The MyPal A620BT is a revamp of an earlier Asus model, the MyPal A620, with the same hardware being used for both machines. The appearance of BT in the productâ€™s name is a clue to one of the main new features â€“ the presence of Bluetooth. In fact, Asus has been quite sharp in its choice of ways to update its PDA, and there is quite a lot in the favour of this model.
The other key feature of this new model is that Asus provides plenty of storage space. There is 64MB of RAM, of which 55.2MB is available to the user. You also get 32MB of Flash ROM bringing the total available to 87MB. In addition to this memory and the Bluetooth capability you get a fair software bundle, aimed at improving the robustness of the device rather than adding extra fancy features. So you get two backup utilities, one called SmartKeeper which will automatically back the system memory up to either that 32MB of Flash ROM or to a CompactFlash card if the battery life gets short, and another called ASUS Backup with is a manually used tool that can send data either to flash or CF.
You get two more applications. ASUS Launcher is a graphics driven alternative to the Pocket PC Today screen, and ASUS Settings, is a pretty sophisticated utility with which you can tweak system settings such as audio (treble, bass and balance as well as volume), microphone gain control and sensitivity, and, usefully, the processor speed. There are four settings; Turbo Mode, Standard Mode and Power Saving Mode fix the processor at set speeds, the lower ones designed to save battery power, while Automatic Mode chops and changes the speed depending on the software you are running.
Power is always an issue with PDAs, and we are pleased to see these options for changing the speed of the Intel PXA 255 which will often deliver more power than is actually needed. Asus claims a battery life of 19 hours if you run the device in Power Saving Mode. Thatâ€™s a pretty bullish claim, and we didnâ€™t get anywhere near it on test. Our constant MP3 playing, with the processor running at its fastest in Turbo Mode and with the backlight always on and half way through its brightness setting delivered a total life of 6 hours and eight minutes, which isnâ€™t bad at all, but note that the MP3s stopped after just half that time had elapsed.
Weâ€™ve already noted CompactFlash support in passing. The slot is in the upper part of the casing, and its back panel is removable, so you can use peripherals that are larger than a standard CF card with ease. There is no SD card slot. Thatâ€™s really the only notable point about the hardware design which is otherwise unremarkable in both looks and operation.
The MyPal A620BT is not going to have anybody â€˜wowingâ€™ about its ground-breaking features, but it is a solid Pocket PC, with well thought through software additions from Asus and a build which keeps it slim and neat in the pocket. That Flash ROM is superb for anybody worried about restoring their system after power loss in the field too.