The keyboard is the best of the highs. Q and W share the first key, and if you hit the key with a lilt to the left you get the Q, a lilt to the right you get the W. Where alpha characters share a key with numbers you press square on to get the numbers. It takes just a small amount of practice to get used to this ‘rocker’ arrangement and be typing at speed.
If you really can’t bear the thought, UIQ supports touch screens and there is a handwriting recognition system you can use instead – just whip the thin stylus out of its holster at the top left edge of the casing and start writing to the screen. Or you can use an on screen tappable keyboard. There’s not a great array of symbols available from the hardware keys, but the handwriting recognition and tappable keyboard cater for them and you can switch between systems very easily.
Whichever of these you opt for there is a good predictive text system. It presents an ever changing list of word suggestions as you type or write, and tapping at the one you want drops it into place. For longer words in particular this is potentially a time saver.
What I found more difficult during testing was getting around within and between applications. Things should be very easy, but somehow it is not like that. The UIQ user interface is peppered with buttons, some too small to tap at with a finger, so you have to reach for the stylus, which is annoying. There is a scroll wheel on the left edge of the hardware which works, but a ridge in the M600i casing, presumably designed to protect against accidental scrolls and pushes interferes with easy use. And I found the organisation of applications within the menu structure a little obtuse. It’s probable that the confusion about where to find things would ease with time, though.
Lefties will love that the M600i seems to have been designed with them in mind, as the wheel and the stylus housing are on the left side of the casing.
There is a hardware button on the right edge, by the flash memory card slot, that by default starts the Web browser. You can set this to do a different task, but the selection is finite: activity menu, main menu, media player, sound recorder or task manager are your only choices.
Battery life was good. With the screen forced to stay on and as bright as it would go, I looped MP3s from a MemoryStick Micro and got just over ten hours of loud and acceptable quality playback through the M600i’s speaker.
In the looks department and the all important aspect of data entry the M600i is superb. Its large screen and very clever and usable text entry system both deserve high praise.
But I found the scroll wheel less wonderful to use, and the UIQ user interface is bit confusing at times. And any touch screen that precludes the use of a finger by having very small icons is doing itself and its users a disservice.