- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built in
- CompactFlash and SD card slots
- 520MHz CPU and 128MB RAM
- 1.3 megapixel camera
- Battery life could be better
The last Fujitsu Siemens Pocket PC we tested, the competitively-priced Pocket LOOX 420, earned a creditable Editors' rating of 8.0. We were even more impressed with the fully featured, and slightly more expensive, Pocket LOOX 720.
The Pocket LOOX 720's case has an attractive blue-grey livery, with four rectangular front buttons (as seen on the LOOX 420). The lower edge of the case is rounded rather than angular, giving this device a distinctive appearance. Measuring 7.2cm wide by 12.2cm high by 1.5cm deep, the Pocket LOOX 720's dimensions are pretty standard for a Pocket PC handheld. It's on the the heavy side at 170g, though, but has slots for both CompactFlash and SD cards -- a rare but welcome feature. On the front there are four application shortcut buttons and a directional key with a separate embedded select button. The left-hand side is home to a camera button and a scroll wheel, and there's a voice recorder button on the right-hand side. The power switch is on the upper front right of the device, and there are two LEDs: the right-hand one indicates power charge status and notifications, while the left-hand one flashes blue and green for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi activity respectively. The headphone socket is precisely where it should be: on the top of the casing, and is the 3.5mm type, which we prefer. The stylus, a flimsy and very short object, lives in a housing on the right-hand side at the back. Also on the back are the lens, mirror and LED flash unit for the built-in digital camera. A large portion of the back is occupied by the cover for the removable battery. Built into this is a rubber strip that effectively stops the device slipping when laid flat on a table. There will be a second model in the range, the Pocket LOOX 710, with a reduced specification set (slower processor, less memory, lower-resolution screen, no camera). We hope to review this in due course.
One of the Pocket LOOX 720's key specifications is its 640-by-480-pixel (VGA) screen. This is a new feature supported by Windows Mobile for Pocket PC 2003 Second Edition; previously, the maximum supported resolution was 320 by 240. The higher resolution makes a real difference to usability, particularly when viewing complex screens of information, as text is clearer and better defined. The viewing angle of the 3.6in. screen is wide, and the image sharp and bright. At the heart of the Pocket LOOX 720 is Intel's PXA272 processor running at 520MHz. To help conserve battery power, the CPU has four settings -- Turbo, Standard, Power-Saving and Automatic. The latter changes the processor speed dynamically depending its workload; Turbo delivers the greatest processing power, but at the expense of battery life. There is 128MB of RAM of which 123.23MB is available out of the box. There is also 27.53MB of ‘LOOXstore’ Flash memory to which data such as backups can be sent. Expansion is available via CompactFlash and (SDIO-compatible) SD slots. You can also connect peripherals via USB using a somewhat complex double-ended cable that offers USB host and client at one end (the latter is for docking and synchronisation), and a twin power/data connector at the other. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (802.11b) are controlled separately, each having their own icons on the Today Screen -- in both cases these link to on/off toggles and Settings screens. In addition, one of the application shortcut buttons on the front of the device is dedicated to a ROM-based connection manager that can automatically complete wireless connections. Infrared is also provided, of course, in the shape of the Consumer Infra Red standard. This is not the fastest implementation, but it does allow for remote control of consumer devices like DVD players. The integrated 1.3 megapixel camera is pretty versatile. It supports still image sizes of 120 by 160, 240 by 320, 480 by 640 and 960 by 1,280 in BMP or JPG formats. Settings are for daylight, incandescent, fluorescent and night lighting. Filters can deliver greyscale, sepia, cool (shades of blue) and negative images. Video can be captured as Motion JPEG AVI or MPEG4 at three sizes: 96 by 128, 144 x 176 and 288 x 352, with the same lighting and filter settings as for stills. The flash unit only works in stills mode, and like others of its type is effective for close-up shots only. The camera can be started either by tapping the Today screen or using the button on the left-hand side of the device. This button, like the four beneath the screen and the one on the right-hand side, can perform a second function when held for a short time. The second functions are not all allocated, but are easy to set up via the Settings/Personal/Buttons screen. In the case of the camera button, a long hold launches one of the ROM-installed software applications, FSC SpeedMenu. This provides scroll wheel access to applications, the Windows Mobile File Explorer, the running programs list and another ROM-based application, FSC keyLock, which toggles the ability to start the Pocket LOOX 720 when a key is pressed. FSC SpeedMenu is pretty handy particularly as the shortcut buttons on the front are very close to its bottom edge, and difficult to use one-handed. Fujitsu Siemens also provides a backup utility on ROM, which will send either the entire system or selected data to the LOOXstore area or to an external card. You can password-protect access to this data. There is also an application called Album, for managing and viewing digital stills and video. In the box you get the Pocket LOOX 720 itself, a spare stylus, a docking cradle that can charge a spare battery, a USB host/sync cable, a protective case and a power adapter.
Using the Pocket LOOX 720 is a pleasant and productive experience. The screen is excellent, the VGA resolution delivering extra clarity. Support for both CompactFlash and SD expansion cards is a rare treat, too. Our usual looping MP3 test delivered 5 hours 40 minutes of music before the battery died. Play was continuous to the very end. We set the processor speed to ‘automatic’ for this test and turned both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi off, but left the screen always on with a middling brightness setting. Now, 5 hours 40 minutes is perfectly reasonable, but the Pocket LOOX 720 is aimed at the business community, and it's not unreasonable for such people to expect a full day’s service and then some from a handheld. Use of either or both of the wireless connections will deplete battery life fast, so mobile professionals will probably have to buy a second battery. Over six hours' life from a single battery would be preferable though.