the sensor enough to compensate.

You get an FM radio. To use it you’ll need to plug the headphones in since they act as an antenna.

Music is handled by Windows Media Player. There is no equalizer so you can’t customize the music to your taste. You get A2DP (bluetooth headphone support) but watch out because music sounds really really thin when you use that.

Organizer Features:

Like all other Pocket PC’s, the p3300 comes with Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Powerpoint Viewer, Calculator, Calendar, Notes and an alarm program (it’s in the settings menu under ‘Clock & Alarms’. You also get a PDF viewer and a zip file manager.You can view and edit word documents with Pocket Word. Pocket Excel handles Excel spreadsheets. The Calendar and Notes programs can synchronize with Outlook on your computer.

The calculator is a very basic one and doesn’t do unit conversions.

You don’t get basic stuff

Impressions:

RF performance is very good. It’s not quite as good as a Sony Ericsson phone but it’s better than the ETEN x500′s.

Incoming sound quality is okay. People’s voices are slightly boxy sounding. It’s not terrible but I’ve heard better. Maximum earpiece volume is adequate.

One thing that stuck out when I was testing the incoming was that the P3300 doesn’t feel that nice when you’re pressing it against your ear.

Outgoing sound quality isn’t terrible but it isn’t that great. People kinda sound like they’re on a speakerphone.

Conclusion:

While the ROLLR is a really neat feature I didn’t find it was any better than a navigation pad. Still I am pretty amazed by the size of the P3300. It has pretty much every feature with the exception of a slide out keyboard and HSDPA support.

The P3300 is a really nice phone but at the same time I just wasn’t that into it. Sure it has Quad band GPRS, WiFi, Bluetooth, built-in GPS, 2 megapixel camera and all these other nice features but I didn’t really enjoy using it.

I think it has something to do with ROLLR. It was kind of neat at first but after a while, it started to get to me. Sure, it can function just like a navigation pad but I just didn’t find it as efficient to use as a nav pad.

Ratings (out of 5)
Build Quality 4.5
Battery Life 3.5
Phone Related Features 4.5
Ease of Use 3.5
RF Performance 3.5
Degree of Customizability 3.5
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:

  • Pretty good RF
  • Very compact
  • Built-in GPS
  • Pretty good sound quality
  • Easy one handed operation

Cons:

  • Navigation roller isn’t that great
  • Sound quality
  • Phone is uncomfortable to use
  • Memory card is inconveniently placed

Discuss this review at HowardForums.com
Written by Howard Chui 01.18.2007
This article may not be reproduced without the the author’s permission.

5 comments January 18th, 2007

Just posted my Samsung CES 2007 picture gallery

Click to view full size image

I just posted a small gallery of some interesting phones I saw at Samsung’s CES exhibit.

You can see all of them here

2 comments January 17th, 2007

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