Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hardware Review: HTC Wizard (O2 XDA Mini S)

Well, I finally balked and traded in my mobile for a HTC Wizard. After months of juggling around two devices I think I find it best to own a single convergence device like I did when I still had my imate Jam. The problem with the Magician however was its non-existence one-handed OS style which was why I got a traditional mobile instead after a year of usage. However with the Wizard running Windows Mobile 5.0, with its built-in QWERTY keypad and soft keys (something lacking in WM5.0 mobiles like the MDA Compact II and Eten M600), I honestly believe I have found the holy grail of smartphones - that is until Palm works its ass and release a GSM Treo 700w. It isn't as intuitive as a traditional mobile but it is an improvement.

Of course the first thing I did was update the ROM (with Microsoft AKU 2, which brings push e-mail to the Windows Mobile device). This essentially turns the Wizard into a Blackberry like device. Fortunately for me I have no need for such a slaving e-mail solution. The ROM update also sped up the device, although it did bring a couple of feature 'bugs' like the useless battery icon. Still the device worked straight out of the box, and then straight after the update. The new ROM is stable enough that I didn't have to soft reset even after two days of extensive usage. A record!

The Wizard isn't much bigger than my old i-mate Jam. It is notesably fatter, uglier and heavier but it is comfortable due to the rounded shape. While the Jam always felt like slipping out of my hand onto the concreate pavement, the Wizard felt more secure. The battery life is amazingly good for a Microsoft device and close to twice that of the Jam. The screen is the same size as the HTC Magician at 2.8". Even my spare Jam screen protector fits perfectly on this device.

Just when you thought you couldn't see smaller stylus, HTC decided to give the Wizard an even smaller retractable toothpick. Fortunately it is a little thicker than most toothpicks you find in Chinese restaurants. The telescopic stylus is accessable from the bottom of the PDA which makes no sense at least until you flip the mobile side ways into keyboard mode. I also like how the fact that it uses a standard miniUSB cable to charge and sync. I have an abundant amount of these cables lying around literally around my room as does Jennnifer, so at least I don't have to bring my charger to Brighton all the time.

The Wizard and its keyboardless cousin, the Magician (L)

The camera is driven by the usual crappy 1.3Mp CMOS sensor that also powered the Magician. I am sure going to miss the 2Mp K750 camera which was actually useful for a mobile. Until then I will keep my compact digicam handy. The Wizard takes mini SD cards (yet another flash memory format) and came with a 32MB card. I am lucky enough to obtain a 256MB for free so the 32MB is confined to backup duties. My 1GB SD card can now be retired to its permanent home in a digital camera. Regarding the many mini SD's doom prediction, it was not a long time ago when I first got a m505 (one of the first PDA to use SD card). No other device uses them and dooms were predicted for the new flash memory format and now look what happened. The same could happen to the mini SD format.

The Wizard appears to run much faster than a WM5'ed Axim x50v, which is shocking considering that it runs on a 200Mhz OMAP850 processor. The Axim on the other hand has a 624Mhz XScale. Of course the Wizard was built from the ground up to take advantage of WM5.0 including the type of Flash ROM that requires the file system to work properly so it isn't really a fair comparison. With a slower processor however, gaming could prove troublesome to some people. Armed with a DS, I never intended for the Wizard to be a gaming device so I didn't install much games save for Bejeweled!, Gamebox Solitaire, Snails and the F-Zero/Wipeout inspired Flux Challenge.

DS Lite: for pure gaming, Wizard: for things like getting work done

ActiveStink as usual do not work straight out of the box. It took me a while to realise that Zone Alarm was the culprit as ActiveSync 4.x seems to have problems connecting through firewalls. With WM5 devices now connected as a TCP/IP network device, I am sure it will be easier in the future to sync via WiFi or Bluetooth PAN. For now though I just have to shut down Zone Alarm before connecting the device, as it will just block the flow of information, at least until I have time to troubleshoot Zone Alarm.

I wish Microsoft would simplify the sync routine and understand that this is a mobile phone first and a computer second. People do not have the time to even troubleshoot their PC anymore let alone their mobile phone connection. I long for the days when all I need to do to sync was press that little HotSync button on the cradle and it gets the job done.

Update (2 May 06):

I installed ActiveSync 4.2 Beta and while it is faster to sync compared to 4.1, the issue with firewall is still there.

Improved battery life over the HTC Magician
Speedy enough running normal application (and pretty quick after overclocking)
Retains mini USB sync/charge slot
AKU 2.0 improved speed
QWERTY keyboard
Quad band
802.11g support
Persistent storage

Pretty ugly
Still uses 2.5mm 3-pin headset jack
Silly telescopic stylus
Only 24MB of RAM available during boot
AKU 2.0 brought a useless 2 bar battery indicator
Near useless camera

Wish list for future product based on similar platform:
Improved camera (or get rid of it altogether and price the device cheaper)
VGA screen
Increased RAM availability (64MB)
5-10 bar battery indicator
A faster processor (540Mhz XScale or 300+Mhz OMAP)
UMTS support
A thinner and maybe slightly more elegent case design

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Chewxy said...

Pictars! I demand Pictars!

Jon said...

There you go. Just the one. ;)

Navito UK Shopping said...

Hope the HTC Wizard works out for you.

Jon said...

It is working out well. Maybe this will last a year. ;)