Reviews

By November 12, 2006 Read More →

Review: Brodit car kit for MDA Compact and M3100

Tracy recently got a new car and wanted a car holder for her T-Mobile MDA Compact.

I had a look around on the web and came across the same name over and over: Brodit.

Brodit, a Swedish company, manufacture high quality car holders for mobile devices ranging from mobile phones to MP3 players and satellite navigation units. Where Brodit differ from other manufacturers is that their system employs a two stage design.

 

Brodit car kit

Brodit Car Kit

First you select the mounting platform, ProClip, that is right for your vehicle. There is a ProClip platform for almost every make and model of vehicle and in most cases there are multiple mounting locations. Brodit’s website has an extensive search tool that allows you to locate your car by make, model and year. Both left and right hand drive vehicles are supported.

Once you have chosen your ProClip mount you simply select the correct holder for your device. Again almost every manufacturer is supported from Acer to Zayo. You can also choose Passive Holders, if you just want to mount your device, or an Active Holder if you want to charge the device from the car cigarette lighter socket.

This flexible approach allows for many thousands of combinations. Tracy opted for the centre mount for her car and an Active Holder as she wanted to charge the battery on her MDA while she was driving.

Brodit Centre Mount

The ProClip and MDA holder turned up after just a few days. Tracy just needed me to fit it in her car.

I must admit that I put the job off for a while thinking that it would be difficult to do, however when I got around to fitting it I was really surprised at how easy it was!

Brodit’s ProClip mounts work without having to make holes in the dashboard, there are no screws holding them on. Fitting is so simple a trained monkey could do it! (I’m living proof of this!!)

In the kit you will find a small wedge shaped piece of plastic. This is your ‘Gap Opener’. You insert the gap opener between the dash and the air vent and open up a space large enough to insert one end of the ProClip. Once in place you remove the gap opener.

Gap Opener

You repeat this procedure for the bottom of the ProClip, this time inserting the wedge between the air vent and the radio. Again, once the mount is in place you can remove the gap opener. That two minute procedure takes care of fitting the ProClip!

Gap Opener

All you have to do then is to screw the device holder to the ProClip mounting platform. I found it a lot easier to do this before I fitted the ProClip in place but Brodit suggest that you do this after.

The whole procedure took less than 5 minutes and the results are great. Tracy loves the mount, and the location is perfect, you barely have to take your eyes off the road to look at the phone display. She did say that she struggled to get the phone in the holder to begin with as getting the miniUSB connector to line up with the phone was tricky, but now that she is used to it, it goes in first time, every time.

MDA Holder Holder with MDA in place

After fitting the holder in Tracy’s car I decided to get one for mine. My car already had an old Nokia holder fitted and it still had the metal bracket in place. So I only needed the holder for my SPV M3100, I didn’t need the ProClip.

Fitting the mount in my car was again a piece of cake. I just screwed the holder to the existing metal bracket. Simple.

Hermes Car Holder

Since fitting these holders to my car I have fitted holders to 3 other cars for work colleagues. None have taken longer than 10 minutes to fit. The quality of these kits is such that they fit perfectly first time. Anyone thinking about fitting a car kit should go straight to Brodit, don’t be afraid to fit one of these, it’s simplicity itself and what’s more they fit without damaging your car which means you can remove them without a trace should you need to.

The other advantage of Brodit car kits is the modular design. If you buy a new device you simply need to replace one the holder and fit this to the existing ProClip.

I just can’t fault it! Check out Brodit’s Website or the UK Distributor, Clove, for more information.

Matt

[Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, Brodit, Orange, HTC Hermes, HTC TyTN, Tracy & Matt, Car Kit]

Posted in: Phones, Reviews
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By November 6, 2006 Read More →

VITO ScreenCapture Review

Lately Tracy and I have been reviewing more PocketPC and Smartphone software and we needed a way to capture screen shots to illustrate our reviews.

In the past we used the screen capture tool that’s part of Microsoft’s power toys, however, this tool doesn’t work with WM5 devices. We needed to find something else.

I had a good look around the web and asked other people what they like to use to capture screen shots from their PocketPC. There are quite a few products out there that can do the job but many of them are rather expensive.

VITO ScreenCapture

I started having a look though the products available from our ClickApps Store when I came across VITO ScreenCapture.

VITO is a name that I knew and I had seen their products before but I had no idea that they did a Screen Capture application. So I decided to give it a shot and download the trial.

Installation could not be easier, you simply run the Executable on your desktop PC and it’s all done for you. There isn’t anything to install on your PocketPC or Smartphone, it’s all done from the desktop. Just connect your device via active sync and start the ScreenCapture application.

ScreenCapture Window

You are presented with a very simple window which gives you three buttons. ‘Capture Screen’, ‘Copy to Clipboard’ and ‘Save to File’. It’s dead easy to use. You press the capture button, you see a screenshot from your mobile device and then you can either save the screen as a file or copy to clipboard. That’s all there is to it!

Having played around with this for quite a while I haven’t found anything that it wont capture. It works equally well on PocketPC or Smartphone. What’s more the tool costs less than £5!

Description :
VITO ScreenCapture is a small utility to make screenshots of your Pocket PC or Smartphone from a desktop PC. With VITO Screen Capture it’s a matter of two clicks. VITO Screen Capture automatically detects your Pocket PC or Smartphone when you connect it to your desktop PC and start ActiveSync. Now you can capture the screen image on your Pocket PC. It is immediately displayed on the desktop PC, you can save it as a bitmap image file or copy it to the clipboard.

Compatibility:

  • Pocket PC Windows Mobile 5.0
  • Pocket PC VGA resolution (fullscreen 640×480)
  • Pocket PC Square VGA resolution (480×480)
  • Pocket PC Square QVGA resolution (240×240)
  • Pocket PC QVGA resolution (320×240)
  • Pocket PC 3D Accelerator (Axim x50v/x51v)
  • Smartphone Windows Mobile 5.0
  • Smartphone Standard resolution (176×220)
  • Smartphone Smartphone 2003 SE
  • Smartphone Smartphone 2003
  • Smartphone QVGA resolution (windowed at 176×220)
  • Smartphone QVGA resolution (fullscreen 240×320)
  • For under a fiver it’s well worth the money, everyone should have this app in their arsenal! Go and buy a copy now!

    Matt

    [Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, Vito, Screen Capture, M3100, Pocket PC Software]

    Posted in: Reviews
    By October 30, 2006 Read More →

    HTC MTeoR Review

    There are lots of images in this post so please be patient if you are using a slow connection. Click any of the images for a larger view.

    MTeoR Front ViewMTeoR Back View

    I used to be a big Smartphone fan. In fact I have had almost every type of Smartphone device released over the last six years. However, once Orange released the SPV M1000 (HTC Himalaya) I have been a PocketPC device fan through and through. Sure I still have some Smartphone devices that I play with but I use them more for software testing than for day-to-day use. I find that PocketPC mobile devices work much better for me with the touch screen and, more recently, the advent of slide-out keyboards.

    MTeoR Right ViewMTeoR Left View

    The HTC MTeoR is one of the few Smartphone format devices that I have seen for a while that has really grabbed my attention. Lately my HTC TyTN has started to feel a bit big in my pocket so I have been considering a ‘Candybar’ Smartphone.

    Smartphones have progressed a lot recently with the advent of push-email and now 3G connectivity they are becoming a more realistic alternative to PocketPC mobile devices.

    So can the MTeoR win me over and turn me back in to a Smartphone user?

    As I mentioned before the HTC MTeoR incorporates 3G which makes it the worlds first 3G Windows Mobile Smartphone, what’s more, the MTeoR is a slim, pocket-friendly size make it a highly desirable device.

    Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 technology with Direct Push, gives you instant access to your emails, this coupled with 3G connectivity make this device a pleasure to use.

    There is a back-mounted camera and this shoots stills at up to 1.3-megapixels, but has no flash or self portrait mirror. The picture quality is nothing special and is much the same as any other 1.3mp phone camera.

    On the front you’ll find a 5-way joystick style navigation control. What’s quite nice about this is that it has a rubberised middle which makes it easier to use.

    MTeoR Joystick

    The Smartphone menu has recently undergone some changes (since I last had a smartphone anyway). You don’t have to click ‘more’ to see the next screen of options, you can simply scroll down.

    ‘Jog Wheels’ have been recently added to several devices and the MTeoR has its own version. This isn’t a wheel as such but more of a self centering rocker on the left hand side of the device. This works well when scrolling through emails or webpages.

    MTeoR Scroll Wheel

    The overall dimensions are 112.4 x 49 x 14.8 mm. The MTeoR weighs in at just 120g and feels nice in the hand. I like the

    One thing ‘missing’ from the MTeoR is WiFi. It seems that people have come to expect WiFi to be included with every device now. I must say that WiFi isn’t something that I miss, I seldom use it on my TyTN and don’t know of any hotspots that I might use other than the WiFi at home where I would use a PC anyway.

    The HTC MTeoR accepts microSD cards which seem to be the HTC standard now. The memory card slot is situated on the left side of the device. There is a rubber cover over the microSD card slot which I liked. I have dropped other devices from time to time and this almost always resulted in the memory card ending up on the floor. When this happens with a microSD card it can be pretty hard to find!

    MTeoR microSD slot

    Like the other HTC devices coming through at the moment, the MTeoR has a combined USB/Headphone socket. As a result you can only use the woefully inadequate headphones that come with the device unless you want to modify them and use your own. Either way, until HTC release the splitter that has been on pre-order with Expansys you’ll not be able to Sync/Charge the device at the same time as listening to music. This is something that bothers people wanting to use these devices in their car.

    MTeoR Bottom View

    Having switched to the MTeoR from the TyTN I find myself trying to press the screen on quite a regular basis. Not having a touch screen is taking some getting used to and is probably the thing I miss most compared to PPC. I would love to see a device of smartphone format with a touchscreen.

    The other thing it takes a while to get use to again is using T9 as the text input method. I used to be quick quick at tapping out a message and could do it without looking. It took me a few days to get used to it again and after that I was away. What helped out here was the fact that the keys on the MTeoR are really positive and not too small.

    MTeoR T9 pad

    So has the MTeoR turned me in to a Smartphone user? Well, no BUT I have to say that the HTC MTeoR is quite possible the best Smartphone I have ever used. If you are a Smartphone user thats looking to upgrade, you are going to love this phone!

    HTC MTeoR Specification

  • Network: UMTS / GSM 900 / GSM 1800 / GSM 1900
  • Dimensions: 112.4 x 49 x 14.8 mm
  • Weight: 120 g
  • Display Type: TFT, 65K colors, Size: 240 x 320 pixels, 34 x 45 mm
  • Controls: 5-way navigation button
  • Card slot: microSD (TransFlash)
  • Memory: 64 MB SDRAM, 128 MB Flash ROM
  • Processor: Samsung 2442, 300 MHz
  • Data: GPRS Class 10 (4+1/3+2 slots), 32 – 48 kbps, EDGE Class 10 (236.8 kbps), 3G (384 kbps), Bluetooth, Infrared port, USB
  • Camera: 1.3 MP, 1280×1024 pixels, video
  • Matt

    [Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, Tracy & Matt, Orange, C700, HTC Breeze, HTC MTeoR, Orange SPV C700]

    Posted in: Reviews
    By October 12, 2006 Read More →

    Parrot Photo Viewer review

    The Parrot Photo Viewer could not have arrived for review at a better time. Having just returned from holiday Tracy and I have tons of photos to show off!

    I have been looking at digital photo frames for the last few months and really like the idea. I wanted to get something for my desk at work but the frames tend to be rather large.

    The Parrot Photo Viewer is unique in that it uses Bluetooth technology rather than a USB cable or SD card in order to upload and display pictures. Parrot have aimed this product at people with camera phones, giving them the ability to transfer their favourite photos from their phone to display them on the photo frame.

    Parrot Photo Viewer

    At just 8.6 x 10.6cm the frame is pretty small. It’s slim too measuring just 1.5cm deep. However these dimensions include the frame, the LCD screen has an effective diagonal of just 3.5 inches and has a resolution of 320 x 234. This may seem fairly low but on a screen of this size it works out quite well. The backlight is bright and evenly lit and can be adjusted to suit your needs.

    Available in 8 frame designs the frame can be used in either portrait or landscape and what’s more, the frame has a built in sensor that can tell which way is up and rotate the images on screen to suit; a pretty cool feature.

    Parrot Frame Designs

    Uploading images via Bluetooth is dead easy. On my HTC TyTN I simply browse through the images I have saved and choose the one I want to send. Selecting beam file brings up a window where I can search for devices in range. Once the Parrot Photo Frame is shown on the list I click send and a few seconds later the picture is displayed on the screen.

    Parrot Bluetooth

    Transferring files from a PC is equally simple but gives you the added benefit of being able to send more than one picture at a time.

    The Parrot Photo Viewer will accept jpeg images in a variety of sizes and will automatically scale them to fit the screen. That said, it is a good idea to resize large images on the PC before you transfer them to save space as the frame has only 32mb of Flash RAM available for images. This may not seem like a lot but if you resize jpeg down to the frame’s native resolution of 320 x 234 they end up at around 30k each. This means that you could theoretically upload hundreds of images, however, there is a limit of 125 images that you can store at any one time regardless of how small the files are – I found this limit rather odd as the 125 images I uploaded took up much less than 32mb.

    The photo frame has a built in menu system that allows you to change various settings, review and delete stored images alter the backlight brightness, etc. The on screen display is really intuitive and is accessed by three buttons on the rear of the frame. You can also alter how frequently the images are changed from 5 seconds up to a few hours. One thing that I would like to see added is a random option as the photo frame will currently only display images in the order in which you uploaded them.

    Photo Viewer Rear Buttons

    The Parrot Photo Viewer is mains powered and comes with a slim power adapter. I would like to see a battery power option for this as it really is the ideal size for passing round to show people your photos. When most people see it for the first time they immediately want to pick it up.

    The box for the Parrot Photo Viewer is also impressive and is ideal for anyone purchasing it as a gift for someone.

    Parrot Photo Viewer Box

    The firmware on the Parrot Photo Viewer can be updated via bluetooth. I think this is just as well as I did experience a few problems with it. Occasionally when tranfering images via Bluetooth the Photo Viewer would stop responding and the only solution is to unplug the power!

    High-quality display
    Featuring a high-resolution LCD screen with 320 x 234 pixels and 262 144 colours, the Parrot PHOTO VIEWER benefits from the TFT technology to guarantee you the highest level of rendering in terms of colours and sharp details.
    It comes on during the day and switches off at night
    An LCD screen gives off light, which can be a pain if you want to put it on your bedside table. The Parrot PHOTO VIEWER features a sensor that switches off the frame when the light level drops.

    Technical and commercial specifications

    Bluetooth® wireless photo viewer

  • High-resolution LCD TFT screen with 320 x 234 pixels
  • 262 144 colour display
  • Effective LCD size: 3.5 inches
  • Built-in light sensor
  • Compatible image format: JPEG (700 K to 7 M pixels)
  • 32 MB internal memory for storing over 100 photos
  • Portrait or landscape position sensor
  • Automatic image resizing
  • Menus: Slideshow, Picture, Delete, Reposition, Language…
  • Fitting: free-standing or wall-mounted
  • Power lead
  • Frame: white-leaded oak or leather (depending on model)
  • Bluetooth®

  • Built-in Bluetooth receiver
  • Bluetooth version 1.2
  • Bluetooth profiles supported: FTP, OPP and BIP
  • Receives pictures from up to 10 metres away
  • Pairing: not required with this product
  • Software updates by Bluetooth
  • Dimensions and Weight

  • Width: 8.6 cm Height: 10.6 cm Depth: 1.5 cm
  • Weight: 260 g (not incl. frame)
  • Processor

  • ARM 9 + 64 MB SDRAM
  • Storage memory: 32 MB NAND Flash
  • Conclusion
    I like this Parrot Photo Viewer and now have it sitting on my desk at work, it’s ideal for those photos that I have on my mobile and for uploading those holiday snaps to. However, I think it’s just a bit too small to use at home, it would be lost in my lounge or dining room. It’s a great idea but I’d like to see some things fixed/updated in a new firmware release.

    Matt

    [Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, Parrot, Photo Frame, Gadgets, HTC Artemis]

    Posted in: Reviews
    By September 18, 2006 Read More →

    HTC TyTN Review

    EDIT: If you are looking for the HTC TyTN II/ Kaiser review you can find it HERE.

    I know there have been a few HTC TyTN reviews over the past few weeks and many of you will have already seen my Orange SPV M3100 reviews. Obviously there are a great number of similarities between the HTC TyTN and the M3100 so I’ll focus upon a comparison.

    Just before I get going I should point out that I’ve used quite a lot of images throughout the review so load times could be relatively high. Click on any of the images for a larger version. The larger version uses low compression to keep the quality high so again load times may be higher than normal.

    HTC TyTN Review

    Box contents for the TyTN are much the same as with the M3100. You don’t get any different toys with one that you don’t get with the other.

    There is an immediate difference between the TyTN and the M3100, the colour. To begin with I wasn’t so keen on the silver finish of the TyTN preferring the black chassis of the Orange version. However, over the weeks I’ve become used to the silver TyTN and now like that better also the silver doesn’t show the finger marks as much.

    HTC TyTN vs M3100

    The other main difference is with the joypad and surrounding keys. The M3100, which is the HERM100 version of the HTC Hermes, has much rounder buttons that are raised and fairly close together. On the other hand the TyTN, which is the HERM200 version of the HTC Hermes has much squarer buttons that are flush with the front of the case. The buttons on the TyTN are spaced out much more which some people will find much more user friendly.

    HTC TyTN Joypad

    The case design of the TyTN is more angular than the rounded edges of the M3100 but they both feel the same in your hand.

    HTC TyTN beside  Orange M3100

    Button locations and keyboard layout are exactly the same on both devices as is the USB connector that we have all come to loathe!

    There has been a large number of people reporting issues with ‘lazy’ keys on the keyboard. My own M3100 has problems with the ‘Y’ key, it requires a bit more pressure to make it work than any of the other keys which results in the ‘Y’ often being missed out from some words! I have been told that these ‘lazy’ keys do get better the more you use them. Fortunately the TyTN I have was not affected by the problem.

    HTC TyTN Keyboard Open

    As I mentioned in the review of the Orange SPV M3100 my previous device was an HTC Wizard variant. I really liked the Wizard but as time went on the common screen alignment issue became worse and worse. The first TyTN’s released were said to have this problem, in fact HTC have a returns policy in place for those affected. I can’t comment on the alignment issue first hand as the TyTN I have doesn’t seem to suffer.

    I’m also pleased that the HTC Hermes devices continue to have the Email and Internet Explorer buttons above the screen. This is something that I find to be very useful.

    HTC TyTN top buttons

    On to using the TyTN. The first thing about starting up the TyTN is that is doesn’t have any annoying operator customisation like the Orange M3100 does. The first thing most people do when they get their M3100 is take off all the Orange customisation. No need to do anything like that with the TyTN.

    The TyTN has the usual HTC green colour scheme that we have come to expect from HTC devices. It makes a nice change from the standard Windows blue colour.

    HTC TyTN Screenshot

    The other thing that the TyTN beats the M3100 on is that it comes with MSN Messenger installed. Many people were quite upset to find Orange had chosen to remove it from their build of the M3100.

    In terms of the rest of the software installed on the TyTN by default there really isn’t anything much different to any other WM5 device.

    There has also been a lot of talk about the stability of the M3100. Indeed my own M3100 seems to suffer from the same issue that many other owners have – it crashes and requires a soft reset once or twice per day. I haven’t been able to decide what it is causing the problem, sometimes it crashes in-call and others for no apparent reason.

    I am pleased to report that the HTC TyTN does not seem to suffer the same fate. I have been using it heavily as my main device for several weeks. Despite having exactly the same software installed on the TyTN as I have on the M3100 the TyTN hasn’t crashed once!

    One niggle that I have with the TyTN is the scroll wheel. In every day use I found it to be really jumpy and unpredictable. It would scroll through menus line by line then suddenly jump several places in one go. Unusable really.

    I don’t know if this is a common issue with the Hermes scroll wheel, I’ve not seen any other reports, my Orange M3100 isn’t perfect but is better than the TyTN in this respect. Anyone else having this problem?

    HTC TyTN Scroll wheel

    The 2.0 mega pixel camera on the TyTN is naturally the same at the M3100. I must say that I have been quite impressed with the pictures from the camera, definitely the best that I have seen from a phone camera.

    HTC TyTN Camera

    No review would be complete without mentioning that USB connector on the bottom. Now I can understand the reason why HTC chose to add a proprietary connector, making one socket perform more than one function does save space. However, I do find it really annoying. I’m never going to use the headset that comes with the device, it’s just not good enough for music and if I want hand’s free I’ll use bluetooth. Time to hack another headset I think!

    HTC TyTN Bottom

    I must say that I have been very impressed with the HTC TyTN. Overall I like it much more than the Orange M3100. Sure the M3100 is the better looking of the two but the stability problems that I have been experiencing with the M3100 have finally got the better of me. I’ll be very sorry to give the HTC TyTN up, so much so that I certainly will be looking to purchase one!

    HTC TyTN review end

    Matt

    [Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, Tracy & Matt, Orange, M3100, HTC Hermes, HTC TyTN, SPV, Orange SPV M3100]

    Posted in: Phones, Reviews
    Tags: , ,
    By September 12, 2006 Read More →

    Astraware Bejeweled 2 review

    Bejeweled 2 Logo

    INTRODUCTION

    I thought that reviewing a game over the weekend would be a lot easier than trying to fit it around work, boy was I wrong! It wasn’t the fact that I was busy, it was because my phone would disappear for hours and only came back when the battery needed charging. I’d charge the phone and Tracy would run off with it again! I had to make sure Tracy had her own one to play with!

    Bejeweled was first released as a web based game followed later by a PC version. The Pocket PC version was originally released as Diamond Mine in 2001, with the first release as Bejeweled coming in 2003. It featured two games modes, ‘Easy’ for relaxation and ‘Timed’ for fast paced, frantic action. The idea of Bejeweled simple all you have to do is tap two adjacent gems to swap them and make vertical or horizontal lines of three or more. Matching gems are then removed from play, their spaces taken up by new gems that fall from above.

    Bejeweled(left) vs Bejeweled 2(right)

    Bejeweled Menu Screen Bejeweled 2 Menu Screen

    Bejeweled 2 uses the same idea with a few nice touches and some small changes that make all the difference. Bejeweled 2 has 4 different game modes, Classic, Action, Puzzle and Endless plus 5 unlockable bonus play modes. Classic has no time limit and is played until there are no more moves left, Action has a time bar at the bottom which decreases when you are not swapping gems and increases a little when you make a chain of gems.

    Puzzle mode was not included in the previous Bejeweled and is a great addition. Instead of having the screen full of gems they are placed on the screen in specific patterns and the level is completed when you have cleared all the gems. Often there is only one solution to the puzzle. Finally, endless is a relaxing game mode with no time limits and where there is always another move to make.

    The game is easy to pick up and learn but requires skill to get past the first level. The updated graphics between 1 and 2 make all the difference. Although in Bejeweled 2 the gems are smaller due to the placement of the pause button but they are a lot clearer. The background pictures which change when you go up a level are also a nice touch. The sound is clearer although the music is still slightly repetitive, but if you have a memory card you can put a few tracks on that.

    Other than game modes, graphics and sound there are a few great features that the previous Bejeweled was missing. For instance the clock to tell you that you have been playing the game way too long and you should have been off lunch 30 minutes ago. The battery display to show how much more battery you have and a screensaver for the very rare occasions when your not playing this game.

    Bejeweled(left) vs Bejeweled 2(right)

    Bejeweled Game Screen Bejeweled 2 Game Screen

    CONCLUSION

    This game is highly addictive and has great replay value which will have you playing ‘just one more’ all day long. The graphics are clear and a vast improvement over the last one, although I would have liked the gems to be a bit larger and maybe have the pause and hint buttons on the bottom. If you have the previous Bejeweled and are wondering if it’s worth buying Bejeweled 2 then answer is yes! The extra game modes and 5 unlockable modes will keep you playing for ages. Although I do suggest keeping the game away from partners, friends, children, work colleages or even people on the bus.

    So what are you waiting for? Head on over to Astraware and check it out!

    Review by Russell.

    [Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, Tracy & Matt, Astraware, M3100, Bejeweled]

    Posted in: Reviews
    By September 11, 2006 Read More →

    Brando Hermes docking/sync cradle

    About a week ago I told you about the rather cool looking docking cradle that Brando released. Well now it’s time to review one!

    The cradle is of a sleek back design measuring 85 x 36 x 90mm. It’s weighted which means that when you put your device in the dock its really rather sturdy while the rubber feet keep it in place on your desk.

    Brando Workshop Sync Cradle

    The cradle comes with the required USB cable to plug it into your PC. A blue LED on top indicates when there is power. One thing about the LED is that it’s a bit too bright and slightly distracting. It’s also illuminated whether or not the phone is docked, I would have preferred if the LED was only on to indicate charging but then I suppose there are LED’s on the phone for that.

    It took a little getting used to in terms of putting my SPV M3100 in the cradle. To begin with I found it a bit fiddly and it was a bit stiff getting it out again.

    It’s a shame that HTC don’t bundle a sync cradle with their newer devices like they did with the Blue Angel. I really miss having something on my desk that holds the phone in the right position and angle. The Brando cradle is angled just right so that it sits nicely next to my monitor on my desk and I can easily see the display and decide whether or not to answer that incoming call!

    Brando M3100 Sync Cradle

    Brando TyTN Sync Cradle

    Personally I think my Orange M3100 looks better in the cradle than the HTC TyTN but both fit equally well – it’s quite snug!

    The cradle will fit Dopod CHT9000, Qtek 9600, i-Mate JasJam, O2 XDA Trion, HTC TyTN, HTC Hermes, htc Z, Orange SPV M3100 and T-Mobile MDA vario II devices.

    I’m very pleased with the cradle, it works very well for me and for the money, around £12 + p&p, I just can’t fault it.

    Go on and treat yourself to one, visit Brando Workshop for more information.

    Matt

    [Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, Tracy & Matt, Orange, M3100, HTC Hermes, HTC TyTN, SPV, Orange SPV M3100]

    Posted in: Reviews
    By August 25, 2006 Read More →

    Orange SPV M3100 Review (Part 2)

    It’s been about a two weeks since I posted the Orange SPV M3100 Review (Part 1) so I thought I would follow up with my experiences with the device.

    SPV M3100 Mini Picture

    Let me start out by saying that the SPV M3100 is not a perfect device but then I would be surprised if it were, I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect device.

    I have had a few problems with the M3100. One really annoying and recurring problem is with the device locking up or crashing. I reported this on the blog a few days ago and have been contacted by a few other M3100 owners, I’m not alone with this problem. I’m seeing this happen a couple of times a day whilst using a various aspects of the M3100, I can’t find a common cause. All you can do when this happens is poke the stylus up its bum to reset it.

    The headphones and the headphone socket on the SPV M3100 is a subject that’s getting rather a lot of attention. Integrating the audio connector into the Mini USB socket on the device seems like a really bad idea. It means that you can’t use your own headphones with the SPV M3100 what makes matters worse is that the headphones that come with the M3100 are awful. The only good reason I can think of for integrating the audio in to the USB is for use with a car kit but as most car kits are bluetooth now it does seem rather pointless.

    M3100 USB Headphone Hack Cable

    I posted a how-to hack for the headset that comes with the SPV M3100 so that it can be turned into an adapter to use with standard headphones. Incidentally the USB socket on the Orange M3100 is known as an Enhanced Mini USB (EMU) connector

    The Battery life on the M3100 is a little disappointing. Orange claim a talk time of 4-5 hours and a standby time measured in days. In practice I’ve found that the battery life is a lot less than this, I’d say that it may be as little as half of the claimed capacity. My previous device, an HTC Wizard, had a much better battery life and I have been using the two phones roughly the same amount. I have to remember to charge the SPV M3100 almost every night.

    M3100 Underside

    The reception or signal strength on the M3100 is much better than any other device that I own. I live in a village that is in the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t able to get much of a signal on the Wizard at all, one room in the house gave me about 1 bar. The M3100 on the other hand has a much better reception and I can use it in the whole house and have a couple of bars on the signal meter.

    The keyboard is brilliant, so much better than the one that you would find on the Wizard or the M2000. It’s on par with the keyboard on the M5000 (HTC Universal) but is smaller and a bit more slick. The sliding mechanism is a lot tighter and positive than on earlier HTC devices.

    M3100 Open

    Overall I really like the Orange SPV M3100. I like the black and grey case design. The processor seems quite fast and easily capable of dealing with the few applications that I throw at it. The screen is decent and bright although there is a slight yellow cast to it. I haven’t had any problems with touchscreen alignment that some other people have reported. I find that I use the scroll wheel an awful lot too!

    Final Verdict: Orange SPV M3100 is definitely a phone I’ll be hanging on to for a while!

    Over the next week or so I will be posting a review of the HTC TyTN and comparing this to the M3100.

    Matt

    [Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, Tracy & Matt, Orange, M3100, HTC Hermes, HTC TyTN, SPV, Orange SPV M3100]

    Posted in: Reviews
    By August 19, 2006 Read More →

    Tracy reviews the Orange SPV M3100

    [color=#6200aa]Matt has given you a run down of the technical stuff in his review so this is going to be my view of using and living with the Orange SPV M3100![/color]

    [color=#6200aa]My previous phone was a T-mobile MDA (Jam) which is pink – very girly! [/color]

    Hermes vs MDA

    M3100 vs MDA

    [color=#6200aa]The main things I use my phone for, apart from making calls, are text messages, email, calendar and the task list. I also browse the web and play games while out at shows with our dog Bailey. I therefore made these top of list when testing the device 😛 [/color]

    [color=#6200aa]Obviously the biggest differences are that the SPV M3100 is slightly larger than my MDA mainly because of the slide out keyboard. I decided that the size issue was not too much of a problem as it still fits in the phone pockets in both my handbag and briefcase. [/color]

    [color=#6200aa]The keyboard takes a bit of getting used to, while it is much easier than having to type using the stylus on the screen I found that the ‘Backspace’ key is in the wrong place! I keep typing ‘P’ instead but I am sure with time and practice I will get over this small problem. I’ve also noticed that two of the keys (the ‘T’ and the ‘S’) are a bit lazy and require a bit more pressure to make them work. When typing this is a real pain.[/color]

    [color=#6200aa]Having the keyboard has made using the email and text messaging easier and quicker. I really miss pocket MSN though, as I like using MSN messenger but I don’t like Agile Messenger much. Bearing in mind that the M3100 uses a Microsoft OS I can’t see why they have removed MSN. Very strange! So now I can type nice and fast but have no MSN to chat on! :([/color]

    [color=#6200aa]Being an Orange phone the SPV M3100 comes with an Orange toolbar on the today screen which is enabled by default. Initailly I did find this useful but then I tried to customise the today screen as I wanted to be able to see my upcoming appointments and if I have any unread messages or active tasks. Using the Orange today screen plugin means that you can have one or the other but not both so I ended up with the screen looking exactly like my old phone! So someone somewhere has really wasted their time with that, surely it could and should have been able to do both![/color]

    [color=#6200aa]My second disappointment came when I discovered that they still haven’t bothered to change the standard games – I am completely bored and fed up with the existing Solitaire and Jaw Breaker (cunnigly renamed Bubble Breaker!) and had really expected something new by now but apparently I am going to have keep paying for games to play![/color]

    [color=#6200aa]I can’t comment on video calling as other than Matt, none of my friends have 3G phones 🙂 and we don’t have 3G coverage at home (we barely have any coverage so 3G would really be an upgrade!!) but then I can’t say that it is anything that I would ever really use but might be fun to play with. [/color]

    [color=#6200aa]The 2.0 mega pixel camera on the phone is excellent and much better than any phone camera on the previous phones I have owned. The ‘flash’, however, is a complete waste of time.[/color]

    [color=#6200aa]I also found the little scroll wheel on the phone very useful when browsing the web and email. It is very neat, and reminded me of the wheel on the Blackberry! On the other hand the stylus is quite frankly a pain in the bum – it is just too small and fiddly and, on the device I have, is actually very difficult to get out as it always feels like it’s stuck!![/color]

    [color=#6200aa]As for the case that comes with the SPV M3100, while there was a temporary enjoyment factor, flipping it open to see how strong the magnet is for closing it, I feel that the case is actually worse than the case that came with my MDA and I still won’t be using it day to day. The only time I can imagine using is when I want to clip it on to my belt when I am working outside or out with Bailey, the rest of time I will do as I do now and just put the M3100 straight into my bag! I find all of the cases for these phones too fiddly and when its ringing you just can’t get to it quick enough to answer the damn thing![/color]

    [color=#6200aa]In conclusion, the only thing that would sway me in to swapping to the Orange SPV M3100 over keeping my nice pink MDA is the slide out keyboard. When I consider the things I use a phone for there’s just not enough improvement over my existing phone and I certainly would not pay £150 for the M3100![/color]

    [color=#6200aa]Tracy[/color]

    [Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, Tracy & Matt, Orange, M3100, HTC Hermes, HTC TyTN, SPV, Orange SPV M3100, Orange SPV M3100 Review]

    Posted in: Reviews
    By August 11, 2006 Read More →

    Orange SPV M3100 Review (Part 1)

    EDIT: More photos added!

    INTRO

    It’s been a long time since I have seen so much interest and excitement about a new handset release. In fact I didn’t think I would see this kind of ‘mobile euphoria’ again.

    Before the MoDaCo summer event I wondered what all the fuss was about. Several people said to me that they couldn’t wait to get their hands on the HTC Hermes. I even joked that I was surprised that so many people were interested in a device that sounded like a sexually transmitted disease!

    During the MoDaCo summer event held at Orange’s office in Paddington I finally had a chance to play with their version of the HTC Hermes, the Orange SPV M3100.

    Main M3100 Photo

    Just looking at the device you know it’s going to be a bit special. The dark case design works exceptionally well. The black case with silver-grey buttons is a welcome departure from the recent all silver devices. The shiny gun-metal colour strip around the top, bottom and right of the screen really set it off.

    Even with the limited time I was able to use the demo device I knew that it would be the phone that would replace my ageing, and failing, HTC Wizard. I could now see what all the fuss was about!

    Since then I have been regularly pestering contacts at Orange, asking (begging) for a device to review before release and asking all sorts of questions. Most of which have understandably been answered with ‘Orange are unable to comment on devices that have not been officially announced’.

    Finally, after weeks of nagging I got nowhere and so borrowed an M3100 from someone else!

    This review will be pretty short by my normal standards due to the time constraints placed upon me as the SPV M3100 is just a loaner but if/when Orange send me my own M3100 I’ll update and expand upon!

    Packaging (What’s in the Box)

    I must say that upon arrival even the box seemed impressive!

    Orange SPV M3100 Box Contents

    In the box you’ll find the usual accessories – The charger, case, manual, headphones, spare stylus etc. You don’t get a docking station though, just a sync/charge cable.

    Orange SPV M3100 Case

    Despite the Orange M3100 having a strange looking USB socket the sync cable is a regular Mini-USB. Good news that we’ll all be able to use existing cables and car chargers. This was one thing that concerned me when I first saw the device.

    No supplied memory card!

    The manual covers the basics of getting the phone up and running and explains how to use activesync and email but it is quite lightweight and misses out key things, such as WiFi, completely. Other than that it’s pretty much the standard Orange offering, not that most people will read it!

    Orange SPV M3100 Hardware

    • Connectivity: Quad Band, UMTS, Edge, GPRS, HSDPA, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi b/g
    • Processor: 400MHz Samsung stacked CPU
    • Camera: 2.1 Megapixels with Flash
    • Display: 240×320 pixel 2.8″ 65,000 Colour TFT
    • Keyboard: Slide out QWERTY keyboard, similar to HTC Universal, one Video Cam (front)
    • Form Factor: Similar size as HTC Wizard, also side Slide QWERTY
    • Memory: 64mb RAM + 128mb flash ROM
    • Power + Battery: Removable and rechargeable Lithium-ion polymer, Typical capacity: 1350 mAh, Standby time: Up to 200 hours for GSM; 180 ~ 250 hours for UMTS, Talk time (Screen off): 4 ~ 5 hours for GSM; 2 ~ 4 hours for UMTS
    • Memory Card: External MicroSD Slot

    The M3100 looks similar to the HTC Wizard variants. The joypad (which is a 5 way) is similar to that found on the SPV M600 and is surrounded by 6 other keys. In addition to the Make and End Call and the 2 soft keys there is a Windows Key and an OK key. These were missing from the Wizard devices. Also included above the display are the usual Email and Internet buttons. Finally there is a button just below the screen which serves as the video call key.

    There is also a camera on the front of the device. This is a low resolution camera used for video calls.

    General

    At 112 x 58 x 22mm the Orange M3100 is slightly bigger than the HTC Wizard that I have been using for the past 9 months. That said, the case design is squarer than the Wizard which makes the M3100 feel smaller in the hand. In terms of weight the 10g difference between the Wizard and the M3100 isn’t noticeable!

    Orange SPV M3100 On its Box

    Orange SPV M3100 vs M5000

    On the left side of the device, in another break from the norm, the volume slider has been replaced by a scroll wheel. This is pretty similar to the wheel you find on Blackberry’s.
    You’ll also find another OK button and the voice command button here. Below these buttons is the MicroSD card slot.

    On the right there are buttons for power, Comm Manager and the Camera.

    You wont find a 2.5 or 3.5mm headphone socket on the bottom of the SPV M3100. Instead HTC have opted to use a proprietary USB socket for the headphones. More on this later.

    M3100 Bottom

    The SIM card sits neatly under the battery as you would expect. The battery has a slightly higher capacity than the Wizard at 1350mah, compared to the 1200mah in the Wizard. Orange claim that the battery is good for 6 days on standby. In practice the combination of calls and data usage led to me having to charge it after about 2 days – about the same as the Wizard.

    M3100 Underside

    Screen

    The screen on the M3100 is the same as you would find on the M600 or Wizard type devices. The resolution is 240 x 320. The backlight seems a little brighter than the M600 but still suffers from a slight yellow cast.

    A lot of people have reported screen alignment problems with the HTC TyTN. I was a little worried that the M3100 would have the same problem, especially as the main reason I wanted to get rid of my Wizard was that I had to realign the screen on it about twice a day! In the few days that I’ve had the M3100 on loan I’m pleased to report that I have seen no such problems.

    Keyboard

    The keyboard on the M3100 is similar in design to the M5000 although it has fewer keys, there isn’t a dedicated row of number keys but numbers are accessed through a shift function on other keys.

    Orange M3100 Keyboard

    In practice the keyboard is much easier to use than the keyboard on the Wizard. The keys are bigger and feel much more positive in their action.

    WiFi

    I’ve never been a big WiFi user but was keen to see if the 802.11g connection speed made much difference or if the device itself was slower than the network.

    I have been quite impressed with the speed of the WiFi and the signal strength seems very good, I can pick up the WiFi signal from a house a few doors away where the Wizard could not. Speed is also good, streaming MP3’s and videos from a desktop PC without a problem.

    As I said earlier, the manual doesn’t cover the use of WiFi at all well. Perhaps Orange think that if you know what it is you should be able to set it up. Setup was pretty easy but it would be nice to see this covered in more detail in the manual, especially if you had connectivity issues.

    Camera

    Again I’m not a big user of phone cameras, typically they are pretty poor and the ‘flash’ leaves a lot to be desired.

    The 2 mega-pixel camera on the M3100 is pretty decent for a phone based camera but certainly wont replace your digital compact camera.

    The front mounted camera on the M3100 is a low resolution (0.3mp I believe) digital camera which is used exclusively for video calling, although I’m sure that some clever individual will find a way to use this in other software.

    As a user of MSN Messenger it would be nice to see MSN Mobile support the front facing camera. However MSN Messenger isn’t even included with the M3100. If you want to use IM you’ll have to opt for a third party application like Agile Messenger.

    Battery

    The battery in the M3100 is nothing special. It has a higher capacity than that found in the Wizard but it’s only around a 10% increase. I’d say that the claimed talk and standby times really are pushing the phrase ‘Under Optimum Conditions’ to the limit though and it would seem that the days of having two batteries bundled with a device are long gone!

    M3100 Battery

    Performance

    I really noticed the difference in performance over other devices that I have used. The 400mhz Samsung processor copes very well with most things that you throw at it. Listening to MP3’s while browsing the internet really isn’t a problem for it.

    Another place where you notice the performance difference is when you are switching the screen between portrait and landscape when you open and close the keyboard. On the M5000 and the HTC Wizard for example switching could take a few seconds sometimes whereas the M3100 switches instantly every single time.

    The M3100 also benefits from the larger 128mb of onboard rom. There were lots of issues with earlier devices that had only 64mb. Take the M500 for example, it really did seem a strange decision on Orange’s part to ship their version on the Jam with only 64mb as you would have thought the cost saving would be minimal. The lack or memory meant that the M500 was, and still is, plagued by call handling issues, especially when handling multiple calls. Fortunately I’ve not experienced any of these issues on the M3100.

    As a phone the SPV M3100 performs very well. The in-call sound quality is very good which is probably due to the larger earpiece. People that I have spoken to have also said that the quality is good at the other end.

    M3100 Open

    Software

    Software wise there isn’t really anything new or exciting to play with. The installed applications are the usual WM5 fare.

    One thing I did notice about the M3100 is that the PhonePad input method is now missing! I think this is going to upset a fair few people!

    However it does ship with the new AKU2.3 Rom installed which has some bug fixes over AKU2 and incorporates stereo audio over Bluetooth support.

    Conclusion

    So far the Orange M3100 really is looking like being a winner. I’m sure that it will be successful both as a business and a consumer phone.

    The keyboard improvements make it a pleasure to use. It’s small enough to be a device you can carry every day yet large enough to be practical to use.

    The Orange SPV M3100 is definitely the best Mobile Device that I have owned to date. I would recommend it to anyone. Now we just need some decent data tariffs, especially a sensibly priced all you can eat package and HSDPA. I can’t wait to see that in action!

    See Part 2 of the review.

    I’d like to say a big ‘thank you!’ to Paul Evans and Jeremy Bown for the additional Pics.

    Matt

    [Technorati tag(s): smartphone, Pocket PC, MoDaCo, Orange, M3100, HTC Hermes, HTC TyTN, SPV, Orange SPV M3100]

    Posted in: Phones, Reviews
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