The Zest is an Asus-built handset and, once out of the rather swish
box, it’s a jolly nice thing to hold. The shiny surfaces give the
handset a polished appearance and the flat pebble syling makes it a
very touchable handset. This is a fingerprint magnet though, and the
back of the device is especially prone to sweaty prints. The minute you
pick this handset up you’re hit with two first impressions. The screen
is very clear and high resolution, plus the build quality is top notch.
Even little things like the backlight are done well – it fades on and
off, but it’s almost a joy to watch. It’s like the dashboard of a
The screen itself is recessed into the unit slightly but the front of
the Zest is flat which makes navigating the screen easy. Inside the
specs are pretty damned decent…
Marvell TavorP 624MHz
Microsoft® Windows Mobile(tm) 6.1 Professional
256 MB NAND Flash ROM
128 MB SDRAM
MicroSD card slot (SDHC)
480×640 TFT screen
EDGE/GPRS/GSM(900/1800/1900Mhz) / HSDPA 3.6Mbps, UMTS 2100Mhz
Bluetooth 2.0 EDR
WLAN : 802.11b/g Built-in SiRF star III GPS
3 Megapixel camera plus VGA camera at the front for video calls
120.5g (with battery)
102 x 60.5 x 16.5 mm
1300 mAh Lithium Ion battery
3G: up to 3 hrs; 2G: up to 5 hrs
To give you an overview of the handset out of the box we filmed these
two videos. The first is an unboxing whilst the second is a more
in-depth look at the Zest in use. These videos are a great way to show
off the handset.
Let’s take a closer look at the Zest now with our usual journey around
the external features. Starting on the front of the handset we have the
o2 branding with Xda printed up top. The top hides a small but clear
LED which indicates network activity and battery status. Next to that
is the VGA camera which will let you do video calls and the earpiece
for your calls.
Lower down the navigation control is pronounced but isn’t uncomfortable
to use. It’s easy to locate and very responsive with concise clicks.
Surrounding it is the call answer / drop keys and the OK / Windows keys
above it. There’s no softkeys here so you’ll be pressing the bottom of
the screen to access the menu options but it’s not a great problem.
On the bottom of the handset you’ll find the familiar miniUSB port
along with the reset hole – stick your stylus in here if anything goes
wrong. The miniUSB will let you listen to tunes (with the included
headset), sync or charge your device. There’s a nice silver strip going
around the bottom edge of the handset here which helps to break up the
To the right, again on the glossy silver strip, is the camera button.
Neatly placed under your trigger-finger when the phone is held
landscape-style, it activates the camera whne you press and hold. Once
into the camera app you can press down softly to focus and then click
down to snap a photo. I know this is going to sound a little weird but
this button feels just right – the pressure you have to put onto the
button is just like an expensive camera and the pictures produced are
Towards the top you’ve got the innovative “kill switch”. Click this
down and you’ll see a red dot appear beneath the switch. This indicates
that the phone is disabled / in standby and, although there can be a
slight lag for the OS to crank up, I can’t see why every Windows Mobile
doesn’t have one of these.
Up top you have the power button. This is recessed and concave in
shape, making it a little tricky to press, however it’s only ever used
to turn the device on from a complete power off – not standby. You’ll
be using the “kill-switch” for that.
To the left there’s a small GPS rubber gromit which I presume covers
the external aerial, whilst below you have the volume up and down keys.
Round back there’s the 3 megapixel camera and a super-shiny fingerprint
magnet cover. The external speaker is here to, and you’ll notice that
the device doesn’t have a flash. Internal shots turn out fine though,
but you must remember to hold the phone a little steadier to get a good
As you can see above, the high scren resolution makes screenshots a
little large, so we’ve halved all the shots here. I wanted to include
the one above to give you an idea just how good the resolution is
though. It really shows through.
Let’s depart from our usual review style and take a look at the camera
first. As you’ll have noticed earlier I’m pretty impressed by the
built-in 3 megapixel shooter. A flash isn’t present, so it does
struggle with low-light conditions, but the shots aren’t bad at all.
Straight out of the box this was set on a resolution which was less
than the maximum. This has always been a massive bug-bear for me. Why
set your camera to be on a lower resolution than it’s capable of ?
That’s like having your computer run at half speed.. on purpose.
Anyhow, that point aside there’s various modes you can choose from.
Auto is set as default, but Night, Sports, Burst and a whole range of
options are also available including shutter sound, picture prefix and
The first two shots below were set to the lower resolution, but you can
see the macro mode in full effect. As usual you just need to click
these photos to see the direct-from-device photo.
Here’s a couple more with the macro mode on, but this time in high
Now a selection of indoor (low light) and outdoor shots in the snow.
A feature that stood out for me was the USB mode.You can set
it to various modes, including the very helpful “mass storage” mode
which will turn your microSD card inside the phone into a pen drive for
ultra-fast data transfers. As with all Windows Mobile phones it’ll sync
your data, contacts, calendar appointments and more – all via the
ActiveSync cable supplied or via Microsoft Exchange.
The Windows Mobile 6.1 OS powers this device and, deep down, the normal
Windows Mobile interface is on the phone and you can use the standard
“Today” system to handle you navigation needs. However, with times
moving on most manufacturers and networks are doing their best to hide
the clunky Windows Mobile interface system with an array of GUI
improvements. Here o2 have used SPB Mobile Shell to build a slick
interface which is really easy to use with even the fattest fingers.
Press the “o2 Menu” and you get a 3-by-3 grid which lists your programs
and tools in a neat, clean fashion. This appears to be directly linked
into the programs listed on the normal Today / Windows Mobile
interface, so you can confidently install whatever you wish and have it
easily accessible on this screen.
This interface system is noticeably different to the TouchFLO 3D GUI
offered by the likes of HTC. Here the GUI seems to work with
the OS and blends well, whereas the HTC method almost re-skins the
Inside the GPS capability comes into its own with the CoPilot software
offered up on the supplied 1GB card. You can also use Google Maps and,
with the bright and clear screen it’s a joy to use. Getting a fix was
quick and you can get the most available satellites using the “GPS
Catcher” tool in the main screen. The WiFi works well and you can
easily switch it on / off or locate wireless access points from the
Wireless Manager screen. You can also control other elements of the
Adobe reader is always a good addition and worthy of a mention, as is
the entire Office suite. You can edit and create Office documents on
the move here although you do get the standard on-screen keyboard and
transcribers only – no alternatives are included. The lack of keyboard
could be a pain for some, but for on the fly editing it’s not a great
worry. OneNote, PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Tasks, Notes and easy access
into your Contacts and Messaging options are all done from one screen
so it’s a great work / life divider.
IE, as you may have seen in the video above, is included although it’s
put firmly in the shade by Opera which, if we’re honest, is in a
different league entirely. Opera is already used by HTC in their
Diamond handsets and it works equally well here. Web pages render like
they do on your computer and, at the end of the day, that’s what people
expect. Opera will let you adjust Zoom levels, switch to full-screen
mode, switch quickly to landscape mode and do tabbed browsing. It
should be noted that this is version 8.65, which is earlier than the
one on HTC kit.
I love it when manufacturers add news readers. People on the move want
data quick, and they don’t want to browse 18 different sites while
they’re on the train. Newstation delivers your best news and gossip
sites directly to the handset via RSS – you can even add our site and
check the latest news. It’s all formatted for the screen and so easy to
navigate. Top stuff.
Remote Desktop, Messenger and Voice Commander also appear in the
Programs list – all stuff that, in my opinion, should be in every
Windows Mobile. We showed you a little RDP (Remote Desktop) action
earlier – it’s great over WiFi or 3G if you’ve got a good data tariff.
Voice Commander is another tool I love – talk to your device by saying,
“Call Bob” or “Start (Application)” or “What time is it” and it’ll just
go ahead and do it. Lovely stuff.
Other sections are available within the o2 Menu, including “Organiser”
which contains the Calendar, Notes, Tasks and an app to beam your
contacts. Gallery takes you into Windows Media Player and Pictures
whilst in “Tools” you can switch the screen rotation, browse files,
lock your phone, reboot, search and switch theme. It’s all neatly
organised so you’re never far away from what you need. This speeds up
tasks you may usually have to go click-crazy for.
To be honest I’m pretty impressed with this little device. It’s well
thought-out, well designed, speedy and the interface is both slick and
usable. The screen resolution and quality is fantastic, GPS lock is
quick, the phone itself is speedy and the price is decent.
Bad points? Well, I’d have to mention the fact that you don’t get a
full version of CoPilot, included (it’s a trial) and the on-screen
keyboards are just the standard Windows Mobile ones, but apart from
that this device hits all the right buttons. A very, very good device
from Asus here with an excellent menu system from o2 / SPB.
Link – o2.co.uk