Reviews: Hardware (Devices)

E-Ten glofiish M700

     In the PDA world, there are a couple names we hear a lot. One that we are hearing more and more is E-Ten. E-Ten has created a variety of Pocket PC Phone Edition devices, but because they are not picked up by carriers, many arent aware of the available devices. The E-Ten glofiish M700 is one such device. The device is powerful, includes a variety of standard hardware features, and even boasts GPS. Thanks to our friends at "MobilePlanet", I have had a chance to check out the E-Ten M700 and put it through its paces.

Basic Internals
     Inside the glofiish M700 is a Samsung 400 MHz processor with 128 MB of ROM and 64 MB of RAM. Wirelessly, the device includes WiFi 802.11g, Bluetooth 2.0, and quad-band GSM/GPRS. There is also an embedded SiRF Star III based GPS with SiRF Instant Fix. There is a microSD card slot for added expandability, 2.0 mega pixel camera, and 1530 mAh battery. The screen is 2.8" showing a standard 240 x 320 pixels with 16-bit color. The M700 runs Windows Mobile 5.0 (AKU 3.2)

Device Style
     The glofiish M700 is a relatively standard slide open Windows Mobile device. The front face of the device has quite a bit going on. On the upper left and right of the front are two LED notification lights with buttons below them (one for GPS functionality and one for home navigation). Between the lights and buttons is a slit opening for the phones ear piece speaker. Below the touch screen are two soft key buttons and send/end buttons. There is a square directional pad with an action button in the middle. (Interestingly, the action button feels like an eraser style mouse, but it is not.) The left side of the M700 has three buttons, two of them for volume control and the other for voice recoding. Also on the left side is the audio jack. On the right side of the device is the power button, camera button, and soft reset button. There are no features on the top of the device but at the bottom is the microSD card slot, microphone, and USB port. The back of the M700 has the camera with flash/light, speaker, and access to the battery. The M700 has a relatively boxy appearance, though possibly that is part of the devices charm.

General Feel
     One of the first things I noticed about the M700 is that, while it is relatively thin (with respect to other Windows Mobile devices), it is slightly taller than a device like the T-Mobile MDA by approximately half and inch. It is likely this added height is due to the included GPS unit in the device. I think most people would rather have a little taller than thicker. The device splits at about the 2/3 mark, with the thinner portion being on top. It is well weighted so that it is very easy to hold. The snaps that hold the device closed and open are very strong, which is good because on thing you kind of worry about with a slide open device is that after long term use the slide wont hold.

Keyboard
     Every slide open keyboard has its own style. The M700s is no different. While it doesnt stretch the complete length of the device, each button is an equally sized square (except for the space bar) with really close spacing to a QWERTY keyboard you have come to expect from a desktop keyboard. (Because the buttons are in a grid, the layout isnt identical to desktop/laptop keyboard). The buttons are sized just about perfectly. They are of similar to style of some other devices where they are more like keys than buttons. They have a fantastic feel to them with good feedback. What I love about the keyboard is the lighting. Not only does it look cool, but it is functional. The additional lines of light through the keyboard helps with key differentiation. There are two schools of though for placement of the numeric keys. The M700 went with a numeric pad layout instead of stretching them across the top. I tend to believe the latter is a better option because it is more like a keyboard. I really never dial from the keyboard unless I am typing a contact name, otherwise I use the onscreen numeric pad. An interesting choice was made on the M700 which is a departure from the norm of slide out keyboards on Windows Mobile devices. Instead of placing the soft key buttons at the top of the keyboard, they are placed on the left and right of the keyboard. I think this is fantastic ideas since top to bottom real-estate is more important to make keyboard buttons taller. Sadly, it is not implemented as well as it could be. The soft key buttons are only as tall as a single keyboard key and a little less then half the width. This makes them difficult to press. If the buttons need to be at least double or even triple the size to be really useful. So while the placement is great for usability, I found I was using the onscreen soft keys much more often.

As a Phone
     Of course one very important function of a Pocket PC Phone Edition device is the ability to easily make calls. As I often note, most of this functionality is specific to Windows Mobile software, but some of the functionality is related directly to the hardware. Sadly, the performance of the phone was not great. The earpiece had a bad echo of my own voice. It sounded like my voice was being looped back to the ear piece, which made it hard to use and make calls.

GPS Functionality
     One of the features I liked particularly well about the M700 was the embedded GPS. With the fast processor, it is easy for the M700 to process your current location. Some basic applications are included, but additional software is needed to really use the GPS. After the initial positioning, repositioning was fast and met my needs for use. If you think you want GPS functionality, it is great to have it built into the device.

Final Thoughts
     It is great to see additional players make continued investments in the Windows Mobile device world. E-Ten is defiantly refining their devices style and functionality across multiple products lines, which is great for users that want a device that really fits their needs. The glofiish M700 isnt one of my personal top picks, but it is a strong device. While I was not impressed with its general phone functionality and size, I was thrilled with the embedded GPS, fast processor, and great keyboard. I used the M700 for over a month (thanks again to "MobilePlanet" for the extended review time). In some ways it has been hard to transition back to my standard device with a slower processor and no GPS functionality. Those are two features the M700 has that I will defiantly be looking for in a new device. If you are interested in the M700, visit MobilePlanet.com.

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April 2007
* The hardware was provided by Mobile Planet. *

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Feel free to email me about your own PDA, questions, comments, articles, rumors, and reviews.  I can be reached at dave@davespda.com.