By March 10, 2008

MWg Atom Life review

The 10 second review:

Device: MWg (O2) Atom life
Cost: SIM free: £199.95
On Contract : £0
Available from: O2 as the Atom , eXpansys
Summary: Budget Windows Mobile Professional Device, with masses of storage and surround sound for annoying your fellow bus passengers, a bit bling looking but with a great radio application.

Note: the pre-release review device I had access to had some stability issues which made the review process rather difficult. However other users I have spoken to have not experienced this so I could have just been unlucky – feedback welcome.

Best of: on board storage capacity, Radio Application, 3G.
Worst Of: cheap finish, stability issues in review device.
Ho hum: finish is a fingerprint magnet.

MWg Atom Life

MWg Atom Life

The Full Review

MWg is an emerging brand in the mobile market, formerly O2 Asia’s mobile device business (until Telefonica disposed of it) with an investment from our friends at Expansys the existing management team took over the established atom brand and have since added devices known by the unpronounceable moniker UbiQUiO.

I’m not sure quite what target market O2 Asia had in mind with the atom, We have a touch screen windows mobile 6 professional device, with a whizzy processor and massive Onboard storage at 1 Gbyte (about 800 Mbytes of which is available when you take into account the standard loadout) it’s almost pretty enough to be a desirable consumer device but looks businesslike and yet it has ‘surround sound’ via built in speakers and a great FM radio system which are surely personal applications not business ones.


The atom had a full workout in my regular business environment connected to exchange 2003 via exchange activesync; I used the atom as my primary portable device for around two weeks.

MWg Atom Life Specification

  • Windows Mobile 6.0 pro.
  • GSM900, GSM1800, GSM1900, UMTS1900, UMTS2100
  • 624MHz Intel XScale PXA270 CPU
  • 1.9-megapixel CMOS camera
  • 2.7-inch 340×240-pixel LCD with 262,144 colours
  • 1024MB ROM; 64MB RAM
  • SDIO, miniSD expansion slot
  • FM Radio with RDS function
  • Bluetooth v1.2
  • WiFi 802.11b/802.11g
  • 1530 mAh Battery
  • 58 x 106 x 18.5mm
  • 145 grams
  • The MWg Atom Life comes well presented in an attractive box, the design of which is similar to the current HTC offering. You can see what’s in the box by watching Matt’s Atom unboxing video.

    On Board Storage: a Gbyte of onboard storage which when you add a 2 Gbyte MiniSD card and you have oodles of space

    3G: becoming more commonplace but still worthy of mention, 3g means that you can talk and receive emails at the same time.

    Speed: in everyday use the Atom fair whizzes along the 624 MHz PXA XScale processor is a match for most handheld tasks.

    No Lights:
    Cheap Finish: the atom is a bit plasticy, and the gloss black case is a real fingerprint magnet, to add to the general feel of cheapness the button icons on the silver detailing band around the device lack definition, they look like the they’ve been quickly painted over. Bit of a shame really. It’s not helped by the hastily stuck on MWg logo used to obscure the printed O2 one.

    Stability: on several occasions during the review I had relatively long periods without interruption and I’d look at the atom to find that it had turned itself off without warning as I indicated at the start this experience differs from almost everyone else I’ve spoken to so I’d like to hear from other Atom users with good or bad experiences.


    Despite my reservations about the glossy finish the Atom Life is actually not a bad size nor is it unattractive per se, the poor finishing is a little irksome but overall the device is similar in size to the well loved imate JAMin.

    Form Factor

    The Atom’s form factor is actually pretty good the device seems sturdy and follows a pretty standard pattern

    Power, stylus and MiniSD card slot at the top

    MWg Atom Life top view

    MWg Atom Life top view

    Video / camera button and record button to the right (my only criticism is that the two buttons are quite close to each other and the camera button is a bit fiddly.

    MWg Atom Life right side

    MWg Atom Life right side

    Volume up and down to the left and an IrDA port

    MWg Atom Life left side

    MWg Atom Life left side

    As you’d expect the 3G video calling camera is positioned on the top right of the device. You can see here the on/off legends poor definition, a bit of sloppy embossing spoils the finish.

    MWg Atom Life top front view

    MWg Atom Life top front view

    And miniUSB, reset button and headphone / FM aerial jack on the bottom notice how much better the etched legends appear here, I wish MWg had used this technique everywhere rather than the sloppy embossing

    MWg Atom Life bottom view

    MWg Atom Life bottom view

    The facia button arrangement is pretty good although the soft keys are a tad fiddly more suited to stylus than finger. You can see the ‘loudspeakers’ in this view as well but more of that later. The bottom right key gives access to O2 media plus which is a media library application more evidence of a consumer target audience.

    MWg Atom Life buttons

    MWg Atom Life buttons

    The back has the 2 Megapixel camera with strobe flash, self portrait mirror and a very conspicuous logo

    MWg Atom Life back

    MWg Atom Life back

    Overall the Atom seems reasonably well manufactured a little prone to finger marks. I’m not a fan of the finish and the branding seems a little clumsy but a pretty good package overall


    The Atom does offer both, Bluetooth; and IrDA. For file transfer and peripheral connection from a network perspective the Atom is tri band (dual UMTS 1900/2100 and GSM) and supports GPRS and HSDPA at up to 3.6 Gbps the onboard WiFi supports both 802.11 b & g.

    The wireless manager is a little more intuitive than the standard application and a lot prettier

    The Atom has a great FM radio application built in that supports RDS, traffic and news and as usual it will only operate if the headset if plugged in, you need to remember this when recording.


    The fast processor and ample RAM mean that the Atom are reasonably fast, navigation is zippy and regular applications run well without problems.

    MWg claim a standby battery life of 200 hours, I tend to charge devices a lot more often that this so can’t really vouch for this, I did however get reasonable talk time with about three hours of 2G calls with WiFi and Bluetooth activated.


    The Atom is a pretty standard PDA arrangement seems fairly well balanced and weighted and holds no real surprises the only unusual feature is the relatively large area of the fascia devoted to speakers


    The Atom includes the standard windows mobile 6 application set you do get windows live and live messenger included in the build and mobile remote desktop all of which are useful. You also get Office Mobile in its entirety and Clearvue’s PDF viewer in the standard build.

    There are three applications that stand out, the FM radio, the equaliser & SRS surround sound control panel and media plus.

    The FM radio includes full RDS so you can see the station name and a description of the content.

    You can set up a series of presets, the radio supports traffic announcements and best of all you can make use of that memory by pre recording your favourite stations, you need to ensure you have the headset / FM aerial plugged in or the application won’t start.

    The app is reliant on you being in the right area at the time as you set frequency rather than RDS preset but it’s a useful feature

    Mediaplus gives access to your media files and also to the

    settings menu which is where you can configure your SRS surround sound settings

    There’s a graphic equaliser

    SRS surround sound

    And trubass……

    I’m not looking forward to sharing a bus with someone who owns one of these and has a lack of consideration for other passengers, I suppose the saving grace is that the loudspeakers are actually loud enough to hear and the trubass takes the tinny edge of the playback


    This is the tricky area, I had a bit of a bad experience with the Atom, on a couple of occasions it turned itself off in my pocket, I’m not sure why and this seems a bit at odds with the experiences of others, so I’d like to hear if anyone else has had similar or dissimilar experiences.

    Overall Assessment

    Overall the Atom represents excellent value for money, at sub £200 SIM-free it’s a steal, there are a few things I’d change, the finish being the main one. However, overall the device is a well rounded PDA smartphone with some interesting applications.

    Review by: Alasdair

    [Post tag(s): , , , , ]

    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.
    Loading Facebook Comments ...

    Post a Comment

    No Trackbacks.