The G500’s BIG brother gets the “Alasdair treatment”
I’ve already posted a review of the G500, Toshiba’s 3G / HSDPA Windows Mobile Smartphone which was a bit of a mixed bag to be honest so it was with not a little apprehension that I opened the latest package to wing its way to me from Tracy and Matt.
Contained within, the Toshiba Portégé G900, Toshiba’s first windows mobile 6 Professional device.
Toshiba Portégé G900
I’d heard all sorts of opinions on the G900, and I’ve really been looking forward to getting my hands on a WM6 Professional device now that HTC / Orange seem to be dragging their feet over the M3100.
The G900 is very similar in a lot of ways to the TyTN, not an actual copy but certainly reminiscent of the HTC device.
The G900 runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional and connectivity-wise the G900 supports WLAN (802.11b&g), is tri-band (GSM GSM900/1800/1900) GMS, GPRS and EDGE but single-band (UMTS2100) 3G and HSDPA so connectivity could be a little limiting for some. Just like the G500, again, the G900 has a 1.9 Megapixel camera.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this juncture that the Portégé has a 1320 mAh 3.7v battery Toshiba part number TS BTR002 – a bit odd you may say to mention it at this point but all will become clear later.
As always, the Toshiba G900 has been used in a real business environment, as part of an Exchange 2003 messaging system using exchange activesync; it’s been a complement to my notebook which is unfortunately still not a Toshiba
Finger Print reader: in common with the G500 the G900 has a biometric scanner which has all the advantages mentioned in the g500 review this time the scanner is positioned in an ergonomically pleasing position although it’s still fussy when registering a finger.
The Screen: The most brilliant and gorgeous screen you could wish for on a handheld: it’s the G900’s best feature by far, fabulous for browsing with proper readable rendering of webpages.
USB Host support: you can connect the G900 to external storage, it’s quite fun having a 20 Gbyte storage option on a PDA, the only problem is that the G900 doesn’t provide sufficient power for most devices (only 100mA) so you’ll need powered peripherals which does compromise portability.
Applications: familiar from the G500 with the same flaws: Goldkey works only with other Toshiba hardware, and TIPTalk turns out to be more interesting than it first appeared.
Size: the G500 size was a definite lowlight however although the G900 is big the screen estate you gain from this makes it worthwhile carrying, the charger is a beast as well more like a charger for a small notebook than a handheld.
THE DAMN SCREEN BUG: the screen does not come back from standby, this is the most annoying bug I have ever had the misfortune to experience, you end up removing the battery (hence my intimate knowledge of it’s characteristics) about every two hours or choosing not to have the screen blank at all with the associated battery drain. If I’d bought this device it would be back with the vendor by now in Tosh’s defence there is an imminent patch that is supposed to address this although at the time of writing it was still not available through the Toshiba website.
[UPDATE] the patch has now been released and it’s software not a ROM update; on the plus side this means that you don’t have to go through the palaver of personalising the device again after applying the patch on the minus side in the event you hard reset the G900 you’ll have to reapply the patch. Patch details can be found HERE.
The first thing that strikes you is that the G900 is one big bit of kit, it’s bigger than the M3100 / Hermes/ TyTN which frankly I think is at the acceptable size boundary of modern hand held phones, the G900 might be a bit too big for most, you certainly feel Nokia Communicator self conscious when you have the beast to your ear.
G900 vs N800 vs M700
So why is it big? Well….. Big frame holds big screen and it’s probably the best quality screen I’ve seen on any PDA ever, full stop. It’s crisp and clean and looks great fonts are rendered beautifully even without enabling cleartype.
As I’ve intimated, the Form factor is a QWERTY slider we’re becoming familiar with and includes an appealing sprung action.
The screen is fantastic, it’s like having a widescreen TV in your palm, I don’t think it’s actually larger than the TyTN ‘s screen square inch wise but it’s widescreen. The resolution is much greater and the screen is very bright, the amount of information you can view is incredible.
Toshiba G900 screen capture
The slide of the slider is quite satisfying and the finish is visually appealing but as with the G500 the device feels quite plasticy and will probably wear badly.
As for the wife test the immediate reaction was it’s too big and she wasn’t even swayed by the screen size; not really a vote of confidence I’m afraid.
3G and HSDPA provide high speed data access and he ability to download mail whilst in a call, a very useful business feature, again going with 3G and HSDPA in a slightly larger form factor Toshiba are firmly looking to attract the business user.
Talking of the form factor the G900 is as well thought through as the G500 The hardware buttons are well located, the volume rocker is easily thumb accessible when in a call. And the camera button is just where it should be.
Toshiba G900 camera
The front mounted function keys are logically laid out and provide positive tactile feedback when operated, and you get start, contacts mail and OK in addition to the Dpad, context keys and the send / end keys
Toshiba Portégé G900 keypad
The G900 has an external MiniSD slot easily accessible.
Toshiba G900 left side
Headphone jack and USB connector are covered by flappy flaps but the USB connector is recessed and a standard mini USB cord doesn’t fit too securely due to the lip, and is really easy to dislodge, I found this a pain because I was leaving the screen on all the time I needed to keep the battery charging.
Toshiba G900 USB connector
Again Toshiba include an adaptor to allow you to use your own choice of headphones with the Tosh wired handsfree kit.
the G900 seems pretty fast on its feet, again no stability issues apart from the Screen bug apart from that biggy there were no problems with operation either in applications or voice calls
I can’t properly comment on the battery; life as I have to admit that the G900 didn’t get constant use because I found the screen bug far too irritating. Unfortunately the screen patch was released after the review device had to go back so I found I either had the screen on all the time or didn’t have the device on so I couldn’t honestly say I soaked it.
the sliding keypad action is great, again, very positive although when exposed the top row of keypad keys are a little close to the body of the device for rapid typing unless you have slender digits.
Toshiba G900 keyboard keys
The keyboard needs firm pressure, it seems like a little more than the TyTN although this could be due to wear on my oft used TyTN keyboard.
The fingerprint reader is much better positioned on the G900 and is in easy reach of your left hand and you get to use the reader both as a navigational aid, (left right up and down) but also for finger launch and Biometric security as with the G500. Unlike the G500 though you can put fingerlaunch on your today screen so it becomes much more usable.
Toshiba G900 fingerprint reader
Unusually The G900 can act as a USB host so you can plug (powered) USB storage into it; it’s great to see this although you will need external power for most devices
Toshiba G900 USB warning
Although when you do you can have as much storage as you like
Toshiba G900 storage
And the screen is great for showing off your holiday snaps!
I’ve seen other reviews say that there’s no Office Mobile on this device, this isn’t true, and the office mobile apps are there in the start menu.
Toshiba G900 office apps
but not visible in the programs folder a – very odd oversight, which is also the same on the HTC touch so maybe it’s a Microsoft Idio(t)syncrasy. Office mobile operation is very similar to that in the E650 apart from as it’s a windows mobile professional device you get spell checking across the application suite (phew)
Toshiba G900 spelling
Internet Explorer Mobile does a fantastic job of rendering web pages, here’s the Toshiba Portégé page on the device (it really is on the device but scaled down for the review).
Toshiba G900 web browser
The Toshiba applications are the same as the G500; Gold Key, Teleport and TIPTalk, pretty much identical in operation to the G500 however when you pop the G900 companion CD in the drive you get the option to install SIPserver
Toshiba G900 apps. CD
SIPserver, as the blurb suggests, is the missing component of the TIPTalk (Toshiba –IP-talk) suite. I don’t recall seeing it on the G500 CD and its configuration is not discussed in the G500 manual
SIPserver is installed on a Win2k or XP machine (no W2k3 server?) and is the SIP host for all the Toshiba Portégé smart devices running TIPTalk on your network. TIPTalk is a bit more than a SIP client for the Portégé range it also provides presence information and with SIPserver as its communications hub it is Toshiba’s communicator client. SIPserver has some limitations, as it only works on a local area network (not routable), it runs on XP and has its own local authentication database, however it does enable WiFi VoIP between TIPTalk clients and SIPserver does allow you to register with external SIP providers.
It’s another interesting idea from Toshiba that needs developing for someone wanting to test out presence clients with a handful of Toshiba devices it may be of interest to test the concept rather than install Cisco Presence server or Microsoft LCS / OCS
It could do with more some thought.
Windows live messenger is included in this build, I was going to give it a go but then remembered the nightmares that some people (Arne Hess in particular) had when this happened.
Toshiba G900 Live Messenger
So I bottled it!
Overall application stability is very good, I had no problems with application hangs or voice performance, the only problem with the review device was the screen hand bug which required far too frequent removal of the battery, I’d hope that the patch has rectified this.
Ease of Use
The handset is big and one handed operation of the keyboard is pretty much out of the question, it is however a palmtop form factor so it’s probably meant to be used two-handed. The ‘fingerlaunch’ application allows you to make use of your left hand fingers for a range of quick shortcuts.
Like its little brother, the G900 is an interesting device, the screen bug really let it down in my opinion, it’s surely something Toshiba should have seen during pre-launch testing and makes one wonder just how much testing the device saw! It’s a little big for my comfort, however, the Screen is a real bonus. If you want a device that you’re going to use to regularly surf the web or look at real webpages on then it could be for you it wouldn’t displace any of my current faves (the Vox, Touch and TyTN) although again if I had a Toshiba Notebook that might sway me as the G900 would make a great Toshiba notebook companion.
3G/HSPDA are welcome and the G900 seems to be fairly and squarely aimed at the business user.
In conclusion, the G900 is a great PDA; it runs windows Mobile 6 professional which is good for early adopters however it does feel a little rushed to market and Toshiba should really have ironed out the obvious problems before releasing it.
As a PDA it’s a device that I am sure will find favour in some areas. However, considering its position a flagship re-entry into the marketplace, Toshiba really should have tried a little harder.
Don’t forget to check out Matt’s G900 unboxing video!
Review by: Alasdair
[Post tag(s): smartphone blog, Pocket PC blog, Tracy & Matt, Toshiba G900, Toshiba]