Orange SPV M2000 Review
- Review Price: £249.00
I’ll come straight to the point. The SPV M2000 is a full size Pocket PC PDA that is also a mobile phone. We’ve seen this before with hp’s iPAQ h6340, and the same concept has also been used for O2’s XDA and T-mobile’s MDA range, along with a host of other players offering similar devices. In fact, the HTC (High Tech Computers, Taiwan) designed chassis (codenamed “Blue Angel”) is identical to the XDA IIs, MDA III, and the iMate PDA2K.
It’s an appealing combination for obvious reasons. I mean, why bother carrying around both your mobile phone and your PDA when there’s one device that does it all? However, I would still argue that the device has to be small to remain appealing, and in the case of the M2000 this balance is skewed toward the big end of the size scale.
This fact was confirmed to me after I fitted my Orange SIM card and made my first phone call while scaling the mountains in Snowdonia (Yes, the Orange signal was rather good up there). In a Dom Jolly, Trigger Happy TV moment, the rest of our hiking party all gave me a strange look as I held this slab of technology against my ear… “Hello. Yes! I’m up a mountain! It’s rubbish!”
Admittedly for me the hike was rubbish (I held everyone up), but the barrage of abuse from friends was exclusively related to the M2000’s proportions and not my climbing prowess. “What’s that against your ear?” “Do you realise you look stupid holding that?” This went on until eventually they all just got used to me nattering away on it. I guess that’s just it. It is big. It’s a little ungainly, but when I gave it enough exposure, it and I finally gained peer acceptance.
So as a phone the M2000 is large and it’s even larger if you pull out the sliding QWERTY keyboard. However, as a PDA there’s little difference between it and a typical PDA. In fact, it measures 125 x 71.6 x 18.7mm (WxHxD) and tips the scales at 195g, making it quite similar to hp’s iPAQ h6340 – they’re both PDA-like in terms of width and height, but carry a little more thickness. The size doesn’t make it that pocketable, but at least Orange supplies you a carry case (with magnetic fastening) that can be clipped onto your belt.
Using the case threw up what I thought was a rather annoying issue. Upon slipping it in I would activate the Pocket PC Start menu icon in the top left corner of the 3.5in QVGA (240 x 320 pixel) transflective TFT display. So the first feature I looked for was the ability to lock the display, in the same you would a mobile phone’s keypad. Luckily you can, with an option buried under the System tab within the Settings menu. Here I found the “Button Lock” icon that allows you to lock all the buttons except the power one when the M2000 is off. However, “Off” isn’t quite the correct term as the phone will still ring if you receive a call.
Out of its little holdall, the M2000 feels well constructed with a metal front frame that borders a plastic bezel that surrounds the screen. The charcoal coloured rear is made from rigid plastic that also feels solid. Not everyone will like the champagne finish to the front, but it grew on me as it isn’t too “gold”.
At the top there’s a headphone socket covered with a rubber bung, an SD/MMC slot with SDIO support for other peripherals, and there’s the power button. Around the back is the camera lens accompanied with its traditional reflective disk that doubles as a self portrait mirror. More on the camera’s quality later.
The M2000’s right flank is devoid of any controls, largely because it houses the chamber for the stylus, which is actually one of the best I’ve used. It’s not flattened like the one belonging to the Dell Axim X30, it’s long enough to hold comfortably, and the metal shaft adds that extra bit of durability. No problem there. Along the left hand side you’ll find the IrDA port, the camera button, a slider volume control (for both the ringer and the earpiece), and the voice record key (or notes key for recording short memos).
The front carries most of the key controls. In true PDA fashion, there’s a four-way navigation pad with a centre button for initiating functions that are highlighted on the display. And, in true mobile phone fashion, this pad is flanked by two backlit buttons. On the left by the red “end key” (for ending, rejecting and diverting calls), and on the right by the green “call key” which fires up the phone screen so that you can make a call. Furthermore, if you hold this down during a call the speakerphone is activated so that you can continue a conversation hands-free.
Above the navigation pad is a row of four small buttons. From left to right these are defaulted to call up the Start menu, Email client, Internet Explorer and to “OK” any configurations you’ve setup. These, along with the two buttons either side of the earpiece (Calendar and Contacts), the voice record button, camera button, and IE hotkey on the keyboard, can all be assigned new applications or actions. One of the most useful is to assign one to your file browser and another to rotate the display to a landscape orientation. I should add that the sliding volume control button can be reassigned (without third party software) which is a shame especially as many users may want to use it to scroll down pages.
After familiarising myself with the M2000 over the last few weeks, I have to say I’ve got used to its size and handling. Only a couple of issues exist, and these concerned the keyboard. First, the slide down action is somewhat awkward requiring both hands to do it smoothly. A spring loaded, button operated mechanism would undoubtedly have appealed to the image conscious. As for the other issue, that’s all about using it. While the keyboard includes directional arrows and a number pad, typing on it wasn’t that easy, especially if your thumbs are a little on the chunky side. The small pimples that cover each key are just that – small. That, plus the fact that each individual key is spaced very closely to the next meant that I regularly pressed the wrong key.
That said, I can’t criticise the M2000’s keyboard too much. For a start, at least there is one, and it’s backlit with an attractively blue light. Most PDAs don’t even come with one, so straight away the M2000 gives the user an alternative input method to the Block and Letter Recognisers, display keyboard and Transcriber handwriting recognition tool that all feature in Pocket PC. However, once you’ve mastered the keyboard, it’s a great way of replying quickly to text and email messages.
Of course, I’m sure you’re wondering about performance and connectivity too. Well in use I I didn’t experience any lock-ups and found it to be reasonably slick thanks to the Intel PXA263 400MHz CPU. This is backed up by 128MB of RAM and, despite conflicting specifications floating around the Internet, 32MB of ROM.
Connectivity is comprehensive. You get a mobile phone that has an internal quad band antenna that covers 850/900/1800/1900MHz frequencies for world-wide use. In addition there’s Wi-Fi (802.11b) and Bluetooth functionality. Using the M2000’s embedded Wi-Fi I was able to successfully connect to my wireless network at home and here at our offices. Chatting on MSN messenger was a breeze despite the fact I was some 40 metres outside our building, plus you can always download your emails to the M2000 once you’ve correctly set it up with your email settings.
With a phone this size some users may also want to keep it from view, and that’s where the short range Bluetooth connection can come in handy, coupled to a Bluetooth headset. When Bluetooth is activated the left LED on the top will flash blue, but if you want to confirm your connections the Wireless Manager application will show which connections (GPRS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) are in operation, while also offering you the option to select your preferred ones.
Connectivity, like most PDAs continues in the form of a USB cradle, which is supplied as part of the package from Orange. This is finished in the same champagne colour as the M2000 and can accommodate a spare battery (also supplied) that is simultaneously charged. The USB cable is hard-wired into the cradle, whereas the power adapter is plugged in separately. The M2000 will trickle charge over USB but full charge will be reached more quickly with the adapter connected. Orange has also supplied a connector that can be hooked up to the power adapter and the M2000, so that you can charge the device without the cradle – ideal if you don’t want to leave it at home or in the office.
As is common with Pocket PC devices the M2000 ships with a copy of ActiveSync so that you can synchronise your data with your PC or use AvantGo to download various websites and channels for your perusal at a later date.
Other software includes Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition with the full Microsoft suite of software, including Pocket Office, Windows Media Player Mobile and Pocket IE. Other software includes “Album” for playing back various multimedia formats such as images and movies in the following formats: BMP, JPG, GIF, AVI, MPEG-4, MIDI, and WAV). With Album you can also annotate the images, perform slide shows with transitions, and even assess image histograms.
Also included is ClearVue PDF and ClearVue PTT for viewing PDF documents and Powerpoint presentations, respectively; Midlet Manager for storing, playing and using Java games and programs; Photo Contacts for assigning pictures to contacts so that they’re displayed when those contacts call; and xBackup for backing up all your files, settings, contacts and appointments to permanent memory or a memory card.
With the supplied headset headphones, the M2000 can also double as a music player. Sound quality is clear and crisp and there’s an on-cable volume control. The earpiece (set to speakerphone) is also quite loud and music is fully audible in a reasonably quiet office. As for in call sound quality, this was clear too with enough headroom in the volume level to remain audible in a noisy environment.
However, being a bit of an imaging enthusiast, the biggest disappointment for me was the VGA camera. Despite the 640 x 480 top resolution, the M2000 is simply not up to scratch. I’ve come across camera phones that can capture images with more quality. With all the sophistication the M2000 has on offer I was expecting greater results. Video didn’t fair much better either, showing the same kind of image degradation that you can see in the stills. On the other hand, you probably wouldn’t buy a PDA phone if you wanted to capture quality pictures, so for most users the M2000’s camera performance will be superfluous.
The key words here are mobile functionality, and in the M2000’s case it’s pretty loaded. With its bright, big screen and all these features (sometimes running simultaneously) battery life will be an issue. In my experience the M2000 endured my usage quite well. The 1490mAh lithium-ion battery is stated to cover four hours talk time and seven days standby which seems good. During prolonged usage on a single charge it’s closer to one/two days of active PDA use including up to an hour of talk time, before it will die. But remember that you’re typically going to perform day to day cradle charging which will always keep the battery topped up. In addition, you have a spare battery to cover you.
So what does all this cost? Well, that largely depends on the tariff you choose, but handset prices range from £99 to £379. Check out Orange’s phones for up to date quotes. For a general idea, I’ve gone for a Standard 200 minutes Plan with double minutes (400 mins for six months), with a 10MB Orange World Access (GPRS) data bundle. This comes to £38 per month over a one year contract, and the SPV M2000 will cost £249. In my opinion this is a reasonable price to pay for a what is essentially a PDA (which can cost more on its own), that also comes with its own keyboard, and of course doubles up as mobile phone, albeit a large one that’ll need a gradual introduction to your friends.
Why carry both a mobile phone and a PDA around with you? The Orange SPV M2000 combines the two and has enough features to keep the gadget junkie and business user truly satisfied. It is a large device and it’s heavier than your standard PDA, but then there’s an integrated useable keyboard (after some practice), and all the connectivity options you’re ever likely to need. A good buy for the connected generation.
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