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REVIEW: Giga-Byte GSmart t600 Windows Mobile Professional DVB-T Smartphone
Posted by Arne Hess - on Sunday, 15.06.08 - 11:40:27 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 33069x
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Just in time to the EURO 2008, Vodafone Germany and Giga-Byte introduced the GSmart t600 (we've previously photoviewed), a Windows Mobile 6 Professional 2.5G smartphone. While the GSmart t600 design is over one year old already (the t600 was unveiled during last year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona) it's still quite stylish, if you like white "iPodish" mobile devices. Powered by a Marvell PXA270 CPU at 520 MHz, the GSmart t600 is a quadband GSM and GPRS device, also featuring WiFi b/g and Bluetooth 2.0. Nevertheless, neither EDGE nor W-CDMA in terms of UMTS or HSDPA are supported which might makes the device less attractive to online-savvies. But that's not the focus of the t600 anyway but the main reason for this smartphone is the fact that it supports DVB-T broadcast which allows users to watch digital terrestrial TV on the go.

While the official European standard for mobile TV is DVB-H, which was designed and developed for mobile devices and which has some serious technical advantages over DVB-T, DVB-T has the advantage that it is broadcasted in many countries already and that it is available, in most cases, free of charge without a subscription fee.

The Giga-Byte GSmart t600 sales pack includes the smartphone, a 1300 mAh Li-ion Polymer battery, a stylus and the telescope antenna, a stereo headset which also includes the microphone, a 110 - 220 Volt charger, a USB to mini USB cable as well as the manual and a CD-ROM while a pouch isn't included (for more information, please watch the unboxing videoview here).

The t600 is a typical Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition but the design is quite unique. Following the iPod design, the front is glossy white, with a white surface under a clear paint while the backside is white plastic only. The t600 still features the old screen technique with a bezel but the 2.6" touchscreen supports a VGA resolution. In addition to the Windows Mobile smartphone typical call and end buttons, the device features a huge D-Pad which looks like a scroll wheel but isn't a wheel at all as well as the Pocket PC typical Start and OK buttons and two soft-buttons under the screen. On the backside, the device features a 2 megapixel autofocus camera with photo light as well as the loudspeaker. On the bottom, the device features a mini USB jack and the microphone.


On the left side is the volume slider located while on the right side the typical camera shutter is placed as well as the microSD card slot, protected by a flap as well as the propriety stereo headset connector which also flap protected.


As mentioned in the unboxing videoview, the t600 comes with a telescope antenna which is used for DVB-T and a telescope stylus but the device can either hold the one or the other. Unfortunately, the antenna lacks a hinge which means - because TV is shown in landscape - that the antenna overlaps on the left quite heavy - if completely pulled-out.

While, on the first sight, the screen looks like a typical, in this case, very small PDA touch screen, it measures 2.6" only, it unfolds it full flavor after the device is turned on and shows that it's a 640 x 480 pixel VGA screen which makes a screen of this size super crisp. But it's not giving a crisp image only but it's also relatively bright which makes it a pleasure to watch and view it, even outdoors:

The t600, which is also available in a version with support for DVB-H, comes with its own DVB-T client since DVB isn't a natively supported feature of Windows Mobile. While DVB-T is standardized, there are two different DVB-T codecs: the older MPEG-2 compression and the newer MPEG-4 compression. And while all Western European countries broadcast DVB-T with MPEG-2, some Eastern European countries are currently testing DVB-T2 which uses MPEG-4 as codec. The GSmart t600 supports DVB-T with MPEG-2 only which means, it will not work in Easter European countries using DVB-T2. Nevertheless, the t600 supports both TV bands, UHF (Ultra High Frequency) and VHF (Very High Frequency), which is important to receive the full list of channels. Some other DVB-T mobile phones like the LG HB 620T only supports UHF which means you might not receive some channels.

To make DVB-T working all over the world, or at least where DVB-T is used, Giga-Byte added a DVB-T utility which includes some preconfigured DVB-T lists. However, the lists are not complete, for instance it misses some German cities, but users can run its own channel scan:

Above, you see on the second screenshot a scan of available DVB-T channels in Munich (where the first four channels are VHF channels). Nevertheless, the ability to run channel scans allows users to use the GSmart t600 anywhere in the world where DVB-T is broadcasted and the DVB-T coverage is constantly increasing and includes Europe and Russia as well as some parts of East and South-East Asia as well as Oceania and Africa.

The DVB-T viewer itself can be used in full screen landscape only and shows the channel number and name in the upper left corner as well as the current time, volume, signal quality and left battery in percent on the bottom. Furthermore, it can be toggled between the video signal and an audio only mode (by pressing the left, in this case lower, soft-button):

Furthermore, the player supports 2-channel sound which is used for instance to have the original sound on one channel and the synchronization on the other channel (see it in the video bellow):

Unfortunately, the t600's DVB-T client neither offers information about the currently played program nor is an EPG (Electronic Program Guide) available. Also it's not yet possible to sort the channels in a channel list which means, that a user cannot directly select a channel but have to switch through the channel list with the D-Pad.

Since the GSmart t600 is a Windows Mobile 6 Professional smartphone, it includes all Microsoft's standard Windows Mobile Professional applications including Outlook Mobile, Office Mobile, Internet Explorer Mobile, Windows Media Player Mobile and Windows Live Mobile including Windows Live Messenger Mobile.
And while the GSmart t600 isn't featuring Giga-Byte's new Smart Touch GUI yet, which Giga-Byte announced back in April, the t600 includes some other interesting applications. First of all there are a couple of shortcuts available on the Today screen which launch a couple of customized applications as well as rotate the screen.

Maybe one of the most interesting applications, which can be launched from the Today screen is called "Wise Talk". It allows to add a background sound to phone calls. Predefined sound schemes include Airport, Car and Meeting. So next time, you have to call somebody to tell him that you are late to the meeting because your are still stuck in a traffic jam, you can add some background sound, even if you still sit at breakfast.

Wise Talk's "Phone Record" allows a user to record phone calls. While this might be a handy feature, it might be illegal in some countries or a conversational partner has to be be informed that the call is recorded.

Last but not least Wise Talk also includes a local "Answering Machine" which can be used instead of the network mailbox. This is another interesting feature but since it only works if the phone has coverage and is turned on, it might be less useful since most calls are going to the mailbox if the device is switched off or if it is out of network coverage.

Other applications, Giga-Byte added are an "Audio Mixer" which lets a user trim the bass, treble and 3D effect; "Recorder" which lets users record conversations; "BlackList" which lets users block predefined or all unknown calls as well as a ZIP utility which allows to compress and uncompress files. Quite interesting is the fact that Giga-Byte also added Spb Software House' Spb Backup (v1.6) which allows to perform full or custom device backups to make sure no data is lost, even after a required hard reset.

Final Conclusion

Two years ago, the GSmart t600 might be one of the best Windows Mobile Professional smartphones on the market but today, with the lack of EDGE, UMTS and HSDPA as well as GPS, in terms of its wireless capabilities it's not state-of-the-art anymore. Nevertheless, that's not the focus of the t600 but it was designed with easiness of use in mind as well as its strength is the DVB-T capability which makes it quite unique at the moment. While some other DVB-T Windows Mobile smartphones are already announced, non of them is currently available and therefore, the GSmart t600 is only option, if you want a Windows Mobile-powered DVB-T smartphone.
I definitely like the design and when I watched the Euro 2008 in the past days on the t600, I was often asked what kind of smartphone the t600 is and the overall feedback of the design was quite positive. So Giga-Byte definitely designed a winner and - something important to keep in mind - not everybody needs wireless broadband yet. While, for me, the lack of HSDPA is a limitation, others will not be affected by the absence and something even more important is supported: quadband GSM. Sure, DVB-T isn't used in North America but as a phone, the GSmart t600 works virtually everywhere in the world, wherever GSM is used.

What I definitely like is the screen. First I thought a 2.6" VGA screen is too small to be useful but it's so crisp and bright, that it is a pleasure to be watched. Unfortunately, and this is a typical Windows Mobile limitation, the device cannot take too much benefits from the VGA screen. While it is definitely required for DVB-T broadcast, basically no other application takes a real benefit from it, especially not Microsoft's Internet Explorer Mobile. And I while a appreciate that the device isn't application overloaded, I would like to see a preinstalled Opera Mobile 9.5 browser on the device since web browsing, with Opera Mobile 9.5, is a real pleasure on VGA smartphones.

As mentioned above, TV works fine, as long as you are in a well covered area (which, in my case, Munich is). However, DVB-T was never designed to be used with mobile devices and therefore there are some technical drawbacks. For instance, the t600 has problems to receive and playback the TV signal if you driver faster then 50 Km/h which might limit the use while commuting. Furthermore, DVB-T drains the battery way faster then DVB-H would do and I came to a constant video playback of exactly 2:01 hours, which nevertheless is good enough to watch a Soccer game, as long as there is no overtime or penalty-shootout.
Design-wise, I would like to have an antenna which includes a hinge to optimize the antenna position. Furthermore, the DVB-T player is somewhat a little bit too basic since it neither provides a channel list you can select a channel from and also doesn't shows channel information or an EPG which is broadcasted with the DVB-T signal anyway. But I definitely hope, that Giga-Byte might provide an update later anyway. If these three missing features would be added, the DVB-T client and watching experience would be nearly perfect for me.

All together, I can say that the Giga-Byte GSmart t600 is a great smartphone which does, what it was designed for, great. It's easy to use, feature rich and well designed. It feels rocking-solid and neither looks cheap or fragile and at the moment, during the EURO 2008, it's my permanent follower.

The GSmart t600 is available across Europe from different carriers. For instance Neuf Cegetel carries it in France and Vodafone carries it in Germany as well as it was already released late last year in Russia.

Cheers ~ Arne


 
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