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Paul (P)Reviews the Toshiba G500

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#1
PaulOBrien

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Note: This article is based on a prerelease version of the device, and any of the details below may change prior to launch.

Introduction
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If you've not been following Windows Mobile for as long as I have, you might be forgiven for thinking that the recently announced Toshiba G500 and G900 handsets are Toshiba's first foray into the Windows Mobile market. In fact, Toshiba have a long history with Pocket PC, having produced a number of well received devices worldwide, but particularly in Japan. What is new for Toshiba however is their venture into phone enabled devices, and in particular the upcoming release of their first Windows Powered Smartphone, the G500. Announced at 3GSM this year, the G500 has come from announcement to market in a very short space of time, and is due to hit the streets - SIM free - any day now.

In the light of a pretty stagnant Smartphone market of late, any new devices are very welcome, and particularly devices that look as interesting and innovative as the G500. Welcome to my (P)Review!

Buying the G500

At Expansys, the G500 is currently showing a SIM FREE price of £349.95, which is not expected to change significantly before launch in April. Compared to it's peers (all prices from Expansys)...

Samsung i600: £389.95
Toshiba G500: £349.95
HTC S710: £289.95
HTC MTeoR: £289.95
HTC S620: £264.95
i-mate SPL: £223.59

As you can see, the G500 sits at the top end of the scale when it comes to Smartphone prices, although only the i600 also features 3G, which is £40 more expensive (and also yet to go on sale).

Hardware - Overview
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The G500 might not be cheap, but you do get a lot for your money. The specs are as follows...
  • Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone AKU 3.2
  • Intel XScale PXA270 @ 312MHz
  • 64MB ROM
  • 64MB RAM
  • 2.3" QVGA TFT display
  • UMTS / HSDPA / GPRS / EDGE
  • 802.11b/g WiFi
  • 2 Megapixel Camera with flash + VGA Secondary Camera
  • Fingerprint Reader
  • miniSD expansion
  • 1100mAh battery
  • 49mm x 96mm x 22.9mm
  • 135g
The first thing that stands out of course is the Operating System. WM5 AKU 3.2 is one of the newest releases of Windows Mobile 5, but the device forfeits the newer Windows Mobile 6 OS, in order to speed time to market. There has (of course) been no annoucement at this stage of a potential upgrade. 64MB ROM is lower than found on many devices nowadays, but these aside the specs of the device are very strong. HSDPA and WiFi ensure speedy data connections on the device while a 2.3" screen is slightly larger than found on it's competitors. A very interesting innovation is the integrated fingerprint reader, a first for a Windows Mobile Smartphone.

Hardware - Around the device
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Let's start with the front.

The majority of the G500 is finished in titanium coloured plastic, with the exception of the front which has a glossy black finish. At the top of the device sits a small notification LED on the left, the speaker in the middle, and the forward facing camera on the right. Remember this device has video calling! Below the speaker sits the branding. My device is branded "Satellite" as a preproduction model, however the final branding on shipping devices will be "Portege". Next comes the 2.3" screen. The screen is bright and sharp, and sits a few mm inside the device from the screen cover itself. The screen pales somewhat next to the superior screen in the HTC S710 I have been using, yet is perfectly acceptable. Below the screen is the 'Toshiba' branding. A round directional pad dominates the base of the front, and has excellent feel. The pad also supports diagonals! On the left of the pad sits the left soft key, the 'Home' key and the 'Green' key, while on the right sit the right soft key, the 'Back' key, and the 'Red' key. All of the keys have a satisfying click and feel well made.

The whole back of the device serves as the battery cover. Again in Titanium coloured plastic, the back is designed to look like a regular digital camera. Held sideways, the back features Toshiba branding, 2 MegaPixels branding and the camera itself, complete with flash. The speaker sits above the camera. There's no portrait mirror on the camera, but remember you have a forward facing camera on the unit ;) Removing the battery cover reveals the battery, SIM slot and the miniSD (yes, miniSD) slot. This can be accessed without turning the device off. A happy medium between safeguarding your card and having it under the battery?
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The top of the device is home to the power button, release button for the battery cover and the lanyard hole.

A plastic flap covers the miniUSB port on the bottom of the device. Unlike HTC devices, this is used for only charging and syncing.

The left of the device also has a plastic flap, under which lives the 2.5mm headphone socket.

The right of the device is home to the volume control and the camera button.

Sliding the front of the device upwards (using the excellent spring-assisted mechanism) opens the device with a reassuring 'click', and reveals the keypad. The keypad has a rubbery finish, and feels good to use. The keys have a good feel to them. Flipping the device over reveals the G500's party piece... it's fingerprint sensor. Yes, the fingerprint sensor is only exposed when the device is open.
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Software

Due to the fact this is a preproduction device, I don't plan to do a full overview of the software, as this is the one aspect that is certain to change prior to launch.

Toshiba has made a number of additions to the base Windows Mobile 5 for Smartphone OS. These include their own camera client - which is good but has a tendency to forget it's settings on this prerelease build, Toshiba's TIPtalk VOIP client, Opera 8.65, Picsel Office Document Viewer, Software for linking the device to your Toshiba laptop (I was unable to test this) and a suite of software for use with the fingerprint reader. The software allows you to unlock the device with your finger, navigate the menus with your finger, and even launch different applications using different fingers!

The software build in general seems very stable with 2 exceptions, the first being the oddities in the Camera client, and the second being peculiarities around T9 - both of which I am attributing to the preproduction nature of the device.

In use
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What's good?

So what do I like about the G500? I like the look and feel of the device as a whole, in that it looks and feels well made. The slider mechanism feels rock solid, which is encouraging. The screen is good, and the actual tactile feedback from all of the keys is excellent. The fingerprint reader, easy to dismiss as a gimmick perhaps, works well. While I don't envisage I would use it regularly to navigate the menus or launch applications, it is convenient to be able to slide open the device and unlock it quickly using only a swipe of the finger... more secure and likely quicker than entering a long PIN.

The G500 definitely blazes a trail as the first HSDPA equipped Smartphone (assuming it arrives for sale before the Samsung i600). Speedy data connectivity and video calling are something many Smartphone users have been crying out for for a while, and when you take these features into account, the asking price appears good value.

The Camera is noticeably better quality than the camera found on HTC devices, and the flash is impressively effective.

What's not so good?
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Given the fact that the G500 has come to market so quickly following the launch of Windows Mobile 6, it's difficult to criticise Toshiba for launching with the older Operating System, but there is a danger this will put off prospective 'enthusiast' customers. I'd love to see an upgrade path for G500 buyers, but only time will tell. The 64MB ROM is restrictive compared to the 128MB ROM that is more popular on devices now, but on the plus side the amount left available after the standard build seems favourable compared to other devices.

The software build in general is excellent... I expect the few niggles with the Camera application to be ironed out before launch. On my preproduction unit I have also had problems with the predictive text input (the latest xT9 engine from Tegic) being unable to 'keep up' with my keypresses, so I hope this too is resolved on production units. I plan to get hold of a production device as soon as possible to clarify this.

Conclusion

The G500 is a great device. It feels well built, looks good and has a great specification, in particular it's 3G connectivity. If you are looking for a Smartphone with a high speed connection, then you should seriously give this device some consideration. Even regardless of that, the fingerprint sensor, WiFi, good keypad and fairly decent camera means that it easily holds it's own amongst it's peers.

I very much look forward to testing a full retail unit, and strongly suspect Toshiba could have a winner on their hands!

Pros and Cons overview

Pros:
  • 3G / HSDPA
  • Video calling
  • Build quality
  • Design
  • 2.3" screen
  • 8 way directional pad
  • Keypad is nice to use
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  • Fingerprint Reader
  • WiFi
  • Camera
  • miniSD
Cons:
  • Windows Mobile 5 as opposed to 6
  • A little 'chunky' due to slider
  • T9 problems (preproduction issue?)
  • Top end of Smartphone price scale
www.MoDaCo.TV content

Topic: Toshiba G500 Preview

Notes: Toshiba G500 is a preproduction unit.

High quality DivX Download: Click Here

Windows Media Player Mobile direct link: http://soapbox.msn.com/StreamingUrl.aspx?v...2e-9c13a7075441

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See also

HTC S710 / Toshiba G500 Camera Faceoff

MoDaCo.TV HTC S710 / Toshiba G500 Preview

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#2
PaulOBrien

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Now posted live, feedback welcome!

P

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#3
Gorskar

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Now posted live, feedback welcome!

P


Looks like a very tempting device - The camera in my hermes is particularly poor in low light/indoors, so it'd be interesting to see how this compares.
Unfortunately I probably can't afford to buy one right now, and I still have a year left on my contract... ;)

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#4
dpeilow

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Looks like a very tempting device - The camera in my hermes is particularly poor in low light/indoors, so it'd be interesting to see how this compares.
Unfortunately I probably can't afford to buy one right now, and I still have a year left on my contract... ;)



The only thing not doing it for me is the 2m pixel camera. I'd really want a 3.2. Seems a shame that no smartphone seems able to catch up with the k800i or N73. If it had that I'd be there like a shot.

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#5
hotlips69

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Can someone please check and confirm the exact CPU that this G500 has as I was under the impression that it had an Intel® PXA272 416 MHz according to Expansys & several other sites that already have this device in stock. ;)

http://www.expansys....modaco&i=147285
http://www.smartdevi...one-p-1821.html

Maybe it has been upgraded since the pre-production model?


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#6
kalantz

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Received it yesterday...
Soft Version: 03.04AAI
Radio Version: 03.02AAQ
Rom Versions: 5.1.422.15633

Pros
Build Quality (Nice sliding mechanism)
Camera (Better than any other smartphone I've ever used)

Cons
Weight and Volume
OS Stability
Camera settings (still forgets it's settings like the preproduction unit)
Battery (Although 1200 mAh it goes down quickly. Furthermore, if BT, WiFi and 3G are on it goes down even with the charger attached!!!!)
WiFi range
Earphone (not loud enough)
Speakerphone (bad quality and not loud enough)
TipTalk Voip client (Are they kidding? Possibly a "wanna-be" Voip client? Trash)
Speed (slower than HTC WM5 smartphones with TI Omap @ 195MHz)
Screen (mediocre)
Fingerprint (nice gadget to play once or twice, but useless for everyday use. It could have a much lower price without it)
Lack of Voice Command
Toshiba Online Help and Support
Price (too high for so many cons)

Neutral
Extra software and utilities (Nice utilities but almost useless)

I still haven't decided if I'll keep it. If it was guaranteed that there will be a WM6 upgrade with real Voip (and Greek XT9), I would.
Waiting for your comments

Thanks,
Costas
Greece

Edited by kalantz, 27 April 2007 - 08:07 PM.

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#7
hotlips69

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Please can you go into the System properties section and tell me the CPU speed plus any mention of RAM/ROM figures?

Thanks.

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#8
kalantz

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Please can you go into the System properties section and tell me the CPU speed plus any mention of RAM/ROM figures?

Thanks.


Processor: ARM920T PXA27x (no speed)
Total Storage: 49.13 MB
Total Memory: 51.26 MB

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#9
PaulOBrien

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I have a production unit now too. It STILL can't keep up with my typing in T9.

Bad, bad, Toshiba :rolleyes:

P

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#10
kalantz

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I have a production unit now too. It STILL can't keep up with my typing in T9.

Bad, bad, Toshiba :rolleyes:

P


Any chance to see a WM6 upgrade?

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#11
b35ty

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Any chance to see a WM6 upgrade?


That's what I want to know too. Also, what bands of HSDPA does it support? If it's a yes to WM6, and the right bands are supported, I think I've found my next phone.

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#12
kalantz

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I sent it back to Expansys within 7 days with the following comments:

- TipTalk Voip client doesn't work, even with standard / famous SIP servers (Voipbuster, etc)
- 1200 mAh battery goes down within 15 hours (normal use). Furthermore, if Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G are on it goes down even with the charger attached.
- Camera client seems to forget user's settings.

Even if they located the faults, their respond, based on Toshiba's policy, was that since this a common behaviour for all G500s, the device cannot be considered "faulty".

:rolleyes: :P :D

Edited by kalantz, 23 May 2007 - 01:45 PM.

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#13
PaulOBrien

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No sign of a WM6 upgrade of bug fixes.

P

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#14
BillyR

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Hi, I just like the sliding action, is it active? Does it answer and end calls. No indications on the Toshiba site or in the handbook. Shallow I know but if it does not work I will get an Orange E650 instead.

Edited by BillyR, 31 May 2007 - 07:56 PM.

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#15
Dizzyfish

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Do not buy this device!

I have a production G500 and its quite possibly the worst phone I've ever had. Here's why:

1. The 'light' for the camera is so bad that you have to get a foot away from the subject to illuminate it otherwise you see nothing
2. The sound quality is poor from the speaker. Actually - speakerphone is not bad for volume, but distorts terribly.
3. If you cup your hand around the back of the phone when you hold it (which is quite normal for a lot of the people I have tested this with) you get feedback - terrible feedback that will deafen you. The back cover of the phone is such that there is a perfect channel from the speaker to the microphone. The only way to avoid this is to hold it on the sides and leave the back uncovered
4. The camera settings don't get stored. THis means that every photo / video you take you have to go back into the settings and change them as desired. Defaults are the lowest resolution and lowest quality.
5. The sliding mechanism isn't active. It turns the light on when you open it, but doesn't unlock the keypad if its locked and doesn't hang up. It does clear the screen when you slide it (e.g. if you have a dialog open).
6. On first use, the keypad seems great. Its clicky and feels good. However, when you use it quickly it misses clicks. This is particularly noticeable while compiling text messages. Its best to use one finger - two finger texters will soon get very fed up
7. It doesn't support OBEX for bluetooth. Tried from an N95, Prada, Shine, N73... nothing - even when paired
8. The processor is underpowered so there is a lot of stuttering
9. The camera button is right where you hold the phone so nearly every time you pick it up you go into the camera (which is slow!)
10. WiFi reception is poor - I was outside and 15 metres away from the mast with direct sight on a clear day and it only could manage 1 bar.
11. The finger print scanner is next to useless. It picks up on about 1 in 5 attempts.
12. Battery life is average. You can muster about 2 days if you're lucky and limit calls. If WiFi is on, its closer to 2 hours.
13. Headset connections are boomy and full of echo (Motorola, JawBone, Jabra tested)

You can't tell me this is down to a lemon unit. This is just a rushed device, poorly thought out and riddled with flaws.

It has such a great spec its a massive shame. I still rate the Mteor as the best Windows Smartphone to date - well built, well powered. If it had WiFi it would be perfect.

Please don't buy the G500. Its useless. Unfortunately, I didn't realise this before I was out of the returns period so I'm stuck with a £250 piece of junk.

Any offers considered...

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#16
Dizzyfish

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I still rate the Mteor as the best Windows Smartphone to date - well built, well powered. If it had WiFi it would be perfect.

Any offers considered...

Actually - if you're game I'll happily swap this for an unlocked, good condition fully working Mteor (my G500 is just over a month old as of this post).

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#17
hecatae

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Expansys are now selling this for £199.95 and a free 512mb Mini SD thrown in.

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#18
PaulOBrien

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I'm not surprised. It'd be great if Tosh actually fixed the issues, it's a dog otherwise.

P

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