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Pocket PC Phone Reviews

E-TEN P300B Windows Mobile 2003 Phone

June 28, 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

While we've seen several high end Pocket PC Phone Edition models in the US, we haven't seen any affordable, more basic models until the recent introduction of the Audiovox PPC4100 from AT&T Wireless and now the E-TEN P300B which will be sold under the FutureCom Global brand in the US soon. Users in Asia have had the pleasure of using the P300 for several months, but that model was never sold by a US carrier. The new P300B adds Bluetooth to the P300, but it doesn't have a camera. The P300 has a VGA camera with the lens located just above the display facing the user, and is thus best suited for self-portraits. Since many folks like to take photos of something other than themselves, the camera's omission from the P300B isn't a great loss. Instead, many users crave the ability to use Bluetooth headsets, and the P300B will oblige.

The P300B's specs won't make you drool, but its compact size and relatively small price tag will. This is one of the smallest Pocket PC phones, and weighs only 5.8 ounces. FutureCom Global will sell it for $499.95 unlocked, which means you can use it with any GSM provider and don't need to sign a contract. The unit runs the Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition OS, has a 2.8" non-translfective color display, an SDIO slot and a healthy amount of memory. It's a GSM world phone that supports 900/1800/1900MHz bands and GPRS for data.

Pocket PC phones are great for those who really value PDA functionality and wireless Internet access. The large touch screen, web browsing and email options are much more robust than those offered by regular mobile phones and smaller screen smartphones. The tradeoff comes in the form of size and ergonomics: holding a Pocket PC to your head and forgoing a hardware number pad isn't the perfect experience for heavy phone users. Thank goodness for hands free headsets!

E-TEN P300B
back FutureCom Global P300B

 

Design and Ergonomics

Like all Pocket PC phones, the P300B is a PDA first and a phone second. It's a full-featured Pocket PC and offers all the standard Pocket PC features. Phone Edition adds a mobile phone radio and phone software to the basic Pocket PC package. This is one of the smallest Pocket PC phones, though it is still considerably larger than standard cell phones. Of course, cell phones don't offer the wealth of features and power that smartphones have.

 

 

 

 

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The P300B has most standard Pocket PC buttons and hardware navigation hardware, which compares well to the Audiovox PPC4100 which has no d-pad or application buttons. You'll find call send and end buttons, along with the standard re-mappable Pocket PC calendar and contacts button on the front face. The unit has a small but very usable joystick navigator which aids in one-handed operation, and a side rocker switch for changing volume. When the phone's radio is turned on, the volume button adjusts the ringer volume when not in a call and the call volume when in a call. When the radio is off, the rocker adjusts the system volume. Pressing down on the rocker switch turns on the voice recorder. The unit has an antenna that protrudes about 1/2" and a large LED that indicates network and charging status. An additional blue LED illuminates when Bluetooth is turned on. A 2.5mm (standard cell phone size) headset jack and the IR port are located on the top edge of the phone, while the sync port and SD slot are located on the bottom. This means if you use cards that protrude such as SD WiFi cards, the card will extend from the bottom of the handheld.

The unit doesn't have a key or button lock feature to prevent accidental button presses and screen taps from turning on the unit, however by default only the power button will turn on the device. As with standard cell phones, you can have the phone auto-answer incoming calls and you can have the phone answer the call after 3, 9 or 12 or 15 seconds. The phone has a band selection feature that allows you to select 900/1900MHz (Europe/Asia) or 1900MHz (US).

Horsepower and Expansion

The P300B has a Samsung 2410 200MHz processor and 64 megs of RAM with ~53 megs available to the user. It also has 32.5 megs of persistent NAND flash storage that will survive a hard reset, and that's a lot of NAND storage for a Pocket PC with otherwise low end specs! While Pocket PC Phones don't usually have the cutting edge specs that their non-phone counterparts do (with the exception of the XDA II which is a powerhouse), the P300B still has fairly low end specs. In comparison, the XDA II, Audiovox PPC4100 and the Hitachi G1000 have a 400MHz XScale processor and the Samsung i700 has a 300MHz XScale processor. The XDA II has 128 megs of RAM, the i700 has 64 and the Hitachi G1000 has only 32 megs.

The unit feels decently fast for web browsing, working with Pocket Word and Excel, and accessing PIM (Personal Information Manager) data. It will be adequate for most users, but power users should consider faster models with better displays. Graphics performance isn't stellar as you can see from the benchmarks below. If you're looking for a Pocket PC phone that will double as a gaming machine, look elsewhere. The P300B doesn't have user-selectable CPU settings for power saving, but given the 200MHz processor, you likely won't want to underclock this unit.

The P300B's SD slot supports SD and MMC storage cards as well as SDIO cards. I tested the Sandisk SD WiFi card and it worked perfectly. Switching between WiFi and GPRS worked well, thanks to the networking improvements in the Windows Mobile 2003 OS. The SanDisk WiFi + 256 megs memory card would not lock into the P300B's SD slot (a problem I haven't had with other Pocket PCs) so don't count on using that card with this phone.

Wireless

Since the P300B is sold direct by FutureCom Global and isn't offered by a US carrier, it's sold unsubsidized and unlocked, which means you can use it with any GSM carrier and don't have to sign a new contract with your provider. We used the phone on T-Mobile's network and it worked without a hitch. T-Mobile is a popular carrier with the gadget set because they don't mind customers using non-T-Mobile phones and they have great rates for data. The P300B is a world phone that supports 900/1800 and 1900MHz bands. It does not support the 850MHz band that AT&T Wireless and Cingular are overlaying in the US. That doesn't mean it won't work with these carriers, but it does mean you won't be able to take advantage of additional coverage offered by their new 850MHz towers.

We found that RF wasn't very good, so consider this phone only if you live and work in an area with strong GSM reception. Here in Silicon Valley we have areas of marginal reception and good reception. In areas of marginal coverage, the phone barely got one bar of signal strength and sometimes couldn't connect to the tower (our other phones had one to two bars of signal). In areas of good reception it was quite usable though it pulled in fewer bars than our other GSM phones such as the XDA II, Nokia 3560, Nokia N-Gage QD and Sony Ericsson P800. Voice quality is very good on this phone and volume is adequate unless you're in a very noisy environment in which case you'll want to use a headset. It comes with a 2.5mm stereo headset mic unit that's great for listening to MP3s, and fine for phone conversations.

You can use the included Pocket Internet Explorer for web browsing and Pocket Outlook for email, or the 3rd party applications of your choice. I highly recommend NetFront 3.1, which is faster, offers Java and supports multiple windows.

You can dial directly from the contacts app (all phone numbers are underlined: tap on the number to dial). Likewise you can send an email directly from a contact listing: just tap on the email address to send a message. To dial an outgoing number that isn't in your address book, you'll use the onscreen dialer which has buttons large enough for finger dialing. You'll access the speed dial list from this screen, as well as your call log. The call log can be wiped clean whenever you wish, and can retain data for 1 week up, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or forever. You can dial directly from the call log as well. The P300B comes with its own basic speed dial app but you'll probably want to use the one built into the Phone application.

Bluetooth

The P300B has integrated Bluetooth which is great news for wireless headset users. Though there are many kinds of Bluetooth profiles, the unit supports only headset and serial port profile. It doesn't have profiles for network (connecting to a Bluetooth access point) or ActiveSync profiles. The phone paired easily with Bluetooth headsets such as the Jabra 250 and automatically handed the call over to the headset. Range was very good with headsets as was call clarity. If you'd like to use a Bluetooth GPS, this P300B should work just fine since it offers the serial port profile used by Bluetooth GPS devices.

Benchmarks

We've run benchmarks using spb Benchmark. I've compared the Samsung i700, XDA II and the P300B Pocket PC phones. All tests were run with units fresh out of the box. Higher numbers are better (shown in green bold).

Battery Life, Charger and Cradle

The P300B has 1300 mAh Lithium Ion battery which fits flush with the back of the unit. That's a common capacity for standard Pocket PC phone batteries and should last the average user through the day. The unit comes with a handy battery utility that will put a battery icon in the taskbar that graphically indicates charge level.

The P300B comes with a cradle that has a slot to charge a 2nd battery and an LED to indicate charging status of the second battery. When cradled, the phone rakes back, making it easy to see the display and work with the unit when cradled. The power cable plugs into the cradle, but not directly into the phone, so you'll need to carry the cradle to charge the phone on the road. The unit comes with a world charger for use in most any country. You must also plug the sync cable into the charger to sync, rather than directly into the phone. The cradle has a USB host port and E-TEN claims it should work with USB peripherals such as keyboards and mice, but I couldn't get either to work or even power up.

Display, Sound and Multimedia

Unlike current Pocket PCs and Pocket PC Phone Edition models, the P300B doesn't have a 3.5", 65,000 color transflective display. Instead it has a 2.8" 4,096 color display. While this unit won't be your first choice for viewing photos and videos, the display is sharp and readable and fares a bit better outdoors than transflectives. The smaller display allows for a smaller overall unit which is a good thing, since Pocket PC phones tend to be large. Despite the smaller screen, it is easy to see and read and the only challenge I encountered was using the on-screen keyboard and handwriting recognition. Since each keyboard key is smaller, you must be more precise when tapping out your words, and you must write letters smaller when using handwriting recognition.

The Backlight Control applet allows you to adjust brightness using an infinite slider. You can also set the unit to adjust backlight relative to remaining battery power. Unlike transflective PDAs, the P300B has a Contrast applet which allows you to set contrast using a graphic with 4 shades of gray as a guideline.

As with all Pocket PC phones, the P300B has a front firing speaker above the display and a mic at the bottom, and you can adjust system and phone volume independently. The speaker and mic handle both phone audio and system audio. The unit's built-in speaker isn't terribly loud for alerts and ring tones but is fine for voice conversations.

The phone has a 2.5mm 3-ring headset jack (standard mobile phone size, Pocket PCs usually have a 3.5mm jack). A stereo earbud headset with mic and a call send/end button and a volume control is included. The earbuds sound great for music and work well for voice calls.

As with all Pocket PCs, the P300B comes with Pocket versions of Windows Media Player for MP3 playback and WMV/WMA/ASF videos. I tested the popular free video player Pocket MPV using the Spider Man trailer MPEG1 video I've used for many other Pocket PC video tests, and the P300B dropped 652 out of 2640 frames. During video playback, there was some odd artifacting in the lower letterbox area which I haven't seen on other Pocket PCs.

Conclusion

Pro: More affordable than most Pocket PC phones and you can buy it without having to sign a contract with your mobile service provider. Small and lightweight. Has Bluetooth that supports headsets as well as GPS. It's a world phone that supports 900/1800/1900MHz bands. Con: On the slow side, though adequate for daily business tasks. Screen isn't transflective and supports only 4,096 colors. Bluetooth only comes with headset and serial port profiles. RF isn't strong, so consider this phone only if you live and work in areas with strong GSM coverage. No speakerphone.

  XDA II (2003, 400MHz) Samsung i700 (2002, 300Mhz PXA250, 300MHz turbo mode)

E-TEN P300B

(2003, 200MHz Samsung)

Spb Benchmark index
1365
917
726
CPU index
1857
878
1015
File system index
1076
854
885
Graphics index
1179
1649
257
Platform index
1164
700
833
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1242
550
691
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
25.8
17.8
17.4
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1251
564
715
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
850
407
563
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
9.22
5.79
7.62
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
742
355
538
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
18.6
94.8
25.3
Internal database read (records/sec)
1450
715
804
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
122
122
67.7
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
23.1
22.8
12.8
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
136
216
24.5
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
38.7
22.9
38.5
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
7.76
5.53
7.51
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
244
68.9
146
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
580
231
557
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
246
60.8
204
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
611
396
294
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
99.9
106
54.6
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.076
0.057
0.042
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
55.5
55.4
27.5
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
5.01
3.65
2.72
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
177
70.1
52

graph

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FutureCom Global, List price $499.95 unlocked. The P300B should be available at the end of July or early August 2004 under the FutureCom Global brand name.

www.etencorp.com

 

Specs:

Display: Backlit 2.8" 240 x 320 pixel color display with 4,096 colors.

Performance: 200 MHz Samsung 2410 processor. 64 megs of RAM with ~53 available to the user. 5 megs of flash storage available. 64 megs NAND Flash ROM with 32.5 megs available to the user.

Size: 4.6" x 2.63" x .9". 5.8 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker and mic (no speakerphone). Supports alarm sounds, LED alert and vibrating alerts. Windows Media Player for MP3s, and has a 2.5mm stereo 3 ring headset.

Expansion: 1 SD slot supporting SDIO that accepts SD and MMC cards as well as SDIO cards.

Battery: Comes with a 1300 mAh rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. User replaceable.

Software: Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, MS Reader and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. ActiveSync and Outlook for the desktop.

Network: GSM tri-band 900/1800/1900 MHz, GPRS Class B / Multi-slot Class10. Bluetooth 1.1 class 2 radio.

In the Box: CD, manual, phone, cradle, slip case, battery, world charger, stereo headset mic with call send/end button and stylus.

 

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