Monday, October 22, 2007

HTC TYTN 2/Vario III/HTC P4550 review

HTC TYTN 2/Vario III/HTC P4550 review

I should actually call this review First Impressions because I have not yet fully explored this wonderful device, but I know I am too lazy to write second impressions so, let it be.

Background - Every reviewer writes from previous experience, they compare their previous phones or similar phones with the item under review. I am going to do the same, only my previous phone is a little different. I have a QTEK 9000 also known as i-mate Jasjar, quite a hefty 250gms mammoth with 3.6" VGA screen., opens like a laptop with a full QWERTY backlit keyboard. Before this I had i-mate K-Jam which was more like TYTN2 in shape with a slide-out keyboard. That said let's delve into the Vario III.

Design - Compared to my QTEK 9000 (will call it Q9 from now on), the V3 (Vario III, of course) is smaller and lighter, seemed disappointingly tiny when I unboxed it and I had to remind myself that the Q9 (which has been called Brick and Laptop by my colleagues in the past) was not my favorite for its size. I had had to settle for the size because of the advantages it had to offer, the main one being the A2DP profile that I was crazy for at the time (A2DP=Advanced Audio Distribution Profile - lets you listen to music over bluetooth). V3 is lighter, smaller, slimmer, prettier and the Q9 poses no challenge in that area to V3.

Usability: Comparing them calmly the Q9 still has those advantages, it is big and heavy but the 3.6 inch VGA screen is beautiful to watch, not just for video but also text, the V3 visibly lacks it and I felt it in every application, TomTom, SMS text, even handwriting recognition.
Same goes for the keyboard, Q9's bigger keyboard is definitely better for typing. Having said that, I had to admit that the V3's keyboard is as good as could be given the size and other features of the device. The design and keyboard layout has been improved considerably since K-Jam and it doesn't take much practice to start typing on this little keyboard. The Function and Capslock lights are a great addition and very practical to use.
The tilting screen which has attracted and fascinated most users and reviewers is a great party gimmick but hardly worth more than that. But one place where I have to admit it's usefulness is when you want to watch a video or MMS placing the phone on a tabletop. Otherwise it hampers typing, covers the soft keys on the slide-out keyboard and the top row of keys doesn't benefit from it either. But I still love it, esp. the fact that it can be adjusted to any angle up to almost 45.

The V3 has a very solid feel to it and its slim shape is good to hold in the hand and comfortable to slide in the pants pocket. One thing that was missing in the Q9 was its one hand operation without opening the keyboard. It has very few keys for that. K-Jam was better, Vario III is the best. There are a multitude of keys on the front and around the sides of the phone that let you do a lot of things without having to open the keyboard or pull out the stylus. The best of all being the 5 way block that you can use to move around or select items. The 3-way jog-dial on the left is a welcome addition that I had been missing since my Sony Ericsson P910i. That was 5-way but 3-way is good enough here.

The keyboard slides under to the right as opposed to K-Jam and other devices that open to the left and that I don't like. In time, I'll get used to it, but I still don't like it. They should have asked me first.

While on the subject of usability, thank God they got rid of the telescopic stylus. My K-Jam's stylus had lost the will to telescope in the last months and that was a chore to pull it open by hand. This one is slim and fragile-looking but quite usable and accurate. The right-bottom slide hole for the sylus is a big inconvenience esp. when you have the keyboard out and you realize that you are right-handed.

The SIM-card slot is behind the screen when you pull out the keyboard, which is not commentworthy but I am glad the SIM compartment is quite solidly built into the body with a lockable cover over it.

There is a cover over the GPS external antenna hole but no cover or recession for the camera lens. Why is common sense so uncommon? Now I have to be careful where I place this beautiful piece of art for the next one year.

Ok, let's talk about specific features now.

GPS: Of course, that's the ultimate gimmick of all so we'll talk about it first. There are other devices in the market that have built-in GPS receiver but if this is not the best, there can be none better. I was using an external bluetooth GPS reciver with my Q9 and TomTom as the s/w. I am still using TomTom Navigator 6 with V3's built-in GPS and the differences are noticeable. One thing, let me get it out of my system, the text looks crap compared to Q9's VGA screen. Other than that it's as wonderful as an obedient,beautiful wife.

GPS Setup. Once I figured out that TomTom takes some time to find the built-in receiver, it was all good. TomTom takes about 10 seconds. And after that in 10 seconds or less you get the first fix. It picks up satellite even from indoors if you have a window open. With my external GPS I had to take it to the window and then it took about 1 minute or more to get the first fix. This little guy is amazing.

Oh, one thing where my external GPS was quite unusable. If you started moving before turning the receiver on it took forever to get a fix, sometimes I simply had to pull over if I really needed directions. With the V3, no problem. 10 seconds.

Using the GPS. Fantastic! I used to have about 50-100 yards lag when using the external GPS. Now, it's so real-time like there's a camera focused on my car. You can see the street on your left when the map shows you passing that street. It's really great for people like me who get confused in the English roundabouts. Now, I don't have to count the yards to the exit, I can see my real time location on the screen and see which exit the GPS lady means when she says,"..take the 5th exit". I'd buy it just for the GPS if for nothing else.

Camera: Haven't used it much yet but it's 3MP and lives up to it. No cellphone camera with or without flash took good pictures in low-light and night and I don't expect any different from V3, though I haven't tried it yet. One thing that I have tried and noticed is the autofocus. Usually autofocus means there's no zoom, in this one it really does focus, when you press the shutter halfway you can see the focus moving and it works great. No mirror for self-portrait, very bad. You can take your own picture from the front camera but that's just VGA so, mirror was needed. Anyway, spilt milk.

Media player. The performance is great. Windows Media player works fine. But of course, you'll download other programs to play more formats on it. Oh yes, the performance is really great. My Q9 had 520 processor while this little guy has only 400, but the performance is noticeably better. It must be because of the double RAM and ROM.

The Home screen and the related features, like finger scrolling and panning are very useful and impressive.

Windows Mobile 6 maybe the latest word from God (or Bill Gates, same difference, isn't it?), but I don't like it. So far, I have found one application, very very useful one that lets you use your camera phone as a webcam on the computer, and it runs on my Q9 with WM5 and doesn't run on V3. So, until people start developing apps for WM6, I am going to keep on hating it.

Battery - I can't really talk about battery life. For a new phone you have to fully discharge and recharge the battery at least 3-4 times to get its full potential and I have done that only once yet. I am expecting that I'll have to charge it every night with a fair amount of usage and I am ok with it. Considering that I have access to computers everywhere and it can charge from USB port, it's not a big issue anyway.

Storage - I won't give figures but on my Vario III plenty of memory is free even on the device. Must be because T-Mobile got stingy with applications. I didn't even get the World Card Mobile that I was looking forward to. On the card side, it supports the microSDHC (HC=High Capacity) cards, so far as I know, it's the only piece to support the HC part, and I bought a cheap 6GB card for it from and you can too. 6gig is quite enough to live in and I am happy about it. The access performance is very fast, on the phone and on the desktop over the cable.

Connectivity - It boasts of many options for connectivity, 3G, HSDPA,HSUPA, EDGE, GPRS, Bluetooth, (no IR though), quad-band GSM and it delivers on all of them. I have very sucky T-Mobile signal where I work but it still lets me access email etc. over GPRS so that's fine. With T-Mobile's web n walk package, it's a really fun phone to own.

Bluetooth - I can see a very clear and definite improvement over my Q9 while listening to music over bluetooth with my Sony Ericsson wireless earphones.

Oh well, it's a herculean task trying to describe all the features of this pocket pc and their impact on one's life, but at least I tried.

Maybe some other time I'll talk about the applications I am installing on it. But of course, Google maps was the first thing I downloaded. :-)

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