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Review: Dopod P800W (Artemis)

By Imraneo
Published on Tuesday, 05th December, 2006

It seems that every December, there is a major release of pocket PC models. I remembered around this time last year, I reviewed the O2 Atom, which was a rushed product, almost didn't make it on time for Christmas. I say it never made it on time, until it's last firmware update this March!

This time, 4 new PPCs and 1 smartphone is released. HTC manufactured this phones, and it's gotta be a cash cow right now. Dopod embraced the whole range of new devices. I check them out during Sitex last weekend and I must say the built quality standards have gone up!

Availability
I got hold of the P800W, the only one that has GPS embedded. This device was released in Europe weeks before and spawned good reviews. This is a pleasant surprise for a newly released product. In Singapore, this model is exclusively available at Courts superstore at SGD1199. The device is not yet on display at the time of this review. You'll have to request for the staff to show you to it.

The Package & Accessories
As compared to O2 packaging, the Dopod comes in a very boring and simple box. Nothing special here.


Car charger


Below roughly shows the package that the device comes in:

Package contains the following:

  • Main unit
  • Battery (1200mah)
  • Main charger
  • Car charger
  • USB sync charger cable (not shown here)
  • Earpiece
  • +1 Extra stylus
  • Car holder
  • Pouch (not shown here)
  • 256MB micro-SD (pre-loaded with MapKing installer with all maps)
  • Manual and CD (with MapKing and maps)

Car charger
The car charger was direct OEM from HTC, even design-wise. As shown 2 pictures above, it has a nice chrome "HTC" head that glows blue when connected. It's actually pretty cool. Fuss free usage here.

Earpiece
As you can see, I haven't open up this piece yet. For any audiophile to enjoy good music, the supplied earpiece would not be the right choice to use. This is a mini-USB based piece, as the unit does not sport the 2.5mm audio jack.

Car holder
The car holder is a pretty straight forward device. Bending the bar takes some effort, but it feels very sturdy, which is an important factor, especially for rough roads. The edge of the arm where the PDA holder (beside the quick user guide above) will be fixed has a swivel mechanism. That PDA holder is a one-piece plastic holder where the device will be clicked on. It would have been better if it had a spring-loaded mechanism. That could prevent mis-handling and potential scratches on the device while clicking on the holder.

256MB mini-SD card
The card was just thrown in for the maps and MapKing application. Other than that, I think it's pretty useless. You can easily get this card for about SGD14 in stores and for a device that costs that much, I felt that a 1GB card would be more appropriate.

Device built
All new HTC products seem to have a certain standard now. I've evaluated the O2 Atom and HP rw6828, which are from Quanta manufacturer and they seem have some built quality issues. This include cosmetic issues as well. Atom had all their buttons sprayed with silver which came out pretty easily. The HP fortunately, replaced some of these buttons with chrome in their design. I don't believe every device out there has to be stuffed into a silicone case! The design itself has to be reliable.

Back to the Dopod. It has a plastic all round gunmetal finish which feels like metal. It's very sturdy with no creaking parts. Some may find the colour dull from the pictures, but in real life, it's very executive looking. The side silver finish is excellent.

The following shows the right edge of the device. The power button (top) and the camera button (bottom) are seamlessly merged into the silver lining. As you can also see, the stylus is at the bottom of the device. Taking it out takes some effort as it's pretty tight. Well, it's better tight than loose. You will also definitely need nails to remove the stylus.

Below shows the left edge of the device. The silver lining has a voice commander button (with a press-and-hold function too) followed by a volume slider. At the top back of the device has a rubber piece, covering openings for external GPS antennae. Right on top of the device is the speaker. It's a good to have a vertical speaker design. You'll know why later.

The rear of the device is of simplicity and elegance. It has chrome camera ring and a vanity mirror. Sometimes when I look at it, it reminds me of the Nokia Vertu device meant for upper-class people.

Size feels smaller than in pictures. The fact that its only 16.8mm thick makes it easier to slide into the pocket. Comparing the Dopod with other Nokia phones in size:

Track wheel
One major obvious feature of the device is of course the wheel and trackball. I exactly knew how the ring is going to help me navigate the menus and that gave me an extra reason to get this device. Some reviews online mentioned that it has a cheap feel to it. Well, it does shake a little, but I really don't see how HTC could have made it better. That will probably make it stiffer and harder to turn. They could have used the Ipod idea but it's patented anyway.

The ring is really responsive as you can see the menus moving in every click. That's impressive actually. One thing to note though: The ring shakes a little when the device vibrates.

Trackball
The trackball is nothing special but cute. The mouse toggle function can be controlled by a shortcut. It's nice to have and show your peers that you have a movable mouse, but in practical use, it works better as a 8-way directional control. The ball also acts as an action button. Some may feel that while pressing the ball, you may accidentally roll it first. For me, I'm already used to using it accurately and it's no big deal.

SIM card & Memory card placement
The Dopod supports micro-SD card and is not hot-swappable. This is a major blow for many uses who transfer their files through an external writer, me included. Now, I resort to using ActiveSync for transferring files once in a while. For huge files like MP3 albums and maps, I will have to remove the battery and SIM card before I can access the memory card. The picture below shows a clear idea:

Sound quality / Reception
HTC has a lot of space to build in a speaker with vertical design which faces upwards. That way, they could  have a more powerful speaker. Indeed, the external sound is like 10 times better than the Atom/HP6828. Although the latter had stereo speakers, they were extremely weak and distorted upon having high bassy volumes.

The Dopod on the other hand survived my trance hits very well without breaking up. This is definitely good news for those who like to have all kinds of MP3s as their ringtones. The internal speaker for phone calls is also excellent. Louder than the Atom/HP6828. This gives you the confident in making calls without trying hard to hear the other party in a noisy environment. Turning on the speaker during a call is also a breeze now with the "speaker on" button, as shown on the right.

I also had no issues with reception, as compared to my previous HP6828. However, I've yet to monitor this area over a longer period of time.

 

Camera performance / Picture Quality
Nothing to shout about. It's probably as good as the Dopod 838pro, and it appears to be using the same software. I have some sample pictures for online viewing. Click here for those. Camera starts up within 5 seconds and it takes pictures in about 2 seconds. I feel that's pretty impressive.

Speed / Battery life
Device fully loading after a reset takes about 75 seconds for me. Basically it's longer as I've loaded some programs like the following:

  • O2 Plus today plugin (hacked)
  • SmartSkey
  • MagicButton
  • PocketMusic
  • Resco File and Reg explorer
  • HTC Phonepad (hacked)
  • BatteryStatus
  • MapKing

Default device speed is 201Mhz (TI OMAP). Generally it did not feel slow, but upon overclocking the device till 273Mhz (through BatteryStatus plugin) I could feel even faster speeds. I can say that it out-performs my former HP6828 as well! I have yet to run Skype as it's the most controversial software when it comes to processor speed.

Battery life is also better than the HP6828. After charging, it the indicator will remain at 100% for a pretty long time, despite operating the device. This could also mean that the battery is not "seasoned" enough. Using A2DP for a constant 30mins resulted in 4% drop only. I did see more power consumed while overclocking, but this was within acceptable limits. Although I haven't tested battery consumption while using WiFi, GPS also consumed very little power.

GPS (Global Positioning System)
This would be HTC's second attempt to embed GPS functionality into a PDA, and the first attempt into a PDA phone. Nothing much to report in here, but all I can say is that the implementation is fantastic! It's a fuss-free process to run GPS in there. My average timing for first fix is only 30secs. Subsequently, it tracks pretty fast, and I haven't saw it disconnecting unless at a complete indoor area. All you need is a little line of sight into the sky and you get the signal.

Stereo Bluetooth (A2DP & AVRCP)
I have been searching for months, the perfect combination of PDA phone with a BT headset. I've tried 2 headsets, namely the Jabra BT320s and the iTech R35. The device needs registry tweaking for optimal performance. For one, A2DP comes as mono by default. Secondly, the settings are set to lowest quality. Below are the minimal registry settings required to have good stereo quality on the Dopod.

From mono to stereo:
HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Bluetooth/A2DP/Settings/[UseJointStereo = 0]

Balance between quality and performance:
HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Bluetooth/A2DP/Settings/[BitPool = 45]
HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Bluetooth/A2DP/Settings/[MaxSupportedBitPool= 45]

The last settings above are generally from a scale from 30 to 60, with 60 being the best quality. I tested 60, and it came along with lots of long pauses. 45 was just nice, with minimal noise, and no pauses. For detailed tweaking for better quality or higher performance, check out the following thread:
Forum thread @ XDA-developers.com : A2DP skipping problem

Do take note that ONLY my Jabra headset could tune to the registry tweaks and provide optimal sound. For some reason, the iTech does not do that. Instead it's high frequency noise is constant and unavoidable. I believe most non-iTech BT headsets will be able to provide good quality as iTech headsets are tuned more for MSI BluPlayer, which is generally meant for Symbian phones.

Bugs!
These days, no phone comes without bugs. Sometimes when you discover a bug, you tend to wonder how come this was not filtered during the manufacturers' testing phase... Anyways, here are the bugs I encountered so far while using the device for 3 days:

MapKing12 + mouse pointer
Once I run MapKing navigation mode (which is full screen), my mouse pointer does not work anymore. It will be activated but movements from the trackball will be registered as if there was no mouse pointer. This problems stays on even after MapKing is exited. A soft reset had to be performed in order to get the mouse pointer working. I'm not too particular about this problem as I hardly use the mouse pointer. It's a pity though, I have to soft-reset in order to demo the functionality to my peers.

Standard input out of place
It took me a while to figure out the root cause of this problem. Once I ActiveSync the device, all my standard inputs will be shifted upwards. As I keep swapping the phonepad and keyboard, the input shifts upwards, as shown below:

This indeed is a serious problem for me and I am constantly finding a solution for it. I have disabled all my program startups one at a time, and only Synching seems to be the problem.

For Dopod P800W bugs follow-up and solutions, please visit my PocketPC forum here!

Conclusion
This device has been really a pleasant surprise, firstly despite of it's OMAP 201Mhz processor, it performs pretty well. It has good overclocking abilities and bridges the gap between the "faster" Xscale processors and Ti OMAP. So far, my only complain would be the last software bug stated above. Other than that, I consider this an excellent device (till I find new bugs)

Reference:
Dopod P800W specifications

Official thread for Dopod P800W/M700 @ PPCSG.com

Disclaimer:
This article represents the author's opinion and is correct at time of publishing. We at Absolutesurf.com do not hold any responsibility for any damage done to your devices in terms of warranty status, physical functionality or appearance. For any suggestions/comments, please access the contact page.










 
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