How I turned the HTC Advantage into a laptop replacement

I’ve been quite the busy little Windows Mobile bee over the last couple of days. Inspired by Aura Mae’s comment that she used the HTC Advantage as something of a computer replacement, I set out to see whether I could achieve the same. Any boy, was I blown away by the results!

The Advantage’s 5inch screen (which is the same size as some UMPCs) and VGA resolution means you can cram more into the screen – especially when you use the RealVGA utility to run it as its native 640 x 480 resolution. This, combined with a big helping of third party software, turns the Advantage into a capable notebook replacement.


Is that an awesome-looking Today screen or what? :wink:

I should mention first that I actually had two tries at setting the Advantage up. First time I got it working just perfectly, and then discovered an unfortunate bug in its firmware that wouldn’t let me turn it back on without a soft reset after it had gone to sleep. Minor stumbling block – a trip to the excellent XDA Developers forum revealed the excellent AP Dual ROM with lots of extra treats built in.

Flashing the Advantage to the new firmware took awhile, but it went off without a hitch as I followed the instructions religiously – there’s always the off chance that you can accidentally brick your device when flashing new ROMs!

Now let me take you through all the different applications and accessories I’m using to turn the Advantage into a UMPC. The Today plug-in you saw at the top of my screenshot is the HTC HomePlug that comes with the AP Dual ROM as an optional add-on. This gives me a large digital clock at the top of screen, icons showing missed calls, email and SMS, and tabs for switching to weather, photo contacts, a launcher, music player and profiles (I removed a couple of the tabs due to function overlap with the SPB Pocket Plus plug-in).


I haven’t used SPB Pocket Plus in awhile, and I was amazed by how much it’s advanced in that time! The program consists of a few main features: a today plug-in, task switcher (adding a “real” close button), Pocket Internet Explorer plugin (for adding tabbed browsing) and smart scrolling for using your finger to scroll through lists.


The Pocket Plus today plug-in is simply amazing – especially when you’ve got 640 x 480 pixels to work with! You can create up to 6 tabs of shortcuts that consist of program links, system settings, links to files and folders and system indicators. A small feature I was pleased to see that wasn’t there last time I used it is the ability to add a label below each icon.

With this plug-in, the Today screen becomes a lot more like a Windows desktop – you can drag icons to any part of the screen (letting you keep certain parts of the screen free, like I do for showing off a background picture), have small or large icons, and cram as many things into there as can possibly fit!

A couple of goodies included in the ROM are Teksoft FingerTouch and WkTask. Teksoft is a VGA-compatible software keyboard that’s miles better than the standard keyboard, with various configurations such as full QWERTY, numeric keypad and two letters to a key – the latter lets you hold the Advantage with two hands and use your thumbs to enter text.



As you’ve probably noticed in the above screenshots, my taskbar actually shows the programs that are running – essential if you’re big on multi-tasking, and a must-have when using the Advantage as a notebook replacement.

Then there are the bog-standard Pocket PC apps that look exceptional in VGA, such as Pocket Informant, Mobipocket Reader, Resco Explorer 2007 and PhatNotes. You can really see the difference in the latter two programs, where the extra real estate is well-utilised.



As for hardware, I’m using the Advantage with the ThinkOutside Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. I haven’t used these accessories with a Pocket PC in awhile, and I was pleased to discover that the WM6 Bkuetooth software recognises these accessories without needing to load extra driver software (unlike in WM5). With these two set up, I can happily have several tabs open in Pocket Internet Explorer (including one for email – I prefer accessing my email online rather than downloading it to my device), be chatting in MSN Messenger and have music playing simultaneously, all without having to resort to the stylus and able to switch between each application easily thanks to WkTask. Plus, the Advantage doesn’t slow down when running all these programs at the same time!

The Advantage also functions as a phone, but it doesn’t have a built-in microphone, so you have to take calls using speakerphone until you’ve got a Bluetooth headset. For phone calls, I use the Motorola SoundPilot S705, which supports A2DP and AVRCP. The cool thing about this particular headset (in addition to letting you plug your own headphones into it) is that it has a small LCD screen which shows incoming caller ID – so you don’t even need to take the Advantage out of your bag to see who’s calling. Awesome stuff!


For my day to day purposes (which is mainly simple word processing – which Word Mobile is more than adequate for – Web browsing and email), the HTC Advantage works a charm. It’s significantly smaller and lighter than my Asus R2Hv, just as capable (GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), plus adds 3G and HSDPA, which I make ample use of. The built-in 8GB Microdrive plus my 8GB SanDisk microSD card (in a miniSD adapter) gives me 16GB of storage, which is ample for my needs. Plus, its battery life much better than the R2Hv’s, easily lasting me a whole day where the R2Hv is lucky to last a couple of hours.

I still need to hold onto the R2Hv for when I need the “full” desktop experience, but for day-to-day use the Advantage is ideal. It’s just the right size for me to carry it everywhere (and I use it for movies, music, gaming and eBooks when out and about), and the screen and resolution (as well as the right software and hardware) makes it perfectly competent as a notebook replacement.

My next purchase? The adapter that lets me connect it to an external monitor and also connect USB flash drives. Sweeeeeet!

25 Original Responses to “How I turned the HTC Advantage into a laptop replacement”

  1. Gravatar Icon 1 patrickj Jan 8th, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Great post – really shows off the Advantage, and the apps you’re running, very well. Doesn’t this device merit a nickname now? Artie’s been ditched, is this guy Ade (like Edmonson) or Addy, or …

  2. Gravatar Icon 2 Jenneth Orantia Jan 8th, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks patrickj. The Advantage is truly a killer device once you ‘pimp it out’ For some reason I’ve named the Advantage ‘Billie’. The name came out of nowhere… but I guess it means that my Advantage is a girl :P

  3. Gravatar Icon 3 patrickj Jan 8th, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Billie is cool. Glad to know it’s got a name. A girl device – hmmmm – well, lots of mileage for future ‘getting it on on the stairs’ pics :)

  4. Gravatar Icon 4 Bjenk Ellefsen Jan 8th, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    I have to admit looking at those screen shots, that if I had an Advantage I would use it daily. This thing really looks amazing. I can see myself using one as a notebook replacement from when I am out of my office.

    I can’t help but be smitten by the Soundpilot! That thing looks fantastic!

    In passing, I am keeping my HTC 838 Pro. The phone is just too good even if I get annoyed with WM6. I’m still on the iPod Touch Calendar however!

  5. Gravatar Icon 5 Aura Mae Jan 8th, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    I am so glad you are enjoying your advantage as much as I am! I am also running an after-market rom and have so much third party software installed that it is almost scary sometimes! (right now I am trying to learn how to best use the touchpal keyboard.) I install everything that doesn’t have to go on the device to the micro drive and I never have to worry about running out of storage space! I don’t know how Judie ever gave hers up. I have been reading about what is being shown in Vegas this week and I haven’t seen anything that would make me give up my advantage! (do I sound like I am about to make you all drink the kool-aid?)

  6. Gravatar Icon 6 TrvlngDrew Jan 9th, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Fantastic JEnneth! I’m using mine as internet device at the moment at home w/o a SIM. Will read up on the ROM flash you did, as mine required a hardset the other day much to my dismay.. :mad:


  7. Gravatar Icon 7 Judie Lipsett Jan 9th, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Aura, I got to handle a Shift this week, and I am 99.9% sure that I will be repurchasing the Advantage. The Shift is okay, but it is not what I need or even necessarily what I want anymore. Ah well…at least I got a decent price for my Advantage when it sold, and they are selling for really low (comparatively) prices now. ;-)

  8. Gravatar Icon 8 alese Jan 9th, 2008 at 5:43 am

    I was using HTC Universal as mini laptop replacement for quite some time, until it’s sudden death :sad:

    I was tempted by Advantage few months ago, but I just couldn’t justify the price, especially knowing full well the limitations of Windows Mobile.

    At the end I went with UMPC, my Raon Everun is bigger, heavier and it lacks 3G, but it can run “real” applications and has tons of storage and it was cheaper than Advantage.

  9. Gravatar Icon 9 Aura Mae Jan 9th, 2008 at 8:03 am

    I was tempted by the Everun, too, when I saw Hugo Ortega use it as a phone, but that feature hadn’t made it to market last I heard. There are a lot of UMPCs I would happily purchase if they had voice calling (cellular, not Skype.) The Everun is the only one who can make it more than a few hours on a battery. That’s where the limitations of Windows Mobile become an Advantage (pun intended!) Eight hours of use on the Advantage is do-able.

  10. Gravatar Icon 10 ARJWright Jan 9th, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Sounds great Jenneth; I personally am an advocate of using mobile computing as much as possible. I like to read/hear that others are taking control of how to do computing instead of letting the devices make that decsion for them.

  11. Gravatar Icon 11 Perry Jan 9th, 2008 at 8:19 am

    Nice review! I hadn’t heard of wkTask before and I’m going to check it out. I wonder how useful it’d be on my HTC Apache…

    The biggest drawback to WinMobile that I encounter regularly is the inability of Pocket IE to display many websites. They finally added HTML email to WM 6, so I don’t have that complaint any longer, although it is still fairly buggy.

    I’m still very much interested in the Shift, even though it appears to be far from perfect. I’m hoping there may be a way to shoehorn a more complete version of Windows Mobile onto it and then I’d have a great portable device with the ability to boot into Vista when I need the greater functionality.

    Of course, I’d still have to have something for a phone…

  12. Gravatar Icon 12 alese Jan 10th, 2008 at 2:55 am

    @Aura – I don’t think I could use either Advantage or Everun as a phone, they are both just too big – and yes I do use BT headsets…

    As for Everuns GSM/GPRS/3G capability – the device has a slot where you can insert 3G communication card, and there is a nice thread about that here…..toryid=972

    if you are interested – I think you can use some of these cards also for voice, but I guess it would be more convinient to just use Advantage for such use, if nothing else then the WM user interface is much better for phone use than that of WInXP.

  13. Gravatar Icon 13 karrock Jan 10th, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    A certified “YES!” to that being an awesome Today screen! Myself, personally, I’d have to Photoshop myself into the the right half of that pairing. :wink: You look positively STUNNING Jenneth! :grin:

    And huge kudos to getting HTC’s little device to function as more or less an UMPC, pretty much to the level of a pocketable (granted you need huge pockets to do it) notebook replacement.

    Who would have guessed it would actually be a treat to get back to living with VGA resolution? I suppose HTC will upgrade their panels somewhere along the way (SVGA/XGA?), but at only five inches, you might lose too much real-world usability what with the pixels being *too* small.

  14. Gravatar Icon 14 enthusio Jan 11th, 2008 at 2:24 am

    Super to hear you’re still enjoying your advantage Jenneth! Thanks to the amazing guys @ XDA-developers my Advantage also got a new breath of life…

    I was using my Advantage as an “MID” and used the HTC Touch as a phone. After dropping (Naked on Concrete – not good…) the Touch in November 2007 I started using the Advantage as my primary everything. I leave my HP TC4400 tablet in the office most of the time and it works great.

    Have you heard about Pointui? Available here:

    Some crazy Aussies developing a very unique touch or “point” interface – it runs very well on the Advantage – been using it for a week now. Check it out!

    PS:I’m glad to hear You’re thinking about getting one again Judie, I may just forgive you for selling it in the first place…

  15. Gravatar Icon 15 Steve Laser Jan 13th, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I loved your article, Jenneth! I went right out and scooped up an Advantage and am applying some of the changes you mentioned. I’m blown away by the size of the massive screen. Originally I wanted a UMPC, but a full blown OS can’t function as effectively as Windows Mobile on such a small, portable device. The Advantage makes a better UMPC than UMPCs.

    Just a quick question, where did you get your miniSD card?

    Again, great job! I look forward to reading more of your Advantage articles.

    Steve Laser

  16. Gravatar Icon 16 gasuz07 Jan 14th, 2008 at 9:13 am

    I waited to see if CES would have something that was a “must”…but since they don’t…it looks like I will be adding an Advantage ASAP


    Great post!

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5 replies

  1. Id personally like that too karock, although not at the time.


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