E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device Review

One of the things that I like the best about this job is the chance to look at and use some of the latest, greatest gadgets on the market today. I like writing for Gear Diary the best because of the diverse amount of products we get to look at. Recently, as many of you know, I’ve had the opportunity to take a look at a couple of new devices from E-TEN.  The E-TEN X800 is the top of the line model of the X series devices. Let’s take a quick look and see how the X800 stacks up.

Please note, that due to the recent site loss that Gear Diary had, I’m reprinting some of the previous posts related to this device as part of this review.

I’ve owned a number of different E-TEN devices, the M500, the G500, the M700, and now the X800 (and soon to be X650).  I was really concerned about this particular device, as the build quality of the previous three devices left a little to be desired. In fact, my daughter has been using the M700 for the past three months or so, and the device had some serious problems now. It is constantly getting stuck in boot loader mode, and getting it to turn on normally is a hit or miss exercise.

However, that’s another story for another time. Let’s take a look at E-TEN’s new slim, VGA powerhouse, the X800!!

The Unboxing

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

The box is WAY smaller than it looks here.  It’s really VERY tiny.


E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

There it is, just under the clear plastic… I’ve been waiting on this baby for MONTHS!

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

The X800 on the left, its case, wrapped in plastic on the right

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

The contents of the box, (starting with the device and moving counter-clockwise):

  • The X800
  • AC Adapter
  • AC Adapter prongs/tip
  • The 1530mAh Battery
  • Wired Headset
  • Getting Started Guide
  • Software CD and Spb Mobile Shell Coupon
  • USB Sync/Charge Cable
  • Screen Protector (White square above the X800)
  • Vinyl Belt Case
  • Instructions for putting the case on your belt (under the case)
  • Extra telescoping stylus

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

Device Comparison (from left to right): Siemens SX66 (HTC BlueAngel), Glofiish M700, Glofiish X800, Blackberry Curve 8310 Titanium, Treo 750

The X800 is somewhat smaller than the M700. Its the same width, but about 4-5mm shorter. Without the slide out keyboard, its substantially thinner, too.

The Full 360

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

Left side of each device (from bottom to top): The SX66, M700, Treo 750, Blackberry Curve 8310 Titanium, and the X800.

The left side of the X800 has the volume up and down button, and the record button. The somewhat white dot you see on the X800 isn’t a photo glitch, its the recessed, soft reset button. Below it, is the headset jack.

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

Bottom of the devices, (from bottom to top): The SX66, M700, Treo 750, Blackberry Curve 8310 Titanium, and the X800.

The bottom of the X800 has the microphone, the MicroSD slot door, and the mini USB port. The device has a telescoping stylus in the lower right corner, on the bottom of the device.

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

Left side of the devices, (from bottom to top): The SX66, M700, Treo 750, Blackberry Curve 8310 Titanium, and the X800.

The left side of the X800 has the camera button (on the left) and power button (on the right). The sides of the device are that wonderful rubberized plastic that is becoming so popular. Its a really dark black, too. Its so dark, I had a hard time actually finding the power button on the device.

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

Top of the devices, (from bottom to top): The SX66, M700, Treo 750, Blackberry Curve 8310 Titanium, and the X800.

The top of the X800 doesn’t really have anything on it at all. There’s some writing embedded into the rubberized plastic that says “GPS,” so I’m assuming that this is where the GPS antenna is located.

The Battery Compartment

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device

Me, trying to get into the battery compartment so I can insert my SIM card and the battery (in the background, in white).

I really couldn’t figure out how to get into this device. I had to look at the Getting Started poster to figure it out.  There’s a small indent near the bottom of the device and a small extended tab on the battery cover where you are supposed to get your fingernails under and pry the battery cover off. The picture was taken about 10 minutes into trying to get the cover off.  As I was struggling with this, I had all sorts of laughable things going through my mind, like:

  • “This thing came all the way from Taiwan and I’m going to have to send it back so they can take the battery cover off for me.”
  • “10 years in WM devices and I can’t get the battery cover off this device for a simple unboxing….LOOOOOSAHHHHHH!”
  • “[Content intentionally deleted, as this is a G-Rated site.]”

After I finally got the battery off, I thought to myself, “I wonder how many additional battery covers E-TEN is going to need to manufacture and ship as replacements to customers?” The device is encased in aluminum, but its really thin, and there’s plastic behind it. Someone (pick me) is going to bend and break the battery cover trying to get the damn thing off.

Initial Device Screens

E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device
The initial boot of the X800. Its got the classic Glofiish orange ROM screen The initial WM6 splash screen. It took over 90 seconds to get to this screen
E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device E-TEN X800 Windows Mobile Device
The initial WM setup splash screen. It took an additional 2 minutes to get here… Software installing from the extended ROM. This took about 7 or more minutes

Radio Reception
Over the past week or so, I’ve been putting the E-TEN X800 through its paces. Having owned or used the M500, G500, and M700, I thought I knew what to expect with the X800.  The GSM radios in all three of those quad-band GSM phones left a great deal to be desired. Honestly, I was poised for yet another disappointment…boy was I ever wrong!

The M500 was small, and stylish for about 2 years ago; and it felt SOOOOO good in my hand. It would have been a huge winner if the radio wouldn’t have dropped calls left and right. It was a rotten phone. The I-24 East corridor south of Nashville isn’t THAT devoid of towers.  The G500 had the whole TRON thing going on, and looked like a really cool phone. It had the same basic form factor as the M500; but was a little bit bigger.  The radio on it was somewhat better, but not much instead of dropping calls 3 times between Murfreesboro and Nashville, it only dropped calls twice. Again, not good. My other GSM phones, with the same carrier and SIM didn’t drop calls like that.

I got the M700 after moving back to Chicago, but along the I-88 corridor, it dropped calls twice, and always in the same place. Again, my other GSM phones didn’t do that. The WM6 Professional upgrade that came out for it, did improve radio reception somewhat, but not enough to make the M700 my daily driver.

Now, the X800…and all it’s 3G goodness..? Oh yeah, baby!  This thing’s radio is the shizzle!

I’m carrying at least 3 bars no matter where I am at the house, at least 3 bars no matter where I am at the office, and at least 3 bars everywhere in between during the commute. I’ve almost always got an HSDPA signal icon. Its never dropped to EDGE or GPRS coverage. The 3G radio is awesome! So, yeah… data is good.  Call quality is top notch as well. I can’t say that it’s as good as land-line call quality; but it is certainly giving my Comcast Digital Voice service a run for its money. Calls are clear, and have rivaled that of my land line. I’m very impressed!  This is one of the best phones I’ve used in a while!

Battery Life
In one of my recent blogs on the X800, I mentioned that I thought the unit E-TEN sent me was defective. It was.  They sent me a replacement unit, and I have some interesting news regarding its battery life.

What a difference a new device makes!!


Interesting thing was, I noticed the improvement right away.  With the older unit, the device might last about 3.5 – 4.0 hours…if I was lucky. The new device can go (and has) nearly 48 hours without a charge.  The interesting thing is that I live in a 3G coverage area. 3G is harder on the battery than just plain EDGE.  Oh, and by the way, to answer the lurking question – No, I haven’t seen the device struggle to hold a 3G signal. It nearly always has 3G, and I have never seen it drop down to EDGE.

To be honest, though, I rarely use WiFi. With an all you can eat data plan, I rarely have the need.  However, I suspect that with moderate radio use (WiFi, voice calls and data usage), you should be able to go most of the day before really needing a charge or battery change.

I am really impressed with the battery life in this device. Its not bad…not bad at all

Memory Usage
If there’s one problem that the X800 has, its memory. I’m not certain where the bottle neck is, but I have my ideas. There’s one heck of a lot of software in the device, and with only 64MB of RAM, the device only has 11-15MB free after a soft reset. For a device that sports HSDPA and GPS, 11-15MB isn’t enough to get things done.  My experience with the X800 has been mixed in application use at best.

I’ve been using iNav iGuidance 3.0 for GPS navigation on this device, and while it works well, the application runs very slowly.  The performance is really horrible.  The voice prompts are spaced 3-5 seconds apart when trying to pull voice prompted directions together. Its almost as though the CPU is taking a huge amount of time to think things through two and three times before it acts.  Which probably isn’t too far from the truth…

At the end of the day, I really have to wonder what E-TEN was thinking. The device’s performance can’t be news to them. They had to bump into this in their own testing. They have to have known about this before the device was released.  It seems to me that its simple enough to fix, as well…all we need is a ROM upgrade… and I don’t think that I’m asking for or expecting a lot.

Final Conclusions
I like this device. Its thin. Its light weight. It gets great radio reception; and of course has all the benefits of 3G. However, I was very disappointed with device performance, due to the memory issues it had.  However, I think that some software changes should resolve this, and should make the device worth having.  All we need do is wait for E-TEN to release a ROM update that addresses them.  The custom software for the task manager and such is pretty cool, and was a welcomed addition to the device.

The screen is one of the most awesome that I’ve seen. Pictures taken with the device look good on it, but leave something to be desired on bigger screens.  However, for a camera phone, its not too bad.

MSRP: $599.99 – search around for less expensive retailers, though
What I Like: SOME of the custom software, radio performance (finally!!), 3G, the continuously solid GPS performance, VGA screen
What Needs Improvement: Device performance

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