There is no doubt about the importance O2 put on its customers, with the nice packaging and attention to detail; it clearly shows what they have to offer. The magnetic flip up box, for starters, is already a welcome sign that you have just purchased a quality device. It also provides you with a short list of what is included in the package.
- What's in the box? Of course you have the main unit with battery and power adaptor, a USB sync cable, a USB host cable, a stereo wired headset, a spare stylus, the TV-out cable, and the standard CD, User's Manual, Quick Start Guide and warranty statement.
It made me wonder though, why they didn't include a carry case for the Xda Flame. With its large LCD screen, I would suppose that it would be more susceptible to bumps and scratches which may end up with a cracked screen if one is not extra careful. Hopefully they include a case in a promo package at least for the user's peace of mind.
The look and the feel
The Xda Flame looks pretty serious with its matte black fascia surrounded by a dark metallic gray bezel. The sides have the functional matte black rubbery feel to it as well and the back features a finish which reminds me of carbon fiber panels. Pretty industrial looking if not professional, I would say.
My hands aren't all that large. In fact, my palms are small which makes the Flame feel a little too large for me. But for those who have handled the original Xda, and Xda II range of devices, the feel may be pretty familiar.
The 3.6” screen looks pretty large when you get used to viewing those minute 2.7” or 2.8” screens. The controls are pretty straight forward and very traditional. I like this for the fact that hardware controls work well with more applications. One thing which is pretty odd though is the placement of the volume control switch which can be found on the wrong side. Instead of using your thumb to control the volume, it is your index finger that does the work. If you are used to using Pocket PCs and Smartphones, you may find this unusual, and may take time getting used to. As force of habit, you may inadvertently trigger the Notes application everytime you try to adjust the volume with your thumb.
It has what I would consider as the minimum number of buttons required for a Windows Mobile 5.0 device, the standard call and end-call buttons, the two soft-key buttons, a Windows Start button and an Information button – if you remember the Xda Atom was missing the two hardware buttons that control the 2 soft buttons of Windows Mobile 5.0. The nice thing though is that it also comes with a dedicated button for the wireless manager as well as the camera button and the now Notes-dedicated button. Out of the numerous buttons the device has, only 4 of them can be programmed through the control panel to launch your preferred applications.
The basic looks of the device can be deceiving. Beneath all the simple cladding is a plethora of functions which can make your head spin. This is definitely a high end device designed for those who want to have everything in their pocket. From the vibrant 640x480 pixel touch screen to the 2GB on board memory which allows you to save almost anything from photos and videos to music from the built-in FM radio.
If I were to use this device just for one day, I wouldn't have touched even the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Upon initial examination and usage, I opted to go for the obvious – the nicely designed camera with auto-focus function. The quality is pretty good and the really large touch screen helps as a viewfinder. Most hardware buttons get remapped as you go into camera mode. The FM radio functioned well but was limited to saving 18 frequencies. The nice thing about it though was that it included preset stations for the Asia-Pacific region. If you need to put in your preferred station, it's pretty simple to edit every entry. Just like any PDA or mobile phone with built in FM radios, the bundled wired headset is required to be attached to function as its antenna to receive radio signals.
The Xda Flame then turns into a command center as well. The Flame comes with a remote control software which was very simple to use. You can choose from a preset list of TV, DVD, Audio, VCR or program your remote for your preferred device. It works pretty well and when I tested it at about 7meters from my TV set and DVD player, it seemed to function flawlessly.
Another notable feature that makes the Xda Flame stand out among Windows Mobile devices is the capability to be connected to a TV or projector for viewing slide presentations or video. I tested the Flame with a fairly large sized video in compressed WMV format and it functioned pretty well. The built-in graphics chip helps a lot and allowed me to play videos clearly on the device as well as while it was connected to the TV set. Both video and audio are sent to the TV which turns this device into a true video player.
The Xda Flame also comes with USB host capabilities which mean that you can attach basic USB devices such as flash drives and such to the Flame. I wanted to push it further and see if it could communicate with my Nikon D70 DSLR. The answer? Yes it can, but I had to change the USB device type of my camera to Mass Storage instead of PTP.
Performance-wise, I was surprised that the Xda Flame felt pretty snappy compared to other 640x480 screened devices. The battery life performance, although not really stellar, was sufficient to complete over a day of basic PDA and phone use. Extensive use of all the features and capabilities of the Xda Flame though can really shorten the battery life to merely a day. If you frequently surf the Internet using any of its wireless features hours on end, or enjoy the multimedia capabilities of this device in your spare time, in addition to the standard voice calls and SMS, it would be best to invest in a car charger for starters, as well as a spare battery. Bringing the USB sync cable can prove to be a lifesaver too if you have access to a PC or notebook.
If you are looking for a full featured Pocket PC Phone Edition device that can outperform other devices in different categories, this device is the one.