The MWg Zinc II Windows Mobile Pro Review, Part Two

Yep, you guessed it: about a month has come and gone since I received the MWg Zinc II, posted its unboxing, gave a description of the hardware, and mentioned my initial thoughts. If you haven’t already read that portion of this review, click here and then come back; I’ll wait…

Today we are going to jump right in and talk about my user experience, the Zinc II’s battery life, its camera, and I’ll give a taste of the included Windows Mobile 6.1 software. Let’s dive in, shall we?

As I mentioned from the beginning, right off the bat I like the rounded contours of the Zinc II, the device’s build and its weight. I felt the same through the end of the testing. The only thing that wound up disappointing me was that I somehow managed to scratch the screen with the edge of my fingernail before I put a protector on; a major bummer. I’ll say again that one should have been included. :-/

When used as a phone, the Zinc II performs quite well. The PDA is not so fat that it is uncomfortable to hold or so unwieldy that it feels wrong when held to the ear. The speakerphone is perfectly adequate for conversations in a moderately busy room.

I had a few reservations about the keyboard when I first started out, but those soon evaporated.

As you can see, the keyboard is nearly perfectly flat, with just the slightest ridge around each button. If ever there was a candidate begging for haptic feedback (like the HTC Advantage Clinton is reviewing), this would be it. Although this keyboard grows on you and is certainly easy enough to use, haptics would make it totally rock.

Battery Life so far has been very satisfactory. Recognize up front that I am used to charging my devices every single day, and that I don’t think anything of plugging them in throughout the day, but I have found that even with the phone set to fetch email, Twitter updates, and other such web-based nonsense I can easily make it though a 15 – 16 hour period without the battery sputtering. I seldom let it go so long, but it can. For solid use as an eReader, I can get about 5 hours with the Zinc II on medium brightness before I start getting the “Low Battery” warning. Turning on extra radios, like the GPS, WiFi and / or Bluetooth can make the battery life a lot less impressive, but then – we know to expect that by now, right? Thankfully MWg did not skimp on the 1530mAh battery, so it lasts much better than a similarly loaded PDA phone with a smaller battery might.

The camera is a feature that really let me down. Similar to my experience with the HTC TYyTN II/ AT&T Tilt camera, I found pictures taken with the Zinc II’s to be…meh. They are a little bit washed out, but overall the quality is okay and certainly better than nothing.

Take a look, and tell me what you think:

My problem, if you want to call it that, is that after using the more than adequate camera in the iPhone, and after being spoiled by the truly magnificent 5mp camera in the N95, I feel that the bar has been raised. This camera is…meh; typical for the genre, but MWg missed an opportunity to do something really spectacular.

All pictures were taken outside, in natural light.

One of the things that I truly like about the Zinc II is that it comes with built in GPS; after downloading Windows Live or Google Maps you’ll be ready to go. Stepping outside gave the Zinc II a chance to orientate itself…

…and it took just a moment for Windows Live Maps to find my location…


Multiple sites have covered Windows Mobile 6.1 ad nauseam, so I decided to do something a little bit different. Using the fabulous SOTI Pocket Controller (thanks Mike!), I made a simple little movie of some of its features as well as the Zinc II Quick Menu.

Overall, the only things that I can honestly knock the Zinc II for are its rather anemic 64MB RAM and the camera, which I mentioned earlier. Otherwise I found the Zinc II to be a very solid, very well functioning Windows Mobile Phone. If you have been looking for a single device that can serve as your phone, media player, GPS, and backup camera, then the MWg Zinc II may be just what you’ve been looking for.

The MWg Zinc II is available from various retailers, but at this time seems to be most easily found on eXpansys.

MSRP: £449.9 or €624.95; so approximately $880 – 965 unlocked

What I Like: The device feels solid; I prefer this rubberized coating to a shinier black plastic device; the flat panel screen is lovely and vivid; I like the clean look of the device’s front with only three buttons; the battery size is generous; the Zinc II feels good in my hand; there are no superfluous buttons; it has all the wireless protocols, including GPS; 256MB ROM (Storage) memory

What Needs Improvement: The keyboard does not use traditional buttons and requires getting used to; the keyboard needs haptic feedback;  it’s pretty pricey; 64MB RAM (Program) memory(!!); camera is meh.

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14 replies

  1. Maybe it’s just me – but as soon as I see that a device takes so-so pictures — I want to move along.

    I’ve started to use my cameraphones as replacements for a regular camera — so the quality of the photos they produce need to be passable or I’m usually on to the next candidate.

  2. Wayne, it is a definite deal breaker for some. I generally carry my Canon G9 in my bag because I can, but I found when I was using the N95 or iPhone that I reached for them much of the time, and I would find myself not always packing the extra camera. I feel obligated to bring the better camera when carrying this mobile phone (and almost anything by HTC, BTW). :-/

  3. I’m in the same boat, a major reason I ditched the BlackJack II so fast was because of the rubbish camera. The N95 8GB just gets the job done, and done well. Images are occasionally a bit washed out, but a little tweak in photoshop, or using the contrast adjustment in the on-phone image editor, and the photos come up great!

    I’m just hoping the HTC Diamond has a good camera…

  4. Great review Judie-
    I got pretty beat up a few months back when I wrote on JAiB that the iPhone’s camera is good enough to allow me to use it pretty regularly as my “go-to” camera but the fact is- for me- it is. This wouldn’t be… not by a long shot!
    One thing– you call $900-$1000 “pretty pricey”??? Is that like 125 degrees in Texas is “kinda warm”? :)

  5. Nice review! It definitely seems like Windows Mobile 6.1 is half-done. It’s got the older Windows interface with the newer touch-friendly screens bolted-on. For long time users, like me, that’s no big deal, but for someone new to WM, that would have to be somewhat jarring.

  6. Perry, I’ve got a Diamond coming, which I hope will address the majority of the things you mentioned.

  7. @Dan – Well, understanding that an unlocked Windows Mobile phone with these features is usually in the $600 – $700 arena, anything more than that is what I would call “pretty pricey”…and yeah, you were dead on with the Texas comparison. 😉

    @Perry – “Bolted on” is a good way to put it. MWg is trying, just like HTC, to add more finger / touch friendly bells and whistles. Underneath it all is WM6.1, which still seems more stylus friendly. It can be a bit jarring.

  8. I’m sure it will to some extent, although it is still HTC bolting on some prettiness and touchy-goodness on to the old WM. I think it may not be until WM 7 that we see a real improvement throughout the OS.

  9. I hope so. I used to be a huge Windows Mobile fan, but to be honest I have been in the S60 camp for over 6mths now and have been very, very happy.

  10. Does that GPS Viewer come with the device? I wish more devices would come with a real GPS tool built in – and not be locked to the carriers application.

  11. @Mike – yes, the GPS viewer is a built-in application. 😀

  12. Judie, could this be a new daily driver, or will you be moving on to something else between now and iPhone 3G Day?

  13. Actually, I am going to send it on to Clinton, so he can review it for :-) After I finish the i-mate reviews, I will be getting the…

  14. OH! now if THAT isn’t a tease, I have no idea what is! 😛