Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review


Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

The Orange SPV M3100 is the bigger more powerful brother of the Orange SPV M3000 us Brits lusted over so much a while back.

It’s previous incarnation never appeared on our shores and many people defected to T-Mobile for their version of the M3000 – the T-Mobile Vario. Orange are obviously keen to correct this and they’ve thrown pretty much

everything at the M3100. It’s packed with features. You name it, it’s got it. Push email, ultimate connectivity, video calling, camera, flash, Bluetooth 2.0,

400Mhz processor, slide-out keyboard and it runs on Windows Mobile 5.0 (Pocket PC), so you’ve got mountains of software available to download.



Connectivity-wise the M3100 is all set for HSPDA – the “3G on steroids” protocol that’s coming soon to Orange and other networks. There is, of course regular

3G capability, then EDGE if you need it and even GPRS too. Even if that’s not enough for you then you can always use WiFi (802.11b/g) for hooking up to a local

hotspot or browsing the internet at home for nothing. Quad-band capability also means that the M3100 can not only keep you entertained on flights abroad but also keep you in touch

when you land. The usual IR port is also present, as is the mini USB plug for hooking into your PC. Bluetooth 2.0 also comes as part of the deal and will

allow your funky bluetooth headsets and car-kits to function as they did with your previous device.


In the box is your stylus, power adaptor, mini USB “sync” cable (for connection to your PC), carry case, lithium ion polymer battery (1300mAh), manuals, CD’s

(containing ActiveSync software etc) and a stereo wired headset with microphone.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

This headphone has caused a few raised eyebrows. Gone is the standard 3.5mm

or the fairly familiar 2.5mm separate audio port and instead you’ve got a mini USB plug on the end. Want to listen to your tunes while charging ? Ermm. No,

you can’t. Want to sync your M3100 while listening to Madonna ? Errm.. No, you can’t. The theory is that most people will use stereo bluetooth headphones,

but at present the reality is that most people want a 3.5mm standard plug for their headphones. However it does operate well and works as a hands free kit

too.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Above you can see the optional "muffs". These can get plonked onto your
headphones if you’re into your fluffy comforting headgear.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review



The handsfree / headphone kit has a volume slider and button on a control box mid-way down the cable which lets you control the volume etc.
There’s also a clippy thing for hooking onto your shirt or coat so your
headphones don’t slide down your legs.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review



Let’s have a look at the unit itself. As far a looks go the M3100 has a slightly more rugged appearance compared to other mini Pocket PC’s in the SPV
range. The main case is black in colour with an almost pebble-like finish. The silver screen surround and the “action” button

is a polished silver whilst the buttons and camera surround have a brushed silver effect. It’s not a light device, however it’s not overly heavy either –

I’d call it a “reassuring weight”. Considering the power, features and connectivity this thing has it’s a nice

package and you’ll not need to worry about putting it to your head for a phone call.



Confused? Well, if you’ve read our review of the T-Mobile Vario I you’ll probably be aware

that bigger or “regular size” Pocket PC’s look a bit mental when you put them to your ear for a phone call. It’s almost like holding the lid of a shoebox

next to your head… Not a good look. Devices like the M3100 (and the Vario) carry off

that “phone like” appearance whilst being hugely powerful, useful AND usable.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review



At the bottom of the unit there’s a button for initiating video calls quickly. Press this and you’re given the phone pad. A press of the left soft-key will

give you your contacts list then you can use the scroll wheel to choose who to dial. More on that scroll wheel in a minute though. :)

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review



You’ve also got the standard answer / drop call buttons, joypad (which works very well indeed), soft-keys and a two very useful shortcut buttons – one for

accessing the “Start” button drop-down and the other for “OK”. There’s actually another “OK” button on the side too. In fact, the M3100 has quite a

few very useful shortcut buttons which some Pocket PC upgraders may at first find a bit hard to master but believe me they’re worth it in the long run and

you’ll soon be clicking away getting through menus and tasks quicker than ever before.



 

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

At the top of the handset you’ll find yet more handy buttons – one for messaging and one for Internet Explorer. Between these are the status LED’s such as

power / charge, bluetooth and network etc. The earpiece is tucked away in here too and the audio quality is fine. On the right is the face-pointing camera

for 3G calls – don’t forget you can switch between the rear-mounted camera and this one during your 3G video call.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review



The Internet Explorer button is especially handy when you want to quickly browse the internet – just tap the power button, hit the internet explorer button,

slide the keyboard open and you’re ready to enter any web address you fancy. Ah… now, this brings me to a minor issue. It’s obviously got

power-saving – the screen goes off after a lack of use to stop you accidentally calling Aunt Maud in Australia while you’re walking around. However, I’m a

little surprised that there’s no option to allow things like “turn screen on when keyboard extended”. This simple feature would let me open the keyboard and

get onto the internet quicker.



While we’re on the subject let’s have a look at the keyboard. It takes up around 80% of the width which gives you enough space to rest your thumbs. The keys

themselves have a fantastic feel about them and show a definite quality. I will admit being worried when I first saw this keyboard – it looked a little

condensed and the lack of space between keys looked like a typing nightmare. The reality? It’s not bad at all. Each key is slightly domed and for easy

location and, if we step back slightly and compare it to the Orange SPV M2000 from just a year or two ago there’s a

definite leap forward in keyboard construction..

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

The keyboard also has a number of shortcuts which you can see in blue below. I found that I used the “WiFi on/off” button quite a bit – it’s the “OK” button next to

the Windows key. The new WiFi hardware in the M3100 will handle both 802.11b and 802.11g, plus there’s a new “Change Networks” option in the WiFi

settings. The WiFi in the M3100 does also act slightly differently to other handsets – it’ll continually look for a WiFi connection and doesn’t seem to

de-activate or timeout unless you tell it to.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review



You may also notice on the top right there’s a light sensor which does a great job of sensing when to turn the backlight on for the keyboard. It’s a cool blue colour when illuminated. The numeric keypad is located on the right-side of the keyboard and can be accessed by holding the “.” key down on the lower left whilst keying in numbers. I found the keyboard very easy to use, although I still have a bit of trouble typing in a capital “A” as you have to press the shift key and the “a” key directly above it at the same time.



On the right side of the unit is the power button. You’ll be pressing it a helluva lot, believe me. Why? Well, with the power saving switching the

screen off after 2 minutes you have to tap the power button to wake it up again. Sure you can change this, but I’m going to concentrate on the “out of the

box” experience. Hitting this button can be a little tricky at times. There’s no “nipple” on it for quick location and it’s actually recessed into the

device. Even stranger is the fact that the comm manager button next to it DOES have a “nipple” and ISN’T recessed into the unit.
Look!

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Thankfully there is a way of changing this – just go into Settings->System->Key lock. Within this screen there’s an option to make all buttons “pressable”

even when the device is off. Of course, the trouble with this is that you could accidentally launch Internet Explorer, make a phone call or do something else

that’ll cost you money. Though after two weeks, I almost prefer the latter option rather than having to find that recessed power button each time I want to

use the unit.


Also on the right of the unit is the camera button – you may also be able to see the stylus here too. It’s home is at the bottom of the unit on the M3100 and

the stylus itself is one of those extending jobbies.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

To be honest with the plethora of buttons and shortcuts on this device you can get away with doing the

majority of daily tasks without ever getting this stylus out.

 

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

The camera button above activates this rather prominent-looking camera. The design of the lens surround is much better than previous designs. Again if we

look back at how the camera was installed on the
Orange SPV

M2000 there’s a marked difference. The M3100 definitely gives it more “whoomp” with a flash, macro switch (for taking shots of stuff up-close), an

integrated mirror and a brushed metal surround. This is way cooler.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review



Ahh – I’ve left the best until last. On the left we’ve got something new – a scroll wheel. This gives rapid access to contacts and menu items. Previous

Pocket PC owners may find this a little hard to get used to but trust me, it’s a fantastic time-saving gadget.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

You can make a call to someone simply by

rotating slightly and then pushing in a couple of times. No stylus – no messing. Simple, quick access into things you need simply and quickly. You can still use the joypad to navigate up and down the IE pages though.

Below this wheel you’ve got another “OK” button. Yep, there’s two “OK” buttons on here …. actually there’s three if you count the one on the slide-out

keyboard, however the guys at Orange / HTC have done a great job in realising that it’s the most used button. I’ve no doubt I’ll still see people using their

thumb-nail to try and hit the “OK” or “X” button in the top-right corner, however it’s great to see more than one on a device.
Below the “OK” button is a shortcut button to the Voice Speed Dial. One tap of this, then you say a name and the M3100 will call someone or launch an

application for you. I still find it useful to set one up called “Calculator” – especially if you get providers like T-Mobile who tend to remove the

calculator from the list of programs (it’s still there tucked away in the system though) :)

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

At the bottom of the left hand side is a MicroSD / Transflash slot. DOAH! You guys out there upgrading will be punching the desk right now. Gone are the SD

cards, gone are those movies and pictures you took on your previous card (unless you faff about moving them across of course). It’s another memory card type

and you’ll need to fork out some cash to get one. Have a look on MobyMemory for some good deals

on these cards because there isn’t a free one in the box unfortunately. Oh, and no – I don’t know why some people call them “Transflash” and some people call

them “MicroSD” when in fact they’re the same thing. One of life’s mysteries that. At the time of writing the biggest micro SD you’re able to buy is 2Gb.

Compare this to the 4Gb SD’s that are available and then consider in the money you’ve probably already spent on previous SD / MiniSD cards for your previous

device.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review




Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review



Right on the base of the unit we’ve got the IR port, a little flappy switch for opening the battery cover and a standard miniUSB port. Although this miniUSB

port may look a little different I can confirm it’s the same one that a lot of Smartphone / Pocket PC users are used to, which is good news for your

cable and charger collection. You can also find the reset switch here too – this is activated using the stylus to reset / reboot the device.. I’m sure you’ll

never have to use it though. :)

Here’s the inside of the unit with the battery removed. The
battery lasts quite a bit if you leave the power-saving features alone, however
if you dare to set the screen to "always on" you’ll soon find a fairly flat
M3100 in your pocket.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Starting up

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

When you first power-up the SPV M3100 it’ll apply all the Orange
tweaks and homescreen additions that turn the device from a regular HTC Hermes
into a proper Orange device. This takes a few seconds and only happens
out-of-the-box.

Once done you’ve presented with the Orange homescreen. This will be familiar for
Orange customers by now and works extremely well with the new scroll-wheel.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

The Orange SPV M3100, running on Windows Mobile 5.0, comes with
push-email for Exchange users plus the connectivity is excellent. WiFI? Got it.
3G? Got it. Bluetooth, GPRS, EDGE, even HSPDA – it’s all here so there’s very
little chance of you being out of coverage.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review 
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Above you’ll notice that I have "3G Orange". You’ll also get
"3G" displayed at the top of this screen too – it’s missing at present purely
because I had it ActiveSync’d to take this shot. During the setup phase (above)
when you the Orange modification will alter the "U" which is normally displayed
to indicate "UMTS". The "3G" logo is more widely recognized here in the UK and
it’s good to see this attention to detail.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

A few years ago I tested one of the first 3G phones to come onto
Orange. I’ve also tried 3G on the

Orange SPV M5000
but the 3G reception on the M3100 seems much better
than anything I’ve tested before. I’m a bit of a geek and I know exactly where
the 3G transmitter is for our village – it’s just up the hill by a supermarket.
Any 3G handset I’ve previously tried on Orange has only picked up a 3G signal
from this transmitter if I’ve gone upstairs and hung out the window a bit. Now,
with the M3100 it works downstairs too and this is all due to the M3100 – I’ve
checked again with an M5000 and the coverage is still iffy on that.

The standard homescreen / "Today" screen comes with the view from the back of a
speed boat during a sun set. You can, if you wish, alter this through
Settings->(Personal)->Today however the Orange theme works rather well and is
easy enough to pick up. You can, if you wish, move your joystick up or down to
switch between the various options but it’s definitely better to use that wheel
we mentioned on the top left of the device. Each available menu pops up to the side as
you scroll down…

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

To show you this in action I’ve added the video below. Apologies
for the quality – it’s a YouTube special, however you should be able to see me
scrolling down the Today screen, then I choose "Contacts", then I use the wheel
again to select who to call. It’s just a matter of pushing the wheel in and
it’ll call the person you’ve chosen, or text them, or email them, whatever. The
wheel really is incredibly useful and I doubt we’ll see many Pocket PC phones
being released in future without this feature or something like it..


You guys also emailed in to ask what the screen-switching speed was like.
Some of you may remember that earlier devices had a definite "lag" when opening
the keyboard which would switch the screen orientation. I’m happy to report that
there’s no lag on this device, although if the screen is heavily "loaded" or
you’re running lots of programs at once you still may get a short delay. It’s
nothing major though. Again, here’s another YouTube video to show that
screen-switching in action…

Initiating a call is easy and there’s several ways of doing it.
You can either use the wheel or tap the green button on the front of the device
and type the number into the dialpad on the screen. The predictive dial guesses
which number you’re trying to dial based on the digits you entered. The same
thing happens if you slide out the keyboard at this point too. Both the call
history and contacts list is searched and suggested numbers appear on screen.
You can see here I’ve found the one I need, so I’ve just moved down and it’s
dialed it.
 

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

3G Video calling is included on the SPV M3100 and the device
keeps hold of the 3G signal much longer than any other SPV I’ve used before. You
can choose from several different views – making both your screen or the other
person larger or smaller. Plus you can switch from the front camera to the rear
camera mid-way through your call, or put people on hold etc. All very flash.

Video calling can be used to keep in touch with loved ones, however I seem to
have a fascination with this Pepsi can…

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Programs

As this is Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC you get a huge slab
of programs included when you purchase the device. For new owners or upgraders
not familiar with the device you’ll find a "Help" function in the Accessories
folder plus there’s a SIM manager to import your contacts.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

You’ll also find a Terminal Services Client, more commonly known
as RDP or Remote Desktop. I like using this for remote working – I can remotely
connect to the PC at work and do all the work-related stuff whilst sitting in
the pub. (Note to the boss, I don’t do this ….honest)

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Here’s the main Programs list. I’ve got to apologize here
because I’ve actually installed some extra programs myself. I guess you could
take that as an indication of how much I like it though ? :)

ShotCode
,
pRSSReader
,

SplashBlog
and

Skype
aren’t included but please do download and install them ‘cus
they’re ace. (Note to self, saying "cus they’re ace" in a product review will
not get you noticed by the large magazines or newspapers).

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review 
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

You’ve got Games which of course contains Bubble Breaker and
Solitaire, then ActiveSync for connecting and synchronizing your contacts,
calendar appointments, tasks and more.  This’ll synchronize your life –
everything on your PC that you want to carry around with you can be synchronized
with the Orange SPV M3100.  Here’s what I’ve got on my Options list –
Contacts, Calendar appointments and Favourites. You can choose as many or as few
as you wish.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Adding a new contact, for example, is just a matter of using
your PC to enter the necessary details in Outlook. All the details – and I do
mean all – will be fired across to your M3100. Email address, postal address,
picture, fax number, the works. Here’s a quick look at me adding a contact in
the other way – via the M3100. It’s pretty damned easy. Here I’m using the
on-screen keyboard however it’s extremely easy to use the slide-out one to do
the same thing.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Next on the list of programs is a Calculator. That’s…well, a
calculator. Next up is ClearVue PDF – a fantastic addition which will let you
open up Adobe PDF files. It’s great not to have to wait until you’re at the
office to see that all-important PDF attachment and this should be standard in
every Windows Mobile device.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

As part of the Mobile Office suite we’ve got Excel. It’s a
cut-down version of the PC version however it’s excellent for editing and
creating spreadsheets on the move. You’ve also got Microsoft PowerPoint and Word
too. Again don’t forget that using both of these apps with the slide-out
keyboard is a dream. I’ve written entire blogs and part of this review with
Microsoft Word on the M3100 keyboard and it’s a fantastic to have it in your
pocket when you feel the urge to jot something down.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

There’s also File Explorer, something which I use in conjunction
with WinZip, both of which come on-board and both of which should be part of
every Windows Mobile device. Top stuff.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review 

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Windows Media Player is also in the M3100. It’s got everything
you’ll need for playing both audio and video files. You can switch to full
screen and enjoy videos the way they were intended and there’s stacks more
options besides.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review
 

A proper non-Java version of Pocket Internet Explorer comes next
with a stack of options for resizing the text, changing the way websites are
viewed and the ability to zoom in on stuff too. You can do almost everything you
can do on your regular Internet Explorer – add favourites (by the way, it’s
still
spelt wrong as "Favorites"), view history etc.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review 

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Settings

OK in the settings we’ve got pretty much everything you’ll need
for changing your out-of-the-box M3100 into your own individualized device.
We’ve got "Buttons" which changes those button settings we mentioned earlier.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Here’s the options in the "Buttons" setting. To be honest I’ve
tried changing this to make my "power button pressing" life easier however it’s
probably best to leave these settings as default.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

On the next tab you’ve got settings allowing you to set the
backlight, alarm, device info, clear the on-board storage, key lock and memory
usage – this option is always useful if you’re trying to "kill" a running
program. There’s also Power settings, regional settings, screen orientation /
text size / cleartype settings and you can remove your installed programs here
too.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review 
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

The Connections tab is pretty self-explanatory. It’s got
everything you’ll need to connecting your device to something else. The Comm
Manager on the top right is accessed here or you could just press that
shortcut-key we mentioned earlier which is located next to the power button..

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

This is the Comm Manager. You can quickly turn various aspects
of the handset on or off. Bluetooth, WiFi, Push Email, Activesync, the Ringer or
the phone itself.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Camera

The 2 megapixel camera has a whole new interface. It’s something I’ve
never seen before and it includes some photographer-tricks to help you get a
better shot. Here’s a shot of the preview screen – see how many options you have
here ? Stacks. The -/+ control at the bottom sets your brightness, the arrow
thing on the top-left switches between camera, video, MMS video, contact
picture, picture themes, panorama, sports mode and much more.

You can also change where the pictures are stores (internal memory or that
MicroSD card) and the size of each image – you’ll know how many you’ve got by
the number on the top left. Then, on the bottom left there’s access into
settings and the Pictures & Videos.

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review 
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review 

Oh, and see that little box next to the "Auto"? Well this is
quite a clever tool. If you’re taking a snap of something with lots of light in
the centre of the image it can make the outside of the image dark. I’ve taken a
couple of shots (below) of our stairs at home. You can see on the first shot the
stairs appear to be dark because the centre of the image has sunlight bouncing
off the wall. The camera has used the light in the centre to judge the light
balance. However, if we change the setting (shown above right) it’ll use the
light from the whole image and balance it out like so..


Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review
 

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

The camera is much better and the 2 megapixel quality really
shows through. The flash works well if you’re around half-a-metre from the
person you’re snapping and the macro-lens will turn you into a close-up genius!
Check out these two close-up shots – click them to get the bigger versions….


Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

I also took a number of shots on the maximum setting (2 megapixels) in various
lighting conditions..

Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) ReviewOrange SPV M3100 (3G) Review
Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review


Orange SPV M3100 (3G) Review

See that last shot? As I was getting dragged through the car-wash I figured it’d
be a good idea to test out the video-camera facility on the device. The result
is this

11Mb MP4 file
however I’ve uploaded it to YouTube for easy viewing –
don’t forget that there might be a slight loss in quality over YouTube…

Overall

The Orange SPV M3100 is an extremely powerful device. Sure, without
the power-saving turned on you’ll be needing to recharge it a couple of times a
day. Sure, whenever I call someone and the line is busy it goes “BEEP BEEP BEEP” at full volume from the rear speaker for no apparent reason. There’s other little tweaks I’d like to see such as – when you get a text message and the whole thing easily displays on the “Today” screen I should have a “Mark as read” option straight away to say that I’ve read it. I shouldn’t need to press “Menu”->(down,down,down,down)->”Mark as read”. I should also be able to tap the pop-up preview message and have it open the SMS inbox automatically, but it doesn’t. :( Little tweaks here and there is all that’s needed and I’m sure they’ll be on the way – let’s not forget it can be patched and upgraded on the fly.


However – even with the minor things I’ve found I still feel that this is
one hell of a punch for your pound. The sheer capability and connectivity
available in this device is astounding and the shortcut keys, keyboard and
scroll-wheel make tasks quicker and easier to do – it’s like the Pocket PC has
reached another level. This is also a device which won’t look "geeky" and
maintains its’ cool appearance – although a little thicker than other devices in
this form it’s slide-out keyboard is a definite bonus, as is the 3G / WiFi
connectivity and the HSPDA connections when available.

All in all, if you’re looking for one of the most powerful, useful, flexible,
stylish Pocket PC’s around then this is the device for you.