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Review of navigation communicator E-Ten G500
Even a quick glance at recent announcements of communicators and smartphones will lead you to conclusion that nowadays manufacturers have great expectations and hopes for satellite navigation market. A lot of new devices have built-in GPS receivers, and those models that are missing one, have what it takes in terms of Software to communicate with external GPS: preinstalled Wayfinder application on Sony Ericsson smartphones, built-in utilities for GPS in new versions of S60 and Windows Mobile.
As for Windows Mobile based communicators, recently only HP hw6500 had GPS module, it became a sort of pioneer in its kind. This year almost all communicator manufacturers will present their devices with GPS receiver. Among them we’ll see: E-Ten G500, Mio A701, update from HP - iPaq hw6900, as well as Fujitsu Siemens LOOX T800 series. Today we shall speak about the first communicator in this list - E-Ten G500.
Taiwan company E-Ten is a relatively small player on communicator market with limited model line-up. However, the company is slowly picking up experience, the products are getting better in quality (in case with P300 it was hard to speak about it without tears on one’s eyes, meanwhile M600 had several superior parameters when compared to its direct competitors from HTC).
After developing a relatively successful model, E-Ten M500, company continued using this platform, by creating modification based on it. For example, M600 which was released afterwards, had built-in WiFi module, black case color and new OS – WM 5.0 The design remained untouched. Model G500 is based on old platform, but the design had to be changed (the case has been enlarged due to addition of GPS module).
The phone now has major changes in terms of specifications: addition of GPS and FM modules, but lack of WiFi and full-sized SD/MMC slot (you get miniSD instead). This will be the last model based on old platform. It’s expected that in June the company will announce partnership with different Taiwan OEM/ODM manufacturer, who is significantly larger, but does not have the required experience in creating devices based on Windows Mobile. First product that will come out as result of this partnership will be made in slim style, its specifications will be similar to G500, but this time WiFi will be added.
Model’s design deserves special attention. Affection of Motorola’s RAZR is so big, that it slowly starts influencing not only direct competitors, but also those who are manufacturing communicators and smartphones. In case the company is unable to create a slim-looking phone, it will try copying other elements. In this case one of the elements that was “borrowed” is keyboard’s backlight. Since there’s no keypad in here, E-Ten decided to add a glowing blue line around the screen, that is clearly visible in both, daylight and night time. Navigation key and other buttons have same style of backlight (except for call/end call buttons). Take a look at the photo in order to see how this looks. The frame backlight is enabled only when communicator is turned on. In case of incoming call, it will flash. Few people become impressed with design elements, most find it a useless addition, that is not required at all, and stands out from overall device style. However, it’s hard to make objective conclusion, since this is a truly individual matter. One thing can be said for certain, there haven’t been anything like it in smartphones and communicators.
Once the backlight is disabled, the design becomes pretty common, it cannot be highlighted among the rest. All lines are maximally smoothened, there are almost no direct lines in E-Ten G500’s outlook. This is not a compact communicator, its size is slightly bigger than most last generation communicators without keyboards have. The very same Mio A700 (direct competitor) and O2 XDA Atom are significantly smaller and lighter:
When G500 is placed into carrying case and attached to your belt or is located in your jacket’s pocket – you won’t feel much difference. Communicator fits nicely into one’s palm, it’s comfortable to work with, this time extra weight comes in handy. Material and assembling quality are at good level. When you touch the case you will feel plastic, casual plastic and you cannot say that it’s bad or pleasant in tactile sense. You can see minor shears on edges of parts, it’s visible all over the case. Like I said, on the whole assemble quality is good, but not perfect. It’s slightly better than in case with previous model, but it’s still far from HTC’s products.
Some changes were made in control elements, when compared to E-Ten M600. Separate soft-keys are located under the screen (in previous models you had to bind other service keys for that). Joystick got modified, from now on it’s a triangle instead of circle. However it’s almost impossible to play some PocketSNES games because two buttons pressed simultaneously will not work, well, they do, but usually 1 time out of 3. It can be hardly called a disadvantage because this device was not suited for games in first place.
Two additional buttons are located above the screen, they can be assigned for any function in settings menu. Upper part of Pocket PC is occupied by GPS-module, which made memory card slot move from this position to right side. Like I mentioned above, SD/MMC memory card slot was switched to miniSD one, which is more compact. After another price drop for flash-memory and release of miniSD cards with 2gb capacity (current maximal capacity for SD cards is 4gb), miniSD memory card slot is no longer a disadvantage. There are three possible obstacles on your way of buying this device and miniSD memory card slot in first place: first of all, in case you already own SD card with big capacity, in case you need a really huge memory card (around 4 gb), or you own a digital camera that supports Secure Digital memory cards. As a matter of fact, we tested miniSD WLAN-card with G500, it worked flawlessly.
Nothing has changed on the left side: camera button, volume control slider, voice control button. Below we can see headset connector, covered with rubber cork.
Only synchronization port and microphone are located on the bottom side of the phone. Sylus’s slot is located on the bottom side, between back side and bottom one to be precise. The stylus is telescopic type one, meaning that once it has been fully pulled away – it becomes quite large, and convenient to work with. Just like in case with M600, this model is missing IrDA.
There aren’t many changes concerning back cover – rubber insertion was added, so that the device would not slip on plane surface (a table, for example), and would not scratch. Another addition: external GPS antenna connector. Camera, external speaker, battery cover – everything remained at their places. The volume of external speaker is lower than average, in case it is close to some object, like when it’s in your pocket, or on the table it will be even more quite. Dictaphone will record both your and your interlocutor’s voices; however your voice will sound really quietly and sometimes it may be difficult to understand what you were actually saying.
Dock-station was removed out of standard package, instead a car charger was included together with holder. Besides this, there’s everything you need, except for 1 extra Stylus. On the whole package set can be rated positively.
We already wrote several times that communicator manufacturers are trying to decrease screen’s size to 2.8” (this is maximal diagonal that you can find on new communicators). However, another tendency was spotted on the horizon: decreasing display’s size up to 2.4-2.5”, but E-Ten is not on the list, their products still have 2.8” big displays. Describing displays installed in devices powered by Windows Mobile is a rather dull activity, they are really similar in terms of quality and specifications. G500 is not an exception, everything is at pretty average level: display is capable of showing up to 65k colors, its resolution is 320x240 pixels, viewing angles from the sides are rather nice, even at 0 degree viewing angle color rendering remains almost unchanged. There are 11 brightness levels, display fades a little when encounters direct sunlight, but it still remains fully readable. Display can be highlighted by two parameters: good viewing angles from the sides, minimal backlight level allows working comfortably with display in darkness, like reading as example. On the whole this display is nothing but ordinary one, like the ones installed in competitive products.
Removable Li-Ion battery installed in E-Ten G500 has 1440 mAh capacity (an extended capacity battery will be available on Russian market (2000 mAh). According to manufacturer’s statement, this device is capable of working up to 4 hours during phone calls, and up to 15 hours in Pocket PC mode.
We were testing this unit in Moscow, our cell operator was Megafon. When various functions were used in a moderate way (few hours of GPRS, one hour spent working with organizer, 40 minutes of phone calls, one our of GPS) E-Ten G500 worked for about 1.5-2 days, which is a pretty average result for a communicator. In case you are using this communicator actively, it won’t last long, you have to be prepared to charge it every day. In case you won’t talk more than 10 minutes per day, get an additional extended battery, you won’t have to charge this communicator more than 2 times a week.
Our standard tests for battery life shown that power consumption in this model is organized at a pretty good level. Almost five hours in maximal load mode (video playback from memory card with maximal brightness setting), 18 hours in book reading mode (due to small brightness level. We did not quite get the reason why this model worked for only 13 hours in mp3 playback mode, since the display was actually turned off.
SIM-card holder is not standard, it is located on the left of the battery and is fully available at your disposal when the cover is removed, but in order to remove sim-card you will have to get the battery out first. The cover has some problems with actually getting in place, you will spend some time before you get used to that one.
Unfortunately, there were none changes made to the camera, at least positive ones. The very same 1.3mpx, same low picture quality. When a photo is taken outdoors and it’s sunny – you will see that they get way too bright, just like before. Maximal available resolution for a photo is – 1280x960 pixels, video – 320x240 pixels.
However, camera’s interface is great! It is nicely visualized, well-thought, there are lots of settings and shooting modes. A tasty part of an outdated pie.
In case camera is a priority for you when you are looking for a phone to buy, E-Ten G500 should not be on your list.
This phone has certain imbalance of interfaces – on one hand we got GPS, FM and Bluetooth 2.0, and lack of Wi-Fi and IrDA on the other. Manufacturer decided that IrDA is a useless part of the phone ever since release of M600. Wi-Fi is missing in order to be added in G500’s successor. Also there’s no EDGE support (only GPRS), but this is not a major drawback.
Bluetooth 2.0. Well, Bluetooth deserves a special attention drawn to it. This model is using neither Microsoft’s drivers, nor Broadcom’s. Own drivers are in use instead, in reality this is just an upgrade to Microsoft’s driver pack, this means that their functionality is as poor, as it was before, some important settings are missing and important profiles are not available. So, what profiles are supported then, what can you possibly do with this device?
These are all available profiles. You can clearly see the lack of Dial-Up profile (this communicator cannot be used as an external Bluetooth modem), neither there’s HID profile (new Bluetooth keyboards won’t work). On the whole, there are clearly some problems with interfaces, that need to be fixed.
GPS. GPS module was developed by RoyalTek and it is based in SiRF StarIII chipset (most competitors have the same one), which practically guarantees high quality of coordinate determination. In reality it turned out as planned. Quick cold start (TTFF), exact coordinates, small possible mistakes.
When it was used outside the car, it was slightly lagging behind its competitor Mio A700 (dispersion was in range of allowed faults). Mio A700 has been always acting close to perfect, meanwhile G500 was sometimes getting away from the route, and returning shortly afterwards. (for example, when you enter an arc, where reception is low).
As for car navigation with navigation system of Tom Tom class, it’s hard to feel difference between G500 and Mio A700 (Mio is an etalon), both communicators are demonstrating identical results.
I’d like to say some words about the holder, which is part of the package. Well, the fact that it is actually there is a positive one. But it is hard to attach to the windshield (relatively long procedure, after which the holder may still fall off at improper moment), it’s hard to adjust and most important aspect: it gets all shaky when you’re driving. Manufacturers should take a look at car cradle which comes with Mio A700, it’s whole lot more qualitative.
Instant Fix. One of the most unpleasant moments in navigation is TTFF, or time of first coordinates determination. You should stay at one place for about a minute, so that GPS receiver can calculate satellite coordinates, give out its own, satelite’s reception should be better than in usual situation. A solution is simple: try downloading satellite information via GPRS from E-Ten’s server. This reduces time by a lot during first positioning. This function will be enabled in G500’s firmware in the nearest future (Mio and HP have similar functions).
FM/TMC. This model has FM module included, but the software is not yet ready (so that you could listen to radio). Main purpose of FM module is transmittance of information about traffic jams and road conditions, as well as weather (TMC). This is the first communicator that supports TMC. You can see development status for this service here. Unfortunately, this function is not yet available in Russia and many other countries. We were unable to test it.
Traditional central processor is Samsung S3C2440, which is clocked at 400 mhz; Samsung’s processors are used by a lot of manufacturers nowadays. Amount of available RAM is 48.21mb, meanwhile memory dedicated to storing data is 82.04 megabytes. In case you have big capacity miniSD memory card, amount of built-in memory is not that important.
At first we’ll make our standard testing with SPB Benchmark package, we’ll take similar Pocket PCs with built-in GPS.
Index shows performance of central processor. Leading position (Samsung’s processors with lower frequency are faster than similar ones from Intel).
File system operation time. Average results, that do not allow this model to get a A+ as final verdict.
E-Ten G500 has ground-breaking synchronization speed.
Good results, but slow internal flash-memory, that prevents E-Ten from taking leading position.
Below you can see test results in real applications, they are closer to reality. There’s no Wireless MMX optimization (Intel PXA27x processor function), we played four clips with different stream intensity, depending on the number of dropped out frames index was created. The less frames were dropped out, the bigger index is. Index 1000 means that no frames were dropped.
As you can see, the result is quite nice, device is in the upper part of the chart. What’s interesting is that the result almost matched E-Ten’s M500, which once again proves that these two share the platform.
Since this communicator has no Wireless MMX, or any additional accelerator, TCPMP application test results were not astonishing. The heaviest video clip (640x480 pixels) got 79.3% result, so you won’t be enjoying non-converted video on this one. As for the rest (except for video and games) E-Ten G500’s performance is satisfying for any tasks.
You can read about basic OS features in corresponding review, meanwhile here we will concentrate on set of additional software. Traditionally for E-Ten, this is a strong side for them.
Connection Vizard. This one is for European users, allows setting up GPRS/MMS/WAP settings automatically.
Voice Commander. Adds voice control function to Pocket PC, this software does not require special training. You can easily pronounce a name or a phone number, and the system will recognize it. In case you won’t be satisfied with recognition quality, you can add a voice tag. Same software is present on previous E-Ten models and Asus MyPal P505, as well as some others.
Alternative skin for Virtual keyboard by E-Ten’s designers.
Smart Caller Filter. Here you can create “white” and “blacklist” for phone numbers, and later on select weather you like to receive calls from them, or no. You can disable every kind of incoming calls too.
Speed Dial. A very convenient upgrade over Contacts, it shows 10 last dialed contacts including phone numbers and date. It’s just easy to press virtual contact button, and dial the number at once.
Scenario. This upgrade help setting up profiles, there are four of them in total. Including volume, vibrating alert and brightness settings.
Zoom SMS. Incoming SMS will be shown on half of screen with large letters. Quite handy and original app.
MMS Composer. MMS editor, it’s quite simple out there.
Backup Utility. Backup utility. There’s no big use for this one due to new WM version.
Wireless Manager. Wireless modules control, settings.
Start-up screen has some settings to tune up. Firstly, you can enable Battery Meter under the clock, it is missing in the standard version. You can also add Quick Link plug-in for fast access to various applications and settings. And the last, but not the least – display rotation button in the bottom of one. Let’s just say that you can achieve same results with some 3rd party software like SPB Pocket Plus to make the situation seem fair.
M-desk. Pretty and functional alternative launcher.
ImageMaker. Graphic editor with average functionality.
Image Wizard. Software used for preparing image before sending it via MMS or e-mail.
Multimedia Manager. Image viewer, slide show.
Additional software pack is really great, it is used to enrich functionality of phone module, to improve comfort, and it really works.
Reception quality is at good level, it does not have any problems. Ring tone volume is limited by the speaker, it’s volume is below average. Vibrating alert is a small constant tremble.
In technical part this model is an upgrade of E-Ten M600, let’s revise changelog:
G500 is interesting only if you require GPS receiver, otherwise you should go in for E-Ten M600 or its competitors (Wi-Fi, full-sized SD/MMC slot). In case we talk about direct competitors for G500, there are several of them – communicators from HP, iPaq hw6000 series, Mio A700, which is a quite successful model. Current retail price is around 600-650 USD.
We’re waiting for official announcement of new models in beginning of June at Computex 2006. Let us remind you that this is the place where E-Ten M600 was announced last year.
Anton Kotov (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Translated by Alexandr "Lexx" Zavoloka (email@example.com)
Published 02 May 2006
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