- Review Price: £269.95
Back in February, Toshiba announced two Windows Mobile Smartphones, the Portégé G500 and the Portégé G900. The latter is not due for a little while yet, but the former is now available.
Readers in the UK can be forgiven for not associating Toshiba with Windows Mobile as its last UK device, a Pocket PC, launched in 2004. The Portégé G500 is Toshiba’s first Windows Mobile Smartphone.
And there is another first, this time not just for Toshiba but for the whole Windows Mobile Smartphone category. The two new Portégé devices have fingerprint recognition. Even in Pocket PCs, fingerprint recognition is a rarity.
Toshiba is touting this as a key selling point, and it may indeed prove to be popular, particularly among users in the business sector. After all, the Portégé G500 (and G900 incidentally) can handle mobile email with attachments, and this alone is enough to allow for sensitive information to be on a device small enough to be easily left in a taxi, train, or coat pocket.
So how small is the Portégé G500? Not very, as it happens. Toshiba has opted for a slider format and this means that the device is rather chunky. It is not particularly tall or wide at 96mm tall and 49mm wide. But it is very thick at 22.9mm, and rather heavy at 135g. Compare these dimensions to those of Orange’s SPV E650 (102 x 49 x 18mm and 130g) and there is a considerable difference in chunkiness, yet the SPV E650 has a full QWERTY keyboard hidden away under its long edge slider, while the Portégé G500 can only muster a more usual number pad.
At least the G500’s number pad is pretty large. Even the stubbiest of fingers should be able to effectively tap out phone numbers and the relatively heavy base section means the phone is fairly well weighted in the hand. Fast texting is also achievable thanks again to the large keys but also thanks to a significant return and a meaty click on each key press.
With the number pad put away only the screen and front keys are visible. The screen is large at 2.3 inches corner to corner, and it delivers a standard 320 x 240 pixels at 65,000 colours. There are no surprises in the array of buttons beneath the screen. A large 8-way navigation pad with select button sits centrally, with softmenu buttons to its upper left and right, Call and End keys to its lower left and right, and Windows Mobile Home and Back keys lodged in between.
The lens for the built in camera is on the back. Slider phones often hide their camera lenses under the sliding mechanism on the back fascia. In this case that spot is occupied by the fingerprint reader so the lens simply has to go onto the back.
A shortcut key on the right edge activates the lens and then shoots a still or video. Images are captured at resolutions up to 2-megapixels (1,600 x 1,200), video at 144 x 176 and 240 x 320.
The camera management software is a bit different in look and feel to that usual found on Windows Mobile Smartphones, but it offers a very similar range of options. For example, in stills mode there are burst and self timer settings and there are various camera effects for different lighting conditions as well as the usual range of filters (greyscale, sepia, cool, warm).
There is a miniscule LED flash next to the camera, but no self portrait mirror. If you want to take photos of yourself you need to switch to the front camera, which manages three resolutions up to 320 x 240.
The presence of a front facing camera gives away the fact that the Portégé G500 is a 3G handset. It supports HSDPA and is also Tri-band GSM with GPRS and EDGE so it can accompany you worldwide.
Toshiba has chosen Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone Edition for the Portégé G500. This rules out the possibility to include Microsoft’s Office Mobile suite that enables you edit Office documents. This comes with the newer Windows Mobile 6. However Toshiba has included the excellent Picsel viewer for reading documents such as email attachments.
Toshiba has also supplemented Pocket Internet Explorer with the Opera browser. The latter gives a better Web browsing experience and lets you open several Web pages in different windows, which you can switch between using the softmenus.
Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are built in, and there is quick access to the wireless control centre on the Today screen. There are some other software extras that take advantage of the wireless capability including a utility for locking the phone remotely via Bluetooth (well, that is to say, remotely if you are within Bluetooth range of the corresponding application on your computer), and a VoIP client called TIPtalk.
You can also set up the fingerprint sensor so that you can launch different applications with different fingers. I can’t help feeling this is a bit gimmicky, particularly as the slider needs to be opened for you to get to the fingerprint sensor.
There is 64MB of storage memory, and on my review sample 37MB was free. A miniSD card slot under the battery cover on the left edge lets you augment that.
There are a couple of things I really don’t like about the Portégé G500. The first is that the headphones connector is a 2.5mm pin. That said, at least Toshiba partly redeems itself here by providing a two piece headset with a 3.5mm connector just beyond the microphone, so you can use your favourite headphones and still make handsfree calls.
More annoying is the two-piece mains power adaptor. Admittedly this is smaller than that you’ll find with most notebook computers, but it is still a lot to carry around. You’ll want to invest in a one-piece mains to mini USB power cable if you don’t already have one.
In its press release Toshiba rates the Portégé G500’s battery life as ‘excellent’. I asked it to play music with its screen forced to stay on and it gave me six hours 50 minutes of life. This is not a total embarrassment, but I’ve seen a lot better and wouldn’t call it ‘excellent’. For example Samsung’s i600, another Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone with 3G and HSDPA delivered a bit more than nine hours of music.
The Portégé G500 is a bit on the chunky side, and its use of the now outdated Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system does it no favours. But its firm keys make it easy to use, while the fingerprint sensor could prove very useful to the security conscious.
Score in detail
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