Reviewed September 22, 2008 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The V900 is E-TEN's flagship Windows Mobile Professional phone for 2008. We saw teasers from overseas phone trade shows this spring and the V900 seemed to have it all: a VGA touch screen, Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, US 3G HSDPA, SiRF Star III GPS, WiFi, 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera, Bluetooth, FM radio and a TV tuner. Six months later, and the Glofiish V900 is almost ready for prime time. Our review unit doesn't have final firmware, though it looks like only a few fixes and tweaks stand between the V900 and a final release. For those of you who don't follow tech mergers, Acer now owns E-TEN.
Flush touch screens are all the rage these days, and E-TEN has jumped on the bandwagon with the V900 and their upcoming Glofiish X610. The V900 has a 2.8 VGA touch screen with no raised bezel to get between your finger and the screen's edges. The display is sharp and moderately bright, though it's not as razor-sharp as the HTC Touch Diamond's VGA display. As Toshiba did with the G810, E-TEN went with Spb Mobile Shell 2.1 for their touch-friendly today screen, photo caller ID and application launcher. Spb Mobile Shell is an excellent software package that you can purchase and install on most any Windows Mobile Professional phone, so it's not a unique selling point like custom user interfaces developed by the manufacturer (i.e. TouchFLO and TouchFLO 3D from HTC and the upcoming Sony Ericsson Xperia X1's panels). That said, it's a great software enhancement that's fast, easy to use and speeds access to many common tasks.
The V900 has relatively few buttons: the front face has call send and end buttons, and a small joystick rather than a d-pad. The joystick isn't a joy: it's quite small, has no click or tactile feedback when moving left, right, up or down and it's not easy to control. The lack of hardware buttons and the joystick mean the V900 is not a good choice for a gamer.
The phone has an accelerometer than can rotate the display automatically when the phone is turned to landscape mode. Screen rotation speeds are good, but the smartphone sometimes slows down when this feature is enabled (there's a control panel setting to turn automatic screen rotation on and off).
The V900 is made of plastic, and front is shiny metallic flake charcoal black, while the back has a black soft touch finish. It's not a bad looking smartphone nor gorgeous, and it feels sturdy enough. The side trim has a black chrome finish and the buttons are bright silver. The battery lives under the back door and the SIM card slot is under the battery. The V900 powers down when the battery door is removed, which is how most higher-end Glofiish phones work. The lower end ones have a battery latch that powers down the phone when you slide the latch to the open position. The microSD card slot is under a small rubber door on the phone's right side and the volume up/down and voice dial buttons are on the left side.
Despite their fast CPUs, previous Glofiish models' performance was hampered by their paltry 64 megs of RAM, which really wasn't enough to run more than two demanding applications at one. The V900 finally moves up to the more standard 128 megs of RAM, and that makes for performance improvements in terms of screen refreshes, opening menus and running several applications at once. E-TEN includes their brutish memory management application, developed for the 64 meg devices, that automatically reboots the device when memory gets too low. It's not really necessary with the V900, and we suggest you disable it to avoid surprise reboots should memory actually get low.
We still see occasional slow downs despite the 533MHz Samsung CPU and 128 megs of RAM. Since this is a pre-release device, we'll reserve final judgment until we get the release ROM. Generally, the V900 didn't slow down that much unless we played a video or two using Windows Media Player mobile . Even after killing Windows Media Player Mobile using the task manager the V900 sometimes, but not always, got sluggish.
Here's a video of the E-TEN Glofiish V900 that covers several of the phone's features including GPS, web browsing and the camera:
Video playback had its issues as well. Most E-TEN Glofiish PDA phone models have good graphics and video performance, even their VGA models (and VGA usually slows down a WinMo device). The V900 is a flagship phone with TV playback, and we expected to see rocking video playback performance for locally stored content. Alas, sub 500kbps QVGA MP4 video plays with a few frame drops and when played stretched to full screen it's unwatchable. Watch our video to see the V900 playing a locally stored video file. CorePlayer Mobile (the commercial version of TCPMP) doesn't work on the V900, and this is the first Windows Mobile 6.1 Pro device that's incompatible with CorePlayer. We tried every video driver option available in CorePlayer. The default setting actually freezes the device so hard that you have to pull the battery out (screen glows faintly and machine gun-like sounds come out of the speaker). Again, this is a pre-release ROM, so we'll wait to see what happens with the final firmware. Likely E-TEN will make some significant improvements, given their devices' usual good video performance.
Phone and Data
The Glofiish V900 is a quad band unlocked GSM phone that will work with any carrier's SIM. It's a world phone that supports all GSM bands: 850/900/1800/1900MHz. It has triband 3G HSDPA that works in the US on AT&T and in Europe (850/1900/2100MHz). Phone voice quality is good, with a slight bit of background hiss that's not intrusive or loud. Volume is average to a bit above for a GSM phone, and the V900 works with Bluetooth mono headsets and A2DP stereo Bluetooth headsets. E-TEN includes Cyberon's Voice Commander, which is a decent speaker independent voice dialing and command application. Cyberon works with most Bluetooth headsets and the included stereo earbud wired headset. The Glofiish has a 2.5mm stereo headset jack rather than one integrated with the USB jack, and that's a good thing (one can use a greater variety of wired headsets and use a headset while charging the phone).
The 2.5mm stereo headset jack and the mini USB sync/charge port.
The TV/FM radio antenna extends from the left corner and the stylus is at the right corner.
Data speeds on AT&T's 3G HSDPA network averaged 650kbps according to DSL Reports mobile speed test. That's a solid result for our area, and is fairly standard for Windows Mobile 6.1 professional phones. The pre-release firmware has a bug that seems to only affect the 1900MHz 3G band (the band AT&T uses more commonly for 3G right now): after a successful connection (i.e.: loading a web page), the phone can't connect to the data network again unless we powered the cell radio off then on or rebooted the phone. E-TEN is aware of this bug and will fix it in the release ROM.
WiFi connections were solid and reliable, and we had no trouble maintaining a connection, reconnecting after device sleep and range was average for a PDA phone.
The V900, like the many other Glofiish smartphones we've reviewed, has a SiRF Star III dedicated GPS chipset. This is a powerful GPS chipset that's similar to what's used in many portable navigation devices. The SiRF does well in adverse conditions (urban jungles, overhead foliage) compared to integrated phone GPS chips, and we recommend a phone with a SiRF chipset if you frequent such areas (though it is getting harder to find phones with SiRF inside for cost and size-reductions reasons). The V900's GPS is accurate and able to get a cold fix outdoors in under 30 seconds, while warm starts take only a few seconds. We tested it with Google Maps, Windows Live Search and full-navigation packages such as CoPilot 7 and Garmin XT Mobile. All the apps worked well, and we didn't have to fiddle with GPS COM port settings to get things working. The large rear-firing speaker is loud and clear for spoken directions.
The Glofiish V900 has a 3.2 megapixel camera with an autofocus lens and LED flash. The camera takes better than average photos by camera phone standards, and better photos than the Nokia E71 and E66 (both 3MP autofocus) but not quite as good as the HTC Touch Diamond for outdoor shots. Focus is fairly sharp, and focus speed is good by camera phone standards. This is definitely the best camera we've seen on a Glofiish phone, and it takes pleasing shots. The default shutter sound is very loud, but you can turn that off, and the camera application offers a wealth of settings with a more intuitive interface than some older Glofiish models.
The camera can take photos at 2048 x 1536 max resolution, and can save images directly to a microSD card (SDHC high capacity cards are supported and we tested the V900 with a Kingston 8 gig card and a SanDisk 4 gig card). The phone can also shoot video up to QVGA resolution at 15fps with audio.
Click on a photo to see the full sized original image, taken at max resolution.
1530 mAh is the magic number for Glofiish PDA phones- all the latest models share that capacity, though the battery design and part numbers may vary. The phone lasts about 2 days on a charge with moderate use, and that's typical for a feature-packed Windows Mobile Pro phone. Those who use push email, talk more than an hour a day, watch a lot of video or use the GPS for serious trips will need to charge nightly. If you plan to use the GPS for long car trips, get a car charger.
We'll wait for release firmware before publishing a conclusion and star rating for the V900. It shows good promise, but several bugs need fixing before it's ready for prime time. The size and design aren't bad, though the V900 lacks the elegance and high quality look and feel of the Diamond and Omnia. But it looks better than any other Glofiish phone to date and is solidly built. The broadcast digital TV support makes this an exciting product for the overseas market, though it sadly doesn't work in the US since the US doesn't offer any free broadcast mobile digital TV. The flush VGA touch screen, ample RAM, SiRF Star GPS and good autofocus camera make this a potentially competitive phone in the ever-improving unlocked Windows Mobile Pro phone race.
x 2.36 x 0.67 inches. Weight: 5.15 ounces.
Phone:Unlocked GSM quad band world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz. Triband 3G HSDPA 850/1900/2100MHz (works on AT&T's 3G network in the US and in Europe).
Camera:3.2MP autofocus with LED flash. 2048 x 1536 max photo resolution. Max video resolution: QVGA. 0.3MP front video conferencing camera (two-way video conferencing isn't supported by any US carrier).
in speaker, mic and 2.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 pleasure.
GPS:Integrated Sirf Start III GPS. No mapping and navigation software included. TMC is supported.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 with full profile support (headset, handsfree, FTP, A2DP, AVRC, PAN, serial port).
TV:DVB-T, T-DMB and DAB broadcast digital TV supported (these services aren't available in the US). Has FM radio.
Mobile 6.1 Professional operating system.
Spb Mobile Shell 2.1. Microsoft Mobile Office suite including Word,
Excel, PowerPoint (view presentations only), Internet
Explorer, Outlook Mobile (e-mail, contacts, calendar, tasks and notes). Also, Connection Sharing, Windows Media Player
10 Mobile, Photos and Videos, MSN Messenger, and Voice Recorder,
Solitaire, Bubble Breaker as well as handwriting recognition.
3rd party and E-TEN software: Mobile TV player, memory monitor, Namecard Manager (OCR for business cards), FM radio, Wireless Manager and WLAN Utility, Multimedia
Manager, Camera, GPS utility, Task Manager, Cyberon Voice Commander 2.5.1 ,
location SMS, E-TEN Bluetooth Manager, Backup,
MMS Composer (some regions only, otherwise use Outlook
on the device to send MMS), Call Filter, Speed Dial, utility to hard reset and wipe the device, Scenarios (create profiles
for four different environments such as outdoor and
meeting). ActiveSync 4.5
microSD card slot, SDHC high capacity cards are supported.