There is really no sense to "buttering up" this review. Thanks to
Dennis over at "Convergent Technology", I have had a chance to take a look at the i-mate PDA2k.
The device is a PDA, a phone, and a camera, all rolled into one, making it one extremely
powerful device. It also includes one of the hottest new ideas on the
market, a slide out thumb keyboard. But that is just the beginning
of included features, and the PDA2k does not leave much to be desired.
It is a pinnacle of style, power, and functionality all rolled into one
The i-mate PDA2k is based around the Intel XScale
PXA263 processor running at 400 MHz and Windows Mobile 2003 Second
Edition for Pocket PC Phone Edition. The
PDA2k has 128 MB of RAM, and has a 64 MB ROM. For expansion, an SDIO slot is
included at the top of the device. When it comes to wireless, this
device has it all. WiFi (802.11b), Bluetooth, and GSM/GPRS
wireless are all embedded in the device. Being that it is a Phone
Edition device, the GSM/GPRS module is both for voice and data service.
The screen is 16-bit color with a max resolution of 240x320 (no VGA
support), and has a surprisingly vibrant screen. Under the screen
is a thumb keyboard and on the back of the unit is a VGA camera.
The PDA2k has the same general form of many Phone
Edition devices...or at first glance I think it does. The
speaker/earpiece is a distinctive feature on the top of the front face.
It is also immediately noticeable the number of buttons on the front.
The device has a slightly different hue to it than other devices, a
little darker silver. The top of the device has the on/off button,
SD slot and the headphone/headset jack. The right side of the
device is smooth while the left side of the device has two more buttons,
up down control (which I don't think works particularly easily) and the
IrDA port. The bottom of the device has the soft reset button,
sync port (which can also be used for power, but there is no AC adapter
port), and the microphone (which is not in a good location for phone
calls nor for recoding voices in a room). The back of the device
has the camera as well as the removable battery that is latched by a
small easy to open latch on the bottom back of the device. Under
the battery is the SIM card holder. For all the features, the
device is relatively light and also thin (only 0.74" thick). One
worry about the size and weight was if the device was weighted correctly
for controlled use of the keyboard, but the top of the device, when
open, does not change the weight distribution to much.
Unlike most Pocket PC devices that only have four
programmable buttons, the PDA2k has nine. Two buttons at the top
of the front face, four at the bottom, an action button in the middle of
the directional pad, two buttons on the left side of the device, and
finally a programmable button on the keyboard. This doesn't
include the two buttons that are for phone pickup and hang-up.
Having more buttons gives you more options for how to control your
device. For instance, you can do one handed operation for quite a
number of functions. It is also nice to be able to map additional
functions as it is likely you will have more than four programs you use
often with the device, or, if nothing else, you can program the start
menu to one (which is actually done by default) and ok/close to another.
The buttons can be locked so only the on/off button will work when the
device is turned off (this is the mode I prefer for this device). I also like having the contact and address
buttons at the top of the front face, and since they are larger it makes
them easier to press. Finally, the directional pad is a great size
and form. It is really easy to press and direct, which is very
There is a lot to say when it comes to wireless on this
device because after all, it has all available types of wireless
embedded in it. We'll start the the short range and move up.
Bluetooth is becoming a must have for a lot of people, though I have
been slow to adopt it in my general use. Bluetooth is quick an
easy to enable with the included Wireless Manager software and you can
always tell when Bluetooth is on because of the left light which will
flash blue. The big reason for why Bluetooth is a good idea on
this device is because the device is a phone and new Bluetooth headsets
are a great addition to using the device as a phone. Because of
the size and weight of the device, many users may prefer a headset, and
while you can plug in a wired headset, going wireless allows you quite a
bit more leeway. Note, there has been some discussion on forums
related to the PDA2k about Bluetooth stack problems. While I did
some testing, I did not elusively test the Bluetooth due to time
constrains. Some users have reported problems while others have
reported everything checks out.
Next on the list is WiFi. The embedded WiFi is
802.11b based. I often use WiFi in my daily life and love having
it embedded in the device instead of having to use a card. Again,
WiFi can be enabled from the Wireless Manager and flashes the left light
green when it is on. With WiFi, there is always some onboard
application for connection information. Most users likely won't
use this because Windows Mobile will take care of the connection and
basic configuration, prompting you if a key is needed. The
application included is scaled down (which may not be appreciated by the
general user) and adds an additional area for confusion when configuring
wireless since parts are still done through the Windows Mobile
interface. You can specify if you want better performance or the
best possible battery life. You can also have WiFi turn itself off
if it gets disconnected for to long.
Last but not least is GSM/GPRS (quad-band
850/900/1800/1900). Cellular data service is the final option for
connecting the PDA2k. While it is often slower than other options
(specifically compared to WiFi), it is an extremely available option as
cellular networks are much more available than open WiFi networks.
Data service is great for downloading mail headers and checking news
feeds. With the PDA2k I don't have to sync news stories before I
leave for class, or in the library before class starts (over WiFi), but
can do it whenever I want to see what is new. On the cell phone
side for things, I have noticed the radio in the PDA2k is relatively
strong compared to my phones and others those around me use as I was
often able to get service where others phones may not be able to.
One of the best parts about having both WiFi and GSM/GPRS
is that the device can jump between networks. (This works well in
an environment where there you are not crossing into a lot of WiFi
networks you don't have access to.) When WiFi is
available, the PDA2k can move seamlessly from the data network to the
WiFi network. When a connection is lost to the WiFi network, the
PDA2k can move right back to the data network. T-Mobile is now
provides unlimited access on their data network, so this isn't cool
because it can save you money, but it is cool because the WiFi network
is likely to be much faster than the data network. A place where
this came in handy was on campus at school where there is only a couple
WiFi points spread across campus.
I don't really know why you would need an SD slot on
this device other than for memory. In any case, a SDIO slot has
been included so in case there isn't something embedded you want, you
can use that. Primarily SDIO would be used for Bluetooth or WiFi,
but the PDA2k already has that. A camera would be another option,
though the device has that as well. Recently a SDIO GPS card has
been released, so that would be a good option, though because of the
style of the device, using a card like the SDIO GPS presents a problem.
Because of the large antenna on the SDIO card, you can't slide open the
device to reveal the keyboard. The SD slot is on the back half of
the device, and the front half slides up (or the back slides down).
For users that think they may be using a GPS SDIO card with the device
or a future type of SD card that wouldn't fit completely in the device,
this would be a drawback to the device.
I believe that any PDA user would be more than
satisfied with the screen on this device. While it does not
support the VGA resolution option with Windows Mobile 2003 Second
Edition, the screen is extremely vibrant. Normally I run my
devices at full or near full brightness. One sign to me of a good
device is when I can run it at half brightness or less. With the PDA2k,
I am running it at only 30%, and it is still a strong brightness.
Full brightness is actually extremely bright and I don't even like to
use it on external power, so I think that speaks well for the screen.
Because the device is a Phone Edition, I have to complain about my face
touching the screen when using it. Now, on screen buttons don't
get pressed, but usually the screen will get smudged after using it.
I am not using a screen protector and think that something like a
Clear Touch screen protector would
help, but still it would have been nice to see some kind of special
screen coating to prevent smudging. I do however like that the
screen will turn off while you are on the phone, and you can of course
leave the screen off and the phone will still ring if there is an
Cradle and Battery
For most of the functions of this device I have a lot
to say, but the cradle is just a cradle and the battery works. The
cradle really isn't anything special. It is pretty standard, and
rather large for my taste. You can plug in the AC power adapter if you
chose and/or a second battery if needed. The
battery in the device can defiantly hold its own. A 1400 mAh
battery is pretty good, though this device has a lot of things that
require power, especially if you are using it as a phone and it is
constantly connected to the cell network waiting for calls. The
specifications say this equates to 3-4 hours or talk time, 15 hours of
PDA time, and 168 hours of standby time. After using it, I would
say this is likely accurate. After using the device for a full
day, with phone functionality on always, WiFi most of the time, and
taking about 45 minutes of calls, I still had 65% of the battery left.
Camera and Keyboard
On the back side of the PDA2k is a VGA camera.
To use it, all you have to do is press the camera button once to get the
live feed on screen and a second time to capture a still image.
One interesting thing to note is when using the camera, the devices
screen will turn up to full brightness, likely so you can see the live
camera feed well. The camera is good for quick snapshots, but that
is about it. It is neat to have, but I don't know that it has much
practical use. The keyboard however has tons of practical use.
In fact, I use it all the time. I like it better than using stylus
input for writing. While you can't type on it like a regular
keyboard, I still have good luck using my thumbs. When you begin
using the keyboard it becomes backlit, which is good for highlighting
the keys. Unlike other thumb keyboards, the buttons on this
keyboard are slightly different, and I don't like them as much.
They are relatively flush against the device (likely because of the
slider mechanism), and the actual button is not the full area that is
drawn. I have big hands, so I like keys to be of substantial size
and easy to press. After using it for a while I have gotten the
hang of how to use it best, but I don't prefer the style of keys.
Speaker and Microphone
I am a big fan of the PDA2k's speaker. The
speaker doubles as the ear piece for voice calls and is extremely
strong. It is very easy to hear calls and get the caller good and
loud. To test the device, I used it to make all my calls. I
noticed a number of people had trouble hearing me. At first I just
discounted it as either standard cell phone issues or that I was
mumbling. Then my girlfriend noted it, and when I said I thought
it was one of the two things I just mentioned, she said she just didn't
think it sounded as clear as other phones. The problem could be
the placement of the microphone, which looks like it is on the bottom
(not back, but bottom by the sync port). Since one of the primary
functions of this device is as a phone, I do feel that this should have
been worked out so the device would provide a clear signal for the
This is the longest review I have written. Then
again, this is likely the most powerful and featured packed device I
have ever looked at...and the price reflects that. The PDA2k is a
power house of function and likely the user that is going to fully use a
device like this would be the business user or the tech user. The
device requires someone that wants to be always connected, needs access
to the internet and email, always has a phone with them, and wants a
device that won't let them down when they need it most. A number
of users (including me) noticed some issues with the phones microphone,
and poor voice pickup for calls. The biggest drawback of this device is
likely its price, which is at just over $900. While for the price
you get an unlocked device that can run on any GSM/GPRS network, it is a
hefty price tag for the user that won't use the device to its full
potential. But if you have the money, want power, and need
connectivity, the i-mate PDA2k could be right device for you.
Dave's Score - 8.5
This means, this product is a very good product,
though has some features which could be improved. This product embodies
quality in its design and application, and is something I would use
though I think there are still areas for improvement. Weigh
the pros and cons before purchasing, but in my opinion this device is a
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge