HTC Advantage X7500




The whole concept of this device is .. interesting. For someone to sit down

one day and go “hey, I think we should have a phone that looks like a laptop,

but it’s not a UMPC, it’s a Pocket PC with a really big screen”.




Indeed, this device gets the full range of reactions from onlookers. Some

think it’s a UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) and believe that the face-pointing camera

must be a webcam, others see you watching videos on it and think you

have some sort of media player. Flight attendants, seeking to shut down any

mobile phone before a plane departs, don’t quite know what it is, and simply

ask you to turn “that mini laptop thing” off.

So, a quick tour then. The front, with the keyboard magically welded to it,

has a small window at the bottom to show time, network and connectivity

information.

You could be fooled into thinking that this was a cool

power-saving idea but, in reality, the entire screen is illuminated and the

home screen is still shown behind the keyboard – you just can’t see it.

The keyboard is attached to the main unit using strong magnets. It acts as a

cover for the screen and is held in place by the magnets while you carry the

unit around. The cover sticks fairly well, however it is possible to push it

out of place with your thumb should you wish. When you flip this over the keys protrude just slightly from the ultra-thin keyboard.

The keyboard is so thin that there’s no real tactile feedback when you type. It’s mid-way between a completely flat keyboard and a normal computer keyboard, just with the springs removed from the keys. Although it feels a little strange I did manage to get some pretty quick typing done and, after a little practice, you don’t make that many mistakes either – there’s just that lack of “feebdack” on the keys that could spook people out. It’s pretty similar to the keyboard found on a calculator.

To the left of the handset is the volume control and left speaker. Below that

is the VGA output. This is the first HTC device I’ve seen with a VGA output,

so I decided to give it a whirl. The best way to show this in action is

through video, so I’ve got some YouTube action below. This single port is

ideal for anyone needing to present information easily.

There’s no laptop to

worry about, just pop the advantage in your coat pocket (yes, it does fit..

just) and out you go. You can also go one better and use the VGA output in

conjunction with the 3.5mm audio port (just to the right of the miniUSB sync

/ charge port). The screen resolution shown is fairly low, which has its’

good and bad points. Bad because there’s limited screen space to display your

wares, but good because you’ll not have any projector worries. I’ve seen many

sales guys struggling to show their hot new product to me because their

laptop is trying to pump the ultra-high-resolution wide-screen image through

a projector. They’ll end up messing around with the resolution on their

laptop and dropping it down to about 640×480 to get it working, losing

valuable minutes and frustrating the important “suits” who are slowly falling

asleep waiting.



In the video below I’ve emulated a typical presentation setup. You’ll noticed

that the Advantage is on charge in this video, which is mainly because the

battery of the Advantage will drain fairly quickly. I’m sure this was

probably caused by me leaving WiFi on all the time and getting into the habit

of leaving it propped up on a desk, so a charger should definitely be in your

bag if you’re on the road.

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On the right side of the device is the power button, which will wake the

device, turn it on, show your network status (with the cover on) and turn the

device off. Above that is the quick-access button for the comm manager, which

switches WiFi / ActiveSync / Push Email / Bluetooth and phone facilities on

and off. Press and hold this down to make an audio recording – ideal for

jotting down notes verbally or giving yourself a reminder. Above that is the

camera button and the stylus, which slides out. The stylus is made from clear

plastic.

The back is a flat and has just the 3 megapixel camera and flash. The flash

is really quite nice and works well. I’ve taken some test shots and these are

shown a little later in the the review. That extra megapixel really does make

a difference !

Towards the bottom is the reset switch and the miniSD, SIM card and battery –

all tucked behind one flap. Oh, and next to this is the connection strip for

the keypad.

On the front of the unit, at the top left, is the navigation control. It’s

similar to the small finger-control found on older laptops, although I have

to say this is a lot easier to use.

Press it down and you’ll select stuff,

move it to the right and you’ll navigate right. It also doubles as your

status light for charging and power status.

Below this you’ll find the OK button and the Windows Key to enter the

programs list. Look, there’s even a little hole for the microphone.

Over on the top right there’s the face-pointing camera for 3G video calls,

plus more LED status lights. GSM, Bluetooth / WiFi and an alert light let you

know what’s happening.

Below this you’ll find the blue Internet Explorer icon which is back-lit in

Orange like the other buttons on the unit. On this device it actually

launched Opera, although you can change this in the settings. Opera is used,

I presume, because it’s quicker to render pages and can therefore handle the

VueFLO input better. More on this in a moment.

At this point I figured it would be great to see a video run-through of the

HTC Advantage so you can get a proper feel of the device. This can be seen

below….

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We should probably talk about the specs. Quad band, HSPDA (and 3G) will get

you online, as will the built-in WiFi. You also get stereo speakers, a

640×480 screen, miniSD card slot, GPS and that TV Out. The big plus points

for me are the bits I’ve not really talked about so far – a 3 megapixel

camera (producing 2048×1536 pixel photos), the Intel PXA270 624 MHz CPU, GPS,

8Gb Microdrive and the VueFLO technology. The VueFLO system works using the

accelerometer technology you’ve probably seen in the Nintendo Wii – except

here it lets you browse sites merely by tilting the device in the appropriate

direction.


HTC VueFLO


The VueFLO system can be turned off too (probably good when you’re in a bus

and can’t control the level of tilt) plus you can adjust the sensitivity to

suit. Again this is probably best shown in a video, so click below to see how

VueFLO performs..

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GPS

Next up I wanted to test the built-in GPS, so I grabbed Google Mobile Maps

(free) and drove off down the road with the HTC Advantage on the dash board.

This, again, was very impressive. Satellites were located quickly and, as you

can see below, I even bagged a HSPDA signal courtesy of T-Mobile UK to ensure

that the live map imagery was downloaded at blistering speeds.

Again, battery life was perhaps not as good as a “normal” mobile phone,

however there is an 8Gb microdrive sapping up battery life too and – as

laptop owners will be aware – heavy disk usage will suck your battery cells

quite quickly. I’d advise a car charger if you’re to use sat-nav on this

device for a long journey. The last thing you’ll want is to turn up at an

important presentation with a flat battery. This drive is interesting because

today I could go out and buy a 4Gb miniSD card to put into this handset –

that’ll give me at least 12Gb of storage in total. I’m guessing that the 8Gb

microdrive is in danger of being superceeded by the miniSD card, however it

does give you loads of room to “wow” potential customers with a chunky video,

PDF or Powerpoint presentation. You also get bags of space for your satnav software and all the maps you could ever need.

The screen, I have to say, is really good when used with GPS. To have such a large screen in your car is definitely a bonus when you’re driving around and it’ll let you find your way easily, even when the car is rolling about.



Camera

The Advantage has a 3 megapixel camera which produces some excellent photos. It comes with a flash which.. actually does
flash. I’ve reviewed so many phones that have a small light which spreads about
as much light as a candle, but this is much better. I’ve taken some comparison
shots just to show you the same photo with the flash off (left) and on
(right). You can see that the flash is quite powerful and gives indoor / night shots a real boost. Colours are less “washed out” when the flash is used, especially in situations where you may not think it’s necessary.








Above you can see how much colour is added to the photo of the salad – this was a simple indoor photo taken under electric lights. The flash has given it a real boost. I also took some more shots below. As with all our reviews, you can click on each image to get the full “direct from the device” image in full 3 megapixel glory. I was impressed.









 

The camera, like most HTC devices, is pretty configurable with white-balance options, light meter and a variety of modes including picture, video, panoramic and sports to name just a few. There’s also a zoom function and a choice of storage to select from.


Inside


Here we’re presented with Windows Mobile 5.0. It’s a little out-dated now, however you still a lot of great functionality. If you really, really need Windows Mobile 6 then have a look for the HTC Advantage X7501. The unit we’re reviewing here is the X7500, and – unless you find the upgraded ROM on the HTC website – you’ll be downloading ROM’s found on internet forums, and that’ll void your warranty.


The screen is 640×480 and the resolution is probably a little lower than you’d like. I’ve published one screenshot in it’s original size to give you a flavour of the resolution you’ll be expecting. Big huh?

This increase in real estate does have several advantages. Working on Word and Excel documents (which you can do thanks to the inclusive of the Pocket Office applications) is a lot less stressful and you’ll hardly need to scroll. Remote Desktop, for example, only needs a very small amount of scrolling…

Browsing, which we’ve already shown in the video, can be done by tilting the device. You can see the VueFLO status at the top of this screen – it’s a dot inside a circle and will tell you which way you’re tilting it and how far. This may seem like obvious stuff, but the sensitivity level can take some getting used to. It can be adjusted though, as you’ll see in a moment.
See how much page fits on the screen – this can be adjusted with the "Zoom"
level. If you zoom out and make the font smaller you don’t need to scroll right
or left at all..


The VueFLO sensitivity can be adjusted through the settings pages. Or, if you prefer, you can turn it off. There’s also an option to choose your prefered browser. Opera is the default, which is probably wise because it’s a complete nightmare to try and use VueFLO in Internet Explorer. :)

We showed you the TV Output before – here’s that setting screen close-up. The settings here should allow you to push the display onto projectors, plasma TV’s, monitors and other LCD panels fairly easily.

A quick look around the Programs screen reveals the usual suspects. HTC have
added their excellent Audio Manager application and Adobe Reader is an
invaluable addition, as it Zip and the Office Suite for handling email
attachments and other files on the move. Pocket MSN will keep you chatting to
the outside world, while QuickGPS will grab your local location information so
that the in-built GPS knows which satellites to look out for, giving you a
quicker fix time.

The Opera browser is pre-installed, though I should point out that "MyMobiler"
and "Google Maps" (both free) were only installed for testing by me :)




The HTC Advantage is pushed along by a 624Mhz CPU and a whole wedge of memory giving you a rather brisk user experience.





Conclusion

I’ll keep this short and sweet. This is big. Fold a letter in half and you’ll get a fair idea of the size. However, it’s the closest thing you’ll ever own to a laptop, without actually owning one. The 8Gb microdrive works well and I’m glad that HTC still added the miniSD card slot in too. The only issues I had with this handset is that now, looking back on it, I know HTC could’ve probably attached the keyboard on a cool hinge system and perhaps make the keyboard a little better. The size won’t suit everyone, and I doubt I’ll see this sticking out of a builders’ jeans any time soon – for one it’s too big and for another it’ll get knocked about too easily.


Still, I do like it though. For anyone needing the advanced functionality and power it provides then I’d give it a try. The GPS works well and operates quickly, I can present data even if I forget the VGA cable and I can edit or create documents to my hearts content. If that’s not your thing then check out the “tilt and browse” mechanism, grab your email on the move, sync your contacts and use the GPS for sat-nav. Heck, you can make video phone calls and … even normal calls too. In tests I found that the phone picked up my voice well and could replace the desk phone to make my hands-free calls.

Buy the HTC Advantage X7500 network-free from devicewire or from T-Mobile as the Ameo with or without Co-Pilot.

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