ZDNet Editors' Choice

HTC TyTN II

Summary: Few new Windows Mobile handhelds add significantly to the genre, but HTC has managed that with the TyTN II and its tilting screen. It also includes an up-to-the-minute set of features and wins a well-deserved Editors' Choice.

  • Editors' rating:
    8.7
  • User rating:
    7.8
  • RRP:
    GBP £485.00
    AUD $1,299.00

Pros

  • Excellent keyboard
  • Clever tilting screen
  • Integrated 3G/HSDPA and GPS
  • Windows Mobile 6 Professional
  • Business card scanning software included

Cons

  • Relatively bulky and heavy
  • Expensive without an operator subsidy

HTC is a leading maker of Windows Mobile devices, recent launches including the somewhat quirky Touch and now the TyTN II, which builds on a successful product from last year.

We were highly impressed with the functionality and usability of the original TyTN, so the TyTN II has to maintain the high standards of its predecessor while bringing the feature set bang up to date.

The TyTN II has already been announced by T-Mobile as the MDA Vario III; according to HTC, other European operators — including Orange, Telefonica Group and Vodafone — will also carry it.

Design
The HTC TyTN II is a chunky device that feels somewhat bulky when carried in a pocket. Even so, at 59mm wide, 112mm tall and 19mm thick it's about 2mm slimmer than the original TyTN.

The 190g TyTN II is heavier than the original TyTN, which weighed 176g. That's quite a lot of device to carry, although the TyTN II does pack in perhaps the most advanced set of Windows Mobile features we've seen to date.

The fascia holds no surprises for anyone who's seen or used a Windows Mobile handheld before. The 2.8in. touch-screen is large, although it delivers a standard 240-by-320-pixel resolution.

Beneath it is a bank of eight buttons surrounding a large navigation pad with a central select key. The buttons provide shortcuts to Call and End functions, the Windows Mobile Start menu and OK functions, Internet Explorer and Messaging (email, MMS and SMS). There are also two softmenu keys.

Although they seem to have been abandoned by RIM’s BlackBerry devices, jog wheels are coming back into fashion; the TyTN II sports one on its upper left edge, where it's accompanied by an OK button and a button that on a short press fires up voice speed dial and on a long press allows you to dictate a voice note.

Like its predecessor, the TyTN II incorporates a miniature keyboard, which slides out from the right-hand side (with the device in portrait mode). When the keyboard emerges, the screen automatically switches from portrait to landscape mode so that you can use the TyTN II like a mini-notebook.

Each QWERTY key has a secondary function, which is either a number, a character such as ‘@’, ‘?’ and ‘%’, or a function such as accessing Windows Mobile File Explorer or toggling Wi-Fi on and off. There are also two keys dedicated to the Windows Mobile softmenus. Two tiny lights above the top row of keys indicate whether Caps Lock is on, and whether you have hit the Fn key to get to the secondary function.

So far, so straightforward. However, there is a significant improvement in the ergonomics of the TyTN II.

In previous HTC devices with slide-out keyboards — such as the TyTN, the P4350 and the S710 — the screen remains flat when the keyboard is extended. If you hold one of these devices in one or two hands, you can tilt the handheld to get the best viewing angle for the screen; but working with it flat on a desk can be difficult, unless you hunch over the device.

This problem has been overcome in the TyTN II by allowing the screen section to tilt to any angle up to 45 degrees. This means you can work with the TyTN II resting on a desk and easily view its display, tap at the screen and use the keyboard. It's a simple but extremely effective piece of engineering.

Features
The TyTN II is brimming with features for the mobile professional. It runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional, and is a quad-band GSM handset with 3G/HSDPA connectivity and a maximum data transfer rate of 3.6Mbps. There is a front-facing camera for video calling located to the top left of the screen. Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) are both built in.

The processor is a Qualcomm MSM7200 running at 400MHz. We’ve not seen this CPU in a handheld before, but it does a good job here. There is 256MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM. After a hard reset, our review sample had 120MB of free storage memory. The TyTN II has a slot for a microSD card located on the bottom front edge, so you can easily boost your storage capacity.

The TyTN II is also among a growing number of handhelds featuring an integrated GPS receiver. You will also get a 'taster edition' of TomTom Navigator 6, although this wasn’t actually installed on our review sample. You can use any navigation software that's compatible with Windows Mobile 6 Professional, though.

The back of the device houses a 3.0 megapixel camera, which lacks both a self-portrait mirror and a flash unit. It performed well enough during testing, though. Large tappable on-screen icons give easy access to some of the settings.

The camera doubles as a business card scanner thanks to the included WorldCard Mobile software. You use this to activate the camera and capture an image of a business card. Then you can ask the WorldCard Mobile software to convert the image to an entry in the Windows Mobile Contacts database. We found this to be remarkably accurate during testing, and it could be an ideal use for ‘downtime’ after a business meeting where you've made new contacts.

HTC has implemented a handy software add-on that replaces the standard Windows Mobile 'X' symbol on the Today screen. This allows you to stop individual applications, or all applications currently running. It's a welcome addition, as many users are unaware that applications minimise rather than close, and therefore consume memory that could be used for other applications. The ability to close programs very easily (rather than going through several steps in the Settings area) should help people work more efficiently.

HTC adopts the look and feel of the Touch in its Windows Mobile Home screen. There's no TouchFLO functionality as on the Touch, but the Today screen provides a version of that device’s enhanced home screen. This shows the date in large numerals and provides lareg icons for contacts, the current weather and a five-day forecast (delivered over the air), a profile switcher and a range of settings shortcuts. If you don’t like this interface you can switch to other preloaded Today screens or use your own — as you can with any other Windows Mobile handheld.

Performance & battery life
HTC claims the TyTN II will deliver 264 minutes of talk time on 3G, or 420 minutes on GSM. From a full battery charge, our review sample gave us 5 hours and 40 minutes of continuous music played from a microSD card with the device's screen forced to stay on.

In everyday use we found it useful to have 3G/HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS all integrated, although this is no longer a unique combination of features.

The tilting screen is more than just a gimmick, and anyone whose handheld resides on a desk for a significant amount of time should find that it delivers a productivity boost. This ergonomic extra is the TyTN II's unique selling point.

Conclusion
Few new Windows Mobile handhelds add significantly to the genre, but HTC has managed that with the TyTN II and we expect to see other vendors copy the tilting screen idea. Look out for subsidised versions of this device from various network operators if you find HTC's SIM-free price (£479.95 inc. VAT, or £408.47 ex. VAT) too steep.

 

Topics: Smartphones, Reviews

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