BenQ and mobile phones? Really? Sure. It has been a while, admittedly, but the company does have previous phone experience in the UK. The last BenQ handset I looked at was a product of its relationship with Siemens, the very consumer focused EF61 Mia. But, despite ditching its relationship with Siemens, the company is very much active and has a lively portfolio of devices that just don’t make it to the UK. Check them out here.
Anyway, the long drought of BenQ handsets in the UK has ended with the arrival of the E72. Currently you have to be a BT Fusion customer to get hold of it, which does limit its reach somewhat. But it may become more widely available, and more BenQ handsets might get let out to play over here.
The E72 is a quad-band GSM Windows Mobile Standard device. In design terms, I really like this handset. The red and black livery is visually appealing to me, and the mirrored screen area, while an absolute fingerprint magnet of the first order, should have quite wide appeal too.
As Windows Mobile Standard devices with a candybar format go, this is one slim and light phone. At just 90g in weight, it easily gives other less well-featured handsets a run for their money and its 108mm of height, 46.3mm of width and 13.8mm of thickness make it comfortable to hold.
The number keys are large and individually shaped with a raised lower long edge, so that hitting them accurately isn’t too much of an ask. The Home and Back keys are on a red band sitting above the otherwise grey key area, while Call and End keys are above this band. The two softmenu keys sit beneath the screen.
The D-pad and its central select button are raised quite significantly from their surroundings, which makes them easy to find. Side buttons run to a volume rocker on the right edge and voice record and messaging shortcuts on the left. These sit on a red band that runs all around the edge of the phone.
The screen is probably the least impressive aspect of this handset’s design. It delivers a Windows Mobile standard 320 x 240 pixels, but it is small, measuring a mere two inches diagonally. There is room for a 2.2in screen, and while the difference might not sound like much it really would have been a help especially for some of the more information rich aspects of Windows Mobile such as Web browsing.
On the plus side, the built in Bluetooth is augmented by Wi-Fi. Not only can you browse and email using this, you can take advantage of the handy unified IM client for a bit of chatter. Called Mundu you can use this to confer with your MSN Messenger, Gtalk, Yahoo, ICQ, AOL and Jabber contacts.
Now, you can get Mundu for any Windows Mobile, Palm or RIM device, several Sony Ericsson handsets, and it is in beta for the iPhone too. But it’ll cost you a few dollars, so if you are an IM fan it is handy to have it bundled here.
Other pre-installed applications bulking out Windows Mobile Standard include a version of Fizz Traveller, an application which can manage multiple alarms, provide a world clock, manage a to-do list, convert currencies and grab a weather forecast. Again, you can buy this separately but it is nice to have it bundled.
You also get a ringtone editor and an app that can apparently extract information from barcodes. Called QuickMark this is more useful in Asia than the UK.
BenQ has toyed with the Windows Mobile today screen to great effect, providing shortcuts to Calendar, Tasks, a programme launch bar and profile switching utility. Between them, these mean you may hardly ever have to go to the Start menu, which has been designed with somewhat more cartoonish icons than Microsoft provides with Windows Mobile.
So overall, the E72 does feature some nice stuff, but there are a few negative things about this phone.
The processor isn’t up to much. I found myself looking at that annoying Windows Mobile ‘wait’ icon rather more often than I’d like. There isn’t a lot of memory on board for your own data and applications. Fresh out of the box my review sample reported just 26.21MB of available storage off its 128MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM. There is a microSD card slot lurking on the right edge protected by the battery cover, but it maxes out at 2GB (i.e. there is no SDHC support).
And then there is the battery. My usual rundown test – playing tunes from a microSD card – elicited just short of five hours of non-stop music off a full charge. That is not as bad as I got with the HTC Touch Diamond (a woeful 2 hours 43 mins), but it isn’t near the 6 hours-plus I’d expect from a Windows Mobile Standard device these days.
There is a mini USB port on the right edge for charging the phone. I didn’t get a headset with my review sample, but in the absence of any other way of connecting it I’m assuming it has a mini USB connector too.
There is a camera here, on the back of the casing, but its sensor is limited to 2-megapixels for stills and lacks autofocus, self-portrait mirror and flash. Shots were quite good, though.
Indoors the coloured dish is reasonably well reproduced and the colours are certainly quite accurate. Outside, the chair’s whiteness does have some pinkish tones, but detailing is reasonably good. The flowers were photographed close in, and there is some loss of definition, but again the shot is passable. Note the date and time stamp in the corner of each photo, which can be turned on or off as you wish.
Physically this is a neat Windows Mobile smartphone though it does suffer from a small screen. Wi-Fi is welcome, as is much of the bundled extra software. But the processor, battery life and internal memory are all inadequate.
Score in detail
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