Review: PocketPC packs a punch

Converged devices are becoming a must-have for the businessperson on the go. With the PocketPC 6700, UTStarcom is trying to penetrate this growing market with an update of the popular PocketPC series.

Converged devices combine a PDA and a cell phone with an e-mail reader and integrated qwerty keyboard, cutting down on the devices the mobile worker needs to carry. The BlackBerry from Research in Motion in Waterloo, Ont. was one of the first players out of the gate and still leads the market, but competition is growing from Palm’s Treo and the PocketPC, as well as devices from Hewlett Packard and Motorola.

The PocketPC is available from a number of Canadian carriers, and was the first device here to run on the Windows Mobile 5.0 OS from Microsoft. It’s also the PocketPC edition of the OS which means that, unlike the leaner SmartPhone version, mobile versions of Microsoft Word and Excel are included for viewing and editing documents. That’s a definite plus for the mobile worker. Mobile versions of Outlook and Internet Explorer are also included.

Anyone who uses Windows on their desktop or laptop will feel at home with the Windows Mobile OS. It’s a very intuitive OS, bringing much of the look and feel of its desktop parent into play. It’s also visually pleasing, and I liked the way it synched easily with my office PC and Outlook.

The down side of the Windows Mobile OS is its battery consumption. Version 5.0 is supposed to be less of a memory hog than 3.0, but it still drains more quickly than some of the non-Windows OS devices I’ve used, which could turn off the road warrior.

The device itself is a little larger and bulkier than a Treo or BlackBerry, and it’s certainly larger than the slim Motorola Q. But while the PocketPC measures 10.8 x 5.9 x 2.4 cm and weighs in at 186 grams, that extra size allows for a large, bright 2.8”, 65,000-colour LCD touch-screen and a larger, slide-out qwerty keyboard that is much easier to type with than its competitors, making it easier to send longer messages and edit documents.

While it includes dedicated phone start and end keys, the PocketPC lacks the traditional phone key layout of devices like the Treo; you need to dial with the numbers across the top of the keyboard or the stylus.

The PocketPC also lacks the four-way navigation keys found on many devices, as well as the scroll wheel popularized by the BlackBerry. This forces you to rely more on the stylus, which isn’t the easiest way to scroll through a Web page. There is a joystick button, but it’s not user-friendly.

The device features an integrated digital and video camera of standard quality for these devices, and also features built-in WiFi capability. It comes with 64 MB SDRAM/128 MB Flash ROM of memory, and offers a miniSD slot to add additional storage capacity.

I found that, while the PocketPC packs a punch, whether it’s the right device for you or not depends on your needs. If most of your traveling involve quick trips around town and you just need to keep up with your e-mail, then a BlackBerry or Treo might be a better option.

However, if you spend more time away from the office and you’re looking for something that comes closer to bridging that laptop/PDA gap, with the easy ability to edit documents and send longer e-mails, then the PocketPC might be a good fit for you.

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