By June 21, 2007

O2 XDA Orbit Review

Matt recently did an unbox video of the O2 XDA Orbit and asked me if I would like to review it for him. Naturally I jumped at the chance to play with a Windows Mobile device with built in GPS!

The O2 XDA Orbit is the O2 version of the HTC Artemis, essentially the same device internally but the Orbit has a different, more modern looking, exterior design.
O2 were the first UK operator to offer a Windows Mobile device with built in GPS. I had high hopes for this device!

O2 XDA Orbit

O2 XDA Orbit

The 02 Active homescreen is gone! Let that be the headline statement, and we shall all rejoice. Yup it’s true. FINALLY O2 have got rid of the awful thing, and actually given the Orbit a nice selection of “normal” today screen plug-ins.

It’s a nice first impression, and it does immediately feel like an expensive device. The Orbit is the smallest Pocket PC/WM Professional device I’ve ever used, and it feels a lot less bulky in the pocket than my now-aging TyTN.

O2 XDA Orbit Side View

O2 XDA Orbit Side View

The problem I have with reviewing devices such as this, is that hardware wise, and OS wise – they are all very similar. I’ll try and concentrate on the major features and add-ons the Orbit has over other similar devices.

This helpfully brings me onto the mouse pointer. Yes, a mouse pointer, with trackball, on a Windows Mobile device. Although I was quite excited to finally try this out, I was a bit unsure as to how effective it would be. I shouldn’t have been. It’s a totally new way to control a mobile device without the need to get a stylus out. It works really well in the main, and can be used completely OS wise. The trackball is small, but perfectly useable, and I found it to be especially useful for navigating around the OS, and for surfing the net through Pocket IE. The mouse pointer is not the most accurate thing in the world, but it’s good enough for anything you’ll need to do on the Orbit.

O2 XDA Orbit trackball

O2 XDA Orbit trackball

This was also my first device with a built in GPS chip. Again, I was impressed, and the quality of the lock and signal seemed fine. I used both the supplied Co-Pilot and a copy of i-Go. I’ll speak more about Co-Pilot in a second, but i-Go worked fine!

O2 don’t appear to have made many “Orange” style mods to the OS or its icons. They seem to have kept their modifications to a simple theme, and the obvious Hardware skin. The usual array of user manuals, and outlook software licences come in the book, and as mentioned, the supplied O2 today screen plugins are available too. These appear to be O2 in-house programs. I’ve certainly not seen them elsewhere.

The review device I received also came with a copy of Co-Pilot. As a Tom Tom Navigation user, and part time i-Go “faffer”, I was really excited to be able to trial a different navigation system, but unfortunately, I was distinctly underwhelmed by it.

The major factor for me was the speed. The program didn’t appear to respond to key taps very quickly, and the same can be said about the navigation itself. I suspect this may have been an individual problem, I don’t know. Certainly, I was happy to get back to Tom Tom. As I said, I tried i-Go on the device instead, and it seemed fine, so I can only assume Co-Pilot was the issue. The GPS itself seems very good quality and as expected for a Sirf III chipset – the fix was quick, and stable.

The lack of a full hardware keyboard is a shame, but understandable since this is designed to be as sleek as possible. I just find the on screen keyboards hard to use, as they require a stylus. The mouse point is not really accurate enough to use for typing. These problems are compounded since the removal of the Phone Pad from HTC devices.

O2 XDA Orbit Stylus

O2 XDA Orbit Stylus

The integrated wi-fi is welcome, but becoming fairly standard, and the FM radio is easy to use, and seems to perform well. This is quite unusual for Windows Mobile devices, but may tempt some of the Nokia monkeys (sorry Nick!) to the platform.

Once again, all this is powered and charged via the ExtUSB connector that HTC do at least seem to be using as standard now. You’ll also need an adaptor to use normal 3.5 jack headphones with the device, and I’m not 100% sure if this will make the FM radio useless. For charging, as with other devices, a standard mini-usb will fit in the weird shaped socket, and will charge/power.

O2 XDA Orbit bottom

O2 XDA Orbit bottom

For external memory, microSD is used, which I know will annoy some/most but for me, having used the format for the M3100, it works fine. The position of the reader however, doesn’t. Located under the battery means there’s no chance of swapping cards without removing the battery, and SIM card. Not really ideal on the move, and I ‘d have preferred HTC to keep the reader on the side of the phone, similar to the TyTN.

The 2 megapixel camera is about average for HTC – not great(!) but they are improving, both in terms of quality, and the software included to take photos. The standard phone services are also just that – standard. Quality and signal strength seemed as average as my other phones, and although the lack of 3G is very, very annoying, it does at least have GPRS.

O2 XDA Orbit camera

O2 XDA Orbit camera

I was happy using the device, and although there are a couple of things which concern me, I have to recommend it. It’s quick, powerful, has an array of extra little features which are currently exclusive to this model. On an O2 UK subsidised contract, it’s also surprisingly easy on the wallet!

O2 XDA Orbit left side

O2 XDA Orbit left side
O2 XDA Orbit right side

O2 XDA Orbit right side

O2 XDA Orbit Specification:

  • Windows Mobile 5 for Pocket PC AKU 3
  • Quad Band GPRS / EDGE
  • FM Radio
  • TI OMAP 850 @ 200MHz
  • 128MB ROM
  • 64MB RAM
  • 2.8″ QVGA 65K colour screen
  • microSD expansion underneath battery
  • 2.0MP camera
  • miniUSB connector for sync / charge / headphones
  • 1200mAh battery
  • Built in SiRF Star III GPS
  • up to 3.5 – 5 hrs talktime
  • up to 150-200 hour standby
  • 58mm x 108mm x 16.3mm
  • 127g
  • Review by: Mark

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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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