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REVIEW: Toshiba Portégé G900 Windows Mobile 6 Professional Smartphone
Posted by Arne Hess - on Tuesday, 14.08.07 - 16:15:55 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 45231x
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When Toshiba announced the Toshiba Portégé G900 Pocket PC Phone Edition back in February, it was clear which device Toshiba planned to compete with - the HTC Hermes. Now it took some time for Toshiba to release its first Windows Mobile Pocket PC after a longer period of absence but with Windows Mobile 6 Professional, triband GSM/GPRS/EDGE (900/1800/1900 MHz) and singleband UMTS/HSDPA (2100 MHz) it's still state of the art, even if it's not a world traveler like the HTC Hermes which supports quadband 2G and triband 3G. Nevertheless, the QWERTY keyboard, the powerful 520 MHz Marvell PXA270 processor and a unique 3" WVGA touch screen at 800 x 480 pixels makes the device quite interesting.

Beside GSM and UMTS, the G900 also features Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (including the A2DP Bluetooth stereo profile) and WiFi b/g. Furthermore, the devices sports two cameras: a 2 megapixel fix focus camera with digital zoom and a front facing VGA camera for UMTS video telephony. To secure your PDA against unauthorized access, the Toshiba G900 has a fingerprint sensor that uses biometric technology to secure the device. The same sensor can be used to navigate the phone's menus and if you use a Bluetooth equipped PC, it can be locked and unlocked depending on its proximity to your G900, up to a radius of approximately 10 m.

Last but not least, the G900 carries 30 MB of internal memory which can be extended with miniSD cards up to 2 GB and furthermore the G900 supports the USB Host feature which means you can also add a USB stick to the device.

The G900 is a typical slide smartphone but since it features a QWERTY keyboard, Toshiba decided to make it a horizontal slider (which isn't a semi-automatic slider at all) rather than a vertical slider like the Toshiba G500 smartphone and thanks to the WVGA screen, the device is longer then all its competitors which makes the keyboard easy to use.

On the front, if closed, the G900 features all the typical Windows Mobile buttons you might expect to get with such a device which includes the D-Pad in the center, with the call buttons left and right from it. Furthermore it includes the Windows Mobile Start and ok keys, the soft buttons and shortcuts to Contacts, Messaging and the web browser as well as the QVGA camera in the upper right corner. On the back, the device sports the 2 megapixel camera with a photo light and the loudspeaker:

Somehow negative is the fact that the left space around the display is quite huge and therefore the display is smaller then it must be. For some reason, Toshiba gave away space.

On the left side, the device sports the miniSD card slot, protected by a flap as well as the 2.5 mm headset port. On the right the volume keys are located as well as the camera shutter which also starts the camera application:

Unfortunately, the G900 isn't featuring a thumb-wheel for navigation and scrolling.

If you slide-out the device, on the front it features the QWERTY thumb-keyboard and on the back the biometric fingerprint sensor:

Most of the keys have several meanings but the overall design of the keyboard is clearly laid out. Also the tactile feedback is well balanced and it's a pleasure to use the keyboard for messaging.
The fingerprint sensor on the back of the opened display might be somehow useful to unlock the device without entering the physical password, but I find it somehow in a bad position since a user needs to open the device to unlock it. A place on the front would be worthier.

The device seems to be thick but it's not thicker then the HTC Hermes and the overall size of the device is still pretty common for Windows Mobile Professional Pocket PCs, especially if it features a slide-out keyboard which makes such a device a little but thicker. For sure it's nothing you might want to carry in the shirt pocket but it's better carried in the jacket or pants:

On the other hand, the thickness provides a good experience to hold and use the G900 since the form is well balanced to fit into the palm:

Since the Toshiba Portégé G900 runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional and was released after Windows Vista was released, it works fine with Windows Vista's Windows Mobile Device Center and even provides the device graphic in the Windows Mobile Device Center:

However, the absolute highlight is the WVGA screen which is so far unique for a Windows Mobile device and Toshiba hasn't branded the device at all. No customized Today screen, no nothing. The G900 just comes as Windows Mobile was designed by Microsoft:

However, Toshiba also added some useful 3rd party applications, namely FingerLauncher, GoldKey, Java, Opera Browser, Picsel Viewer, Teleport and TIPtalk. While most of you might be aware of the Opera Browser (which replaces the also installed Internet Explorer Mobile) and Picsel Viewer (which lets you open and read Microsoft Office as well as Adobe PDF files), the other applications are pretty unique but Toshiba typical:

FingerLauncher, as you might expect, is a utility control the fingerprint reader:

First you need to get a finger enrolled which you have to do by swiping the finger three times:

After it is enrolled successfully, you can assign an application to this finger you can launch after, by just swiping your finger. FingerLauncher is a nice little utility to give the finger print reader even more use besides unlocking the device only or using the finger print reader for navigating through the menu and applications only.

GoldKey is a quite useful and interesting application and so far, I've seen something similar on Apple Mac's in combination with Ericsson phones only. GoldKey lets you lock and unlock your PC, straight from the G500. It contains an application which you need to install on your PC as well (the installer is available for Windows XP and Windows Vista PCs only). After, you have to pair your G900 with your PC over Bluetooth and run the GoldKey wizard:

If successfully registered, you can unlock you PC from your device but even more interesting the the feature, that your PC locks automatically you are leaving the Bluetooth range of the PC! I have to admit that I'm a big fan of such small but unique and useful applications, especially if they bridge the Windows and Windows Mobile world.

Next is Teleport which is an application which enabled you to use tow functions: Remote Keypad and Remote Screen:

With Remote Keypad you can scroll a PC application, displayed on the PC screen using your G900; for instance remote controlling a PowerPoint presentation. Remote Screen replicates the display of your Toshiba phone on a PC screen and controls your G900 from the PC. Using the PC keyboard and Remote Screen, actions on the PC are relayed to the Pocket PC.

Like GoldKey, also Teleport includes a PC application which has to be installed on the PC first:

TIPtalk is a VoIP and instant messaging application which lets you call an IP phone, use answering machine functions, check online status of contacts (similar to Windows Live Messenger and other IM services) and even chat with contacts:

Getting Tiptalk working requires you to configure the application by adding a user name, a password and a server. Software which needs to be installed on the PC is also part of the application CD-ROM which comes with the G900.

 While the G900 also features Microsoft's Internet Explorer Mobile, Toshiba did it right by adding Opera Mobile (v8.65) to the device as well. While the Internet Explorer Mobile isn't too bad for PDA and mobile optimized web sites, Opera Mobile is yet the best web browser, available for Windows Mobile devices and with a 800 x 480 pixels screen, you cannot only surf mobile optimized web sites but also web sites which are designed for PCs:

As you can see above, the web experience is far more then what we usually get from Windows Mobile Professional devices and the WVGA/Opera Mobile combination makes the G900 the perfect "web pad". If Opera Mobile would fully support Flash, you don't need a PC anymore if you only use a PC for Internet browsing and E-Mail (thanks to Windows Mobile 6's HTML E-Mail support).
I've heavily used the G900 2 weeks ago when I was one week off in vacation and I rarely opened my Notebook to surf the web. Thanks to the WiFi, I was using the free Hotel W-LAN and read all the daily newspapers online.

While the G900 sports a 2 megapixel camera, it's a fix focus CMOS camera only and this means, the results aren't the latest and the greatest (click the thumbnails bellow to see the unedited original size):

Last but not least the previously mentioned USB Host functionality. This allows using external USB mass storage with the G900. However, I wasn't able to connect any other USB peripherals like keyboards, etc. to the G900.

Final Conclusion

If only the Toshiba Portégé G900 would be quadband GSM and triband UMTS, then it could be a serious world wide HTC competitor but with triband GSM and singleband UMTS, it's "only" a EMEA and APAC competitor since North American users will not be able to use UMTS and HSDPA at all. But for European and Asian users, the G900 might be the right choice. Sure, it has to compete with HTC's new Kaiser soon and the Kaiser again supports quadband GSM and triband UMTS and includes GPS furthermore. On the other hand, the Kaiser will be QVGA only while the G900 is WVGA and I have to admit, you can get used to it. Basically the G900 made me using Windows Mobile Pocket PCs more again and during the past weeks, it fully replaced my HTC Hermes. It will be a sad good bye if I have to send it back to Expansys which thankfully loaned me the device for the review.
Beside the screen, the speed of the device impressed me as well. The 520 MHz are noticeable fast and makes working a pleasure. I've even wrote some short posting on the thumb-keyboard and normally I'm not a heavy thumb-keyboard user.
All together, the device is well shaped, even if it is somehow a little bit thick but I excuse thickness of Pocket PCs more than I do for Smartphones. No question, we are the "RAZR generation" now and devices have to be thin. However, if a device is so feature-rich, it's not too bothering.

Somehow disappointed I'm about the camera. On the paper, 2 megapixel reads good but the results are not half of what I've expected. Sure, it's good enough for a web posting or MMS, it's not good enough to make print out of it and therefore, the camera is "just another mobile phone camera".
Truly happy I was with the support of Toshiba. When the first postings popped-up that the G900 had a "wake-up" problem, it didn't took too long for Toshiba to release a patch which was fixing it. No wonder, as one of the most respected Notebook manufactures, Toshiba knows how important after sales support is but we have to wait how this will continues with the release of ROM updates etc. But the start was a good one already.

All the above mentioned features has its price and the Toshiba Portégé G900 currently retails, without a subscription for 544.95 Euro/£ 399.95. For what you get, it's not too bad but for sure, it's a professional device, not a mass market Pocket PC. Is it worth the money? I think so, as long as you use all the features; just as a web pad it might be too expansive.
At the moment, the G900 is available in English with QWERTY keyboard only and can be ordered from Expansys.

Cheers ~ Arne

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Posted by Lutz on 14.08.07 - 17:55:21

I _love_ the screen. too bad no 850MHz GSM... Does it do EDGE?

Posted by Arne Hess on 14.08.07 - 18:07:32

Updated, thanks Lutz! wink
Yes, it does all three 2G versions: GSM (but not HSCSD), GPRS and EDGE. smile While my operator here doesn't supports EDGE, I've used it quite a bit in International Roaming (in Europe).
Too bad it's not supporting 850 MHz GSM and U.S. UMTS. sad

But the screen is simply amazing. Never imagined that 800 pixels adds so much value to a screen and I think the best proof is how the PC version of the::unwired looks in the Opera.
With this screen, Toshiba definitely set a new benchmark.

Posted by Steve J on 19.08.07 - 13:26:50

Nice review Arne; I am looking for a device for web access and heavy texting. T9 is obviously inadequate. If the keyboard is tactile and responsive for fast and accurate typing I am definitely interested. One of the best keypads I've used is Nokia's N93 but then it is only T9 entry. One side effect of the N93 was that daily use got me used to bulky phones. The size and weight of the Toshiba is no problem! The prospect of a wide VGA screen is exciting and I will buy the Toshiba before the HTC Kaiser. The latter does nothing new, but the Toshiba gives us that screen and it may now kickstart other companies into producing higher definition screens. Arne, I would like to ask why WM devices seem to be struggling with colour palette whereas companies such as Nokia are up to and over 16M colours? Is it because 24 bit 16M is too taxing for the processors and batteries because of the OS? I notice that the G900 has only 65K colours.

Posted by Arne Hess on 19.08.07 - 15:48:09

Steve, don't ask me for the technical reason, AFAIK there is no reason except that Windows Mobile (still) has this limitation. AFAIK the underlying Windows CE can do it better today but for some reasons Windows Mobile is still limited to 65K as the maximum.
While it's, compared to the possible 16M, not the best competitor, personally it never bothered me. Sure, if you are a pro photographer or otherwise in the design industry, the 65K might not be good enough. If we are talking about web surfing (how many web site JPGs provides 16M) or showing the photos from the last vacation, the 65K are quite sufficient.

As I said, I don't have the technical reason by hand yet, only my personal experiences, but if you want, I can ask Microsoft for the reason of the limitation.

Posted by Steve J on 21.08.07 - 15:43:19

Arne, it would be great if you could find out the reason for the perennial 65K. Windows Mobile seem to be "stuck in a rut!" The furthest they have reached in colour palette is 264K and that is found on only a few WM devices such as the hotly anticipated I-mate Ultimate series. Conversely companies like Nokia are standing loud and proud with over 16M colours. The E90 has high res screen but still manages to implement 16M. The G900 has high res but is "out of breath" at 65K! Another irritating point is that if a device is high end the best contemporary features should be implemented. Yet time and time again WM devices give us substandard stills photography and camcording. A 3.2MP autofocus stills cam and VGA(30fps) camcording is too much to ask for!

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