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
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
Hardware - Around the device
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
- 3G / HSDPA
- Video calling
- Build quality
- 2.3" screen
- 8 way directional pad
- Keypad is nice to use
- Fingerprint Reader
- Windows Mobile 5 as opposed to 6
- A little 'chunky' due to slider
- T9 problems (preproduction issue?)
- Top end of Smartphone price scale
Topic: Toshiba G500 Preview
Notes: Toshiba G500 is a preproduction unit.
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HTC S710 / Toshiba G500 Camera Faceoff
MoDaCo.TV HTC S710 / Toshiba G500 Preview