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E-TEN G500 GSM Windows Mobile Phone with GPS

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Reviewed April 17, 2006 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Check out the newest models, the E-TEN Glofiish X500 and M700.

It was a dark and stormy night. . . you're driving in an unknown place. Looking for that hotel where you'll check in for a good night's sleep before an important morning meeting. Who you gonna call and how? With E-TEN's G500 Windows Mobile Pocket PC phone with integrated GPS, you could call for directions, or if you're a guy, use its SiRF Star III GPS with your favorite mapping software to find your way to a cozy bed.

A few months back, the HP iPAQ 6515 PPC phone with GPS had no competition. If you needed a smartphone / PDA phone and a GPS you bought the iPAQ or carried two devices. Choice is good, and E-TEN brings a very capable device to market that out-performs the iPAQ in several ways. Though it lacks the 6515's built-in thumb keyboard and faster EDGE data, the G500 does offer a higher resolution display (key for map viewing), a faster CPU and the newer Windows Mobile 5 operating system.

E-TEN G500
back of G500

 

The G500 is a quad band GSM phone which is sold unlocked for use with any carrier. Just pop in your SIM and you're ready to make calls. Enter your carrier's GPRS settings and you'll be able to surf the Net and do email. The G500 is not offered by any carrier in the US but is sold by online retailers and requires no contract. It's also a full-featured Pocket PC with the usual Outlook synchronization, mobile Office applications, IE mobile, email and more. Those of you who are familiar with E-TEN's M600, or even the older M500 will feel at home with the G500, which has a very similar form factor, feature set and compliment of software.

Features at a Glance

The E-TEN G500 is a 400MHz Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC phone with 128 megs of ROM, 64 megs of RAM, a QVGA color display, Bluetooth, 1.3 megapixel camera, embedded SiRF Star III GPS with TMC support and a Mini SD card slot for expansion. Unlike the E-TEN M600, it does not have WiFi, though you can add it via a Mini SD WiFi card. It does share the same CPU, display, memory configuration and camera with the M600, so you'll notice some similarity in our review of these two devices.

In the Box

You'll get the E-TEN, stylus, Lithium Ion battery, a very nice flip-top vertical leather case with cut-outs for the camera lens and speaker (similar in design to cases sold by third parties like PDair, Proporta and Brando), a stereo earbud headset with mic, world charger, USB cable with dongle to accept the charger, software CD with Outlook and ActiveSync 4.1, car charger, and a car mount with telescoping arm. Like the US iPAQ 6515, the G500 comes with no GPS mapping software: you must supply that. In fact the manual makes no reference to use of the internal GPS since they supply no software with the device.

Design and Ergonomics

Combine Art Deco with a little Asian blue LED action and you've got the G500. That blue LED piping not only looks cool but serves a purpose: it's much easier to see the device's controls in a dark car. As with backlit keyboards, the LED piping lights up for a few seconds when you press a button or tap on the screen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The unit is larger than the E-TEN M600 by just a bit, and weighs an ounce more. It's still a compact unit that's not terribly bigger than the Treo 650 or Cingular 8125. It's finished in gloss black with silver sides and a matte black back with a silver plastic battery door on the rear. An anti-skid rubber strip runs across the back and the stylus is E-TEN's usual large, comfy and generally excellent telescoping model. The stylus silo is at the bottom right rather than the top, which may take some getting used to.

E-TEN G500

Above: the E-TEN G500 with LED piping lit.

On the front you'll find call send and end buttons along with the two Windows Mobile 5 softkeys below the display. Two buttons above the display launch E-TEN's speed dial application and their Desk launcher application, but you can reassign these if you wish. The Mini SD card is on the right side and the camera button, volume slider, voice command button, reset button and 2.5mm stereo headphone jack are on the left. The camera lens and self portrait mirror are on the back with the speakerphone / system sound speaker just below. The speaker is at the phone's rear rather than near your ear so you aren't accidentally deafened if an alarm goes off when talking on the phone.

The phone feels good in hand, with ergonomic curves and (at least if you're accustomed to Pocket PC phones) feels natural when talking. The build quality, fit and finish are good and the device looks like a decent piece of kit. The SIM card fits tightly in a slot to the left of the battery on the back and a slider lock holds the battery in place.

GPS

Good news: the G500's SiRF Star III GPS is excellent. The bad news is that you'll need to buy GPS software, just as with the US version of the HP iPAQ 6515. Out of the box, there's nothing you can do with the GPS, so get that software pronto or use software from your old PPC GPS.

The G500 uses the latest SiRF III GPS chipset which offers significant improvements over last generation chipsets. The major features that this chipset provides are high sensitivity, lower power consumption and fast time to fix. In fact, the SiRF III chipset has been re-architected to have the equivalent to more than 200K correlators as opposed to the old sequential search process that contains only a few hundred to a few thousand correlators. The result is your GPS receiver becomes much more sensitive and can get a good signal even under dense foliage, downtown high-rise buildings and indoors in many cases which was not achievable with past generations of GPS receivers. With SiRF III your GPS has a faster time to fix, especially time to first fix (TTFF) speed. The GPS also has SBA support that includes both WAAS stations in the US and EGNOS stations in Europe.

We installed CoPilot 6 software for our GPS tests. The first time you launch the CoPilot software on the E-TEN, the navigation software will automatically search for GPS receiver and its com port (COM4 on the G500). CoPilot took a few seconds to find the built-in receiver and assign a com port. You can now go to the GPS screen in CoPilot to work with the receiver. The E-TEN's GPS receiver took about 12 seconds to get a 3D fix in a cold start, and only a few seconds for warm/hot start. That's quite fast. The receiver tracks 7-9 satellites and pulls strong signals from 4 satellites which are required for a 3D fix.

The E-TEN's bright and sharp display is great for map viewing in most conditions except in direct and bright sunlight. The E-TEN has plenty of speed for the navigation software and the maps scroll smoothly. You can navigate your trips either ahead of the time on the PC and download the trips to your Pocket PC, or map out the trips right on the E-TEN which calculates routes fairly quickly. We found that the E-TEN was spot-on in guidance except when the weather was very poor (low, thick cloud cover with heavy rain). When weather conditions were particularly inclement, the GPS receiver was off by 30 feet compared to perfection under clearer skies.

CoPilot's voice guidance sounds good through E-TEN's rear-firing speaker. CoPilot offers both pre-recorded voice guidance and text-to-speech voice guidance systems and we tested it with text-to-speech which is more demanding of the device's CPU. The fast G500 had no problems delivering smooth speech.

E-TEN claims the device will run 2.5 to 5 hours when using the GPS. Since most folks will use the G500 for in-car navigation, the including car charger obviates the need for long runtimes. Still, the E-TEN offers staying power similar to its competitors even with the phone radio on.

When voice calls came in while the GPS was running, the E-TEN and CoPilot continued to map the route and update accurately. Voice guidance turns off while a call is active and resumes as soon as the call ends. Likewise, if you make a call, GPS guidance continues in the background and voice guidance resumes when you hang up.

 

Below, size comparison with the Cingular 2125, Cingular 8125 and the E-TEN G500.

size comparison

 

 

GPS

Above: CoPilot's GPS status screen running on the E-TEN G500. Below, a route shown on the map.

 

map

 

 

Phone Features and Reception

The E-TEN G500 is a quad band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) GSM phone that will work anywhere in the world where GSM service is available. It's unlocked which means you can use it with any carrier's SIM. The M600 has GPRS class 10 for data but alas no EDGE or 3G. GPRS is getting old and tired, with average speeds of 30k, so we'd really hoped to see the faster EDGE standard which offers closer to 100k speeds. The phone software and radio are identical to the M600 from what we can tell, and is markedly better than the E-TEN M500 on the 1900MHz band used primarily by T-Mobile in the US.

The Phone Settings applet allows you to switch between 900/1800 MHz (Europe and Asia) and 850/1900 (US), though the phone works when left on the wrong setting and likely auto detects the available bands (the same can be said of all E-TEN models we've reviewed). The G500 offers two forms of speed dial, one of which is basically the traditional kind that can hold up to 99 numbers (unassigned slots are filled with most recently called numbers, ordered by how frequently you've called them) and another called Index Dial which shows you each letter of the alphabet. Tap on a letter to quickly see all the contacts whose first names start with that letter. This is much faster than scrolling through your Contacts list, though you have that option as well.

Phone Settings allow you to set the ring tone (WAV, MIDI, MP3 formats are supported). The device provides settings for call barring, caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, voice mail and SMS settings, as do all Pocket PC phones. E-TEN includes a call filtering app which you can use to selectively receive or reject calls from specified numbers. The device supports manual network selection (if allowed by your carrier), and has an auto-answer option (select how many seconds to wait before the phone automatically answers calls if desired). Photo caller ID is standard on Windows Mobile 5.0 devices, so the E-TEN offers that handy feature.

In addition, the G500 comes with Voice Commander, a voice recognition system made by Cyberon that's largely unchanged from the M500 and M600. Voice Commander works for voice dialing (by name or digits) and issuing voice commands to the PDA (i.e.: "start calendar", "today's appointments" or "what can I say?") to bring up help and a list of possible commands. Voice Commander works reasonably well, though we wish it worked with Bluetooth headsets as did the Windows Mobile 2003SE E-TEN M500.

How about call quality and reception? Call quality, both incoming and outgoing is excellent. Calls are clear with very good voice reproduction and volume. Call volume and clarity through the wired headset and Bluetooth headsets we tested was quite good. While some forum users have reported problems with call quality, ours was exemplary. The speakerphone is good and plays through the rear speaker. We tested the phone in the US on both the 850 MHz (Cingular SIM) and 1900 MHz (T-Mobile SIM). On the 850 MHz band used by AT&T and Cingular in many areas reception is good, with a strong signal, no noise and no dropped calls. The 1900 MHz band reception (used by T-Mobile USA and somewhat by Cingular) was a weak point for the M500 but we're happy to say that it's good on the G500. Using our T-Mobile SIM we got good reception (not as strong as some Nokia phones but better than some older Sony Eriscssons) even in reasonable signal areas with excellent call quality and no dropped conversations. In areas with very poor coverage, the E-TEN didn't fair as well as Nokia 6682 but was similar to the SDA.

dialer screen

E-TEN's phone dialer screen

Performance and Benchmarks

Windows Mobile 5.0 devices don't benchmark as fast as their older Windows Mobile 2003 companions because flash ROM is slower than RAM, so "disk" access is slower. All Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs and phones use flash ROM, otherwise called persistent memory for program and file storage: it may be slower but it won't get wiped out when the battery runs completely dry, unlike RAM. That said, the G500 and its non-GPS enabled cousin the M600 lead the pack in most tests among Windows Mobile 5 devices. The E-TEN feels more responsive opening the Start Menu and launching core apps when compared to fast Pocket PCs like the HP iPAQ hx2790 and Dell Axim X51v. Good going, E-TEN!

The G500 runs on a 400 MHz Samsung S3C 2440 processor that's ARM/XScale compatible and E-TEN gets excellent performance out of it. The phone is responsive and both games and videos run well on it. That's the same CPU and clock speed found on the M600 and M500.

Display, Gaming and Multimedia

Like the M600, the E-TEN G500 has an impressive 2.8" LTPS TFT color display that's crisp, color saturated and much brighter than most other Pocket PCs.The device supports both portrait and landscape modes and has a shortcut icon on the bottom of the Today Screen to quickly change screen orientations.

As with all Windows Mobile devices, the G500 can play MP3s using the included Windows Media Player 10. For best sound you'll want to use the included good quality 2.5mm stereo headset rather than the integrated mono speaker.

You can control system and ring volume separately by tapping the speaker icon at the top of the Today Screen and you can adjust call volume using the slider on the side of the phone when in a call. In addition, the G500 has a mic gain settings applet with separate settings for phone, voice recorder and Bluetooth. The E-TEN supports MIDI, WAV and MP3 ringtones (put ringtones in the Windows/rings folder). Like all Pocket PCs, it can record voice notes.

We use TCPMP, a fast open source free video player that supports MPEG1, DivX, AVI, ASF and WMV files to benchmark video playback. TCPMP played back "The Chosen", (a neat BMW flick with Clive Owen) which is a 4:26 minute long, 10 meg MPEG1 file recorded at 320 x 240, 308 kb/s, with benchmarks of:
Average speed: 277.44%
Bench Frame Rate: 66.59
Bench. Data Rate: 859 kbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Original Sample Rate: 44100
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s

That's just a hair faster than the non-GPS E-TEN M600 Pocket PC Phone and fast by Windows Mobile 5.0 standards. The device plays videos encoded up to 600kbps well.

 

Benchmark Results, comparing Windows Mobile 5 PPC Phones

 
i-mate K-JAM (195MHz HTC Wizard, same as Cingular 8125)
Verizon XV6700 (416 MHz)
E-TEN M600 (400MHz)
E-TEN G500
Spb Benchmark index
258
344
414
401
CPU index
934
1669
1529
1490
File system index
108
138
173
167
Graphics index
1439
2178
2933
2974
Platform index
288
375
436
-
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
570
692
830
875
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
3.13
4.27
4.5
3.56
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
660
612
850
854
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
115
265
343
346
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
1.83
2.16
2.65
2.29
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
206
246
363
369
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
0.992
1.23
1.58
1.61
Internal database read (records/sec)
592
1611
1431
1389
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
35.1
204
318
314
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
12.3
33.1
32.7
32.7
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
509
266
384
394
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
5.72
7.77
18.36
error
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
7.37
6.55
7.81
8.72
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
86.2
109
126
153
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
335
449
583
578
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
165
197
276
277
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
244
516
497
444
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
145
157
167
168
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.032
0.08
0.082
0.082
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
25.9
57.8
52.8
52.4
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
2.2
5.12
5.24
5.19
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
62.2
107
67.5
69

Camera

The E-TEN G500 has a 1.3 megapixel camera with LED flash capable of shooting still shots and videos. The maximum photo resolution is 1280 x 960, with options for 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 176 x 144. The camera can save files in JPEG and BMP formats and has 2x digital zoom (use the volume slider on the side of the phone to zoom). You can record 3GP video with audio at 320 x 240, 176 x 144 or 128 x 96 resolution. The camera app offers a wealth of settings, including white balance, special effects, timer and continuous shooting of photos. The camera viewfinder takes up the entire screen and you can change between portrait and landscape orientation with the tap of a button. If you tap on the wrench icon, large, mostly intuitive settings icons appear circling the screen's perimeter— an interesting and friendly user interface. The camera offers a wizard option which allows you to immediately do a variety of things with an image you've just taken: send it via MMS, edit it using the included Image Maker application, trash it, view it in Multimedia Manager or Frame it using Image Wizard.

Image quality is decent by camera phone standards. it's better than the E-TEN M600 but not as good as the Nokia 6682 or LG VX9800. The camera doesn't do well in low light, which is true of many cell phone cameras. Unlike the M600, the G500 doesn't have a flash. Video quality is quite good by mobile standards and the accompanying audio is decent.

 

sample photo

Jimmy the cat, lounging in the sun.

sample photo of guitar

cloudy day

Software

Like all Pocket PCs running Windows Mobile 5.0, mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint viewer, Internet Explorer and Outlook are pre-installed in ROM. Other pre-installed Microsoft apps include Picture & Videos, Voice Recorder, Terminal Services, MSN Mobile (MSN Messenger, Hotmail and MSN Mobile rolled into one app), Solitaire, Jawbreaker, ActiveSync and Calculator. Windows Media Player 10 Mobile is included and you'll use that for MP3 and movie playback, though you can use your favorite 3rd party application for those tasks as well. ActiveSync 4.1 and Outlook 2002 for Windows PCs is included on a CD, as is a PDF manual.

E-TEN includes an impressive selection of their own value-added software with the phone. Not only that, you'll use the Extra Applications program on the Pocket PC to install only the ones that you want— very cool. User installable apps include Add Ringtone, Voice Commander, Phone Dialer, Image Maker, Image Wizard, M-Desk, Multimedia Manager and Speed Dial.

M-Desk is a Today Screen replacement with tabs for Phone, PDA and Fun. Each tabbed screen has icons for appropriate apps and you can customize these with your preferred apps as well. The forth tab, System, gives you fairly comprehensive view of system status: battery charge, available RAM, and SD card memory, backlight setting and it has shortcuts to File Explorer, Bluetooth Manager, WiFi Manager, Wireless Manager and Sounds. In addition, there are screen rotation icons at the bottom which allow you to quickly switch between left and right-handed landscape modes and portrait mode.

radio control

Wireless Manager

For multimedia, you get an image editor called Image Maker; Image Wizard, an app that puts frames around photos; the camera application and Multimedia Manager which plays back videos taken with the smartphone and functions as an image viewer. It works with JPEG, BMP, GIF and PNG still images and has a slide show feature with transitions and audio. All integrate with the included MMS client. Phone apps include an MMS composer that worked well with our US carrier settings for T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless, a call filter, SIM Manager, SIM Tool Kit, the speed dial app described earlier and wireless modem for using the phone as a modem for a PC over Bluetooth. And for voice dialing you get Voice Commander which works directly with the handset and wired headsets.

E-TEN includes their backup application which backs up the contents of the device's internal memory to a Mini SD card.

today screen

Above: Today Screen with E-TEN's plugin. Below, M-Desk.

M-desk screen shot

Battery Life

The E-TEN has a 1440 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable, user replaceable battery (same as the M600). That's a good capacity battery by Pocket PC phone standards. Though the device has a smaller display and persistent memory, both of which use less power; the GPS uses quite a bit of power so we're glad for the ample battery. With average use, we managed to go 2 to 3 days on a charge (no GPS use). The unit can be charged via the charger and over USB. The power cable must first be plugged into a pigtail on the USB sync cable which terminates in a proprietary connector on the G500. This means you must bring both the USB cable and charger with you when traveling. The charger and USB cables are the same as those used on the M600.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 2.0 hasn't made an appearence on many US smartphones, and the G500 is one of the first to sport the 2.0 version which is backward compatible with older versions. E-TEN uses their own Bluetooth Manager which features a wizard interface to get you connected to Bluetooth headsets, your ActiveSync partner, or to transfer files over FTP/OBEX. The device supports headset, serial port and vCard exchange and you can control its discoverability. We tested the phone with several Bluetooth headsets and each worked well. These include the Plantronics Discovery 640, Motorola HS820 and the Motorola HF800 car kit. We also used it for file exchange and paired it with our folding Bluetooth keyboard with good results.

Conclusion

Clone the solid E-TEN M600, graft on a GPS and remove WiFi and you've got the G500. For those who need a triple convergence device (PDA, phone and GPS) the E-TEN is an excellent choice. In terms of screen real estate, speed and OS version, the G500 beats the iPAQ 6515, though support isn't as easy to come by since no carrier offers the G500 in the US.

Pro: Excellent SiRF Star III GPS. Quad band GSM world phone that's unlocked for use with any carrier. Fast performer, great display and good build quality. Nice bundle of accessories in the box, and excellent E-TEN value-added software. Good battery life.

Con: No EDGE for data, only the slower GPRS. No WiFi.

Estimated Price: $550

Web Site: www.etencorp.com

 

 

Specs:

Display: Transflective LTPS TFT color LCD. 65,536 colors, screen size diag: 2.8". Resolution: 240 x 320. Supports portrait and landscape display modes.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1440 mAh. Claimed Talk time: 3.5~4 hours, stand by: 150~200 hours. 10 - 15 hours of Pocket PC usage, 2.5 - 5 hours GPS usage claimed.

Performance: 400 MHz Samsung S3C 2440 processor (100% ARM and XScale compatible). 64 MB built-in RAM. 128 MB Flash ROM with 81.56 megs available for your use.

Size: 119 x 62 x 23 mm, 4.68" x 2.44" x 0.90". Weight: 165 grams, 6.74 ounces.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 2.5mm stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 and video pleasure.

GSM: Quad band GSM phone: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz. GPRS class 10 for data.

Networking: Integrated Bluetooth 2.0.

Camera: 1.3 MP CMOS camera capable of taking still photos and video with audio. Max. resolution: 960 x 1280 still shots and 320 x 240 video. Camera lens: f 1:2.8 aperture.

Software: Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. Microsoft Mobile Office suite including Word, Excel, PowerPoint (view presentations only), Internet Explorer and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, Pocket MSN (MSN Messenger, Hotmail), Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, Photos and Videos, and Voice Recorder, Solitaire, Jawbreaker as well as handwriting recognition. 3rd party and E-TEN software: M-Desk launcher and system monitor, Image Maker, Image Wizard, Multimedia Manager, Camera, Voice Commander, E-TEN Bluetooth Manager, Backup, Wireless Modem, MMS Composer (some regions only, otherwise use Outlook on the device to send MMS), Call Filter, Speed Dial, Battery Meter, SIM Toolkit, Scenarios (create profiles for four different environments such as outdoor and meeting). ActiveSync 4.1 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.

Expansion: 1 Mini SD slot.

 

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