By January 26, 2008

i-mate ULTIMATE 6150 & 8150 review

Two peas in a pod the i-mate ULTIMATE 6150 and 8150, i-mate stretches its wings.

The i-mate ULTIMATE 6150 and the 8150

The i-mate ULTIMATE 6150 and the 8150

10 second review:
Device: i-mate ULTIMATE 6150 AND 8150
Cost: SIM free only: 6150 – £449.95 (Incl. VAT) & 8150 – £469.95 (Incl. VAT)
Available from: Devicewire.com
Summary: two very similar devices from I-mate aimed squarely at the enterprise not particularly revelatory they could however provide a great platform for application development and workforce mobilisation.
Best of: VGA Screen, 3G
Worst Of: Call me shallow there are better looking devices out there.
Ho hum: XGA output for external displays

The Long Review

INTRODUCTION

I-mate have been around for years in the mobile devices marketplace, they’ve had a long and profitable relationship with HTC and were almost the mobile device equivalent of HTC’s brewery tap. Since HTC and i-mate’s relationship dissolved there’s been great anticipation of the first true i-mate devices, the wait is over.

I’ve used i-mates HTC based devices quite a bit, the JAMin was a favourite as was the K-JAM but always felt that there was a little confusion as to who the devices were aimed at, all the devices seemed to have a combination of business and consumer oriented features with the launch of their own product lines i-mate have removed this problem with the launch of discrete ranges : the Ultimate range ( aimed squarely at the enterprise) and the JAMA range which has a more consumer target market.

The Ultimate range consists of four Windows Mobile Professional devices, the 8502 & 9502 which include GPS and the 6150 and 8150 which combine a VGA screen with the ability to output XGA (1024 x 768) video to an external device like a projector or TFT.

We’re looking at the i-mate ULTIMATE 6150 and the i-mate ULTIMATE 8150 here and because of their similarity we’re going to do a combined review of the pair, more on that later.

As I have already said I-mate are firmly targeting these devices at the enterprise market and allow access to a suite of applications to allow small internal helpdesks to support the location independent information worker but again we can delve into this later.

Both devices use Windows Mobile 6 professional and include almost the full suite of applications you can licence from Microsoft including Live Messenger but not voice command.

You may also want to take a look that the unboxing videos that Matt recorded of the 6150 and the 8150.

Environment

Due to pressures of time I wasn’t able to give the i-mates a full workout in the usual enterprise environment that said they use standard exchange activesync and the pocket outlook client and operation seems standard

Highlights:
They seem tough: both the i-mate ULTIMATE 6150 and 8150 are made from tougher than usual feeling impact plastic and have a metal battery cover which gives a real robust feel to the device

3G: in my opinion 3G should be standard for any enterprise device but it still isn’t, the 6150 and 8150 are both 3G and HSDPA capable.

Fast Processor: the 6150 and 8150 both share the new PXA 520 MHz XScale processor

Graphic power: both devices have the Nvidia GoForce 5500 graphics accelerator which although not a major benefit for most users this may be useful for niche applications

On device Storage: the i-mate ULTIMATE 6150 and 8150 both have 256 Mbytes of storage on board and 128 Mbytes RAM for ample processing power, they do however only state support of MicroSD cards of up to 2 Gbytes.

Screen: the VGA screens on the devices are clear, crisp and bright the 8150 has a 2.4” touch screen and the 6150 swaps the full keypad for an extra 0.4”s of screen estate.

Joystick: a joystick is provided on the body of the device that falls conveniently under the thumb of a right handed user aiding navigation without having to resort to the stylus.

No Lights:
Confusion: I’m not sure why i-mate have released two devices that are pretty much identical they could have just released the 8150 as the extra space on the 6150 that is freed up by the lack of keypad is just wasted less than a centimetre of extra screen estate and an expanse of plain black plastic. The extra £20 for the 8150 is well worth it.

XGA out: er why? I’m not sure why you’d want this apart from for some niche applications yes you could run a PowerPoint presentation using it but when the XGA scales up to a regular widescreen TFT it gets blocky.

Lowlights:
Size and weight: notwithstanding the robust feeling of the devices they are a little heavy in the pocket and a bit bigger than most of the other devices out there for most users this

Aesthetics: I know these are business devices but as far as I’m concerned that’s no excuse for a lack of styling, both these devices are very utilitarian and not so pleasing to the eye.

GENERAL

As I’ve already said the 6150 and 8150 are pretty much identical, the only differentiator being the inclusion of a full phone style keypad on the 8150. You only gain a tiny area of screen estate on the 6150 which I suppose is due to the positioning of the joystick on the devices’ mainboard.

I-mate x150 comparison

I-mate x150 comparison

Consequently we can cover both devices off in one review, personally I favour the 8150 as the full keypad is a real benefit when rapidly texting and when using xT9 for emails and it’s only £20 more the small reduction in screen size over the 6150 is for me a price worth paying. For larger documents the 8150 keypad is OK but I’d advise the purchase of a Bluetooth keyboard if you intend to use either of these devices for any significant output.

The x150s are pretty standard PDA style windows Mobile 6 professional devices they both benefit from a VGA screen which is very clear and crisp.

I-mate x150 VGA display

I-mate x150 VGA display

Physically, notwithstanding the keypad and the slight difference in screen size the two devices are identical the arrangement of ports and buttons follows the same scheme on both the x150s:

Power and IrDA at the top.

I-mate 6150 top

I-mate 6150 top

USB in, Camera, XGA out and external antenna port to the right hand side. I have a gripe about side mounted USB ports as due to the miles I do in my day job and in line with UK legislation I cradle my devices when in the car. This is fine but when I need to apply power, as I haven’t been able to find a generic cradle that can accommodate side charging whilst maintaining a firm grip on the device I have to compromise and I find myself scrabbling around in the footwell when the device pops out of the cradle far too often.

I-mate 6150 right

I-mate 6150 right

Jog dial, OK button, MicroSD slot and wireless control centre buttons to the left

I-mate 6150 left

I-mate 6150 left

As you’d expect the 3G video calling camera is positioned on the top right of the device.

I-mate 6150 front camera

I-mate 6150 front camera

Both devices have a joystick on the front, embedded within the keypad on the 8150 and next to the end key on the 6150, this is great to use and allows easy one handed operation of the x150s you rarely need to remove the stylus in basic operation

6150 buttons and 8150 keypad

6150 buttons and 8150 keypad

Overall the x150s are manufactured with high impact matt black plastic with a metal battery cover, tough looking but perhaps a little prone to finger marks. They have exactly the same dimensions and may be a little big for some users. The styling is a bit bland but these are business devices so I suppose i-mate can get away with this.

REVIEW

The x150s do offer a comprehensive range of connectivity options, for peripherals, both support Bluetooth; they also include IrDA which is an increasing rarity these days.

From a network perspective the x150s are quad band including EDGE and HSDPA for higher speed data connectivity and support WiFi 802.11g.

Both have an FM radio built in, (I’m not sure why as this smacks of the split personality of i-mate devices of old) which will only operate if the headset if plugged in, I suppose this might help while away the hours, however I’d much rather have seen more SD capability so I could load my own tunes and listen to them with windows media player.

The unusual addition on these devices is the inclusion of a proprietary XGA out port, covered by a rather fiddly and unconnected plastic cover and requiring the use of an i-mate XGA adapter lead (included) you can use this port to connect an external display or projector to the i-mate and provide sound. The lead is of a reasonable length although the XGA and sound connectors are quite close together OK for connection to most projectors but not fantastic for display connection unless the display in question has local sound.

I-mate 6150 VGA socket

I-mate 6150 VGA socket
I-mate 6150 VGA cable

I-mate 6150 VGA cable

The output is XGA so not brilliant when scaled up to a resolution visible from a distance it was very blocky when viewed on my Samsung 22” widescreen TFT. The other problem with this implementation is that when you use the external port you are not able to display content on both the device touch screen and the external display so in a presentation you’d be forced to constantly refer to the screen which is not good practice, is distracting to your audience and can look a little unpolished. When the device changes to landscape mode the touch screen remains resolutely blank so navigation becomes troublesome. It’s an interesting idea but I can’t help feeling that it could have done with a little more thought and frankly I can’t see the point apart from a few niche applications. If you can think of a way in which you could make use of this feature I’d be keen to understand it.

I-mate x150 external video control

I-mate x150 external video control

Operation

The fast processor and ample RAM mean that the x150s are reasonably fast, navigation is zippy and regular applications run well without glitches, I get the feeling these devices have been designed for developers of workforce mobilisation solutions as they seem to be well suited for application deployment I’m not sure about battery life as I haven’t been able to really put the x150s through their paces over a over a couple of days general use including WiFi usage, 3G, GPRS and calls the battery held up well, they did refuse to power up on the USB charger alone until they had a bit of power in the battery.

Configuration

There’s nothing innovative here the x150s are standard PDAs everything is pretty much where you’d expect it to be, the only surprise is the joystick which falls neatly under the thumb and is a real aid to navigation. As I’ve already stated I don’t understand why i-mate has developed both devices I’m sure that the 8150 will out sell the 6150. All in all the VGA screen is probably the best single feature of the devices.

I-mate 6150 angled left

I-mate 6150 angled left

Look and Feel

The interface is pretty much vanilla Windows Mobile 6 Professional, there’s an i-mate themed today background but nothing fancy, if you are used to the WM6 interface then there are no surprises here either.

Applications

There’s nothing unusual in the loaded applications on either device, the FM radio tuner is non standard but that’s about it you do get windows live and live messenger included in the build which is useful but apart from that pretty standard stuff. You do get Office Mobile in its entirety and Clearvue’s PDF viewer in the standard build.

What is interesting is trial access to i-mate suite which is a remote management tool provided by i-mate which will allow support teams to control their fleet of i-mate devices, allows users access to files remotely and provides backup and restore facilities for a cost of US$ 100 setup and US$ 10 per month per device. I suppose there may be an appetite for this within the SMB community and the rental model avoids the need to deploy hardware internally and gives greater flexibility. I’m not sure that this will scale into the enterprise as Microsoft’s own tools within exchange 2007 and proposed in Microsoft Systems Center Mobile device Manager makes this suite redundant or at least fulfils a good proportion of its purpose. ,There are other solutions out there like Soti MobiControl enterprise that are more readily deployable for medium sized fleets however the i-mate solution may be ideal for some of the smaller user communities out there.

I-mate 8150 angled left

I-mate 8150 angled left

Stability

I had limited opportunity to put the i-mates through their paces however I had no problems with either dev ice overall application stability is very good, I had no problems with application hangs or voice performance, the device performs well.

Overall Assessment

If I was deploying a workforce mobilisation application especially a field service one I’d definitely put these devices on my assessment list, the lack of GPS may be a concern for some fleet managers but overall the x150s offer a wide range of connectivity options, good storage and processing power and feel robust. The aesthetics mean they aren’t such a theft target and the screen estate offers a great platform for forms. If I was deploying email and calendar, which let’s face it is what most organisations are eager for the devices will do, but they are a little big for my liking and there are far more attractive options out there.

Review by: Alasdair

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Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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