The MWg Zinc II Unboxed and Discussed

It was almost a year ago that Clinton posted his review of the O2 Zinc, and since then a lot has changed. As I mentioned in my MWg Mobius posting, O2 was purchased by eXpansys, and as part of the purchase eXpansys acquired everything and has now rebranded the company as MWg.

Today I’m going to share my early thoughts regarding the MWg Zinc II which I was given at the Mobius event; the second part of this review will come in a few weeks and will cover the software and overall user experience. But first, the unboxing…

Anyone who has ever owned an O2 device will tell you that their packaging was always nicely done, and the experience was akin to opening a present – something that companies such as HTC have recently begun to duplicate. As the newest incarnation of O2, MWg has continued that tradition.

The front of the attractively printed box has a magnetized flap that when opened reveals…

…the star attraction, the MWg Zinc II. However, we are going to set it to the side for just a little bit and explore the box’s other contents.

In the end cap of the layer which holds the device, there is a built-in box which holds an AC plug and four world-wide adapters.

This adapter inclusion makes the Zinc II one of the few devices which comes ready to travel.

With the top tray removed, there are still two packages left in the bottom of the box.

The smaller box, as noted here, holds the battery, stylus, stereo headset and miniUSB to USB sync & charge cable.

As is typical anymore, the space-saving stylus is a barely adequate telescoping affair. When closed, it measures exactly 2.17″ (5.52cm) x 0.12″ (0.3cm).

When extended, the stylus measures exactly 3.09″ (7.9cm) long; it is “okay” for jotting a quick note, but that’s honestly about it. If you prefer using a stylus to finger tip or keyboard entry on devices such as this, then you will definitely want to invest in a larger stand-alone stylus. This stylus will do when you forget the larger one.

The stereo headset is the of the wired earbud variety; it uses the miniUSB connector, so you will need a dongle adapter should you have a different wired heatset that you prefer using.

Inside the other box is a CD and a user manual…

Note that the box said Outlook 2002 was included, but it is in fact Outlook 2007; don’t get excited though, it is only a lame 60 day trial. This isn’t MWg’s fault however, it is Microsoft’s.

Okay, enough trifling, let’s look at the device! Measuring exactly 4.32″ (10.98cm) long x 2.37″ (6.02cm) wide x 0.725″ (1.84cm) thick, with a microSD installed the Zinc II weighs 6.3 ounces (179g).

With the exception of the flat glossy screen area which takes up so much of the Zinc II’s face and the strip of chrome circling the device’s diameter, the phone is coated in the black rubberized finish which I much prefer over any shiny plastic fingerprint-magnet case. This screen area is so large (at 3.75″ measured diagonally)that it begs for a protector; one isn’t included so I will most likely be modifying an iPhone version to fit.

The actual LCD is only 2.8″ (measured diagonally), but as you can see in the picture above, the flat plastic surface gives the illusion of a larger screen when the device is turned off. In a perfect world, the screen would fill that entire area and be VGA!

* UMTS Tri-band, GSM Quad-band
* HSDPA 3.6 Mbps
* Integrated SiRF Star III GPS Receiver with tracking software
* WLAN (802.11 b/g) and BT v 2.0
* Samsung SC32442 500 Mhz
* 1530mAh Li-Ion battery – up to 6 hours talk time, up to 260 hours standby time (subject to usage)
* 256MB NAND Flash ROM (167.82 available), 64MB SDRAM (50.53 available)
* 2.8” 65K TFT QVGA LCD (Touch Screen)
* Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
* Semi automatic sliding mechanism with qwerty keypad
* 2MP Camera (rear)

And now it’s time for a quick ring around the device: On the right side are the stylus silo, the camera button (reprogrammable), the reset button (activated by the stylus tip) and the power button/backlight toggle.

On the top, you can see one of the lanyard holes. I’ve got to tell you that I really like that this was included, as I’ve started to appreciate lanyards. On the top of the device is the ear speaker, which has a small LED built into its right side that will glow green, blue or red, depending upon the status it is displaying.

On the left side is the other lanyard hole, the volume up and volume down buttons, the Zinc II Quick Menu button (reprogrammable), and an open microSD slot. I do wish that there was a jogwheel in place of the volume buttons, but that’s just me.

On the bottom of the device is the microphone and a miniUSB sync & charge port.

The front of the Zinc II is extremely clean: there are two phone buttons and a four-way D-pad with center select. The call end button (red headset) also functions as a back button, and the main menu is easily navigated with the D-pad.

One last thing I want to mention is that the call and hangup buttons glow their respective green and red colors, and the center of the D-pad has a blue LED ring around it; all light up when the device is active.

As I mentioned in my short Mobius post, the Zinc II has a satisfyingly substantial feel. As most of you know, I don’t like devises that feel flimsy, too light, or cheap. The Zinc II does not creak, flex, or otherwise have any undesirable characteristics; its build quality is excellent.

The corners are pleasingly rounded…

…and the curves give the device the illusion of being smaller than it really is.

When compared to the HTC Hermes, it is obvious that the Zinc II is the thinner device; it is also slightly shorter, although it is also slightly wider. This is an appropriate comparison because both devices have sliding keyboards, yet the Zinc is so much smaller.

For comparison’s sake, the HTC Hermes measures exactly 4.44? tall x 2.29? wide x 0.85? thick, and with its memory card installed weighs 6.1 ounces. As mentioned above, the Zinc II measures exactly 4.32″ (10.98cm) long x 2.37″ (6.02cm) wide x 0.725″ (1.84cm) thick, and with its memory card installed it weighs 6.3 ounces (179g).

And here it is, with the sliding keyboard open. In all honesty, this is where some people will likely balk, because the keyboard does not use traditional buttons. Instead, it uses a pressure sensitive panel, with each key ringed by a raised ridge which defines the button’s area. This particular keyboard was actually a topic of discussion during Roger’s Mobius speech. He mentioned that when he first tried it he didn’t much care for it, but their engineers told him to keep using it for a week and then see what he thought, he eventually came to really like it. Like Roger, my immediate reaction was strong dislike, but after using it for several days I can report that I already have grown used to it and actually don’t mind it at all; I haven’t yet moved into keyboard nirvana, but perhaps that will come. This design appears to be the main reason why the phone is so much slimmer – even with the sliding keyboard, and that is a good thing.

My main objection to the keyboard is the fact that I have to hit the function key to get a period or comma. With that said, I am sure that I will grow used to this over time. The soft key buttons’ placement looks a little awkward at first, but I appreciate that it lines up with the soft keys shown onscreen; it feels less natural to me when they don’t lineup. I do find it worth noting that there is only one “OK” button on the entire device; the Hermes had three, the TyTN II had three, and the Mogul had three!

Overall, I have found the keyboard to be much more usable than I thought it would be. Posting this phone number on Twitter and telling people to send me texts helped greatly. 😉

Worth noting is that the ridges around the letter keys light up blue when the device is in use, making it easy to reply to texts or compose emails in a darkened room.

Hey! While I have the Zinc II open, let’s flip it over and look at the back. Here you can see the dual rails that allow the sliding action. The top and bottom halves snap smartly open or closed, and the two halves do not wobble when they are apart; everything feels tight, but I’m the first to acknowledge that the device is new and these are the early days of use. I’ll report changes, if there are any, in the second part of the review. I should mention that there perhaps a half second lag when the keyboard is opened or closed, but I don’t find it to be obnoxiously long.

The back of the Zinc II houses the external speaker, the 2.0 megapixel camera lens, a tiny mirror for checking your ‘do, and a non-locking slide-action battery door. When the door is removed, the device will automatically soft-reset.

When the battery door is removed, you can see the SIM slot and the very generous 1530mAh Li-Ion battery. MWg says it will get “up to 6 hours talk time” and “up to 260 hours standby time (subject to usage).” I’ll let you know in the second half.

When the Zinc II is reset, the user is welcomed by a distinctive MWg welcome screen.

This is something we’ll definitely dive into during the review: the Zinc II runs Windows Mobile 6.1, and it is my first device to do so.

Well that covers the initial hardware report. When I do the second half of the review I’ll hit upon how the Zinc II performed as a phone, its battery life, the camera, the GPS functions, and the updated software. So far, I like what I see…

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 So Far: 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 I Am Still Debating: The keyboard does not use traditional buttons and requires getting used to; the placement of the period and comma keys; it’s pretty pricey; 64MB RAM (Program) memory

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About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
I've had a fascination with all types of gadgets and gizmos since I was a child, beginning with the toy robot that my grandmother gave my brother - which I promptly "relieved him of" in 1973. I'm a self-professed gadget magpie. I can't tell you how everything works, but I'm known world-wide for using a product until I have a full understanding of what it does, what its limitations are, and if it excels in any given area — or not.