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Pocket PC Phone Reviews

Hitachi G1000 Pocket PC Phone Edition 2002 from Sprint PCS

Posted August 6 2003, by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Until recently, if you wanted a Pocket PC Phone Edition model in the US, you had one choice: the popular T-Mobile running on GSM networks. Older models like the Toshiba 2032 actually ran Pocket PC 2002 OS with voice and data software from Sierra Wireless added on. Now thanks to Verizon's Samsung i700 and Sprint PCS' Hitachi SH-G1000, we have two excellent choices that run on CDMA networks in the US.

The Hitachi G1000 is the first Pocket PC, let alone Phone Edition, to have an integrated thumb keyboard. Since the days of the RIM Blackberry, thumb keyboards have become the mantra of business users who needed email on the go. Along with the Samsung i700, it's also the first to have an integrated VGA digital camera.

Hitachi G1000
Hitachi G1000 back side

 

Design and Ergonomics

This is a surprisingly large unit by today's standards, outsizing both regular Pocket PCs and other Pocket PC Phone Edition models. If you're looking for a smartphone that will easily fit in your pocket, then look elsewhere. If you carry your devices in a briefcase, purse or on a belt clip then the G1000 may work well for you.

The Hitachi has an attractive two tone silver and black plastic case that tapers a bit near the bottom to make it easier to hold. The antenna is at the top and is not extendable. The camera sits on the top left and swivels to facilitate taking pictures in a variety of settings. There are two LEDs on the top right and one on the left side to indicate charging and wireless status and one LED flashes when you have reminders.

side view Hitachi G1000 from Sprint

Hitachi G1000 and Kyocera 7135

The Hitachi G1000 compared to the Kyocera 7135 Palm OS Smartphone

 

Unlike Pocket PCs, the Hitachi doesn't have the usual four buttons to launch built-in PIM applications such as calendar and contacts, nor does it have a voice record button. You can however assign one of the 8 function keys to launch these or any other applications. Gamers may not find this smartphone to be to their liking since many games make use of the four front buttons found on Pocket PCs.

 

 

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On the left side, you'll find the standard 2.5mm headset jack, SD slot, jog dial, voice activated dialing button, a 3 position slider switch that lets you select from various ring modes (office, silent and etc) and a key guard switch. On the right side, there's a volume up/down switch that controls Pocket PC volume when not in a call, and call volume when in a call. The unit has a speaker above the display and mic in the keyboard area for phone conversations, and a large speaker on the back which is used for Pocket PC applications and ring tones.

The G1000 has a 3.5" transflective 65,000 color display. It's not as bright as current iPAQ models, and is on par with the Dell Axim X5 . It has the most outdoor readable display I've seen on a transflective device.

Wireless

Wireless service is provided by Sprint PCS, and the phone supports PCS Vision, Sprint's name for their high speed 1xRTT data network capable of speeds up to 144k and averaging about 60 - 70k these days in metro areas.

It's a single band phone that runs on the Sprint PCS 1900 MHz CDMA band, which means it should work anywhere in the US where Sprint PCS digital service is available. Note that digital data connections require you to be in a digital service area and to use the high speed PCS Vision data connection, you'll need to be in one of the many major metro areas that offer this service. Given the aggressive rollout of high speed service in the US, Sprint should have most major cities covered.

The Hitachi G1000 offers very good voice quality and decent signal strength indoors and out. I expected an even stronger signal given the size of the unit, but it's certainly adequate and didn't drop any calls here in the Silicon Valley area. It has a speakerphone, voice dialing and works with standard cell phone headsets. Sprint includes a 2.5mm to 3.5mm standard stereo mini-jack adapter so you can listen to MP3s and movies using standard headphones.

How much will wireless services cost you? Check out the Sprint PCS web site for rates and plans. The pricing runs from $45 to $100, with PCS Vision free for the $100 2,000 anytime minute plan. For lesser plans, you'll pay $10 plus charges per k of downloaded data.

Dialing Options

Pocket PC Phone Edition models have good PDA-phone integration. You can dial anyone in your contacts list by tapping and holding on their name in the contact list (this will dial their work number) or by tapping a phone number while you've got a contact's record open.

In addition the Hitachi G1000 supports speed dialing and voice dialing (PCS Voice Command). You can even connect to the web by telling the unit to "call the web"!

If you wish to dial a number that's not in your contacts list, you can press the Call button to bring up an on-screen dialer. The numbers are large enough to facilitate finger dialing, and there are talk, end, speed dial and call log buttons on the keypad screen as well. While in the phone dialer screen you can use the Notes and Contacts icon in the taskbar to jot quick notes while in conversation, or look up a contact for quick dialing.

Horsepower and Battery Life

The Hitachi G1000 has an XScale processor running at 400 MHz and 32 megs of RAM. Performance is very good thanks to the top-of-the-line processor and all applications felt snappy. Video and MP3 playback were quite smooth. You can set the unit to run at full speed, or slow speed to conserve battery. On full speed settings, the Hitachi did as well as the very zippy iPAQ 2215 using VO Benchmark.

I do wish the G1000 had more than 32 megs of RAM, which is currently at the low end of the Pocket PC spectrum. This isn't a huge issue since you can expand the unit's memory by purchasing SD or MMC storage cards. The SD slot does not support SDIO, which means you won't able to use the slot for SD WiFi or Bluetooth cards. (Update 2/2004: Hitachi and Sprint have made an updater available that adds SDIO and SDIO Now! support here.

The G1000 comes with a Lithium Ion battery that's user-replaceable. The battery is under a cover on the rear of the unit. Interestingly, the Hitachi will turn off the phone section if you remove the cover. The G1000 comes with a desktop cradle and a charger that you can plug into the cradle or plug directly into the phone (handy when traveling). Under average use, you should be able to get one to two full days use per charge.

Camera

The Hitachi has an integrated VGA digicam that allows you to take pictures at 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 resolutions at fine or normal quality settings. The camera swivels 180 degrees front to back. The camera application allows you to adjust image brightness via a slider, and has 5 white balance settings: auto, sunny, cloudy, fluorescent and tungsten. The camera app gives you a choice of three shutter sound settings: a standard shutter sound, a female voice that tells your subject to "Say cheese" (really!) or off.

To take a picture, simply launch the camera application and press the on-screen shutter button. The button is large enough to accommodate a finger, so you won't have to whip out your stylus. 640 x 480 images taken in fine mode were about 350k in size, and in normal mode were only 36k in size. Obviously there's a lot less compression used for fine mode and the images show less color fringing and distortion in fine mode. You can use Sprint's Picture Mail service to email photos taken with the camera, or simply download the standard JPEG files to your hard drive.

How is the image quality? Pretty decent and a bit better than many other VGA PDA digicams. It has a fixed focus lens, which means that images aren't that sharp, but you won't notice this unless you download them to your PC. On the Hitachi's screen, they look quite good. Image sharpness can be improved on the PC by re-sizing images down. Color balance was reasonably good, though the camera does tend to take photos that are darker than the actual scene.

Keyboard

The Hitachi has a standard QWERTY keyboard layout, and is comfy to use. The hard plastic keys are slanted diagonally outward allowing for thumb (rather than fingernail) typing, and give good tactile feedback. Key travel is quite good for a thumb keyboard, and sensitivity was right on target: I didn't have to press unduly hard, nor did I accidentally press keys.

The top row of keys do double duty as function and number keys. All other keys are just where you'd expect them: tab on the left, backspace and carriage return on the right, with the spacebar centered in the middle. The function key and number key buttons are on the lower right, and are color coded blue and black respectively. The keys are not backlit.

Software Bundle

The G1000 comes with ActiveSync 3.7 and Outlook 2000 for the desktop. Sprint's handy today screen launcher is pre-installed, and that gives you quick access to the call log, speed dial, voice mail, camera application, commonly used applications and a list of running programs (you can stop any or all programs using this tool). The CD contains quite a few applications, but most of these are demo rather than full versions. The full versions of Westtek's ClearVue suite is included in ROM. ClearVue allows you to view Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents as well as PDFs. Hitachi's own backup program is pre-installed in ROM.

Sample Photos
taken at 640 x 480 in fine mode on auto white balance and brightness set to the default mid-point. Click on photos to see the full size unedited image.

rose

cat

tickseed flowers

Oddly, this was a sunny day!

Conclusion

Pro: Nice transflective display (not as common on smartphones) and a fast processor make you feel that you aren't missing out on top-of-the-line PDA features by going for a convergence device. Excellent voice quality. Runs on the high speed PCS Vision network which makes web browsing bearable. Very good keyboard will be a Godsend for email addicts. Included audio adapter means you can listen to MP3s using standard stereo headphones. Con: The unit is VERY large. Only 32 megs of RAM. No SDIO means you won't be able to use this for WiFi or Bluetooth networking. Single band means no roaming on Verizon's 800 MHz network and no analog service.

List price $649 www.sprintpcs.com

 

Specs:

Display: 3.5" 320 x 240 pixel color transflective display with 65,000 colors.

Performance: 400 MHz Intel XScale processor. 32 megs of RAM.

Size: 5.8" x 3.3" x .9". 8.4 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker and headphone jack for headsets and headphones. Stereo output via headphones. Supports alarm sounds, LED alert and vibrating alerts.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot. Download the updater from Sprint to get SDIO.

Battery: Comes with 1 rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries. User replaceable.

Software: Pocket PC 2002 operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Reader, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition.Westtek ClearVue Office Suite™ is included.

Network: CDMA supporting 1xRTT for data. Service provided by Sprint PCS in the US. Single band CDMA 1900 MHz (PCS).

 

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