Read our review of the Audiovox
PPC-6700 from Sprint which replaces
the PPC-6600 / PPC-6601
Review posted Nov. 30, 2004 by Lisa Gade,
Editor in Chief
This year we've seen several Pocket PC Phone
Edition and Windows Mobile Smartphones offered by various carriers
under different product names. The lovely new Audiovox PPC-6601
offered by Sprint PCS in the US is no exception. It's designed
by HTC who consistently brings us some of the best Pocket PCs and
smartphones running Windows Mobile, and is known overseas as the
XDA III, iMate PDA2K, PDA2K EVDO, MDA III. In the US it's also
available as the Audiovox XV6600 (the same phone but sold by Verizon
Wireless) and the Siemens SX66 which
is the GSM version offered by Cingular. All of these are basically
the same device with the same specs, varying only in network support
(GSM vs. CDMA) and inclusion of WiFi on some models. The HTC codenames
for this group of devices are Blue Angel (GSM) and Harrier (CDMA).
The Audiovox offered by Sprint is definitely
a "killer" Pocket PC phone. It and its variants are the
fastest models currently on the market and offer the most RAM.
The unit builds on the strong
XDA II platform which was never offered
by US carriers but enjoyed great success overseas and with US
importers. Unlike the GSM XDA II, the PPC-6601 is a CDMA network
device with support for 1xRTT for data and EVDO when Sprint makes
that very fast data service available. If you're looking for
a convergence device and want the best possible Pocket PC performance,
put this Sprint offering on your short list.
The PPC-6601 is a Pocket PC first, and a phone
second. The same can be said of all Pocket PC Phone Edition models
such as the HP iPAQ 6315, XDA
II and the Samsung
i700. They look,
feel and act like Pocket PCs and indeed are full-fledged Pocket
PCs with no concessions made. Add a mobile phone radio and phone
software and you've got a Pocket PC Phone Edition model. Pocket
PC phones support all mobile phone features such as speed dialing,
conference calling, caller ID and speakerphone and use an on-screen
dialer for making calls. What are the tradeoffs? Unlike petite
cell phones, Pocket PC phones are large and since they were designed
to be PDAs first, their ergonomics are geared towards PDA use rather
than cell phone use. Not that they're uncomfortable to use, but
if you don't like the idea of holding a Pocket PC to your head,
consider using a Bluetooth headset or purchasing another breed
of smartphone. However, if you're
already carrying both a PDA and cell phone and need a full-featured
PDA, then a Pocket PC Phone can lighten your load.
Features at a Glance
The PPC-6601 runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition
which offers support for both landscape and portrait modes among other
enhancements to the original 2003 OS. It has a 400MHz processor, a whopping
128 megs of RAM, good graphics performance, Bluetooth and a unique slide-out
QWERTY keyboard design. Quite a nice feature list for a device in this
price range. The PPC-6601 does not have an integrated digital camera,
but the PPC-6600 does, and Sprint may offer this version for those who
don't have to worry about workplace camera restrictions.
In the box you'll find the phone, stylus, software
CD, stereo earbud headset, charger, sync cradle and a horizontal
carry case with belt clip.
Design and Ergonomics
The Audiovox is the size of a large Pocket PC, and
has pleasing curves that feel good in the hand. The unit is attractive
and modern looking with a silver front bezel and black plastic back.
The most striking feature is the phone's sliding design: slide the back
half downward to reveal a QWERTY thumb keyboard with backlighting.
Left side view.
Side view, slider open.
Buttons abound on the Audiovox, unlike most Pocket PC
phones. While most PPC phones have only call send and end buttons and
two application buttons on the front face, this unit adds 4 thin horizontal
application buttons just below the display. This is great news for gamers,
who often need several applications buttons for games and were left wanting
with other PPC phones. The unit has a rounded rectangular direction pad
that moves easily in all directions, supports diagonals and has a center
action button. The speaker is located above the display and the mic is
at the bottom of the phone, which is standard for units that double as
On the left side you'll find the voice recorder button,
volume slider, Windows Media Player button and the IR window. As with
all Pocket PCs, you can re-assign different applications to all buttons
except the dedicated call send and end buttons. The stereo 2.5mm headset
jack is located on top, as are the SD slot and power button. The stylus
lives in a silo on the top right and there are no buttons on the right
side of the unit. As you'd expect, the sync/charge connector is located
on the bottom. The user-replaceable Lithium Ion battery is inset into
the back of the phone and sits flush. The battery door is integrated
into the battery.
Phone Features and Reception
Like all Pocket PC phones, the Audiovox has a large
on-screen dialer application with numbers that are large enough to dial
using a finger. This screen has a call send/end button, a speed dial
button, call history button and a hold button that appears when in a
call. You can mute a call by tapping on the mic icon in the task bar,
bring up the address book by tapping the Contacts icon and open Notes
if you wish to jot down notes or drawings when in a call. You need not
tap out phone numbers using the on-screen dialer, and instead can make
calls with one press using the speed dial function. Speed dial can hold
up to 99 numbers (1 is assigned to voicemail), and if you wish to use
voice dialing you can purchase Microsoft's
All Pocket PC Phones have flight mode, and the PPC-6601
is no exception. Simply tap on the signal strength meter on the menu
bar and select flight mode to turn off all wireless features. You can
still use the PDA functions when the device is in flight mode. Signal
strength on Sprint has been good in the San Francisco Bay Area. The
phone supports Sprint PCS Vision (1xRTT) for data which provides throughput
around 75k on average in our area. The unit supports EVDO, so we hope
that when that network is available from Sprint, we'll see near- WiFi
speeds over the air.
Horsepower and Performance
While not the fastest Pocket PC on the market, the
PPC-6601 is one of the fastest Pocket PC phones thanks to its state-of-the-art
400MHz Intel PXA263 XScale processor (the
Samsung i730 running at 520
MHz is the fastest). Those of you who were wishing for an even faster
processor should keep in mind that battery life suffers as processor
speed increases. The Audiovox is fast enough to please demanding users,
gamers and avid video watchers. It has a generous 128 megs of RAM and
14.57 megs of Flash ROM available for program and data storage. The unit
uses an ATI graphics processor which gives good performance in gaming
and video playback. All applications responded quickly and games run
quite well on this device. It is a power user's dream to be sure. The
unit is also very stable and reliable and generally gets the job done
without any fuss.
What good is a powerful mobile email tool without a
keyboard? Who wants to carry accessory keyboards? Audiovox and Sprint
have the answer: the "slide and hide" keyboard, as Sprint calls
it. When you need it, slide the back half of the PDA down to reveal a
QWERTY thumb keyboard. Though the keys are only slightly raised and have
little tactile feedback, the keyboard was surprisingly easy to use. The
keys are curved in a radial pattern which provides for a more ergonomic
typing experience and allows for more space between the keys. Thanks
to the generous key spacing and grippy key surface, I found it easier
to type on the PPC-6601 than the venerable Treo 650; but keep in mind
that such things are somewhat a matter of personal taste.
The keys are backlit in blue and are easy to see in
the dark but thankfully aren't so bright as to grab everyone's attention.
The embedded number keys and Fn key are outlined in red while the rest
of the keys are outlined in black. This makes it easy to punch in a phone
number, and when you're in the phone dialer screen, the unit automatically
switches to the embedded number keys which are superimposed on the letter
The Audiovox has a Settings applet where you can enable/disable
keyboard backlighting, specify how long it stays on after a key is pressed
(2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 seconds) and set repeat rate.
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
Like the all Blue Angel variants, the PPC-6601
has a very nice 3.5" transflective display that's quite bright,
sharp and has good color saturation and balance.
Sound volume in call, through the speakerphone
and system sounds are plenty loud. Like all Pocket PCs, the Audiovox
can play MP3s using the included Windows Media Player 9. For best
sound you'll want to use the included stereo headset rather than
the integrated mono speaker.
Games work well on the PPC-6601, equaling the
performance of the XDA II but improving on its gaming experience
with the addition of more application buttons which can be used
in game. We tested a variety of demanding, popular current games
and all played well.
The unit makes a great portable video player,
but do get yourself a fast SD card to store those large video files!
Videos played with Windows Media player, Pocket TV and BetaPlayer
were a pleasure to watch. Using PocketTV
Enterprise Edition to play "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, the PPC-6601 managed a full
BetaPlayer is an extremely
fast open source free video player that supports MPEG1, DivX
and AVI files. There are also plugins for ASF and WMV format.
BetaPlayer played back "The Chosen" with benchmarks
Average speed: 328.53%
Bench Frame Rate: 78.85
Bench. Data Rate: 1.0 Mbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s
If you've used an XDA
II, you will find little difference in overall performance since
the models share the same processor and memory architecture. In
fact, benchmark numbers are nearly identical, with the XDA II having
a tiny (and we mean tiny) edge in some numbers, likely the result
of software installed by the respective operators. Having owned
the XDA II, I can tell you the PPC-6601 feels identical in terms
of performance and runs the same applications well, including games.
Those of you who used the XDA II may recall
with dismay its Microsoft Bluetooth stack and dearth of profiles.
Thankfully the PPC-6601 has the excellent Broadcom (formerly
Widcomm) Bluetooth stack and its associated
user-friendly software along with a good set of profiles. The
unit has profiles for FTP, information exchange, serial port,
personal network server, dial up networking (DUN) and hands free
for headsets. Headset voice quality is good with a variety of
headsets but range is fairly limited at 6 to 10 feet before static
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of
Internal database read (records/sec)
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
The PPC-6601 has a 1490 mAh battery, which is
a decent capacity for a phone with two forms of wireless and a
fast processor. It also represents an improvement over the XDA
II which had a 1,200 mAh battery that could generally make it through
one day with average use, but sometimes less. The Audiovox did
make it through the day for us with power to spare when we used
it lightly. If you use the device to talk for 30 minutes, surf
for 30 minutes per day, check email 10 times per day, access PIM
info (calendar, tasks, contacts) several times per day and play
games for 30 minutes per day, you should make it through
The phone has a Button Lock feature which you
can enable to prevent accidental button presses from turning on
the unit. When enabled via Settings -> Button Lock, only the power
button will turn on the unit. The Audiovox does not have power
settings which allow you to select a lower CPU setting to save
The phone comes with a cradle that allows you
to both sync and charge the device and it has a second slot to
charge a spare battery. When traveling you need not bring the cradle
to charge the device since the included charger can plug directly
into the phone using a small included adapter.
Like all Pocket PCs and PPC phone models, the
Audiovox comes with a Windows Mobile version of Internet Explorer
and Pocket Outlook for email. Pocket IE doesn't support all the
frames and HTML nicely and it supports 128 bit SSL. Outlook on
the PPC-6601 supports multiple email accounts, server authentication,
SSL, POP3, IMAP and Exchange server.
Thanks to improvements in the version of Pocket
IE included with Windows Mobile 2003 SE, the Audiovox's fast processor
and Sprint's fast Vision (1xRTT) connection, web surfing is a pleasure
and page load times are quite decent. While Vision can't rival
WiFi connection speeds, it is faster than a 56k dial up modem.
When EVDO is deployed in the US, speeds should truly be impressive
as that 3G technology can rival DSL for speed. The phone has EVDO
capabilities and we hope that PPC-6601 users will be able to take
advantage of those speeds.
If you're looking to reduce the number of devices
in your pocket or bag, the Audiovox PPC-6601 should be on your
short list. It's both a powerful Pocket PC and a fully functional
cell phone. It has style, an innovative "slide and hide" keyboard
and holds its own against high end Pocket PCs in terms of performance
and features. The PPC-6601 has been stable and reliable for us,
and the Sprint PCS Vision data speeds make web browsing a pleasure.
Pro: Fast performance, lots of RAM and good graphics
performance. Lovely transflective display, good thumb keyboard
that adds little to the device's size and integrated Bluetooth
with excellent driver software. Internet access is relatively fast
using Sprint's 1xRTT network. We can't wait to see what EVDO holds
in store. Expandable via SDIO slot.
Con: No integrated WiFi,
though you can add a WiFi SD card. As with most Pocket PC phones,
the device is very large by phone standards. Battery life is
so-so. Bluetooth range is limited to approx. 10 feet with many
TFT color LCD, 64K colors. Screen Size Diag: 3.5",
Resolution: 240 x 320.
Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Claimed talk time: 3.6 hours, claimed standby: 6
XScale PXA 263 400 MHz processor. 128 MB built-in
RAM. 64 MB Flash ROM with 14.57
megs available for your use.
x 2.75 x .74 in. Weight: 7.35 ounces.
in speaker, mic and 2.5mm stereo headset
jack. Stereo earbud headset included. Voice Recorder
and Windows Pocket Media Player 9 included for your
Bluetooth. CDMA/PCS mobile phone network with support
for 800/1900MHz digital bands. 1xRTT for data.
Mobile 2003 SE for Pocket PC Phone operating
system. Microsoft Pocket
Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet
Explorer and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN
Instant Messenger for Pocket PC and Voice
Recorder, Solitaire, Jawbreaker as well as handwriting
recognition. 3rd party and HTC software: Album (image
viewer), Handmark Express (demo), Audible Player,
xBackup, Permanent Save (allows you to save contacts,
calendar, connection settings and tasks to non-volatile
flash ROM) and WModem (allows you to use the phone
as a modem for a PC or PDA over Bluetooth, IR, Serial
or USB). ActiveSync 3.7.1 and Outlook 2002 for PCs
SD (Secure Digital) slot supporting
SDIO and SDIO Now!.