In the first part of my review of the HTC Advantage X7510, I covered the physical hardware of this new device that resides somewhere between Handheld PCs and Ultra Mobile PCs. If you haven’t had a chance to read the first part of the review, you can do so here and then pick up this review afterward.
In this part of the review I will be covering the software aspects of the device now that I have received the final shipping ROM from HTC. I will start by covering Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, the Operating System of the X7510 and will then go into the specific applications that come with the device. I’ll conclude with a general discussion of what I like and don’t like about the Advantage and if this is a device that you should consider.
On the surface, the differences between Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 are slight. Indeed, most of the substantial changes between 6.0 and 6.1 happened on the Standard version of the Operating System, not the Professional version. The Standard version now allows for things such as cut-and-paste, something that Professional users had in 6.0, an improved Today screen with a HTC-like Home screen that displays a large clock, emails and other key information at a glance. Again, for Professional devices users these are not that earth shattering. There are however some features that are across all versions – Classic, Standard and Professional – that are worth mentioning and the Advantage takes, erm, advantage of them!
The first new feature is The Getting Started Center. This new guide is aimed at users who are new to Windows Mobile who need help in the first week or so of owning the device in getting things set up to their liking. The guide includes instructions on how to setup email accounts, bluetooth headsets, tasks, music transfers and the like. Having been a Windows Mobile user for some time now I found it to be very basic but that was exactly the intent. Microsoft did not write this guide for a seasoned user. It is a nice edition for sure and one that makes getting the most of the device come a bit less painfully.
Next are three major enhancements to Messaging on Windows Mobile devices: Threaded SMS, Multi-selection Functionality and Direct Push Technology enhancements. Threaded SMS is a welcome addition for those who text message regularly. One of the challenges with the native Windows Mobile application previously was the challenge of “keeping up with the conversation” in SMS. When you sent a text and someone replied, what you sent would not be visible. This was fine in quick conversations but was a challenge if someone responded a day later. You would get a “Yeah, sounds great” reply and have no idea what you had asked! At first I thought this was an “old person’s” problem (being 39, I’m now officially old according to my 16 year old daughter). After talking to her however I discovered this was a common problem amongst the teens as well.
If your enterprise is using Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 you can now do a substaintially better job of maintaining control of the devices through group and security policies. Part of this end-to-end solution is with Windows Mobile 6.1 which will allow you to authenticate against a MDM server either internally or externally to your enterprise network and configure the device to work in your enterprise. On the device, this is done through Domain Enrollment which is found under Start>Settings>Connections>Domain Enroll in Windows Mobile 6.1 devices.
Perhaps the single biggest improvement in Windows Mobile 6.1 has been around battery life. This new version is far more battery friendly than Windows Mobile 6 or 5.0, mostly around how Microsoft has improved the synchronization process of ActiveSync when synchronizing Exchange data over-the-air. In 6.1 this process is far less “chatty” than in previous versions which translates to less data having to be sent. The lesser the data the less your radio stack has to be used thus saving battery.
There are other new features within Windows Mobile 6.1 but these are a few of the highlights. You can get a complete list of the new features and functions in theon Clinton Fitch (Dot) Com!
Now that you have a baseline on Windows Mobile 6.1, let’s turn our attention to specific applications that are included in the ROM of the Advantage X7510. Without question one of the most exciting additions to the X7510 was the Opera Mobile browser. The Opera Mobile browser has been a highly anticipated answer to Pocket Internet Explorer and has recently been made available to the general public in an open beta. The version included with the Advantage is beta as well but it will not take you long to see why everyone is clamoring to get this application on their devices. In a nutshell, Opera provides you will a desktop-like user experience not just a mobile experience. Now you can view full, beautiful HTML sites in all their glory without them being smashed together or otherwise unusable.
By default Opera Mobile will open a site and display it in full screen mode. You can then use your stylus to move around by sliding it back-and-forth or up-and-down on the screen. If you double-tap on a section of text, Opera will automatically zoom into that bit of text to allow for easier reading. Opera Mobile also includes a transfer manager which allows you to easily keep track of the files you download on your device. If you are decide to purchase an Advantage, I recommend that you download the latest beat of Opera Mobile. The latest build is considerably faster than the version that is included in the ROM. As always, be aware that Opera Mobile is in Beta and there are known issues with it as of the time of this writing. More more information visit the Opera website.
As I have eluded to over the course of both parts of this review, the Advantage X7510 is geared for the power Windows Mobile user and/or business user. To that extent, the World Card Mobile application makes perfect sense to have been included by HTC. The World Card Mobile application allows you to snap a photo of a business card, recognize the data on that card such as names, addresses and phone numbers, then store that information as a contact. It works exceptionally well and the character recognition is outstanding. If you end up having a host of business cards in your pocket after meetings or conventions, World Card Mobile can help you quickly get those cards into your contacts.
The final software aspect of the Advantage I will cover is the HTC Home Screen. The Home Screen is a five-tab Today screen plug-in that presents the time, favorite contcts, weather, favorite applications and profile configurator. The Home Screen is not new – this has been on HTC devices since 2006 – but it is a fantastic one-stop-shop for basic information and getting to it easily. It is not nearly as graphically impressive as the HTC Touch Diamond’s TouchFlo 3D look but works and works well. The only real drawback to the Home Screen on the Advantage is that it has not been optimized for VGA. This means that it takes up a full 50% of the display and photos from your photo contacts look significantly pixelized. Hopefully HTC will update this and optimize it for the Advantage but it is still plenty useful.
Contacts have also been improved in the Advantage with a vertical listing on the right side of the contact list of the alphabet which allows you to quickly go to a specific letter to find contacts. You will know which letter you are on as you slide your finger or stylus up or down the alphbet by that letter being displayed largely in the center of your display screen.
With the software aspects of the Advantage covered, I’ll spend a few minutes discussing my general impressions of the device. As most readers at Gear Diary and Clinton Fitch (Dot) Com! know, I am the co-owner of HCP:Factor, a site dedicated to the older Handheld PC platform. H/PCs are the devices I essentially “grew up” on in my early days with Windows mobile technologies. So in an effort of full disclosure, I fully admit that I am biased to these types of devices. Therefore, to me, the size of the Advantage is a non-issue. I have no problem carrying this around and have had more than one head turn at my local Starbucks when I use it. If I want to “slim down” I will only take the device without the keyboard which will allow me to easily slip it into my jeans pocket.
Additionally, the Advantage is in that middle area of Windows Mobile “PocketPC” devices and Ultra Mobile Personal Computers (UMPCs). It’s powerful and I have found that on many occasions it is a laptop replacement device. As I stated in my Neat Receipts review, I travel a lot and I easily go full days without touching my laptop while on the road. Because the device has Office Mobile 2007, I can complete all of my reports (Excel and Word) as well has do PowerPoint presentations thanks to the VGA-out dongle that is supplied with the device. It is not going to be the fastest device out there when it comes to gaming or high-end graphics needs. It’s geared for the power user, not the casual user.
Put the form factor, target audience, and a price tag of nearly $1300 and the scope of who needs – and frankly who can afford – this device shrinks in a hurry.
All of that said, I absolutely love this device. It has exceeded my expecations on many levels and the performance and flexibility it affords me on a nearly daily basis has made it my #1 device for several months now. There are still rough edges for sure. The overall graphics performance could stand some improvement (video playback is not super) but overall it performs quite well.
Ultimately the question is if this is the right device for you. If you are looking for a laptop companion and part-time replacement device then absolutely you should consider it. If you are a power user meaning you spend more than 5-6 hours a day using your device, you should consider it as well. If you travel extensively and need to respond to emails, edit documents and answer calls while on the go, you should also consider it. If you have money to burn and don’t fit in any of these categories… sure, go for it! Clearly though the device is not intended for the casual or even serious user. The size of the device will unquestionably turn some away and the fact you have to use a wired or Bluetooth headset will turn others away.
If you decide the HTC Advantage X7510 is the device for you, I do not think – no, I know – you will not be disappointed in your decision.
What I Like
Expansive VGA display
VGA-out and USB Hub support via the included dongle
Included applications including Opera Mobile
What I Don’t Like
Video performance needs some improvement
Price is steep for some
Manufacture Website: http://www.htc.com