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Pocket PC Phone Reviews

Sprint PPC-6700

Editor's rating (1-5):
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Reviewed Oct. 7, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Editors Note: the PPC-6700 is replaced by the HTC Mogul PPC6800 on Sprint.

Good things come in innovative shapes and sizes— witness the PPC-6700 Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone from Sprint. We've seen slider keyboards before, but this is the first that slides from the side rather than bottom of the phone, making it perfect for landscape use. Not only that, the keyboard is excellent, better than the chicklet keys found on other QWERTY keyboard smartphones and in fact better than the GSM version of this phone.

Sprint PPC-6700
Sprint PPC-6700 keyboard  open

 

The PPC-6700 is both a full-featured Pocket PC PDA running Windows Mobile 5.0 and a Sprint PCS cell phone. It replaces the much larger and somewhat crankier Audiovox PPC-6600 which featured a standard slider keyboard design. The PPC-6700 is sold under the Audiovox (owned by UTStarcom) brand and was designed and manufactured by HTC in Taiwan, currently one of the most innovative and prolific Windows Mobile phone ODMs. It has a 416 MHz processor, 128 megs of flash ROM, a mini-SD card slot, 1.3 megapixel camera and supports both 1xRTT and EVDO. This was the first Windows Mobile 5 phone to hit the US market and was offered exclusively by Sprint PCS until Jan. 2006 when Verizon began offering their version, the XV6700.

In the Box

The PPC-6700 comes with a Lithium Ion battery, two styli, cradle, USB to mini-USB sync cable, world charger, stereo headset with mic, leather horizontal case with belt clip, software CD and a thick printed manual. One thing we particularly like is the PPC-6700's single mini-USB port. You can plug the charger or sync cable directly into the device and need not take the cradle with you on the road. Of course you can plug both the cable and charger into the two ports on the rear of the cradle when at home or work.

Design and Ergonomics

Think small but thick, that's the Sprint PPC-6700. From the front, the phone resembles the popular iMate JAM, another HTC-designed PPC phone. It's compact with curved corners, an silver finish and a relatively simple button layout that blends into the device's overall design. The phone looks high tech and modern but in a understated way. The silver finish is similar to the JAM's, and it looks nice but a bit plasticy. Thanks to the substantial keyboard and slider design, the 1" thick PPC-6700 is nearly one third of an inch thicker than the JAM. Though as slider PDA phones go, it's of average thickness: in our comparison photo below the PPC-6700 is about the same thickness as the QWERTY slider Samsung i730 EVDO Pocket PC phone from Verizon. The PPC-6700 does feel good in hand, though at just over 6 ounces, it's not a lightweight.

side view

Left side view (voice recorder, volume slider, IE quick launch button and IR window).

Smartphone pile up: Palm Treo 650, Samsung i730 and the PPC-6700, top to bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The phone's earpiece speaker is located up top just above the display and the mic is on the bottom edge. The rear-firing mono speaker is located on the back (notice the slit opening that circles half-way around the camera's self portrait mirror) and this is used for speakerphone and PDA audio. The mini-SD slot is located up top and the IR port is on the left side while the mini-USB sync/charge port is on the bottom edge.

Keyboard

Sprint has hit a winner with this PPC 6700's thumb keyboard: it is fantastic! Since it runs horizontally, the keyboard can be wider, allowing for larger keys and improved spacing. That means a much better typing experience, as do the PPC-6700's spaciously, slightly domed keys. The only thing we didn't like are the faint letters which when lit are white on light silver, offering little contrast (later versions have blue backlight which is easier to see). The keyboard slides out to the left, and the display automatically switches to landscape mode when you open the slider. It locks firmly into place, and the mechanism seems much more durable than the PPC-6600's. To type numbers and high punctuation, you'll press the single Fn key located in the left corner just below the caps lock key. To turn on Fn lock, press that key twice quickly, and once again to release it. Dedicated arrow keys at the lower right make it easy to navigate in any of four directions, and two small "-" keys surrounding the keyboard are actually soft keys which activate the two menus found in most applications. The keyboard has dedicated Start Menu and OK keys (but no escape or cancel key) making it easy to do most everything using only the keyboard.

PPC-6700 and Samsung i730

The Samsung i730 and PPC-6700

Phone Features, Data and Reception

The PPC-6700 is a CDMA phone that runs only on Sprint's network in the US. It supports both the PCS (1900 MHz) and cellular (800 MHz) bands, and has both 1xRTT and EVDO for data. EVDO is live in the San Francisco Bay Area and the phone got up to 849 kbit/s in 4 bar reception areas, 524 kbit/s in 2 bar areas and 300 kbit/s in barely 1 bar areas. That's very fast data transfer by wireless phone standards and makes surfing the web and downloading email with attachments a dream. Mobile versions of Internet Explorer and Outlook are standard on Windows Mobile devices and as you'd expect Outlook supports POP3, IMAP, SMTP and Exchange servers. The phone has an app that will download GoodLink, but you must have a Good account to use the service. There's been some confusion about the required data plan for this phone, and Sprint confirmed with us that you need only add on their $15/month Vision plan to get full data (with EVDO in covered areas) on the phone. Of course, this doesn't cover tethering the phone to a notebook as a wireless modem using a USB cable or Bluetooth. That said, the included software CD has drivers to use the phone as a wireless modem when connected via USB to a Windows PC. Since EVDO's speeds are higher than Bluetooth's, you want to use USB rather than BT should you use the phone as a modem.

Like all Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones, the PPC-6700 has a large on-screen dialer suitable for finger dialing, or you may use the keyboard to dial. When the phone app is open, the device will automatically use numbers rather than letters on the keyboard (no need to hit the Fn key to turn on num lock). Again, like all Pocket PC phones, the 6700 has speed dialing, call history, call muting, speaker phone (press and hold the green call send button to turn on the speaker phone), dialing directly from contacts as well as other built-in applications and you can take notes while in a call using the Notes shortcut in the dialer screen. The phone doesn't come with voice recognition or dialing software, though you can purchase MS Voice Command separately (voice command over BT headsets isn't supported). The speakerphone is not terribly loud, so don't count on it when in a noisy car. Call volume through the earpiece is quite good, as is call quality and volume through the included wired headset and Bluetooth headsets we tested.

Reception isn't the PPC-6700's strong point. The phone gets 1/2 or 1 bar out of 4, compared to our other Sprint phones such as the Treo 650 and PPC-6601 which manage 2 bars in the same location. Using FieldTrial.exe (a hidden file in the Windows directory that provides phone reception info) the device got -96dB with 1 bar reception, so it seems the bars are accurate. That said, even with less than a full bar call quality didn't suffer greatly, nor did the phone drop calls. We got approx. 300 kbit/s on EVDO with 1/2 bar reception. Unlike Verizon's Samsung i730 which ratchets up antenna power and signal when EVDO is running, the PPC-6700 does not.

Horsepower and Performance

The PPC-6700 runs on the 416 MHz flavor of Intel's PXA 270 XScale processor. That's a pretty fast CPU which has been the sweet spot for PPC performance for a few years now. Yes, you can get 624 MHz Pocket PCs (non-phone models), but the resulting shortened battery life would leave much to be desired. Currently, the Samsung i730 from Verizon is the fastest Pocket PC phone in the US, running on a 520 MHz processor. The PPC-6600 which the 6700 replaces runs on the same processor as the 6700. Despite the reasonable clock speed, the Sprint PPC-6700 feels a bit sluggish. Windows Mobile 5.0, which runs applications and data from the slower (but persistent) flash ROM rather than speedy RAM is in part to blame, but our other Windows Mobile 5 devices (granted running at 520 and 624 MHz) feel more than a tad faster. Not that the PPC-6700 is unusable, but menus don't drop down immediately, and there's a fraction of a second delay when typing in Word Mobile before the characters appear on screen.

The phone has 64 megs of RAM, which under WM5 is used in the same way as PCs use RAM: to run programs but not for storage. 49.42 megs are listed as available but the OS and related programs use 15, so there are 34.69 megs actually free. That's on par with other WM5 devices and is enough to run several applications simultaneously or demanding games. Though the PPC-6700 has 128 megs of flash ROM, the unit shows only 43.5, with 10 megs used by pre-installed applications. Thus you have only 33.8 megs available to store programs and data. If you're a power user, invest in a mini-SD card to store more. Where did all that flash ROM go? WM5 and its related applications use approximately 50 megs of ROM in other devices we've reviewed, so we can't tell you.

For expansion, the PPC-6700 has a miniSD card slot rather than the full sized SD slot found on other Pocket PCs and Palm PDAs. Mini-SD cards are half the height of regular SD cards and come with adapters so they can be used in the SD slot on a card reader, notebook or other PDA. Mini-SD cards have been popular in Windows Mobile Smartphones (the ones that look like phones, don't have touch screens but can sync to Outlook on your PC) and are available in fairly large capacities.

 
Samsung i730
(520 MHz, WM2003SE)
HP iPAQ hx2490
(520 MHz, WM5)
PPC-6700
Spb Benchmark index
1703
276
-
CPU index
2000
2234
1703
File system index
1213
105
138
Graphics index
3796
2809
-
Platform index
1201
366
-
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1548
858
652
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
27.8
4.3
4.24
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1550
713
575
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
1014
220
261
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
9.47
2.27
2.09
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
827
199
240
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
21.3
0.85
1.23
Internal database read (records/sec)
1682
1753
1592
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
216
360
error
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
33.5
50.6
33.2
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
647
316
265
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
38.4
11.7
8.96
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
6.89
7.66
6.62
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
179
137
111
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
512
392
451
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
246
304
212
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
764
774
518
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
242
187
155
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.099
0.098
0.08
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
71.9
71.4
57.8
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
6.51
6.33
5.12
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
99.6
118
107

Benchmarks

We use Spb Benchmark to test PDAs. Windows Mobile 5.0 devices score much lower on file system and application launch tests since they use ROM rather than the faster RAM for storage. This greatly reduced File System Index in turn brings down the overall Benchmark Index, since the file system tests account for 25% of that total score. That makes for an unfair comparison, but in the pure sense, WM5 is slower for file system activities. Certainly, it's worth the tradeoff, since your data is safe from battery drain related hard resets, and the device doesn't feel hugely slower than WM2003SE devices. The PPC-6700 errored on one graphics test, so we weren't able to get a total graphics benchmark or an overall score. Likely Spb will update their app to add compatibility for this unit.

How about video playback? We threw our usual test file at it: "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. We tested the PPC-6700 using TCPMP, an extremely fast open source free video player that supports MPEG1, DivX, ASF, WMV and AVI files. TCPMP played back "The Chosen" with strong benchmarks of:
Average speed: 404.14%
Bench Frame Rate: 96.99
Bench. Data Rate: 1.3 Mbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s

Display, Multimedia and Gaming

Tired of trying to surf the web or watch videos on a cramped feature phone screen? The Sprint PPC-6700 has a QVGA 240 x 320 transflective color display that's well suited to web browsing and video playback. The display supports 64,000 colors and both portrait and landscape modes. As Pocket PC screens go, the Sprint is very bright with sharp contrast and pleasing color saturation. Indoors it looks great, though outdoors the glare is more noticeable than on the Treo 650 or Samsung i730. Like most recent Pocket PC Phone Edition models, the PPC-6700 has a 2.8" LCD rather than the 3.5" one found on older PPC phones and non-phone PPCs. Text looks sharper on the smaller screen, though you'll need better eyes to view that compressed text. That said, the screen is quite readable and won't pose a problem for most.

Sound out through the included stereo earbud headphones is good when listening to MP3s using the included Windows Media Player Mobile 10 with support for DRM. Likewise movie soundtracks sound good, and certainly much better than the mono speaker, as is the case with all PDAs. The PDA does reasonably well with video playback using Windows Media Player and the excellent free TCPMP video player and can handle up to 500 kbps smoothly. Volume for both PDA audio and ringtones isn't terribly loud through the built-in speaker.

If gaming is your thing, you'll either love or hate the very small joystick and two available front buttons for gaming. The joystick didn't win our hearts and our games editor proclaimed it "Bad!", but it is usable. Games ran well on the unit, with nary a hiccup with current titles.

Camera

HTC isn't known for their integrated camera image quality. That's changed with the PPC-6700 (an HTC Apache design) whose 1.3 megapixel camera actually takes nice photos. Colors are fairly accurate, light balance is good unless the subject is in strong sunlight in which case it will white out and noise is at a minimum for well-lit outdoor and indoor shots. The camera can take photos in JPEG and BMP format up to 1280 x 1024 resolution, and has an LED flash that helps low light shots a bit, but not much. Turn on the flash and it stays on until you turn it off, and thus it works with photos and video- in fact it makes a great impromptu flashlight. The camera has a macro mode slider switch that surrounds the lens and it helps a bit when taking close ups. In addition, the phone can shoot videos with audio at a maximum resolution of 320 x 240 in MPEG4 (best choice for quality, compatibility with Windows Media Player and small file size), Motion JPEG AVI and 3GPP2 formats. Videos aren't too jerky but do show noise even in well lit settings and audio volume is low.

Sample Photos, JPEG mode. Click on an image to see the full size unedited original.

macro
park
rose

 

WiFi and Bluetooth

The PPC has integrated Bluetooth 1.2 and WiFi 802.11b wireless. To control these radios as well as the phone's radio, you'll use the Wireless Manager, accessible from the bottom navigation bar on the Today Screen and in the Programs group. Wireless Manager allows you to turn the radio(s) on and off and establish new connections. Wireless Manager is a front end to the Windows components that actually handle establishing new and managing existing connections.

WiFi worked reliably for us, with good range. Bluetooth uses Microsoft's spartan software which gets the job done but doesn't help you through the process or give you a clue what profiles are supported. The PPC-6700 has Bluetooth 1.2 for better interference rejection and backward compatibility with Bluetooth 1.1. It supports Hands Free, Headset, HID and Serial Port profiles. We tested the phone with a few Bluetooth headsets including the Motorola HS820 and it worked reliably, with average incoming and outgoing call volume. As mentioned earlier, it doesn't support voice dialing over a BT headset out of the box.

Battery Life

The PPC-6700 ships with a 1350 mAh battery which is a reasonable capacity for a device with a 2.8" display, dual wireless and EVDO. It supports USB charging and you can plug the phone directly into the charger rather than cradle if you wish. Sprint claims 3.7 hours talk time and that seems on target. Unless you're a very heavy data user or watch several hours of video a day, the PPC-6700 should last 1 to 2 days on a charge.

Software

All Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs come with the operating system, Mobile Office suite including Outlook Mobile and desktop Outlook, Windows Media Player Mobile 10, Terminal Services, Pictures and Videos, Pocket MSN (Hotmail, MSN Messenger), File Explorer, handwriting recognition (print and cursive), Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (the game formerly known as Jaw Breaker), Calculator and support for secure certificates and VPN connections. Oddly, the GPS applet (driver, not mapping or navigation software) included on other Windows Mobile 5 devices was not on our device. Outlook on the PDA has calendar, contacts, tasks, notes and email, which you can sync to a Windows desktop running Outlook. Sprint includes their PCS Business Connection software, a link to download Good, Clear Storage (wipes out the device to factory settings) and Text Messages Retry pre-installed on the device.

Conclusion

A great looking and ergonomic device with a creative design that works. The roomy keyboard and large domed keys will be the sweetheart of email and IM addicts. It's compact, runs Windows Mobile 5.0 and has EVDO- sweet! WiFi and Bluetooth will please power users and those not in Sprint's EVDO coverage areas. Call quality and clarity are good, even with poor coverage and beat the Samsung i730 which sometimes has choppy (though louder) incoming audio and too quiet outgoing audio.

Pro: Fantastic keyboard! Very compact, albeit a bit thick, attractive and innovative design. Nice screen, runs the latest Windows Mobile OS and has both WiFi and Bluetooth. Camera still shots are very good by phone standards. Sprint's $15 Vision (you'll get EVDO speeds if in a covered area) is an amazing deal.

Con: Mediocre phone reception. Though call quality remained good even with one bar, EVDO speeds were halved. Speakerphone isn't very loud, nor are ringtones. Small amount of built-in storage available to the user. Uses miniSD cards, so PPC veterans will have to invest in new cards.

Price: $449 with 2 year contract, $629 without contract

Web Site: www.sprintpcs.com

 

Specs:

Display: Transflective TFT color LCD. 64K colors, screen size diag.: 2.8 ". Resolution: 240 x 320 (QVGA).

Battery: 1350 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. Up to 3.7 hours claimed talk time.

Performance: Intel XScale PXA 270 416 MHz processor. 64 MB built-in RAM, 128 MB Flash ROM with ~ 34.50 megs available for your use.

Size: 4.3 x 2.3 x 1 inches. Weight: 6.6 ounces.

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

Phone: CDMA dual band digital (800 and 1900 MHz bands). 1xRTT and EVDO for data.

Networking: WiFi 802.11b and Bluetooth 1.2.

Camera: 1.3 megapixels capable of taking still photos and video with audio. Max. photo resolution: 1280 x 1024 (JPEG or BMP). Max video resolution: 320 x 240, supporting MPEG4, 3GPP@ and motion JPEG AVI formats. LED flash and 2x digital zoom for both still and motion capture.

Software: Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Phone Edition operating system. Microsoft Mobile Office suite including Mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint (view only), Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC, Windows Media Player 10, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (game), Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. Additional applications: Camera, Wireless Manager, GoodLink (requires account), Wireless Modem (use the phone as a modem over BT, IR or USB), Audible Player, Clear Storage (wipes out all data and resets unit to factory defaults). ActiveSync 4.0 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.

Expansion: 1 miniSD slot.

 

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