- Quad-band GSM, GPRS/EDGE, HSDPA/HSUPA support
- Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS
- Video-out capability
- slide-out QWERTY keyboard
- Relatively large and heavy
- Keyboard is small
- Average battery life
The last i-mate handheld we looked at, the JAMA, did not overly impress us, being somewhat old-hat in terms of specifications. However, at the end of last year i-mate announced a new range of devices which was, on paper, rather more exciting. This included two in the Ultimate range, the 8150 and the 6150. We now have our hands on yet another new Ultimate device, the 9502.
In passing, we do wonder where i-mate can go next with device naming — after all, 'Ultimate' suggests there is nowhere else to go. Or perhaps it just means this range is the best i-mate can offer in the current regime. Either way, we expect a lot from the Ultimate 9502.
The Ultimate 9502 is certainly big, measuring 116mm tall by 60mm wide by 18mm thick. It's heavy too, at 200g — you can get close to halving that if you choose your device carefully. This device needs to offer some serious features in order to justify its space in the mobile professional's pocket or bag.
The touch-sensitive screen measures 2.8in. across the diagonal and has a resolution of 640 by 480 pixels, which is still something of a rarity for Windows Mobile. The display is sharp, clear and easy to read. On the downside, it looks a little lost in the fascia, which is peppered with buttons both above and below the screen.
Above the screen are shortcut buttons for the Windows Mobile messaging centre and Internet Explorer. Immediately beneath the screen, a long rocker gives access to the two Windows Mobile softmenus. The buttons don’t quite sit under the softmenu text, but it's easy enough to work out their function. Outside them are the standard Windows Mobile OK and Start menu buttons.
Underneath this row are the somewhat larger Call and End buttons plus a navigation pad with a central select button. These front buttons are supplemented by several on the sides. On the right are two volume control buttons, one for launching the main camera and one for making voice notes if you press it quickly, or activating the built-in voice control if you hold it down.
At the bottom of the right side is a 2.5mm headset connector, which is an awkward location — we prefer these on the top or bottom edges, where they sit more ergonomically when the device is in a pocket.
On the left edge is a button that opens a Wireless Manager for controlling the device's communications settings, an OK button, and a scroll wheel with up-and-down functionality and press-to-select functionality. This edge also houses a mini-USB connector for mains power and PC connectivity — and one other use, which we'll come to shortly.
If this were all there is to the Ultimate 9502 in terms of is physical features, we'd have to conclude that it's unnecessarily bulky. But, like several other Windows Mobile handhelds, the Ultimate 9502 has a QWERTY keyboard. The mechanism recalls T-Mobile’s consumer-oriented Sidekick device, most recently seen as the Sidekick Slide. The screen section slides away from the rest of the main body from left to right as you hold the Ultimate 9502 in your hand. Its display swivels into landscape format, and the keyboard is revealed.
Because it occupies less physical space than keyboards that sit on a layer the same size as the main handheld, the individual keys are rather small. Each key measures 6mm wide and 5mm tall, with the space bar taking a double-width area. There are two softmenu keys above the QWERTY row and a function key combination giving access to an embedded number pad and a range of non-QWERTY characters, as well as a couple of built-in features. The small size of the QWERTY keys means that people with larger hands may find typing a challenge.
The Ultimate 9502 ships with a mains power charger with international plug adapters, a USB cable for PC connection, a stereo headset, a pouch with belt clip, an application CD, a printed quick-start guide and a full manual. Both the printed guides are in full colour. You also, unusually, get a video-out lead.
The video-out lead is probably the most surprising element of the Ultimate 9502. This is designed to allow you to output to a larger display such as a TV or a projector. It uses the mini-USB connector, and the cable has a through port so that you can continue to charge the Ultimate 9502 while using video-out.
In addition to plugging the cable into your desired output device, you need to enable or disable TV-Out mode, as the Ultimate 9502 does not automatically switch modes when it's connected. You can choose either NTSC and PAL output.
The Ultimate 9502 has a 400MHz Qualcomm MSM 7200 processor and runs Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional. The processor did struggle at times to keep up with our requests, but for the most part it reacted quickly to screen taps. There is 128MB of RAM and 256MB of ROM. After a hard reset, our review sample reported 98MB of free storage memory. This can be augmented with microSD cards —there's a card slot on the left edge of the device, protected by the backplate.
The Ultimate 9502 is a quad-band GSM device with GPRS/EDGE and HSDPA/HSUPA support. It has a front-facing camera whose lens sits above the screen, which is suitable for video calling. On the back is a 3-megapixel stills/video camera with LED flash and autofocus.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are both built in, and there's a GPS receiver, too. No navigation software is provided to take advantage of the GPS receiver, though, and in this respect i-mate falls short of its rival E-TEN's GPS-equipped Glofiish M800.
Performance & battery life
We tested the battery life by asking the Ultimate 9502 to play music continuously from a microSD card after first fully charging the battery. It delivered a middling 6 hours 20 minutes of music under this regime. Forcing the screen to stay on during testing is a factor here, as it takes more energy to drive a VGA display than a 320-by 240-pixel screen. For a device with so many power-hungry features (Wi-Fi, GPS, HSDPA, video-out), we'd have preferred more battery life.
We got on well with the relatively small QWERTY keyboard, but some users may find it awkward to use.
The Ultimate 9502's video-out feature may attract those who spend a lot of time giving presentations or who need to project other data such as images or web content onto a larger screen. However, the overall size and weight of this handheld mean it is not overly pocket-friendly, and battery life leaves a little to be desired.