Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Raising the Ante - the Pharos GPS Phone 600 Reviewed
Posted by Doug Raeburn in "HARDWARE" @ 08:00 AM
Looking at the 600 as a Phone
The 600 is a very contemporary phone, with its Quad band GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz design and GPRS/EDGE wireless communications. It comes unlocked, so it will work with a compatible SIM card from any carrier with a GSM network. I plugged in my Cingular SIM card, checked a checkbox on a single screen and the 600 was ready to go. The Quad band design makes it much more likely that the phone will work when travelling, as the GSM frequencies vary in different parts of the world.
My only real issue with the phone features is that the 600 doesn't provide support for Cingular's 3G network, so you're limited to their slower EDGE network in the US. My Blackjack's ability to use the faster 3G has certainly spoiled me. That being said, web browsing was acceptably fast, so this is certainly not a show stopper.
I'll draw some comparisons between the 600 and the Blackjack, which as a Windows Mobile Smartphone utilizes the other Microsoft platform for convergence devices. As you can see in the chart in Figure 2, the 600's width is just above that of the Blackjack. Since it has to allow for the space to accommodate its QWERTY keyboard, the Blackjack's screen size is smaller than that of the 600. The Blackjack's QVGA screen measures 2.3 in. as compared to the 600's 28 in.
In other dimensions, the size difference between the 600 and the Blackjack is much greater. Again, length is nearly a wash. However, the 600 is .11 in (2.5 mm) thicker than the Blackjack, or approximately 20% thicker. As for weight, the 600 is heavier by 1.6 oz or 47 g, a 47% difference. I like to carry my phone in my front pocket most of the time, and with its greater thickness and weight, I look much happier to see people when I'm carrying the 600 than when I carry my Blackjack.
A Visual Tour
In Figure 1, the 600 shows its sophisticated lines, with an appearance that I call an executive look. The buttons have very striking color combinations for their backlighting, adding a bit of bling to its businesslike design. The button configuration is more akin to that of Smartphones than traditional Pocket PCs. There are 4 buttons surrounding the directional pad, but they're used for different functions than pulling up the calendar or contacts. The leftmost and rightmost buttons are for send/end, while the buttons just adjacent to the directional pad are dedicated soft keys. This feature is more common to Smartphones, since they don't have touch screens. With the 600, you can activate the current soft keys with either the hardware or the onscreen buttons.
Like the Blackjack, the soft keys are butted up against the directional pad, making accidental pressing of a soft key while using the pad a not infrequent experience. You adjust to it and begin to compensate as you get used to the device.
The top buttons consist of a GPS button on the left and the Home button on the right. A light on the left side serves multiple purposes, flashing different colors or sequences to indicate that Bluetooth, WI-FI or the GPS receiver are active. The light on the right serves dual purposes as the charging light and the phone active light. The earpiece for the phone is in the middle.
Figure 5: A look at the left.
The keys on the left side consist of volume up/down and a key for changing screen orientation. The former can control both system volume and ringer volume. The latter can be convenient when navigating. A 2.5mm headphone jack is on this side towards the bottom of the unit. All of the headphones that I own use the more common 3.5mm jack, so this is a concession to the small size of the unit. A set of bud style earphones with a volume control and a microphone is included and has the required jack.
Figure 6: Lots of stuff on the bottom.
The bottom includes the MicroSD slot and a standard mini USB port which is used both for charging and for synchronizing. Of the comparison units, both the Blackjack and the N560 use proprietary port designs for charging and synchronizing, so this is an advantage for the 600.
Toward the right you find the stylus. It's a telescoping design that fits very snugly in the holder. The upside of this snug fit is that it won't fall out and it helps to automatically extend the stylus to its full length. The downside is that it can be a bit tough to remove. I reviewed a Pocket PC GPS a couple of years ago with a similar stylus design and the feedback from readers about that feature was mostly negative. They didn't like the telescoping stylus, the difficulty removing it and the location at the bottom of the unit. As for me, it's not my favorite design, but it wouldn't stop me from buying a unit that I like otherwise.
Figure 7: The view from the right.
The right side contains the camera button and the power button. The camera button activates the camera when pressed and serves as the shutter button. The soft reset button is between the other two.
Figure 8: The back, with the camera and grippy rubber-like coating.
The rear contains the camera lens, an LED "flash", a self portrait mirror and the external speaker. The top of the unit has no controls, slots or ports.
Figure 9: Power users should be pretty happy with the battery life.
The battery compartment is accessed by removing the cover on the rear. As shown, the SIM card slides into a slot under the battery.