capsule review

HTC Advantage X7501 PDA Smart Phone

At a Glance
  • HTC Advantage X7501

    PCWorld Rating

    A great display doesn't make up for an awkward phone and poor keyboard.

The HTC Advantage X7501 is a smart phone trapped inside a tiny laptop's body. It has the inner workings of a handset-with features such as 3G, Wi-Fi, and Windows Mobile 6--and the shell of an Ultra-Mobile PC, similar to that of OQO's Model 02. In theory, it should be a good formula. But in practice, it falls short.

As a PDA alone, the Advantage works well and offers an impressive list of specs: built-in GPS, 8GB hard drive, miniSD card slot, 3-megapixel camera, TV-out connector, and Bluetooth support. Its most attention-grabbing feature--the large 5-inch, 640-by-480-pixel touch screen--made watching video clips and viewing documents easy on the eyes. Via the included Microsoft Office suite, I opened simple PowerPoint slides and PDFs, and created and edited Word files and Excel spreadsheets without a hitch.

Managing e-mails was simple, too. I logged in to my Hotmail account out of the box--no complicated setup required. I also set up my personal e-mail account (the Advantage supports POP3, IMAP, and corporate e-mail) and synced my Outlook contacts and calendar in a few steps. The device felt fast enough on most tasks.

Its Web browsing speed was fine, thanks in part to fast data connections via Wi-Fi or 3G HSDPA or UMTS networks, but the navigational experience was far from ideal. In most cases, viewing a single Web page required scrolling, which is too bad, given the X7501's large screen. The unit's mobile browsers--IE and Opera--are designed for smaller screens and are not optimized for this larger display.

The major drawback is the keyboard. Don't expect to apply your 100-word-per-minute typing skills--or even your 50-word-per-minute BlackBerry thumb-typing skills--on this device. The thin, detachable QWERTY keyboard looks impressive at first, with flat, square-shape keys. Alas, the keys are too flat. For them to register, I had to press hard on each key, using my index fingers. The small size of the keyboard creates tight spacing between keys and makes it easy to nudge the wrong one. If you press a key on the top row by accident, as I did (the phone Send key, say, or the shortcut key for IE), you could place a call or launch the Web browser while typing a sentence.

The phone part of this device seems like an afterthought. On the plus side, it's an unlocked, quad-band GSM phone so you can use a SIM card with a service plan from AT&T, T-Mobile, or most other GSM carriers in either the U.S. or overseas without a contract. On the minus side, it doesn't work like a typical cell phone--it simply isn't designed like a handset with an earpiece. To carry on a conversation, you have to use the speakerphone, the included earbuds (or your own; it has a 3.5-mm headphone jack), or an optional Bluetooth headset.

Even with a headset, it's still awkward to carry the main unit around with you. At 5.3 inches wide by 3.9 inches high by 0.8 inch thick, it doesn't exactly slip into a shirt pocket. It's also fairly heavy at 0.8 pounds (about 13 ounces).

My calling experience using an AT&T SIM card was fine: The speakerphone was loud enough on both ends, but the folks I talked to sometimes complained about an echo. Talk-time battery life was very good, though: The Advantage lasted more than 7 hours in our lab tests.

All things considered, the HTC X7501 is a full-featured PDA with an awkward phone and a poorly designed keyboard. Sure, you get a choice of wireless carriers to use and no obligation to a contract, but this also means that you don't get the benefit of a subsidized price. At $900 (as of September 3, 2007), the Advantage costs more than many other PDA phones--indeed, as much as some basic notebook PCs, and more than some basic desktops with a monitor. What a disadvantage.

--Grace Aquino

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    A great display doesn't make up for an awkward phone and poor keyboard.

    Pros

    • Plenty of included software
    • Innovative design

    Cons

    • Keyboard is hard to use
    • Phone component doesn't always work well
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