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Review GSM-communicator O2 XDA Atom

Standard kit :

  • Communicator
  • Charger
  • Extra stylus pen
  • Wire stereo headset
  • USB - cable for synchronization
  • CD with the software
  • Manual

The XDA Atom communicator by O2 operator is made by the Taiwanese company Quanta Computer. With time this model will come out under other trademarks (name will be different, design will be slightly changed).

The success of the leading maker of Windows Mobile-devices HTC doesn't leave in rest the competitors, especially Taiwanese OEM/ODM-makers, which are eager to raise some money on a growing market (the income of HTC alone in 2005 grew twice to $2.3 billion). As we've recently written, the number of Windows Mobile-device makers will exceed a dozen and a half in 2006.

One of the new players is the Taiwanese company Quanta Computer, a popular ODM/OEM notebook vendor from Taiwan . However in addition to notebooks the company has long been engaged in making some phone models for Philips, Nec, Toshiba, so we can't call Quanta a newbie.

If the company makes decision to develop Windows Mobile-communicators or smartphones, first of all it should find a buyer of its developments, someone to sell it under its trademark. Well, Quanta found such company, which turned to be the international operator O2. It not only believed in the success of this model, but also undertook earlier untypical steps. So it launched a website www.seemightyatom.com to promote the model, there you can see specs of the model, play Atom Game, send a Xmas greeting card. In the game you should break chaotically moving molecules and escape running into loose electrons. It's quite an attractive action, the best player gets the communicator (the competition is already over). Evidently the site was created for the Atom promotion in the beginning of sales the Xmas is over (the greeting cards on the site are mainly Xmas related), and there is no more prizes.

During the creation process the developers were aimed at making an improved version of HTC Magician communicator, which has become a milestone for the industry. The model should have had smaller dimensions and more functions, including unique ones. The company has nominally succeeded to do so, but, firstly, HTC has advanced greatly since that time compared to HTC Magician , secondly, Quanta failed to avoid reefs, not visible at glance. On paper the potential of the model is impressive, we see a looming model, one of the best. Well, we'll see if it's true.

There is the only color solution modern black color. The plastic is glossy as in Motorola MPx200. Fingerprints stick to it easily, however it's not that noticeable. There is a groove of uneven plastic at sides, so the device rests well in hand, not slipping down. The assembly quality is high, there is no backlash. We can't either call it monolith (plastics gives way in some places, if press there) or say we have complaints. Design has something in common with HTC Magician, the influence of the latter is obvious, the location of key elements and proportions coincide.

Dimensions and weight are a separate topic for discussion. The communicator is currently the smallest in width, height and weight among analogs (we don't take into account Samsung i750, because of its different form-factor). If we compare O2 XDA Atom with HTC Magician, we see its height is noticeably shorter, however other dimensions are visually the same. The communicator is much smaller against the E-Ten M600. It has the minimum weight for its class 140 g . Let's compare it with direct rivals:

  • O2 XDA Atom: 102x58x18.5 mm, 140 g.
  • HTC Prophet: 108.859.318.4 mm, 148 g.
  • E-Ten M600: 111.7 x 60.7 x 22 mm, 165 g.

You can easily carry the device in a T-shirt's or jacket's pocket, it won't feel weighty. If you care about dimensions and weight of the device, so the XDA Atom is the first to pay attention to. Now let's speak about control elements. As we've said earlier, they are similar to HTC Magician.

Big End and Talk buttons are located under the screen, where soft buttons are supposed to be. But there is none of them, which is a drawback (using exterior utilities you can assign soft button actions to End/Talk buttons). The absence of soft and ok buttons affects the ergonomics while handling Windows Mobile 5.0, in which soft buttons could minimize using the stylus pen and the touchscreen. There is no wonder the company had developed the device looking back at HTC Magician, and not HTC Prophet (with soft buttons and ok button). There are two additional buttons on the shell Start menu button and media button launching O2 Media Plus. The engraving on the navigation pad hints at multimedia orientation of the device (sound volume control, rewind). The navigation pad is tough and of average comfort for games. However it's not the joystick, but the lack of buttons of the front panel that limits gaming opportunities. You should realize, a rare user buys the device of such class for games.

I have some words about stereo speakers. Their grates are located at sides of buttons on the front panel. When the device is off, it seems impossible to get stereo sound of them, but once you bring the Atom 20-40 cm to your face, you can distinctly hear the stereo. There is no real use of it, but still you hear stereo sound this is not just a marketing allegation.

Above the screen we find a speaker for talks and a LED indicator. At the left side are sound volume control buttons, they are moderately tough, so you won't press them accidentally. At the right side an infrared port, a voice recorder button and a camera button.

On the top are a power button, a slot for miniSD cards and a silo. The maximum possible capacity of miniSD cards today is 2 GB, step by step the makers of communicators switch to this standard from SD/ MMC . The stylus pen features average size and ergonomics. There are a camera, a battery compartment and a raised operator's logo at the back panel.

The bottom end copies the HTC solution an audio jack ( 2.5 MM ), a soft reset button, a miniUSB-connector for PC sync and charging, a mic.

Screen

The XDA Atom has a 2'7 screen diagonal against standard 2.8 , however you won't notice the difference, if you don't put two devices near. The matrix supports 262K colors physically, in reality we face the restriction of the operating system (65K colors). The viewing angles are very good, color rendering is at high level, the screen behaves well under the sun the text is perfectly readable, only the picture fades a little bit.

When the backlight is off, the screen keeps some poor light providing the most comfortable level for reading and working in the dark. In all, we have a high quality LCD, slightly better compared to the analogs. There is just one flaw the touchscreen is quite tough, so you have to apply some effort tapping it.

Battery life

The Li-Ion battery capacious of 1530 mAh inspired some hopes before the test, as the capacity is higher compared to the competitors. However there haven't happened a miracle: battery life of the XDA Atom proved to be even less against the competitors with less capacious batteries. Below you can see battery life comparison with out standard tests, the results are disappointing.

In real conditions the communicator worked for 1-3 days. Under the maximum load (up to 40 minutes of talks per day, 10 SMS, 2 hours of MP3 and radio, 1.5 hours surfing the Internet and organizer) the XDA Atom lasted for a day. If you only talk for 5-10 minutes a day, it is good for up to 3 days. The battery performance in real conditions is comparable with main competitors.

FM-radio

For the first time we see built-in FM-radio in Pocket PC. The signal reception isn't ideal as on stationary receivers, but higher than average, we can compare it with Nokia. Its software somehow affects the good impression, as it doesn't allow set channels manually, only by setting the frequency. The memory can store up to 20 stations (the stations are already preset for some countries). When you launch auto scanning, there is not enough space for all (in Moscow the scanning stops at FM103 MHz, all cells are full). It's possible to record stations (WAV or GSM610) by choosing the path to store it. Here are the examples of broadcasting fragments (converted from WAV to MP3 on PC) recorded in average signal zones.

Radio is played in stereo mode, it doesn't work without the wire headset, as the cord has the antenna function. We'll see built-in FM-radio by HTC much later, in HTC Muse.

I'd note that there are FM-receivers in SDIO format on the market, but they have little popularity (high price, they need own headphones jack).

Interface

There is the maximum set of interfaces like in HTC solutions. An infrared port (IrDA SIR) is located at side and is of little use to remotely control home electronics, only for data transfer and connection as an external modem. You can use miniUSB connector for PC sync, charging via USB and an external modem. The communicator can't be connected without drivers like a USB -drive.

Wi-Fi. Wi-Fi (IEEE802.11b) communication runs smoothly and steady , it gets connected fast and works good under low signal conditions . It ' s possible to switch power saving mode in the settings .

Bluetooth version 1.2 with Microsoft built-in drivers supports only standard profiles (work with Bluetooth-headset, transfer of contacts, meetings, tasks, files and work as a modem). There is a standard problem with Microsoft drivers it's impossible to transfer files from the communicator to PC. I'd mark the support of A2DP-profile playback of stereo music via Bluetooth.

GPRS/ EDGE communication ran smoothly under the Moscow cell network MTS. Where EDGE is available G mark gets replaced by E mark, however we haven't noticed much difference in speed rate.

All wireless interfaces can work simultaneously, Bluetooth supports several connections at a time. A small minus is that there are no tools to quickly control wireless modules on the start-up screen, you should navigate the menu first (usually Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons are located at the bottom corner on Today screen.

Kit

There are 2 shipment variants ordinary and extended . The ordinary kit contains essential things plus an extra stylus pen. The extended kit has a Bluetooth-headset Jabra 250v and a silicon carrying case. There is no cradle even among additional accessories (like in HTC Magician) it's an opportunity for makers of various accessories.

Camera

The camera of the XDA Atom is very slow even with the latest ROM update. It takes the camera 9 seconds to be started (instead of 11 seconds) and 8 seconds to save the picture, that's too much, in any case. The slow camera speed is its main flaw.

O2 XDA Atom can snap photos at the maximum resolution of 1600x1200 pixels, there are also available 1024x768, 640x480, 320x240, 176x144 resolution modes. The camera interface, including settings and design, copies HTC products in many aspects, so we won't go into details.

Being quite strong (lights up the area for several meters) the flash (torch) doesn't help much: you'll hardly make something out on a photo taken in the dark. As for the quality of photos, it's higher compared to HTC Magician, but lower compared to HTC Prophet.

  (+) increase, 640x480, JPEG

  (+) increase, 640x480, JPEG

  (+) increase, 64x480, JPEG

  (+) increase, 6400x480, JPEG

Video can be taken with the maximum resolution of 320x240 pixels, its quality is low.

Example of video (mp4, 147 Kb)

Productivity and specs

The device carries 64 MB RAM onboard, 50.39 MB of which is available. Some serious changes happened to ROM in the latest update. Now there is no separate flash-disk, but common memory to store data with 43.28 MB (earlier relatively small memory size wasn't flawless, now the problem is solved).

We can witness an interesting fact with new WM 5.0 communicators they involve processors by different manufacturers, and earlier Intel processors used to dominate. HTC Prophet Texas Instruments, E-Ten M600 Samsung, models by Kinpo Freescale (WM 5.0 model is not yet announced). As for the XDA Atom, it is powered by Intel XScale PXA 27x416 MHz  processor. When the device appeared, its speed turned to be disappointing: the communicator froze every now and then. Well, the new update partially removes the problem.

To test productivity we used SPB Benchmark package and picked up results of similar models.

With the CPU test the Atom proved to be a middling.

The file system index describes Pocket PC file system speed (read/record/move). Low results on Windows Mobile 5.0 are the charge for the new memory structure. The XDA Atom is behind HTC Prophet because of old flash memory type.

Synchronization speed shows good high level.

Integrated SPB Benchmark index describes total Pocket PC speed. We do not run it, as it is incapable of describing adequately the productivity of communicators with different OS versions.

You can read a detailed comparison of productivity of different Windows Mobile 5.0 communicators in the review of E-Ten M600, which will be published on our site soon. I'd just note that productivity problems have been solved with new ROM update. Another matter in the assessment is that we failed to speed up the communicator, as XCPUScalar application just hadn't launched.

Software

You can read a detailed review about the operating system on our site. And today we'll speak about additional preset programs and buildups.

HTC communicators have two important buildups Phone Pad (virtual analog of the digital keyboard supporting T9) and Smart Dialing (easy contacts search). Alas, O2 XDA Atom hasn't similar buildups, however some skilled users have already managed to transfer them from HTC products.

Auto Configurator. It's an auto configurator for the operator (GPRS, MMS ).

ClearVue PDF views PDF-documents without losing the formatting.

Equalizer. It's a 10-band equalizer.

GPRS Monitor. This program by SPB Software House calculates traffic.

Java launches J2ME-applications.

O2 Connect. Use it to download news and updates from O2 website.

O2 MediaPlus. This is not a completed program to work with media content (photo, video, music, radio). You can use alarm clock.

O2 SMS Plus. It has extended opportunities dealing with SMS, it's possible to send your business card via SMS (there is no such initial opportunity).

Photo Album and Photo Editor. As we see from the name these utilities work with photos.

Self Diagnostic. It runs self diagnostic of the communicator.

Setup Wizard. It's possible to make most of the settings in one place.

Voice Speed Dial. This utility by Cyberon performs voice control , you can see it in many communicators , it has good reputation .

Conclusion, impression

O 2 XDA Atom has no problems with signal reception quality . Ring tone and vibrating alert are average in strength.

O2 XDA Atom is the first model (the first attempt) by Quanta Computer. We can't say it's a failure, rather on the contrary. Applying developments of HTC (some part of HTC developers team has gone to Quanta), the Taiwanese maker managed to release a competitive product. Initially the model had serious problems with RAM size, productivity, but those drawbacks were removed.

The communicator has some unique features FM-radio, stereo speakers, minimum dimensions and weight. There is just one serious flaw battery life. I'd also mark a slow camera and the lack of soft buttons.

The communicator is available to purchase since December 2005 in the Asian region. Outside the Asian region the price varies from US$850 to US$1200. Taking into account such price we can hardly expect the model to be highly popular, the target auditorium includes buyers who have chosen the model because of its unique features and do not care much about the price.

Related links :

Description :

  • Class: Windows Mobile-communicator with touchscreen;
  • Form-factor : candy bar ;
  • Vendor : Quanta;
  • Rival models : E - Ten M 600, HTC Prophet , indirect rival Sony Ericsson P 990;
  • Shell material : plastic ;
  • Position in the line: opening;
  • Operating system: Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC ;
  • Processor: Intel XScale PXA 27x 416 MHz;
  • RAM : 50.39 MB available (not used to store user's data);
  • ROM : 43.28 MB available to store data, install programs;
  • Interface: miniSD , IrDA 1.2 ( SIR ), Bluetooth 1.2, USB for charging/ synchronization/ modem connection, Wi-Fi ( IEEE 802.11 b );
  • GSM 900/1800/1900, GPRS class B, multi-slot class 10 , EDGE ;
  • Screen: TFT 2.7 (41x54.5 mm) 240x320 pixels, 65K colors (262K claimed);
  • Camera: 2-megapixel with flash (the highest resolution 1600x1200 pixels), video capture (the maximum resolution 320x240 pixels)
  • Battery : removable Li-Ion 1530 mAh. Battery life claimed up to 6 days standby, up to 5.5 hours of talks;
  • Misc: built-in FM-receiver, built-in stereo speakers;
  • Dimensions : 102 x 58 x 18.5 mm ;
  • Weight : 140 g .

Anton Kotov (anton.kotov@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Anja Rytchkova ( anja.rytchkova@mobile-review.com )

Published - 20 February 2006

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