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Review MiTAC Mio8390
MiTAC is known to us as a big notebook and handheld computer manufacturer. Considering the announced actions, MiTAC is going to enter the smartphone market seriously. The topic of today’s discussion is the second product of such class from the Taiwan manufacturer - smartphone MiTAC Mio8390. According to the unofficial information, the company is going to announce more smartphones than the usual PDAs during year 2004 (more than four, excluding Mio8390). Such situation does not come as surprise. Pocket PC market is getting more and more narrow, and passes its market share to the smartphones, who can do almost everything what a usual PPC can, and are powered with cellular network modules. According to predictions of IDC, from 2002 to 2007 we will see the average market rising of 85.9% per year.
The new old brand is called Mio Technology Corporation
In order to separate “mobile” production from the rest (the company produces servers and desktop PCs besides smartphones and Pocket PCs), in year 2004 new brand Mio Technology Corporation under which the production related to mobile way of life (M-Life) and mobile commerce (M-commerce) will be released. Such change tells us how seriously the company is rating the market and its perspectives. But for the end-user changes will not be so significant, it is just that the line-up of Pocket PC and smartphones is divided into separate brand.
Microsoft starts with black and wins?
Once again Microsoft is invading the already-formed market and is playing role of overtaking company, fighting for leadership. Microsoft introduced itself on the Pocket PC market only when Palm Inc’s positions (now known as PalmOne) seemed unbeatable. But time came and platform Pocket PC turned from overtaking into worthy competitor, and even took the lead in some regions (take Europe for example). The predictions of analysis companies are rather terrifying for Palm, after a year or two Palm OS will lose the status of dominating OS, and it will be taken by Pocket PC from this point. The situation will turn even more complicated with time. When Microsoft was planning to release OS for mobile phones it seemed completely crazy. Symbian had absolute lead. Its position was hard to be put under uncertainty. First real steps of software giant were unsure – at first delay with the release of OS itself, and then mocking process of releasing first device working under MS Smartphone 2002, cancel of partnership agreements of some companies and their transfer to the Symbian concern. But judging by the latest events wBut judging by the latest events which occurred during last few months we can predict that Symbian’s future will not be serene and MS Smartphone cannot be excluded from the main competitors list. First of all, we have a lot of new device announcements that will work on Microsoft’s OS (from MiTAC, Motorola, Sagem, Samsung), Nokia’s attempts to takeover control in the Symbian concern. If this will actually happen we can say that Nokia and Symbian will have equal meaning. It is clear that in order to prevent competition in the Symbian OS smartphone market the company will be offering exclusive possibilities (for example – earlier access to the latest OS versions), making exclusive agreements with various software development companies, this will make it harder for other concern’s partners to gain access for software. This will definitely cause part of existing Symbian manufacturers into competitor’s platforms. (MS Smartphone, Linux). This will extend Microsoft’s share in the market.
Reversal example. What menace will be brought up in case software developer and device manufacturer will be brought together is obvious for PalmOne. The company was holding maximal distance from Palm Source, by allowing the OS developers right to do whatever they want to, this decision was not groundlessness one, the company hoped that this will affect sales of PalmOne. Palm OS will be less associated with PalmOne, this will attract other manufacturers who will be sure that they are playing with PalmOne by equal rules. This move is correct and opposite to what Nokia is trying to do now. We will not look into the future, the main stage of platform competition is still to come.
Outlook and assembling quality.
During the testing period of MiTAC Mio8390 we had smartphone Motorola MPx200 in our hands as well, that’s why while reading this review you will see compare of these two phones. This move is just since both models are really close to each other in terms of price and features (smartphones, clamshell form-factor).
The phone is available in two color solutions: dazzling silver and opulent red. The phone looks like an expensive one and has nice shine when it hits sunlight. This leaves impression of a more expensive phone than Motorola MPx200. The case is smaller than its predecessor had (MiTAC Mio8380), but is noticeably bigger than Motorola MPx200 have (plus – Motorola does not have external antenna present on board). Well, you can compare the two phones by yourself, here are the existing models of smartphones working on Microsoft’s OS.
But as soon as you take the phone into your hands you will forget about he first impression. The first thing you will notice – battery’s backlash, it is very noticeable. In case if you put a small sheet of paper under the battery – the problem will be solved. But the paradox is that if you remove SIM-card backlash will be gone forever even without padding inside. It just seems that assembling quality was tested without SIM-card being put inside. The upper phone’s part gets fixed in both positions not as sharp as Motorola’s phone does (sides are not placed closely to each other when the phone is closed, this leaves you with the impression that the phone is not very reliable). When you open the phone you might hear small squeak, this does not give any points to MiTAC either. MiTAC was never known for its good quality of assembling. Take plastic case of Pocket PC MiTAC Mio338 for example; however this was budget model which was not supposed to have high quality of the case.
The keyboard can be praised. The joystick is very convenient in both, games and applications. The keypad’s buttons are big and convenient as well, they have enough button pressing speed and response. The backlight is nicely seen during the night, meanwhile Motorola MPx200’s one is fairly noticeable which can be nicely seen on the photo:
Joined volume regulation button is located on the left side. It is nice on the whole.
SD/MMC card slot is covered by rubber cork, which is more reliable than the one in Motorla MPx200 (I’d like to remind you that Motorola’s cork get torn off after period of extensive usage). The phone worked correctly with 512 mb SD card. Reboot was not required after the card was replaced with another. The maximal amount of SD cards for today is 1gb, but the optimal size according to price/capacity ratio are 512mb/256mb cards.
IrDA port is located on the right edge of the phone (you can transfer contacts, appointments, synchronize with PC, but you cannot transfer files) and headset connecter (the standard headphones with 2.5mm connector worked fine, meanwhile in case with Motorola the standard headphones worked as well, but had some transient errors, contacts had to be moved). The eye for strap was located here as well, such carrying method is widely spread among clamshell phones. The weight of 125 grams will not affect this operation badly, although this is slightly more than the average weight of a clamshell phone.
Charger port and USB-cable port used for synchronization are located on the bottom. The port is identical to the one latest models of HP iPAQ are using. We manage to charge the device via the iPAQ 1940’s cable, but the synchronization with PC was not occurring, this means that the compatibility is not full one (meanwhile MiTAC’s Pocket PCs have full compatibility with HP iPAQ’s devices, they were not only charging but synchronizing as well). This fact makes the search of accessories slightly easier task, for example – trying to find car-charger.
The screen is relatively big – 2.2”, it is made by TFT technology (the resolution is standard 176x220 pixels), the display was behaving nicely indoors and outdoors. When the display encounters direct sunlight the picture turns pale, but the text remains readable. The screen looks brighter than Motorla MPx200’s one, this is clearly seen on the photo.
The announced 260 thousand color display remained announced in the press-releases, since the OS does not support more than 65k colors. But the potential possibility that the next Windows Mobile OS version (which will be released in summer, 2004) will have support for not only higher resolutions but increased color depth as well.
The external display is monochrome one, it has only one view during the stand by mode (against 3 ones Motorola smartphone’s). Its resolution is 48x64 pixels and backlight’s color is blue. The screen is capable of displaying analogue clock, battery and RF level. Whenever there is an incoming call you will see the caller’s phone number or name.
Camera is capable of taking pictures with 640x480 resolution (you can also use 320x240 and 174x144 pixel resolution modes). There is nothing special about this camera, it looks much the same as other VGA cameras. Relatively big amount of settings is the only interesting detail (although the quality of pictures does not get affected). The video which was recorded with the help of camera can be played with the help of handset, I was unable to play it on my PC.
Our sample had removable Li-Ion battery installed. According to our testing it was enough for one day with rather extensive usage: 2 hours spent for mp3 playback, 20 minutes were spent for listening music via speaker (while the breakfast was prepared), 30 minutes spent for GPRS internet and e-mail, 20 minutes for working with supplied games and software. In case you are not so desperate to use all these features your phone will work for two days (with 20 minutes spent for talks and 20 minutes spent for applications daily). Motorola’s smartphone showed same results.
The smartphone is working under Intel PXA262 200Mhz processor. Its working speed is a lot faster than Motorola’s MPx200, but this is caused by different processor or external video sub-system. The reason is that MiTAC has new version of OS installed (you can read more about it here). The memory amount available for user is more than 20Mb.
The smartphone is working under Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphone OS. We will not describe the common features, you can read about them on our web-site. The non-standard software will be described tho:
JAVA MIDP 2.0. WM2003 for Smartphone OS lacks Java support that’s why 3rd party software was required in order to solve this problem. The Java launcher is shipped with every smartphone from MiTAC.
MMS. Software for sending MMS messages. The menu had some encoding problems, and this did not allow us to find out more about this software.
PhoneCity. This software will tell you what time it is in various cities. The software is rather simple, but does its functions like it is supposed to.
PhoneExplorer. This is a rather simple file-browser, that can do only standard functions. In case there is no alternative for you – use it, but I’d advice downloading RESCO file explorer.
PhoneReader. E-Book reader.
TaskMan. Application manager.
The network quality was fine, even when RF was not stable. However the microphone’s sensitivity was rather poor. Almost all people whom I was speaking too were complaining that the audibility was bad. The problem is rather serious especially since Mio8380 did not have this one, let’s just hope that the problem which we had encountered was singular for first consignment or the definite sample. In the end we come up with one serious disadvantage – poor assemblage quality (especially if you compare it to Motorola). In case this criteria is not important for you – Mio8390 will be a nice buy if you need a maximal amount of features locked in the clamshell at estimated price 500-600 US dollars (smartphone, camera, memory card slot, working speed). But the lack of Bluetooth support will make this product uninteresting for those who are willing to use BT for their daily needs. This model will remain actual until Motorola will release its new model MPx220. Mio8390 will be shipped to Russia since April 2004 and its price will be around 550-580$.
Published - 24 May 2004
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