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E-TEN Glofiish X650
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Review posted April 14, 2008 by Lisa Gade, Editor
In January 2008 we reviewed E-TEN's flagship slate design Windows Mobile Professional phone, the X800. The somewhat lower priced X650 offers the same features minus 3G and the front-facing video conferencing camera. The X650 is the updated version of the X600, with a similar casing but quite a few improvements inside including a VGA display, processor speed bump and more flash memory. Like all E-TEN Glofiish Pocket PC phones, the X650 is an unlocked GSM phone which means you can use it with any carrier's SIM. It's a quad band world phone with EDGE and GPRS for data. It's available from importers and online retailers for approximately $550 US with no contract. The PDA phone is available in two colors: purple (more like a deep plum) and black.
Features at a Glance
As with most Glofiish Windows Mobile phones, the X650 has everything but the kitchen sink: phone, SiRF III GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, VGA touch screen display, a 2 megapixel camera, microSD card slot and an FM radio. It runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional on a 500MHz processor and has 64 megs of RAM and 256 megs of flash ROM.
E-TEN includes the X650, stylus, Lithium Ion battery, world charger, USB sync cable, stereo earbud headset with inline mic, case, hand strap, screen protector, printed guide and a software CD with ActiveSync for Windows.
Design and Ergonomics
The E-TEN Glofiish is one of the thinnest Pocket PC phones on the market. It's only 0.58" (a hair thinner than the 0.62" Glofiish X800), and it's fairly light at 4.8 ounces. Though not as amazingly compact as the HTC Touch, the X650 has a lot more inside and miniaturization can only go so far. The PDA phone has a soft touch finish that helps keep it in hand, and the same minimalist rectangular design as the X600. The device feels OK in hand, but not nearly as pleasant as more curvy PDA phones. Build quality is good and the unit looks and feels well made. The X650 is more sedate looking than the somewhat flashy X800, and gets a no-frills design.
The E-TEN Glofiish X650, Glofiish X800 and the Motorola Q Global.
The camera lens and LED flash live on the back and the battery door at the rear is easy to remove unlike the X800's. There's a battery lock switch inside-- be sure to flip it to insert or remove the battery. It won't power up if that switch isn't in the locked position. You must also remove the stylus before removing the battery cover since the silo (right bottom corner) opening is in the cover.
The volume buttons, voice command button (reassignable) and the reset hole are located on the left side while the power and camera buttons are on the right. The GPS antenna and wrist strap slot are up top and the mini USB sync/charge port and microSD card slot are on the bottom.
Bottom showing microphone, microSD card slot, USB port and stylus.
The nipple joystick on the X800 was decent but the X650's is just a bit shorter and that makes a great deal of difference-- it's just not easy to use. We assume E-TEN went with the joystick to save space, but the X650's is just too small and short to make one or even two-handed navigation easy. The joystick is flanked by a compact cluster of buttons that are perhaps too squashed-- particularly we don't link the non-prominent call send and end buttons that are located at the outer edges of the lower button tier. The Windows Start menu and OK keys are located above (rather than being tiny things as on the X800) in the silver section, with the two Windows Mobile softkeys in between. The GPS status app and E-TEN Home screen (short press) / M-Desk launcher (long press) buttons live in between the call send and end buttons.
The buttons are backlit in white.
Phone Features and Data
The Glofiish is a quad band world phone that works on all GSM bands: 850/900/1800/1900MHz. It's sold unlocked for use with any GSM carrier: in the US that means AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone has EDGE and GPRS for data, but alas no 3G (check out the Glofiish X800 if you want 3G HSDPA). The X650 is a logical choice if you're a T-Mobile customer since T-Mo doesn't have 3G in the US yet, or if you're an AT&T customer in an area not covered by 3G. We got speeds averaging 160k on AT&T's EDGE network when testing with DSL Reports mobile speed test. That was without a proxy, and is a good result.
Reception is very good on the US bands. The phone had very good call quality and better than average RF. Outgoing call quality is excellent and our call recipients said we were land line loud and clear. Incoming call quality was also very good, and loud. In fact, it sounds better than the X800 on 3G (3G generally has better voice quality since AT&T uses a higher quality voice codec on 3G).
E-TEN's Customizations and Standard Software
The Glofiish X650 software bundle is identical to the Glofiish X800's, so we'll list the same things in both reviews. E-TEN has always added a nice helping of their own lightweight yet useful software and the latest Glofiish models have the best helping so far. First, E-TEN bundles a non-homebrew application that's one of our favorites- the Today Screen plugin from Spb Mobile Shell. This gives you 4 compact tabs with battery status, favorite or recently used apps, the weather (there's no subscription charge for weather info), visual speed dial and world time. E-TEN's Speed Dial is here, basically unchanged from prior models-- it has two views, frequency and index dialing (you can switch between them and select a default). Press the left soft key in the Today Screen and you'll get finger-friendly frequency dial buttons on screen or index dial where you press the letter C to see all matches (first name and last name) again in finger-friendly large on-screen buttons.
A task manager lives at the bottom of the Today screen and makes for an easy way to quit running programs since Windows Mobile doesn't exit applications by default when you tap the close box. The X650, like the X800, needs this feature given the slim 64 megs of RAM. The Home button brings up a finger-friendly palette of commonly used apps and functions and the voice command button brings up the very good Cyberon voice command program. E-TEN's long-lived M-Desk application is an alternative launcher with tabs and shortcuts for settings, applications, memory and power status, screen rotation, quick profile change, Bluetooth settings and more. If you press the Home button when in an application M-Desk launches. E-TEN also includes a backup utility that backs up the Pocket PC to a micro SD card and an application restore feature just in case you delete one of the pre-installed programs and decide you want it back. Other E-TEN applications include Multimedia Manager (browser and viewer), a business card scanner and location-based SMS.
Also included are the standard Windows Mobile Professional applications including mobile versions of Word, Excel and a PowerPoint viewer, Internet Explorer, Outlook (called Messaging) with email, contacts, calendar, notes and tasks, MSN Live Search, File Explorer, Pictures and Videos (image and video viewer), Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, a voice recorder and two games (Solitaire and Bubble Breaker). As always, software to sync to Windows, but not other platforms, is included. Mac users can buy Missing Sync from Mark Space (we tested it with our Mac Pro and it worked fine).
Display and Multimedia
VGA displays are unfortunately still rare on Windows Mobile phones, and when you do find them, they're generally in larger, notebook substitute models like the HTC Advantage. E-TEN is one of the few companies capitalizing on WinMo's VGA support in more compact slate-design PDA phones. The display is sharp and clear, but not as bright and sharp as the X800's display. At 2.8" diagonally it's no larger than QVGA screens on the HTC TyTN and Tilt, yet it remains readily readable even though its cramming four times the pixels in. How could that be? Because the OS and most of the built-in Microsoft applications (except Windows Media Player Mobile) don't run in true VGA mode, but rather pixel double the standard QVGA interface to fill the VGA display. Bummer, right? Yes and no. Few of us over the age of 35 can easily read text at VGA resolution on a small display. MS leaves it up to you to adjust font settings or zoom level in the Office apps, set the text size in the Today screen and to select the "Use High Resolution" option in IE mobile. The high res option makes web browsing worthwhile-- you really do see much more of the web page and it's generally still readable (adjust Text Size to increase font size if needed). Likewise, spreadsheets are much more usable the display in landscape mode and zoom set to 75% (50% makes for very tiny text in cells).
The X650's unimpressive brightness levels don't help combat bright sunlight, and the display is just barely readable under sunlight with brightness set to max. In general, Pocket PC phones with touch screens fade in sunlight, and thus aren't the best for GPS-ing on foot under sunny skies.
For music there's and FM radio (as with all phones that have radios, you must plug in the headset to listen since it acts as the antenna). The usual Windows Media Player mobile handles MP3 playback along with WMA and protected WMA files. Sound quality through the included stereo headset is very good and we were pleased with Bluetooth stereo sound via A2DP and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth stereo headset.
Video playback is a strong point of recent Glofiish phones, and the X650 makes a wonderful portable video player thanks to its high resolution and relatively good video playback performance. We had no problem playing WMV files in Windows Media Player Mobile and a variety of AVI/MPEG files in TCPMP. We tested a 624 x 352 pixel MPEG4 video encoded at 830kbps in TCMP (an open source video player) and it played back with no dropped frames and good audio sync. Nice.
Performance and Horsepower
Once again, the X650 is identical to the X800 in the horsepower department, running on a 500MHz Samsung SC3 2442 processor with 64 megs of RAM and 256 megs of flash ROM. As with the X800 and pretty much every other 64 meg of RAM Pocket PC phone, we wish for more RAM. With between 24 and 25 megs of free RAM at boot, you won't be able to run many intensive applications simultaneously and the device can slow down with 3 to 5 applications running. At boot with no apps running, the X650 is a tad sluggish to open windows the first time (they're cached so the next time things are faster), and there's a 1 to 2 second delay when launching programs. Storage isn't a problem with with 142 megs free for your use after E-TEN's software installs at first boot. If you don't want some of these apps, you can un-install them to free up more memory. In addition, the X650 has a microSD card slot to expand storage and it supports SDHC for cards over 2 gigs capacity (we tested it with a few 4 gig cards and it worked fine).
There's nothing like a serious dedicated GPS chipset and that's what you get with the SiRFstarIII. We used to see the SiRF used commonly in GPS-enabled Pocket PC and Pocket PC phones, but in the past year or more manufacturers have switched to integrated aGPS solutions such as Qualcomm's which is integrated into their CPU and chipset package of phones like the Tilt. Why? We assume it's cheaper and saves space, and the carrier can bundle a subscription navigation service, fattening their bottom line. The drawback is less robust reception and occasional satellite drops, so we'll take the SiRF any day for hardcore GPS use, especially in bad weather or in big cities where tall buildings obscure the GPS receiver's view of the sky.
As with the Glofiish X800 and ASUS P527 that also uses the SiRF III chipset, the X650's GPS is excellent. No mapping and navigation software is included, however. It ships only with a GPS viewer with a globe view that shows the satellites' approximate locations relative to your position on earth and a "compass" view that shows the current time and date, latitude, longitude, altitude, speed and GPS status. So you'll have to supply the Windows Mobile navigation and mapping software of your choice. In our tests using CoPilot Live 7, the GPS was very accurate and got a cold fix in under a minute, even indoors within 10 feet of a window on the ground floor of a two story building. Navigation prompts were timely, the GPS never dropped the signal and the speaker is loud enough for in-car use.
The GPS also works with Google Maps and Windows Live for those who prefer a free solution (sans voice guidance). These two applications require a data connection and thus a data plan, since maps are downloaded over the Internet. The X650 supports TMC for traffic info, if available in your area.
E-TEN's last-generation cameras looked good on paper but didn't impress us in the real world. Their recent devices yield much better photos that compete well with 2-3 megapixel autofocus cameras on other Windows Mobile phones. Nokia still wins, but the X650 takes satisfying shots that will please most non-hardcore photographers. The Glofiish X650 has a 2 megapixel camera with autofocus lens and LED flash. It can take photos at a maximum 1600 x 1200 resolution, with several lesser resolutions available for caller ID, MMS and etcetera. There's also a JPEG with EXIF data mode that includes latitude and longitude courtesy of the GPS (and the coordinates are accurate). A GPS icon in the viewfinder flashes red and turns white once the Glofiish has acquired a signal. In general, color balance is fairly accurate, images are sharp but not over-sharpened and indoor shots have relatively little noise.
The X650 uses the same 1530 mAh Lithium Ion battery as the X800. Battery life is slightly better than average for a Pocket PC phone, likely thanks to the lack of 3G and large battery. Given the X650's many functions and wireless radios, it's difficult to describe battery life with "average" usage. If you use the GPS to map a short (20 minute) route, surf the web over EDGE for 45 minutes per day, talk for 30 minutes per day on the phone, look up contacts and calendar items and manually check email once/hour, the battery should last 2 to 3 days. If you plan on using the GPS for an all-day road trip, get a car charger. If you use WiFi heavily or watch feature length movies, plan on charging each evening. The X650 takes quite a while to charge compared to several current Pocket PC phones from other manufacturers-- up to 3 hours.
The E-TEN Glofiish X650 is a very strong Windows Mobile 6 Professional phone that has everything except 3G. The VGA display, strong WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0, fast CPU and full SiRF III GPS are impressive and compete well with HTC devices. The X650 is particularly attractive if you don't need a keyboard and the bulk it adds. Strangely, the X650's biggest competitor is E-TEN's own X800, which does everything the X650 does and adds 3G. Given the $75 to $100 price difference between the two, we'd pick the X800 for its better display and 3G. But if you're on a tight budget, the X650 gets you most of the X800 for a bit less money.
Pro: Feature-laden device, yet it's fairly light and compact. VGA display is a rare treat. Very good voice quality and reception on the US bands. Great GPS performance, strong WiFi and Bluetooth. Excellent software bundle. Good camera.
Con: Needs more RAM-- the device can slow down when memory gets low, requiring a reboot or diligence exiting programs. The Glofiish's Bluetooth is confused by newer mono headsets that add in mono A2DP, and DUN/PAN are quirky.
Display: 65K color transflective
TFT color LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2.8". Resolution:
480 x 640 VGA, supports both portrait and landscape modes.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
1530 mA. Claimed talk time 5-7 hours. Uses the same 5v 1 amp charger with mini USB connector as other E-TEN Windows Mobile phones.
Performance: Samsung SC3 2442 500 MHz processor. 64 MB built-in RAM with 24.91 megs free at boot. 256 MB Flash ROM with 142.73 megs
available (after E-TEN's software bundle installs at first boot).
x 2.28 x .58 inches. Weight: 4.8 ounces.
Phone: Quad band GSM world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands with GPRS and EDGE for data. Unlocked for use with any GSM carrier.
GPS: SiRFstarIII internal GPS. TMC supported (if available in your region).
Camera: 2 MP with autofocus lens and LED flash.
in speaker, mic and 2.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 pleasure.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR.
Mobile 6 Professional operating system.
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: Spb Mobile Shell Today screen plugin, M-Desk launcher and
system 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 also supporting SDHC cards over 2 gigs capacity.
In the Box: X650, battery, stylus, stereo headset, USB sync cable, world charger, leather case, software CD, quickstart guide and phone strap.