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Windows Mobile is beginning to look seriously dated these days. So much so that manufacturers are having to come up with increasingly innovative, feature-packed hardware to convince the public to buy, and the version for non-touch screen devices is having the hardest time of it. Despite the fact that, of the two flavours of Windows Mobile, it's slightly better suited to its purpose - it doesn't have all those hangovers from the PDA days, such as fiddly dropdown menus and nasty little checkboxes - it just isn't sexy enough in today's ultra-competitive smartphone market, and is now looking well past its sell-by date.
Asus' latest smartphone - the M930 - makes a pretty good stab at reviving it, though. From the front this looks simply like a very chunky standard phone. It has a small, 2in 240 x 320 screen, a numeric keypad topped with a directional control and a fairly standard sprinkling of other buttons. There's a 2-megapixel camera on the rear. On the right edge is a microSD memory slot, along with a volume rocker and shutter release. On the bottom is a mini-USB socket and 2.5mm hands-free headset socket. There's nothing particular of note.
Pick it up, however, and your opinion begins to change. There's no getting past the bulk and weight of the phone, which at 113 x 54 x 18.7mm and 158g make it wider, taller, thicker and heavier than the slightly disappointing HTC S730. But it's a much nicer-looking phone than the HTC device. Its style is perhaps best described as industrial-executive: not only does it feel incredibly solidly made - there's barely a rattle or loose key anywhere about this phone's sturdy person - but it is also adorned with shiny phone jewellery in all the right places. That directional pad, for instance, is finished in brushed aluminium effect, as are the slim soft keys just below the screen; and the screen's glossy black surround and narrow chrome trim manage to offset the eyesore of Microsoft's ugly duckling operating system very successfully.