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Pocket PC Phone Reviews

E-TEN M600 (TORQ E100)

Editor's rating (1-5):
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Reviewed Dec. 2, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

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

If you've read our review of the E-TEN M500 which preceded the M600, you'll know it was one of my favorite Pocket PC phones. The M500 was small, light, had great performance, a very bright display and a nice bundle of custom applications. The M600 builds on all that goodness, adding the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system, WiFi and improved 1900 MHz reception to an already strong device. In fact, the M600 looks identical to the M500 since it uses the same casing and industrial design. Only the color has changed to matte black, as did the color of the matching cradle which is otherwise the same as the M500's. The hardware and software are so similar between the two models, that you'll notice many similarities in our reviews of the two devices.

E-TEN M600

For those of you who are new to the E-TEN, it's a Pocket PC phone that's about the size of the popular Palm Treo 650. The device is sold under the E-TEN brand and also as the TORQ P120 by Sound Solutions who purchased US distribution rights. It has a quad band GSM radio that will work anywhere GSM service is available with GPRS for data, Bluetooth and WiFi 802.11b. The E-TEN won't be offered by US carriers but rather by importers in the US such as Mad Monkey Boy's Gadgets and Expansys who sell the phone unlocked for use with any GSM carrier. While unlocked smartphones are generally very expensive, the E-TEN will likely sell for around $550 or perhaps a bit higher. The US version, with the final release ROM is the version we're reviewing here.

In the Box

The E-TEN M600 comes with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, stylus, world charger, sync cradle with a slot to charge a second battery, USB cable, a stereo headset with integrated mic, manual and software CD.

Design and Ergonomics

The E-TEN M600 is one of the growing number of compact Pocket PC Phones. Yes, it still looks like a PDA but compared to full sized unit such as the JASJAR and even the i-imate K-JAM and Sprint PPC-6700 which are quite thick due to their slide-out keyboards, it's very small. It's close in size to the Samsung i730 on Verizon, but again the Samsung is thicker thanks to its keyboard. Close in size and shape to the Palm Treo 650, which seems to have hit the sweet spot for size and form factor, the M600 is large by flip phone standards yet is much smaller than the mid-size Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC. Like the Treo and the i-mate JAM, the E-TEN is relatively narrow which makes it feel good in the hand and look less brick-like than large Pocket PC phones. It's slightly thicker than the JAM and about the same thickness as the Treo, and it feels just right: easy to grip and hold.

E-TEN M600 Pocket PC Phone
back of E-TEN M600

 

The M600 is finished in matte black, and looks hip, though reaction varies from "nice!' to "looks like undercoating". We leave the final decision up to you... these days shiny is in, so the matte finish takes some getting used to but does give the unit a more expensive look than the M500's bright silver finish. The casing is made of plastic, which is true of many PDAs and phones, and like the M500 it comes with a large, comfy telescoping stylus that's flat out excellent. The 2.8" display dominates the front face, with a small circular 5-way directional pad flanked by two application buttons and call send and end buttons below. The front application buttons launch contacts (cycles between two speed dial methods and the built-in contacts application with each press of the button) and Home which cycles between the Pocket PC Today Screen and E-TEN's M-Desk launcher. You can of course re-assign these buttons as you see fit.

The sides are made of lightly pebbled black plastic which helps keep the device in hand, and you'll find the camera button, volume up/down slider, voice command button and reset button on the left side. There are no controls on the right side. The SD slot and IR port live up top under a shiny black plastic cap, and the phone's internal antenna resides under the cap. Despite the IR window and usual Windows Mobile beaming support, E-TEN has not included IR in the M600. The upper back area houses the camera lens, flash and self portrait mirror while the lower section slides off with a press of the latch to reveal the user replaceable Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. The combination sync and charger port is on the bottom of the unit and the stylus silo is located on the bottom right side of the device. The earpiece speaker which is used for voice calls, is located above the display and the mic is on the bottom of the M600. The phone has a rear firing speaker which is used for system sounds and speaker phone. Two LEDs flank the display and indicate Bluetooth status, mobile phone radio status (blinking green means the phone is turned on and has reception), notifications (blinking red) and charging status (red while charging).

You can sync and charge the M600 by placing it in the included cradle or by plugging the cables directly into the PDA. The charger plugs into a connector on the USB cable which then plugs into the E-TEN's sync port or cradle connector. This means you'll need to bring both the sync cable and charger when traveling. The M600 supports USB charging as well. Though the cradle has a spare USB port, it does not offer USB host functionality. The cradle is finished in matching black and has a slot to charge a second battery.

Phone Features and Reception

The E-TEN M600 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 Settings applet allows you to switch between 900/1800 MHz (Europe and Asia) and 850/1900 (US), though the phone seems to work when left on the wrong setting and likely auto detects the available bands. The E-TEN 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 M600 comes with Voice Commander, a voice recognition system made by Cyberon that's largely unchanged from the M500. 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, and it even works with Bluetooth headsets! That is a rarity among Windows Mobile devices, though it was also included on the E-TEN M500. While the M500 enhanced the standard Pocket PC Buttons control panel applet so you could assign the Bluetooth headset's multifunction button to start Voice Commander, our M600 didn't have this feature. E-TEN tells us that it will re-appear before the phone is released though. However, if you activate Voice Command on the Pocket PC, it will play and listen through a connected Bluetooth headset.

How about call quality and reception? Call quality, both incoming and outgoing is excellent. Calls are clear with very good voice reproduction. The M500 impressed us with its loud earpiece volume which was louder than many other GSM smartphones but the M600 offers only average call volume. Call volume and clarity through the wired headset and Bluetooth headsets we tested was quite good. The speakerphone is good but not as loud as the M500 we had. We tested the phone in the US on both the 850 MHz (AT&T 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 excellent on the M600. Using our T-Mobile SIM we got good reception even in weak signal areas with excellent call quality and no dropped conversations.

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, just as the M500 was a very quick Pocket PC, the M600 is leading the pack in most tests among Windows Mobile 5 devices. Not only that, it feels faster with less of the delays 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 M600 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.

Display, Gaming and Multimedia

The M600 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.

Like all Pocket PCs, the E-TEN 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 M600 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: 274.30%
Bench Frame Rate: 65.83
Bench. Data Rate: 849 kbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Original Sample Rate: 44100
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s

That's not as fast as the E-TEN M500 and pre-Windows Mobile 5.0 devices, but it's pretty good and the device handles files up to 600 kbps well.

 

Benchmark Results, comparing Windows Mobile 5 PPC Phones

 
E-TEN M600
Spb Benchmark index
258
-
414
CPU index
934
1703
1529
File system index
108
138
173
Graphics index
1439
-
2933
Platform index
288
-
436
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
570
652
830
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
3.13
4.24
4.5
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
660
575
850
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
115
261
343
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
1.83
2.09
2.65
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
206
240
363
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
0.992
1.23
1.58
Internal database read (records/sec)
592
1592
1431
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
35.1
error
318
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
12.3
33.2
32.7
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
509
265
384
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
5.72
8.96
18.36
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
7.37
6.62
7.81
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
86.2
111
126
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
335
451
583
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
165
212
276
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
244
518
497
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
145
155
167
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.032
0.08
0.082
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
25.9
57.8
52.8
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
2.2
5.12
5.24
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
62.2
107
67.5

Bluetooth and WiFi

The M600's Wireless Manager is where you'll turn on and off the three wireless radios: GSM, WiFi and Bluetooth. You can launch the manager by tapping its icon on the bottom of the today screen, or by launching it from M-Desk or the programs group. An x appears next to a radio that's turned off, and amusingly you can tap the hammer to turn all radios on or off.

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.

The WiFi manager, called WLAN Utility, gives you comprehensive information on your current connection and offers power saving settings. It's a nice addition over the basic Windows Mobile 5 networking control panel which provides very little connection information.

wireless manager screen

The Wireless Manager

bluetooth manager screen

Bluetooth Manager

WLAN manager screen

WLAN (WiFi) Utility

Bluetooth behaved well, offering good range and sound quality with a variety of headsets including the Plantronics M3500, Plantronics Discovery 640 and the Motorola HS500. I tested the HS500 with Voice Commander and it recognized my voice commands accurately in all but very noisy environments, which is an improvement over the M500. WiFi connections were reliable and range was good. Since the M600 lacks EDGE or 3G, WiFi is an invaluable addition.

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, Pocket MSN (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 4.0 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.

Unlike the M500, the M600 doesn't come with a backup application. The likely reasons are that you don't need it as much since Windows Mobile 5.0 features persistent memory which means your data won't be lost if the battery drains down; and many backup apps don't yet work with WM5 so E-TEN probably couldn't get it working in time for release.

The M600 should ship with Skype (VoIP), however it wasn't ready in time for our pre-production model.

M-desk screen shot

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, over wired headsets and Bluetooth headsets.

Battery Life

The E-TEN has a 1440 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable, user replaceable battery. 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; WiFi likes lots of juice, so we're glad for the ample battery. The unit can be charged in the cradle, which also has a slot for a second battery, or you can plug the cables directly into the M600. However, the power cable must first be plugged into a pigtail on the USB sync cable which terminates in a proprietary connector on the M600. This means you must bring both the USB cable and charger with you when traveling. The M600 also supports USB charging. The battery should last you two to three days if you're a light phone and PDA user. If you talk an hour a day and use WiFi for an hour or two, plan on charging nightly.

Camera

The E-TEN M600 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. On the desktop, Quicktime couldn't play the videos properly but RealPlayer had no problems. 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 average by camera phone standards. it's better than the Motorola MPx220 certainly but not nearly as good as the Nokia 6682 or LG VX9800. The camera doesn't do well in low light, with plenty of noise in shots, though the flash does help when shooting subjects that are in close range. The flash can be manually disabled. The E-TEN is slow saving files to an SD card (we used a very fast SD cards as our save destination) at highest resolution , and there is a bit of shutter lag. There is no shutter lag when saving photos to RAM, and files are saved faster. Video quality is quite good by mobile standards and the accompanying audio is decent.

 

sample photo

outdoors on a cloudy day

sample photo of guitar

indoors with incandescent lighting

 

Conclusion

An excellent Pocket PC phone that's compact, well-built and stable. If you have an E-TEN M500 or a TORQ P100 you may see little reason to upgrade beyond persistent memory and WiFi, but for others, it's well worth a look. The device should be reasonably priced and will work with any GSM carrier around the world. The triple wireless will keep you connected to the Net and your favorite Bluetooth devices and battery life is good as well.

Pro: Compact form factor, extremely bright color display, has WiFi and Bluetooth 1.2 and battery life is good by Pocket PC phone standards. Reasonable price compared to some other Pocket PC phones, especially pricey HTC models. Unlocked for use with any GSM carrier.

Con: No EDGE for faster data transfer over GSM networks.

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.

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: 111.7 x 60.7 x 22 mm, 4.4" x 2.39" x 0.86". Weight: 165 grams, 5.8 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 1.2 and WiFi 802.11b.

Camera: 1.3 MP CMOS camera with flash 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, WiFi Manager, 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 4.0 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot supporting SDIO and SDIO Now!

 

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