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10/10

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Orange has an uncanny knack of producing mobile units that get closer and closer to my single device ideal. I’ve been using the SPV M3100 since last September and it managed to fulfil many of my needs, being smaller than the SPV M5000, but still sporting a slide out, full qwerty keyboard. But much as I liked the M3100, I found that I still ended up carrying my old Samsung D600 much of the time, since it made a more convenient handset for actually making phone calls. But now Orange may well have cracked it with the SPV E650 and my days of carrying two phones around with me could be well and truly over.

The SPV E650 is based on HTC’s S710 smartphone and once again Orange is first out of the gate with a new Windows Mobile device. This comes as no real surprise considering that Orange pioneered Windows Mobile smartphones with the original SPV, and although that particular handset was pretty awful, Orange’s commitment to the Windows Mobile platform has definitely paid off.

The most impressive thing about the E650 is that it just looks like a phone. OK, it looks like a slightly large phone by today’s standards, but at a glance, you wouldn’t think that it was anything other than a regular handset. The 2.5in screen dominates the front of the device, and even though it sports a pretty standard 240 x 320 resolution with 65,000 colours, it does a great job of showing off Windows Mobile version 6. There’s a mirrored frame surrounding the screen and the keypad, which helps make the SPV E650 look surprisingly stylish for a smartphone.

The Home, Back, Call and End buttons are all part of the mirrored surround, and despite picking up a fair amount of paw prints, they look good and are easy to access. The rest of the keypad is finished in matt black – there’s a cool blue backlight to the keys, but there’s also an ambient light sensor below the 0 key, which ensures that the light only comes on when needed. There’s a four-way navigation pad with a centre select button, along with two soft buttons on either side.

Sliding the front of the E650 to the left reveals the full querty keyboard – the screen also automatically switches from portrait to landscape mode. Despite being very small, the keyboard is well laid out and it’s good to see that all the major symbols are only an Fn click away, rather than needing a trip to a separate menu. It’s particularly good to see that Full Stop is a single key press, making entering URLs pretty simple. You even get two status lights that tell you when Caps Lock and Fn are active, and as with previous devices, a quick double tap of either will lock the mode for multiple key entries.

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