Few handset introductions cause as much of a stir as when the HTC Wizard was launched to an unsuspecting public in late 2005. The Wizard was shipped in Europe by T-Mobile as the MDA Vario, in some Orange territories (with the UK a notable exception) as the SPV M3000 and in the USA as simply the MDA (as well as being offered by iMate, Qtek and Dopod SIM free). The Wizard reference design built on the success of the Magician, adding a sliding keyboard to the small-screen Pocket PC form factor, albeit at the expense of size, with the Wizard packing a noticeable depth increase.
Fast forward to summer 2006, and the long awaited successor to the Wizard is finally here. Christened the Hermes internally by manufacturers HTC, the new device builds on the design of the Wizard, still sporting the same small screen form factor and landscape keyboard, while also offering up a considerable specification boost on it's ageing predecessor.
Out goes the 200MHz TI OMAP processor, a battery life star but often criticised for being underpowered, and in comes a 400MHz Samsung processor. Early experiences with the device show it as being a very capable replacement. The quad band radio in the Wizard is supplemented with 3G support, a very significant improvement, together with readiness for the new HSDPA networks that will provide even faster data speeds. The 1.3MP camera with flash of the Wizard is replaced with a 2MP unit, again with flash, but also with a Macro mode. A secondary camera is included for video calling. The keyboard is improved, there are new hardware buttons, a jog wheel and so it continues... but we'll cover all these in detail later in the review
In the box
The M3100 comes in a fairly small box, and is rather thin on content. In the box you'll find:
- Orange 'getting started with your SPV M3100'
- Generic user manual
- Companion CD (Activesync 4 and Outlook 2002)
- Carry case (quite nice!)
- USB cable
- Spare stylus
Note no memory card included!
Hardware - overview
If you've held a Wizard previously, you'll notice that although the M3100 is actually no smaller or lighter, it feels better shaped in the hand. At 176g, it's no lightweight (packing an extra 7g compared to the Wizard), but it leads to a feeling of solid construction. At 58mm x 112.5mm x 21mm the M3100 is fractionally taller and slightly thinner than the Wizard.
The SPV M3100 specs at a glance:
- OS: Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC Phone Edition AKU 2.3
- CPU: Samsung S3C2442 @ 400MHz
- RAM: 64MB
- ROM: 128MB
- Interfaces: microSD, IrDA (SIR), Bluetooth 2.0, MiniUSB, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g (inc WPA)
- Radio: Tri-Band UMTS, Quad-Band EDGE
- Screen: TFT 2.8" (43 x 57 mm) 240x320 pixels QVGA, 65K colours
- Camera: 2.0MP with flash / macro + QCIF forward facing
- Battery: 1350mAh LiIon
- Dimensions: 58 x 112.5 x 21.95 millimetres
- Weight: 176g
It's a specification that is unmatched amongst it's peers. Even the considerably larger HTC Universal doesn't offer such a rich feature set (although it does include a VGA screen), so to pack all of the above in the M3100 form factor is a considerable achievement.
Windows Mobile 5 in AKU 2.3 guise is virtually identical to the AKU 2 build found on the current crop of Pocket PCs. A few small fixes are all that is evident, but we'll come to that later in the 'Software' section.
The M3100 is the first device from HTC to feature the Samsung S3C2442, a departure from the Intel XScale processors used in the past (in devices such as the Universal) and TI OMAP processors (used in a ton of devices, including the Wizard). The power / performance tradeoff is a never ending battle - some argue that the TI OMAP processor tipped the scale too far in favour of low power consumption at the expense of performance... the upgrade to the Samsung processor looks to address such criticisms.
As you can see from the above specs, the M3100 features microSD. Gone is the full size SD found on the Prophet, gone is the miniSD found on the Wizard, and along comes yet another memory card format for you to invest in Available at time of writing in capacities of up to 2GB, microSD cards really are tiny, about the size of your fingernail, and as well as being physically smaller, they use less power than their predecessors.
The M3100 packs a veritable feast of supported technologies / bands! As well as quad band GSM and tri band UMTS support, the M3100 serves up GPRS, EDGE AND HSDPA for all your data consumption needs. Although the status of Orange's HSDPA network is somewhat unclear, the fact that you are ready to use it should they (likely) roll it out is a definite plus.
The screen on the M3100 has excellent brightness and minimal yellowing. When using an Orange m600 previously, I noticed poor screen brightness and viewing angle when compared to my JAMin. No such problem on the M3100, it is excellent, with a very broad viewing angle. Top marks!
The 2MP camera is of reasonable quality, with a flash and macro mode - see the sample photos later in this review!
So let's starting working our way around the device!
Hardware - around the device
Let's start with the overall construction of the device. The device is styled primarily in black plastic, with a grey band around the side, grey buttons on the front, grey camera surround on the back, and a silver piece stretching from the top of the device down to the video call button on the front. There's no debate, this is a great looking device. Along with the Dopod 838 Pro (which is virtually identical bar branding), it's the pick of the pack in the current Hermes handsets.
The Hermes design itself is actually split into two variants, the HERM100 (which we have here) - the true HTC Hermes, and the HERM200 (devices such as the TyTN, Vodafone v1605, Dopod CHT 90000) - known internally as the HTC Mercury. The only differences between the two are cosmetic - you can identify a variant by seeing if it has an oval directional pad (HERM100) or a square directional pad (HERM200). For me, the HERM100 is the looker, although the more spread out button layout of the HERM200 does provide fractionally superior usability.
So to the device itself.
Looking at the front from top to bottom, firstly you'll note the 2 hardware buttons for Messaging and Internet Explorer. A nod to the wizard design, these are very useful quick access keys. Below these buttons sit the LEDs and the speaker. Yes, the LEDs are pretty huge and very bright. Flashing LEDs on devices are my pet hate, so I best gloss over these Note that the speaker itself only uses 50% of the hole you see there, however in call sound quality is still excellent. To the left is the Orange logo, to the right is the 'video cam' - i.e. the forward facing camera for video calling. Next comes the lovely 2.8" screen, to the right of which the silver strip flows down in a nice design touch. After the 'SPV' and 'M3100' branding, the silver strip ends in a button that is used to answer / place video calls. Very nice indeed. The M3100 addresses one of my main criticisms of the Wizard device. The Wizard did not include hardware Start / OK buttons, and was the poorer for it... this itself made the HTC Prophet (SPV M600) my device of choice - so i'm very pleased to see the Start / OK buttons present on the M3100. Hardware keys that map to the soft keys on the device are also present, to try and make 1 handed device usage as effective as possible. Red / Green call Place / End keys are of course present, together with the 5 way directional pad. All in all, the front of the device looks very nice IMHO, although as mentioned previously, the buttons themselves are rather cramped compared to the HERM200 cousin (e.g. HTC TyTN), which makes their use a bit fiddly - although I have quickly become familiar with their positions. Chubby-fingered users beware however
The top of the device has nothing on it
The bottom of the device is home to the IR port, reset hole, microphone, battery removal latch and miniUSB port. I say miniUSB port, it's not your normal miniUSB port. You'll notice the shape is slightly different. While it can use regular miniUSB connectors, it is also designed to accomodate the headset. That's right, there is no longer a dedicated 2.5mm connector on this device, it is a proprietary connector. Although adaptors will be available shortly, it is a shame On the bottom of the device you will also find the lanyard loop and the stylus silo - which is rather stiff, at least when new (probably a good thing as it's on the bottom). The stylus is identical to that on the Wizard, i.e. it is telescopic. I personally prefer full size styli (?) such as those found on the Universal or Prophet, although again I am getting used to this one quickly
The right hand side of the device contains the camera button (which becomes the top when using the camera), a dedicated button for 'Comm Manager' and the power button.
The left hand side of the device contains the microSD slot, a dedicated 'voice memo' button, and a jog wheel / OK button! That's right, the SPV M3100 is the first device from HTC to feature a wheel! It's a true wheel, with a lovely positive rolling action - and it is clickable. Perfect for browsing through emails. The button next to it is an 'OK' button, again, perfectly suited to scrolling through emails. Interestingly, the implementation of the button is such that if there isn't an OK / close button on screen, it becomes a button to fire up the Start Menu. A very neat touch.
The back of the device features an external antenna connector (for car kits etc.), a mirror, the camera itself, a macro mode switch, and a flash. The macro mode works very well, and the flash is reasonably effective (see sample shots). Above the camera is the branding '2.0Mega Pixels Camera'. The fact there is no space between 2.0 and Mega bugs the hell out of me, but then i'm a bit strange like that
The M3100 runs Windows Mobile 5 for Pocket PC Phone version AKU 2.3. This means that you get all the benefits of AKU2 (push email etc.) but with the latest tweaks and fixes. AKU2.3 brings A2DP stereo headset support, but no other major changes. The one change I DO really like in AKU 2.3 is you can get rid of the horrible little battery bar at the top, and restore the clock, thereby restoring the homescreen plugin to 1 line also - see attached CAB if you want to do this to your device!
A tap of the power button to bring the device into life, and the first thing you'll notice if you've used Windows Mobile devices before is the boot time. I've just timed the boot on my device and it boots in 25 seconds, pretty decent for a device of this type, and it feels a lot quicker than the Prophet I have been using.
The first thing that greets you is the surely-now-familiar Orange homscreen. Created for Orange by Abaxia, the Orange homescreen brings the common Orange look and feel across all their devices, and the Pocket PC is no different. I have to confess i'm not a big fan - it's a bit of a waste of real estate on PPC / Smartphone and pointless when the device itself has such a rich home screen by default, but at least it can be turned off
After using either the stylus, the windows hardware button or even the button next to the jog wheel to load the programs menu, you'll notice that the Orange branding continues. Icons have been revisited to give them the 'Orange look and feel', and grouping of applications is slightly different.
On the device you'll find the following applications
- Contacts - View contacts you have stored on your device. These may be synced with Desktop Outlook, Exchange or created locally on your device
- Calendar - View the calendar stored on your device. Again, this may be synced with Desktop Outlook, Exchange or created locally on your device
- Camera - Fire up the camera application. This is a new improved Camera application from previous generations of device, and works well
- Internet Explorer - Pocket Internet Explorer - browse the web!
- Messaging - Messaging allows you to manage SMS, MMS and email, synced with Desktop Outlook, Exchange or synced directly onto the device
- Phone - Make video or voice phone calls
- Pictures and Videos - View pictures and videos stored on your device
- Accessories -> Download Agent - You won't use this
- Accessories -> Help - Exactly what it says on the tin
- Accessories -> Orange Plus - This is the SIM Toolkit application, for enhanced Orange services
- Accessories -> SIM Manager - This application allows you to copy contacts from your SIM
- Accessories -> Terminal Services Client - Connect to and manage remote Terminal Servers
- Accessories -> Wireless Modem - Use your phone as a Wireless Modem via BlueTooth, IR or USB (I know, that isn't wireless is it!)
- Games -> Bubble Breaker - Previously known as Jawbreaker, group and pop bubbles of the same colour
- Games -> Solitaire - The old Windows favourite!
- ActiveSync - This is where you manage sync connections to PCs and Exchange servers
- Calculator - A simple calculator
- Clearvue PDF - PDF Viewer
- Excel Mobile - View / Edit Excel spreadsheets
- File Explorer - Explore the files on your device
- Java - Run Java midlets from here
- Notes - View Notes you have stored on your device. These may be synced with Desktop Outlook or created locally on your device
- PowerPoint Mobile - View Powerpoint Presentations
- PV Player - Video player
- Search - Search your device
- Tasks - View Tasks you have stored on your device. These may be synced with Desktop Outlook, Exchange or created locally on your device
- Voice Speed Dial - Use voice recognition to make a call
- Windows Media - Windows Media Player 10 Mobile
- Word Mobile - View / Edit Word documents
So what's missing?
As with the M600, Pocket MSN is no longer on the device. This means no MSN Messenger and no HoTMaiL sync. Orange are apparently rolling their own IM solution at some point in the future, but when is anyone's guess. Worth bearing in mind is that the Windows Live Mobile client for Pocket PC is well into beta now, and is an excellent piece of software... so there will be a Microsoft solution to this soon.
More concerning for me in the M3100 is the lack of 'Phone Pad'. If you've used a HTC Pocket PC in the past, you may have come across Phone Pad - it's the application that gives you an input method that looks just like a phone's T9 keypad. Put simply, it's a brilliant piece of software, is vital for a number of users who migrated to PPC from 'normal phones', and has been a real reason to choose HTC devices over other brands up until now. Sadly, HTC, in their wisdom, seem to have removed it from all Hermes ROMs. My sources tell me it's due to high licencing cost for T9 from Tegic / AOL and the impact this has on the device cost, but either way, it's a real shame, and a great loss.
I have only had the device a couple of days (unfortunately Orange were unable to get me a device before they were shipping to retail), so I will be updating this section as I get more time with the device. My experience to date though has been very positive! The device is within my limits of acceptability from a size perspective, which is good - it somehow feels smaller than a Wizard, although it isn't really, and is much nicer to hold. It's definitely a looker, with a real 'wow' factor. The device is fast in use, noticeably quicker than the TI OMAP based devices. Signal reception seems very good, handoffs between 2G / 3G seem to work very well. The keyboard is a revelation, far better in use than I expected, i'm finding myself using it a fair bit, whereas on the Wizard I rarely bothered. I'm getting used to the button layout and the jog dial, I think over time i'll find the jog dial a 'must have'.
I've yet to purchase a microSD (i'm going to splash out on a 2GB for about 50 quid I think), so I can't comment on that, but I expect no problems.
It's too early to talk about battery life (as i've had it plugged in a lot).
One strange thing I have noticed is that the device gets warm, even when not being used. When driving home last night with the device in my pocket, I could feel warmth from it, even though it wasn't really doing anything and certainly wasn't plugged in (well, it was maintaining a data connection for push mail). Very peculiar, but not a huge issue.
As stated above, it is early days for me and this device, but I think it's definitely going to be a keeper.
It's jam packed with features, thoughtfully designed, bang up to the minute in almost every way, and there is very little to say against it. It isn't the smallest or lightest handset in the world, so if size is an issue for you, you might like to check one out in person. If you are a heavy T9 / Phone Pad user, bear in mind that it is missing, and can't [legally] be restored.
Thanks for reading my review, please reply and let me know if you've found it useful (or not), and i'll leave you with 'Paul's SPV M3100 Pro's and Cons'!
Paul's SPV M3100 Pro's and Cons
- Feature packed - bang up to date
- Improved processor
- Best looking of the Hermes variants
- Lots of useful hardware buttons
- Surprisingly good keyboard
- Jog wheel
- Proprietary headphone connector
- Not the smallest / lightest device in the world (altho performance per pound = good!)
- No Phone Pad (T9)!
- Slightly fiddly stylus
- Slightly cramped directional pad / button layout
Update 1: M3100 and friends
Here's the M3100 with some of his friends, Mr M600 and Mr MoDaCo C600, heh!
Update 2: Paul's must have FREE Hermes software
See here - http://www.modaco.co...re-t243906.html
Restore clock on top bar, thereby reducing date / time homescreen plugin to 1 line
Restore wireless status homescreen plugin
Unlock Extended ROM
and much more!