- Review Price: £224.95
There’s an exclusivity that manufacturers of luxury good, particularly cars, have managed to accumulate over time. Their vehicles may not cost that much more than the competition to make, but the blend of reputation, rarity and the overall quality of their products means that customers are willing to pay extra to buy into the brand.
In the world of the mobile phone it’s a similar story. In terms of bald specifications the iPhone doesn’t look as if it offers a great deal, especially when you have to pay so much for it, in addition to an exorbitant contract. But the combination of the Apple brand, simply superb software design and a well-put-together hardware package means that folk were simply gagging for the thing at launch, never mind the cost. For business folk, Blackberry handsets have the same caché.
In comparison, even the most powerful, best-value Windows smartphones just seem to lack that special something, and Toshiba’s latest handset – the Portégé G710 – falls solidly into this category. To be fair to Toshiba, it seems to have done a pretty good job from the outside. The G710 is very slim and sleek – it’s thinner than either the Blackberry 8820 or the 8310 at 13.2mm.
It looks lovely, too: with its sharp lines, all-black soft-touch plastics and the occasional highlight of shiny chrome, it’s sure to draw admiring looks from envious Blackberry-owning colleagues. It’s not just about the looks either: Toshiba has also done a pretty good with the ergonomics, albeit with a little inspiration from RIM’s design department. That’s because, sitting above the keyboard, is a scrolling, clickable mini-trackball – a straight rip-off of the Blackberrys’ pearl; it even glows cool white when the phone is in use. The scroll wheel turns out to be just as much of a joy to use as Blackberry’s own, and reduces the amount of clicking you have to do to navigate Windows Mobile 6 Standard’s old-fashioned-feeling interface.
Incredible, the keyboard turns out to be pretty good too. This time it isn’t a straight copy, and neither is it quite as good as the Blackberry 8820 or 8310 keyboards, but it is possible to get up to a decent typing speed with a bit of practice. It’s also nowhere near as bad as the keyboard it looks most like – the diagonally-keyed Samsung i600. And above the keyboard, the 320 x 240 screen is bright and clear too.
But, just like a kit-car imitation, while things look very good on the outside, once you start to take a closer look it soon becomes clear that it isn’t the real thing after all.
Unusually for a Windows Mobile Standard device, the Portégé G710 has a GPS receiver built-in. There’s no software utility to take advantage of this out of the box, but you can download and install Google Maps for free, and for under £100 you can add proper turn-by-turn in-car sat-nav.
But that’s where the good news ends and the bad stuff begins to surface. And it turns out that G710 is woefully underpowered in virtually every other department. Despite the navigational capabilities, there’s no fast mobile data connection. Instead of HSDPA, you’re stuck with GPRS, and there’s no Wi-Fi connection to ameliorate this situation when in sight of a hotspot. Bluetooth is just 1.2, though it is at least A2DP compatible for wireless music (just as well given that the phone has no standard 2.5mm or 3.5mm audio output). The camera on the phone’s rear is just two megapixels and not a particularly good one at that. And neither is the phone generously specified in terms of core components.
Powering the Portégé G710 is a Texas Instruments OMAP processor running at 260MHz and, like a home-built “Ferrari” copy with a Toyota engine in the engine bay, it feels horribly sluggish as a result. It has just 64MB of RAM for running programs, which in the world of Windows Mobile memory management means it’s going to run out pretty quickly and leave you having to manually shut applications down with the Task Manager. Meanwhile, storage for extra stuff isn’t entirely generous either at a mere 128MB.
What hammers the final nail in the G710’s attractive black coffin, however, is its battery life. You might have thought that the combination of a slow processor and lack of fast mobile data would have the side benefit of extending this out to a maximum of three or maybe four days, but the G710 gave an underwhelming two days of use with the absolute lightest of use. Worse still is that the battery indicator behaves like a dodgy fuel gauge; with a good 25 per cent remaining I went to bed, but by morning the phone had given up the ghost – a mere six hours later.
So despite a decent software complement – not every Windows Smartphone can boast Office Mobile (though it is the version that bizarrely doesn’t allow you to create new files from scratch) – the Toshiba Portégé G710 is a bit of a disappointment. It really wants to match the big boys from the major marques and does a pretty good job with the most difficult part – the keyboard and navigation controls are excellent.
But when it comes to internal specifications, Toshiba has got it all wrong. The phone might cater for the few that are willing to sacrifice battery life and performance for GPS at the right price – at £225 the G710 is relatively cheap for a GPS smartphone – but for everyone else who wants it all in a mobile device, the compromises will simply be too much.
Score in detail