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Archos 605 wifi

Since I travel into London each morning from Huntingdon which is a 50 minute journey each way I have started to watch a LOT of video to pass the time.

At first, I used my Nokia N95 and an application called Smartmovie . This was perfect as I was keen not to have to carry around a lot of tech, and having your phone as a movie player was perfect. The downside was that I had to convert each XVid into a smaller format that Smartmovie could display on the N95's it's 320x200 screen.

After a few months, a friend upgraded my redundant SPV M5000 to Windows Mobile 6 which ran the excellent TCPMP player. After getting used to the small N95 screen, having my shows displayed on the bigger 640x480 screen was a big improvement. It could also play the movies without conversion, but there was a problem. Even though the M5000 has a 600Mhz processor, it still had problems playing video when there was a lot of movement on the screen - explosions, cars and panning shots all used to drop frames or even stop. It also had a max 2Gb storage which was proving to be a problem.

Enter the Archos 605. After looking around for a replacement video player, it soon became apparent that the Archos range was the direction I should head. Anything by Apple was out of the question as 16Gb was not enough and I also wanted something as simple as a stand to prop the device up. Great design choice!

I read some reviews of the 605 and decided that was the baby I wanted. It came in SD card, 30Gb and 80Gb and 160Gb versions. SD was out of the question as was 80Gb and 160Gb - I didn't need that much room and there was a bit of a cost premium on those models. Then I noticed some places had a 40Gb version - even though the Archos site didn't list that. It soon became apparent that the DSG group of companies only sold the 40Gb version but for the same price as the 30Gb. Perfect - a quick trip to Currys and £199 spent (I did have gadget fever!) and I had one in my grubby hands.

So, how is it? I love it!
The screen quality is excellent. Colours and definition are perfect with the touch screen making the display look kind of 'creamy' is the only way I can describe it. Boot up time is only a few seconds and the sound quality, whilst a little lower than I'm used to, is comfortable with a proper set of Shure in-earphones.

Battery life is good at around 4-5 hours but you have to get a proper charger which is extra. The USB charger works but takes almost 8 hours to charge on the tickle of power the USB bus puts out.  Also extra is a DVD codec plug in which allows VOBs and AC3 soundtracks to be played. I had to pay an extra £13 for that as some of my files (tends to be movies split into 2 files) had AC3 and would not play. There are extra plug ins for web browser and pod cast readers, along with various add ons to allow play back on your TV.

Long term issues - I am worried about damaging the hard drive so I do treat it with care.

Nokia E61 Smartphone

Nokia E61The only non Nokia phone that I've ever bought was a Handspring Treo 600. I got it because I wanted to be able to manage servers over the Internet from my phone using SSH without carrying around a laptop or other bulky device. The Treo looked perfect, querty keyboard, big colour (touch screen) display, and Palm OS, but once I'd used it for a bit I realised that it had some pretty big flaws: The screen was only 160x160 pixels which is too small for even a 40 column display let alone 80 cols; it had no Wifi or bluetooth so connecting to other devices was a pain; and finally, although it worked ok as a PDA, it was a terrible phone!

So when I saw the E61 announced around this time last year I couldn't wait until my current contract expired so that I could get one. It seemed to fix all the things that let the Treo down: Nokia design, Symbian OS, 3G, Bluetooth and a QVGA screen, plus it had two killer features: WiFi and SIP. So now that I've finally bought one, is it all that it promised?

Initial Impressions

I got my last phone (a Nokia 6630) on an 18 month contract with T-Mobile, and as I haven't had any real problems I decided to get the E61 from them as an upgrade (plus they do an unlimited data plan for £7.50/month). I've also found that T-Mobile don't muck around with the firmware quite as much as some operators (like 3 and Vodaphone).

The T-Mobile package is completely standard as far as I can see (apart from the silkscreened logos that they insist on putting on):

  • The phone
  • 64Mb Mini SD card
  • BP-5L Li-ion Battery
  • Mains charger
  • Mono Pop-Port earpiece
  • Installation CD
  • Lots of docs

The phone looks and feels very solid with none of the annoying slidy bits that I've seen on some of Nokia's other recent phones (N70). Would have been nice it they had shipped a stereo headset like they did on the 6630, but that's not a big problem. The BP-5L battery has double the capacity (1500mAh) of the old BL-5C that I've got in my old phone, and I can see the necessity due to the additional drain from a big display and Wifi, but it's a pity because I've got about 5 BL-5Cs lying about and my bluetooth GPS (a Nokia LD-3W) uses them too. The charging socket is one of the new micro ones (same as my GPS), but they do provide an adapter that lets you use an old charger instead.

Ergonomics

E61 ScreenThe screen is bright and very clear - my photos don't do it justice at all! In fact it's got to be one of the best screens that I've seen on a phone. It's 320x240 landscape which is the same as a lot of (older) pocket PCs, with 16.7 Million colours, so photographs look fantastic. The keyboard (thumbboard?) is well laid out and the keys have a positive feel without being too clicky, but the dial/hang-up keys are a bit awkward and may take a bit of getting used to. The 5-way navigation button is now a joystick which for me is easier to use. The only criticism that I can make is that it's a bit too wide to hold comfortably, but I guess that's what you get if you want a big screen.

Connectivity

It's hard to fault the connectivity - it's got pretty much everything. GPRS, 3G, Bluetooth (with support for multiple connections), WLAN, USB (via Pop-Port), and even good old IR (which was sorely missed on the 6630).

Memory expansion is now via Mini SD which is a bit annoying because i'd only just got a 1Gb RS-DV SD card for my 6630, and the supplied 64Mb card is next to useless. But you can get a 1Gb card for less than £20 now so it's not the end of the world. You can change the memory card while the phone is switched on, but you have to take the back cover off to do it. At least it won't keep popping out in my pocket like the Treo used to do!

Applications

All the usual S60 applications are accounted for like the office stuff, calendar, contacts etc., but there's also some new ones. Highlights for me are:

  • Adobe PDF viewer
  • Hugely improved web browser
  • SIP Internet Telephony
  • Music Player
  • Flash Player
  • RealPlayer

The new web browser is better than the one that came with the old S60 2nd Edition OS in almost every way. It renders pages much more accurately, supports javascript, cookies, and flash, and when it's combined with the E61 display it works really well. The one thing that lets it down is the way than the navigation works. instead of tabbing between links and scrolling a page at a time, you have a "mouse pointer" which you have to move around using the 5-way navigation control. This is labourious to say the least, and I think I'll probably end up using Opera or Opera Mini instead which has a navigation system that is much better suited to a non touch screen display.

One of the main reasons I wanted this phone was that I could connect to a wireless LAN and make and recieve calls through our IP PBX (Asterisk). So far my attempts to get this working have produced mixed results. Firstly the WLAN adapter doesn't like my access point and seems to drop the connection after about 30 seconds. Secondly when I've actually got a call to connect, the sound quality is terrible.

Putty for Symbian has now been updated to support S60 3rd Edition phones (Beta version). Installation was complicated by the fact that the OS will now only install offically signed applications by default (Putty uses a self signed certificate). Luckily this "feature" can be disabled. With it's querty keyboard and 320 pixel display, the E61 actually makes SSH a viable option, and if you drop the font size down to 7x4 pixels you can even get 80 characters across! Obviously it's not much good for day to day admin, but for emergencies it's invaluable.

The other main application that I will be installing is TomTom Navigator 6 (finally available without the bundled bluetooth GPS) so I don't get lost.

Conclusions

I've only had my E61 for 3 days but I'm already pretty sure that I'm going to keep it. There are some problems, but most of the things I want seem to work. Maybe once I've lived with it for a bit I'll post an update. Here are my pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Landscape bright QVGA (320x240) 16.7 million colour screen
  • QUERTY keyboard
  • WiFi (WLAN)
  • 3G
  • No camera (some of the companies that I visit don't allow camera phones)
  • Built in VOIP (Voice Over IP) software supporting SIP
  • Excellent speakerphone
  • It's a Nokia

Cons:

  • No camera ;)
  • WiFi seems to be a bit fussy (could just be my old access point)
  • It's a little on the wide side
Nokia released an updated version of the firmware (v2) a couple of weeks ago which I'm hoping might fix the WLAN and SIP problems. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have been approved by T-Mobile yet because the updater says that there is "no updated software available".

Mini-Review of Orange SPV M5000

Gadget fever

Gadget upgrade fever is a condition that afflicts most IT people and it did seem an age since my last phone upgrade. In fact, I had been using my Nokia 6630 for almost a year when I started to suffer the familiar tech-envy.

As is the case when deciding the next phone upgrade, which way do you go? Do you stay with the tried and trusted or do you go for something a little different. Since I am a Nokia fanboy, it was the N80 that I coveted.

To prevent gadget fever from taking over, one must ask the question "just because you can upgrade, it does it mean you should?".

Therefore, did I need to upgrade? After installing Opera, Profimail, Smart Movie for DivX playback and the fantastic S60 game Micropool, I pretty much had a decent mobile office. The answer is, "of course I should upgrade!"

Show me the Gadget!

So I started to research the N80 and was a little disappointed with the early reviews once people actually got hold of them. Slowness, crashing and S60 v3 incompatibility with software I had already purchased. Did I need the hassle?

And for what? A slightly better camera and WiFi. I already have WiFi on a mobile device, my trusty HP IPaq 5500, purchased almost 3 years ago for over £400 and used now mainly a GPS device for my car.

I've always liked the Pocket PC range (I had a 3650 for 2 years before the 5500) and was feeling a little left behind with my 5500, the low resolution screen and its habit of clearing its memory if not left topped up with power.

So I started to look at the new range of Mobile 5 Smartphones, in particular the HTC Universal or as it's known on Orange, the SPV M5000.

After reading up on the SPV M5000 and finding out that Orange would give it to me for free, half the cost of my current monthly plan (from £50 to £25), give me a 12 (not 18) month contract and 100 free texts a month, I fell under the madness of gadget fever and agreed to take it. I rang Orange up at 5pm and had it by 11am the next day.

So....

And after using it for a few weeks now, here are my thoughts about it, bad and good.

Firstly, the SIM card lasted about 10 calls and went straight back into my 6630. I did think this would happen which is one reason why I stayed with Orange, so I could pick the phone device that suits my location. It just happens to be the 6630 all the time.

As a phone, it's physically just too big and the interface is simply nowhere close to the Nokia. Also, the fact that it crashes on a daily basis is not very encouraging.

As a Pocket PC or sub-laptop is where it's true strength lies, much better than my 5500 as it has a keyboard. The screen is fantastic and browsing on the web is hugely improved with the landscape mode of Mobile 5. I am looking forward to the final release of the Opera browser.

The improved screen resolution makes the Terminal Service Client much easier to use though they still have not updated it to allow you to use non-standard ports without a registry hack.

Conclusion

In an ideal world I would have a SIM linked to my current phone account that had a small data allowance on it.

So to sum up. Great gadget and improved PocketPC. Not so good phone.

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