Reviewed May 19, 2008 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The HTC Advantage is a tweener: it's not a UMPC like the HTC Shift and Fujitsu U810 because it doesn't run a full version of Windows. It's not a smartphone because it's too large to hold to the head, and in fact you can only use it for phone conversations with the included wired headset, built-in speakerphone or a Bluetooth headset. And it's not the first handheld computer with the Advantage name: HTC launched the Advantage X7500 last spring and the US version X7501 in mid-summer 2007. So now you know what it's not...
The HTC Advantage X7510 is nonetheless many things. It's a powerful handheld computer running Windows Mobile Pro with a 5" VGA touch screen, detachable keyboard, unlocked quad band GSM phone with triband HSDPA, WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, a 3MP autofocus camera, a 624MHZ processor and 16 gigs of storage. It's the update with a new keyboard design, double the storage, Windows Mobile 6.1 and the amazing Opera 9.5 web browser that's not yet available for any other device besides HTC's own Touch Diamond. It's a GPS. The Advantage is a laptop replacement for those who don't need Windows XP or Vista specific programs: it has mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer, Outlook and more. And with WAN, LAN and PAN (that's cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth in English) connections, the Advantage is perfect for those who need to stay connected wherever they go. Though large for a phone or even PDA, it's tiny by even UMPC standards and weighs just over 13 ounces (a few 10th of an ounce heavier than the first generation Advantage).
Because relatively little has changed with the X7510, we won't do a detailed review. Please read our original Advantage review for all the gory details. Sadly, because of the Qualcomm lawsuit and injunction, the Advantage X7510 will not be sold in the US. This has nothing to do directly with HTC, but rather Qualcomm filed suit to have certain chips and mobile CPUs blocked for sale in the US and the X7510 got caught in that mess. Though its CPU and chipset are no different from the US X7501 that shipped last summer, the X7501 was cleared for US sale because it already received the green light before the embargo began. A shame really, but you'll have to buy the X7510 from online importers, of which there are many.
For those of you who aren't uber-geeks, HTC is based in Taiwan and they manufacture most of the Windows Mobile PDA phones and smartphones sold in the US. The Advantage's codename is Athena, and the X7510 is the ATHE400 variant. Overseas in Europe and Asia, the original Advantage X7500 was and is sold unlocked by electronics retailers and by carriers as well. No US carrier has offered the Advantage and likely none will thanks to the Qualcomm injunction.
A walk around
The Advantage measures 5.25
x 3.85 x 0.63 inches, and just 0.79 thick with the cover on for transport. Bigger than the AT&T HTC Tilt or a Dell Axim, but about half the size of the HTC Shift, Samsung Q1 Ultra and a quarter of the size and weight of the svelte 13" Sony Vaio SZ650 notebook. If you wear baggies or even loose pants, the Advantage will fit. At 12.66 ounces, you might need a belt for those pants, but will hardly notice it in a purse or briefcase.
For those familiar with the first generation Advantage, the front-facing controls have changed. The tiny navigation stick is gone (sorry gamers), as are the Windows Mobile Start Menu and OK buttons. The combined VueFLO browser button has been replaced by a Home button that takes you to the HTC home screen. The 3 axed buttons now live as shortcut keys on the keyboard. VueFLO functionality is gone as is the required hardware: there's no accelerometer needed for the hard drive since a flash drive replaced the hard drive, and VueFLO used the accelerometer to sense orientation and rotate the screen as well as scroll in Opera.
Unlike the Sony Vaio UX micro PC or Fujitsu U810, you won't go blind if you stare at the screen for an hour or more. VGA 640 x 480 on a 5" display is very easy on the eyes-- very. And the eagle-eyed will wish the resolution were higher: fonts and icons are rather large. Those with keen sight can adjust the font size down to fit more on screen, and you can fit a lot of eBook, Word or Excel text on-screen. IE Mobile has a high res mode that puts the VGA screen to good use and web pages are actually desktop-like without lots of painful scrolling. The same is true of Opera 9.5.
The Advantage in the included leather case.
The Advantage can be used like a notebook with the magnetically-latching keyboard attached or as a tablet with the keyboard off. The keyboard snaps onto the front face for transit and acts as heavy-duty screen cover. As with the original Advantage, there's a clear plastic section at the back of the keyboard that acts as a little window to the display when the keyboard is in transit position. Tap the power button to see the time, network status, call and messaging status. It's functionally similar to Windows SideShow in Vista.
When the keyboard is on the display acting as a cover, the clear plastic section of the keyboard lets status icons show.
The main camera lens is at the back and there's a front-facing video conferencing camera that won't do us any good in the US since no carrier supports 2-way video conferencing. The handheld has a speaker for multimedia and speakerphone calls as well as a mic. It has a standard 3.5mm stereo headset jack (headset included), HTC's ExtUSB port for syncing and charging, a volume slider and camera key. There's also a combined VGA-out/USB host port and unlike the original Advantage, the VGA/USB hub dongle is included in the box. Using this adapter you can plug into a monitor or projector and you can use USB storage (self-powered hard drives, flash drives and card readers) as well as mice and keyboards. Cool! There are LEDs above the display for GSM status, WiFi/Bluetooth and reminders.
As with the original Advantage, the battery lives under a door on the bottom edge of the device and the SIM card slot and SDHC miniSD card slot are in the battery compartment. You'll need to remove the battery to insert or remove the SIM card but the miniSD card slot is hot-swappable.
Keyboard, certainly cooler
The keyboard's keys have been redesigned: the original Advantage has extremely low-travel keys that weren't a high point. Now they're no-travel keys (is that better, you ask?!). Another iPhone-inspired trend, no doubt-- heck if a person can type on glass, then who needs key travel? There is however tactile feedback, something like the haptic display on the LG Vu and Voyager, the keyboard vibrates just a bit when you successfully press a key. And there's sound too: a little boink every time you hit a key. The sound is loud enough to hear in a quiet room but not on an airplane or in a busy public place (you won't derange the person sitting next to you). The vibration and sound help immensely, and the new keyboard is no harder than the old one to use, in fact it's a bit easier. Should the vibration and boink bother you, you can turn them off via the TouchFLO home screen. Be warned that the keyboard is nearly impossible to use with vibration and sound. The Advantage runs HTC's TouchFLO UI, just like the HTC Touch and has the same lovely home screen plugins with free-of-charge weather forecasts, visual speed dial shortcuts, a large clock and more.
Though there's no US version, the Advantage X7510 has a US keyboard layout with a few extras: Euro and British Pounds symbols. There's a dedicated number row, and common punctuation are entered using the Fn key with all green masked symbols, punctuation and launchers. There are arrow keys that become page up/down with the Fn key, and launchers for Opera, SMS/MMS messaging, email, Comm Manager, the Windows Start Menu and OK. This reduces the need for a stylus and the large on-screen icons, scroll bars and arrow keys are finger-friendly as well. But should you need the stylus, it lives in a silo on the Advantage's right side.
Multimedia-- TCPMP glitch
The Advantage is a great mobile video player thanks to its large VGA display. Windows Media Player mobile content played well up to 600kbps but both TCPMP .72 and .81 crashed leaving a crash log behind on launch. That seriously limits supported video file formats and we hope that the release version of the X7510's ROM works with TCPMP. We tried the latest version of DivX Mobile Player but that app's performance wasn't impressive compared to TCPMP on the older X7501.
Windows Mobile 6.1 and Opera 9.5
The Advantage X7510 runs the recently released Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional operating system, while the first gen models ran 6.0. WinMo 6.1's changes are more obvious in the WinMo Standard edition (non-touch screen smartphone) and the Pro version has few UI changes. But you do get Office Mobile 6.1 with support for MS Office 2007 docs out of the box and the new version of IE that has page overview mode not unlike that found on Nokia S60 phones like the N95 8 gig.
Opera 9.5 on the HTC Advantage X7510.
The Advantage has an integrated GPS with QuickGPS to speed up satellite acquisition times. It's fairly fast, quite accurate though not quite as good as the E-TEN Glofiish X800 for pulling down satellites indoors or in a forest of tall buildings. The US Advantage X7501 came with TeleNav that worked well with AT&T's HSDPA service. Since there's no US version, there's no TeleNav on the X7510. We downloaded it and it worked just as well as the X7501's.
Google Maps and Windows Live also worked well with the GPS and Google Maps managed to track 11 satellites outdoors-- impressive. We had to set the GPS port manually to COM 4 at 38,400 baud as the Windows Intermediate driver didn't work. You can of couse install CoPilot, Tom Tom or any other Windows Mobile Pro GPS and mapping software. The large flash disk can easily hold maps of the US or several European countries. As always, Windows Mobile touch screen PDAs and phones wash out in direct sunlight-- not ideal for geocaching but it works in a car if kept close to the dash vents rather than directly under the windshield.
HTC's camera's look good on paper but the actual photos and videos haven't impressed us. The Advantage X7510 still features a 3 megapixel camera with autofocus lens and the images are just OK. They don't compare to Nokia and Sony Ericsson camera phones with the same specs, but they are on average certainly better than most US 1.3 and 2MP camera phones. Color shifts are common, but indoor shots seem to have improved with the X7510. The camera can save images to the flash disk or a storage card and there are plenty of settings to play with. The camera application uses the entire screen as the viewfinder-- that's one huge viewfinder! Though it's a bit hard to see outdoors.
Not bad for an indoor shot: accurate colors and not too much noise.
The battery hasn't changed from the original Advantage, but Windows Mobile 6.1 does have slightly better power management and the flash drive uses less power than the hard disk. Thus HTC adds 30 minutes to claimed talk time, which our tests reflected. Battery life is very good compared to PDA phones like the TyTN II/Tilt and E-TEN X800. The X7510 easily lasted us through the day with plenty of HSDPA and WiFi use for web browsing and email, and navigating a 5 mile trip with TeleNav. Depending on what you do with the Advantage, it should last 8 hours when used as a mini-computer or PDA. If you talk a few hours each day via Bluetooth headset, expect shorter runtimes.
As always, if you need something between a PDA and a notebook with excellent connectivity, the Advantage is the way to go. It's instant-on, has much better battery life than a notebook or UMPC, weighs less than a pound and thanks to Opera 9.5, it has a near-desktop web browsing experience. If you already own the first gen Advantage, Windows Mobile 6.1, doubled storage capacity and flash rather than hard disk media are the selling points. But you do lose the front-facing hardware controls which take the fun out of gaming and put more work into scrolling through ebooks. Both keyboards are somewhat awkward, but we give the advantage to the X7510 which provides more tactile and auditory feedback despite the no-travel keys. Should you upgrade if you already own the first gen Advantage? Probably not. But the improvements keep the Advantage viable and attractive to potential new owners.
Current Importer Price: ~$1,299 (prices may drop after a few months).
Display:65K color transmissive
TFT LCD with LED backlight. 640 x 480 VGA resolution, screen size diagonally: 5". Supports both portrait and landscape modes. ATI Graphic Chip W2284.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
2200 mA. Claimed standby time: Up to 300 hours (for GSM/UMTS). Claimed talk time with screen off:Up to 6 hours for GSM, 5 hours for UMTS. Claimed 8 hours of PDA use.
Performance: Marvell XScale PXA 270 Bulverde 624MHz processor. 128 MB built-in RAM
(78 megs free at boot). 256 MB Flash ROM with ~100 megs
available for your use. 16 gig flash drive with ~ 15.17 gigs free.
x 3.85 x 0.63 (0.79 with cover on) inches. Weight: 13.22 ounces.
Phone:GSM quad band 850/900/1800/1900MHz with EDGE, triband HSPDA 3G 850/900/2100MHz for use in the US and Europe. Unlocked for use with any GSM carrier.
GPS:Built-in GPS. No mapping software included.
Camera:3MP with autofocus lens and LED flash. 2048 x 1536 max still image resolution 2048 x 1536. Max video resolution: CIF 352 x 288.
in speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 and video playback pleasure.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0.
Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition operating system.
Microsoft Mobile Office suite including Mobile versions
of Word, Excel, PowerPoint (PowerPoint Mobile is view only), Internet
Explorer, and Outlook Mobile. Also included: Opera 9.5 web browser,TouchFLO, Esmertec Jbed Java VM, MS Pictures and Videos, MSN
Instant Messenger, Windows Live, Windows Media Player
10, Windows Live, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (game), Voice Recorder
as well as handwriting recognition. Additional applications:
Camera, Comm Manager,
HTC Audio Manager music player, ClearVue Presenter 5, Jetcet Print 5, Bluetooth Explorer, Internet Sharing, Rss Hub, QuickGPS, Remote Desktop Mobile, WorldCard Mobile, Zip utility, Clear Storage (wipes
out all data and resets unit to factory defaults), Cyberon Voice Speed Dial 1.2.
ActiveSync 4.5 and Outlook 2007 trial edition for PCs included.
Ports and Expansion:1
miniSD (Secure Digital) slot supporting
SDHC. 3.5mm stereo/mic jack, HTC ExtUSB combined sync and charge port. HTC proprietary VGA-out and USB host 1.1 port (cable included).
In the box:Advantage, battery, 2 styli, compact world charger with Euro prongs, USB cable, stereo headset, VGA-out/S-video/RCA video and USB host 1.1 port adapter dongle, screen protector, leather case (can use Advantage while in this case) and nylon zipper case.