I first heard about MWg at the Mobius 2008 event back in May and had a chance to see their Zinc II device. An evaluation model just arrived at the end of last week and my first impressions can be viewed and read about in the video, image gallery, and in my thoughts below. The MWg Zinc II is a SIM-unlocked Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 device now available in the U.S. with a MSRP of
US$749.95 US$599 from various online retailers. After spending a couple of days with the device, I think it is a decent entry in this market and do look forward to seeing what else MWg comes out with in the future. However, the price is too high for the specifications and I am not sure how popular the device is going to be when there are other devices available from carriers for much less (like the AT&T Tilt). The price may seem a bit high, but when you compare other tri-band HSDPA, quad-band GSM devices with slide-out QWERTY keyboards it is actually priced a bit lower than those devices (like the HTC TyTN II).
|Image Gallery:The MWg Zinc II is a decently designed Windows Mobile Professional device with lots of potential.|
This may be the first time you heard of MWg (Mobile and Wireless Group) and this is the first device released here from this new company. MWg was previously known as O2 Asia and was purchased by a group that wanted to launch a new brand of Windows Mobile devices. MWg plans to launch three to five devices in 2008 with the Zinc II being the first branded by them. The Zinc II is a QWERTY slider Windows Mobile device, similar to the AT&T Tilt, but with a slimmer and more modern form factor. MWg packaged it extremely well and it is a device that is just about there, except for the 64MB of RAM and keyboard oddities. Some also don't like the use of a mini USB port for a headset and while I don't like this either HTC and others are doing the same thing too so it is tough to fault just MWg.
Specs: The MWg Zinc II is a Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional touch screen device that has mostly high level specifications, including:
- Samsung 500 MHz Processor
- Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGGE (850/900/1800/1900)
- Tri-band UMTS/HSDPA (850/1900/2100)
- Slide-out QWERTY keyboard
- 2.8â€ TFT QVGA LCD Touch Screen
- Wireless LAN 802.11b/g
- Bluetooth v1.2
- Integrate SiRFStar III GPS
- 2 mega-pixel CMOS Auto-focus with 4x digital zoom camera
- 256 MB Flash ROM; 64 MB RAM and microSD expandable memory
- Dimensions: 4.31 x 2.32 x 0.69 inches and 6.53 ounces
US$749 MSRPUS$599, including a 12 month US warranty
In the box: The packaging is probably the most solid I have ever seen with a strong magnetic front flap the keeps the box secured. It attractively shows the MWg Zinc II in QWERTY mode in glossy finish with some MWg designs around the image. The box is very strong and rock solid. After opening the top flap you can see the Zinc II resting in a solid platform. This platform can be lifted out with the A/C adapter and 3 foreign plugs located in the square end of the platform. Under the platform you can find two small individual boxes in a dark red color. One box contains the stylus (no extra included), battery, stereo headset, and mini USB cable. The other box has the manuals and a CD inside.
There is no screen protector included or any type of carrying case.
Walk around the hardware: I'm not sure who makes the MWg Zinc II, but the O2 Asia products were produced in Taiwan by Quanta Computer, Asustek Computer, Gigabyte Communications and Arima Communications. The device is entirely covered with the rubberized soft touch material and feels great in your hand. It is slimmer than other QWERTY slider phones I have used and is much more pocketable than something like the AT&T Tilt. One thing that is immediately noticeable on the front that I like is the flush cover on the display. There is no longer a bezel display, but a flush display like that seen on the HTC Touch Diamond. It is too bad this display isn't VGA since after using the Touch Diamond I don't know if I can go back to a QVGA Windows Mobile device.
You will also notice the minimalist design of the device with only the send and end keys on either side of the directional pad with action button. There are no buttons for the two soft keys. There is an indicator light to the right of the speaker that flashes different colors, including green, purple, blue, etc. for different indications.
The top of the device is completely void of anything, but one side of the lanyard opening on the left side.
The left side of the device is where you will find the volume up and down buttons, Zinc II Quick Menu button, and open micro SDHC card slot. The right side contains the power button, soft reset opening, camera button, and stylus silo. The stylus is a telescoping model that is too small and thin for my tastes and feels a bit skimpy. The mini USB port and the microphone are both found on the bottom of the Zinc II.
The 2 megapixel camera and speaker are found along the top of the back of the device. The battery cover takes up most of the back and is easily removed by sliding it down and off. The MWg logo and Windows Mobile logo are found on the back battery cover.
The keyboard is a bit strange and while I think you may get used to the layout the 3 row layout, lack of shortcuts, requirement to press two buttons for a period, and miniscule space bar negatively impact the functionality of the device. The two soft keys are well aligned with the landscape display and there is enough space below the display to press these keys. I keep pressing the "n" key instead of the "m" as I try to get used to the offset layout of the QWERTY keyboard.
GPS seems to work well with Google Maps and the GPS Viewer utility, but I haven't spent too much time with it to state how good it is.
Software, other than Windows Mobile Pro 6.1: In addition to the full Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional OS with Office Mobile, Windows Live Messenger, Calendar, etc. you also get a Java client so you can run Opera Mini and Gmail, GPS Viewer utility, headset volume limiter utility, and the Zinc II Quick Menu utility. This Zinc II Quick Menu appears to be similar to the HTC Touch utility and Spb Mobile Shell application that gives you quick access to applications and utilities and 36 speed dial shortcuts in panels that easily rotate with a flick of your finger from right to left or left to right on your display. Swiping down will close the Zinc II Quick Menu and there is a hardware button on the left side to launch the utility.
General thoughts: The device feels good in your hand and is a great size for a device with a slide-out QWERTY design. I wish the keyboard was better designed and think I would struggle with it too much for it to be more useful than an on-screen keyboard. The 64MB of RAM didn't seem to be as much of an issue as I thought it would be even after running several applications at once. The 500MHz Samsung processor is quite zippy and I found the device to be responsive. As I said, I don't think I could go back to a QVGA device again, but the display is clear and bright on the Zinc II.
The auto configure utility was a bit of a pain since it did not list any carrier from the United States so I had to manually enter my settings for AT&T to establish a wireless connection. Since the device is officially for sale in the U.S. now, MWg needs to update the utility for U.S. carriers. UPDATE: I just received an email that a version 2.0 ROM will be available within 2 weeks that adds auto config settings for T-Mobile and AT&T in the USA, along with other minor bugs that have been found and reported to MWg.
Overall, it is a decent QWERTY device that just has a couple of issues keeping it from being a very good device. The original price seemed too high to me for the feature set and design of the device, but I just received word after posting my initial impressions that they have dropped the MSRP to a much more reasonable US$599. You may even be able to find it lower than this at some online retailers and for the features and design of the device I think this is a price reflective of the SIM-unlocked market.
I was also quite impressed the MWg responded so quickly to feedback from reviewers and with this kind of customer service and presence in the US I think they are starting out well here with the Zinc II.