Toshiba Portege G710 review
It has been a long time since I reviewed a phone but while I'm on maternity leave and waiting for the baby to arrive I thought I would do something useful. This is actually the first Smartphone (Windows Mobile 6 Classic) device that I've ever used in earnest and it has been quite an experience. Read on to find out what I thought of the Toshiba Portege G710!
10 second review:
Device: Tohiba Portege G710
Cost: SIM free only: £185 (Ex. VAT)
Available from: Clove Technology
Summary: One of Toshiba's latest Windows Mobile device the G710 offers entry level features with the added benifit of built in GPS in a Blackberry style package.
Best of: Inexpensive WM device with GPS, great battery life.
Worst of: Lack of 3G and WiFi. Trackball navigation method that you'll either love or hate.
What's in the box?
Toshiba G710 specification:
Starting with the front of the device then we have a 2.46" QVGA landscape screen with loudspeaker above and controls below. There's the standard softkeys, home and back buttons as well as the send/end call keys. In the middle you'll find the trackball which is in place of the Dpad that you'll find on most devices. Certainly not the first device to use a trackball but the first time we've seen one on a Smartphone. Below these you'll find the fixed QWERTY keyboard.
Looking to the left side of the G710 you can find just two buttons, the power button and the camera button
Spinning the device around to look at the right side you'll see a up/down rocker for volume control and then a rubber cover over the USB socket. Under the cover you'll also find a socket for an external GPS antena.
The G710 doesn't have any additional controls on the top or bottom edges, these are both rounded off and give the device quite a smooth look.
On the back you'll find a 2.0 megapixel camera with LED flash. You'll also notice two loudspeaker grilles either side of the camera.
I've been using the the Toshiba Portege G710 for just over a week now, it's taken some getting used to as this is the first time I've used a Smartphone in earnest. Getting started is a simple affair, removing the back cover and installing the SIM card and 1050mAh battery. It took me a while to find the MicroSD card slot, I even had to double check the spec to make sure it really did have one! The MicroSD card slot is actually located on top of the SIM card and becomes more obvious once you have installed the SIM. It's virtually impossible to install a memory card without havaing a SIM installed first.
On first boot up the G710 runs through the normal setup asking me to set the date and time and my region and offers to let me set up a PIN code. I notice that there's no custom software installation routine when you first boot up and I'm not asked about setting up an email account, I can do that manually later. The G710 doesn't have any special homescreen and instead has a standard WM design.
The first thing I want to do is see what software is already installed on the device but in order to do that I have to get used to the trackball! The trackball is one of those things that you'll either going to love or hate. Personally I would prefer to see a normal dpad as I find the trackball awkward, there is a definite threshold where it goes from not working at all to working a lot - what I mean by that is if you move the ball too slowly in an attempt to be accurate then nothing happens to as you move it more or faster it suddenly comes to life an you find it scrolling across two or three lines or icons. There is no happy medium here and no settings to adjust to get it right.
Unlike newer HTC devices, the Portege G710 doesn't automatically detect the network operator from the SIM card, instead you have to go in to a folder in the start menu called Config UK. In here you'll find 4 icons for setting up the network settings. After runing the desired set up file you'll see a text message confirming the change. There's no setting for 3 users though so if you have a 3 SIM you'll have to set up the data connection manually.
The G710's keyboard is pretty easy to use and the keys have a nice positive feel to them. They are also raised enough to make them quite easy use either single or two handed. They are quite close together though so if you have particularly large fingers (or thumbs actually) then you might find that you press more than one button at a time.
The Portege G710 is one of an increasing number of Smartphone devices to include built in GPS and I'm pleased to report that it has a SiRF Star III chipset. Unfortunately Toshiba have not included any GPS software with the device but there are a few free or inexpensive packages out there that you can use. I installed Google Maps in order to try the GPS unit out. As with most devices it takes a little while to acquire a signal the first time you use it but after seems to take less time. Sitting in the garder it quite accuratly pinpointed my location on the aerial map.
The G710 has a dedicated external GPS antena socket. This is situated right next to the USB connector under the rubber cover on the right side of the device. The rubber cover it really awkward to open and it annoys me every time I have to plug in the USB cable.
If you use an external GPS antena you have to select this in the antena settings menu.
As Matt has mentioned in other reviews and articles, we live in an area with poor network coverage. The G710 isn't the best device to network reception, nor is it the worst. I can get a bar or two of signal most of the time here at home but it's not totally reliable. If you live in an area where the signal is marginal there are probably other devices that have better reception.
One of the biggest disapointments with the G710 is the lack of 3G or HSDPA. Now I realise that this is a fairly inexpensive device, and if you consider the GPS then it IS good value for money but no 3G I suspect will put many people off. We do not have 3G coverage where we live so I guess it's not such a big deal for us. However, if you couple the lack of 3G with the lack of WiFi the G710 may have limited appeal. For me spending so much time at home at the moment I find myself using WiFi a whole lot more and I know that Matt uses WiFi all the time at work.
There are advantage to having only GPRS and EDGE though and that is the much better battery life offered by this device. Compared to my TyTN II over the past I've had to charge the G710 far less frequently. I guess you have to consider the trade off between connectivity, battery life and price.
The screen on the G710 is clear and bright. It's smaller than I am used to but still just as readable. The screen is flush with the front of the device so you might want to use a screen protector as I think it'll be more susceptible to scratching.
The Toshiba Portege G710 is a good entry level smartphone and offers value for money especially when you think about the built in GPS.
If you are a business or power user then I the lack of 3G and WiFi are likely to be a bit of an issue and I suspect you'll want to look elsewhere. But if you are looking for an inexpensive Blackberry-style Windows Mobile device and like the idea of built in GPS then the G710 is definitely worth considering.
Review by: Tracy