Is the HTC Advantage really the most powerful mobile office?

I posted my first impressions of the HTC Advantage about 10 days ago and have been using it as my primary device ever since it arrived. I actually wrote 90% of this review on the HTC Advantage with a Think Outside Sierra Bluetooth keyboard. Yes, I have even been using it as my mobile phone, even though the form factor is not optimized for this and HTC really doesn't even advertise its mobile phone functionality. Surprisingly, it actually performed as one of the best quality mobile phones I have ever used, but there are trade-offs that I'll talk about later. The HTC Advantage is the most powerful and full-featured Windows Mobile Professional device on the market and it is the largest Phone Edition I have used before. HTC's retail box states that the HTC Advantage X7501 is "The most powerful mobile office" and after over 2 weeks with the device I tend to agree it is an amazing device in a form factor that meets a great balance of compromises. Do I think it is worth the US$850 retail price (Amazon.com price) and will I be buying one for myself after sending back the evaluation unit?
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I posted my first impressions of the HTC Advantage about 10 days ago and have been using it as my primary device ever since it arrived. I actually wrote 90% of this review on the HTC Advantage with a Think Outside Sierra Bluetooth keyboard. Yes, I have even been using it as my mobile phone, even though the form factor is not optimized for this and HTC really doesn't even advertise its mobile phone functionality. Surprisingly, it actually performed as one of the best quality mobile phones I have ever used, but there are trade-offs that I'll talk about later. The HTC Advantage is the most powerful and full-featured Windows Mobile Professional device on the market and it is the largest Phone Edition I have used before. HTC's retail box states that the HTC Advantage X7501 is "The most powerful mobile office" and after over 2 weeks with the device I tend to agree it is an amazing device in a form factor that meets a great balance of compromises. Do I think it is worth the US$850 retail price (Amazon.com price) and will I be buying one for myself after sending back the evaluation unit?

 Image Gallery: Check out 80 product photos and screenshots of the HTC Advantage.  
Image Gallery: HTC Advantage
Image Gallery: HTC Advantage keyboard

Hardware - What are the real specs of this device?: The HTC Advantage was released in Europe and other countries as the Athena or Ameo and had some different specifications (front facing camera for video conferencing, Windows Mobile 5, different included software, etc.) than we see on the HTC Advantage X7501. There was also the X7500 device that was previously released with Windows Mobile 5 and some other differences. I received a few questions from readers about the specs and was asked if I could clear up some of the confusion so I'll list the specs of the device that you should receive here in the U.S. if you purchase it from one of the retailers, currently CompUSA and Amazon.com.

Here are the hardware specs that I can confirm are on this model, the HTC Advantage X7501:

  • 624 MHz Intel PXA270 processor with ATi Graphic Chip W2284
  • QUALCOMM MSM 6275 processor for 3G mobile data connectivity
  • 128 MB RAM (about 83 MB available to the end user after a hard reset)
  • 256 MB Flash ROM (about 130 MB available to the end user after a hard reset)
  • 8 GB Microdrive hard drive, Seagate model
  • 5.26 inches x 3.86 inches x 0.63 inch (0.79 inches with keyboard on face)
  • 10.75 ounces with battery, miniSD, and SIM and 13 ounces with the keyboard attached
  • 5 inch transmissive TFT-LCD with backlight LEDs and touch sensitive screen, VGA 480x640 resolution and 65k color support
  • HSDPA/UMTS (850/1900 MHz for USA and 2100 for Europe/Japan)
  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
  • GPS receiver: SirF StarIII with Ephemeris Extension support
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support
  • 802.11 b/g WiFi
  • 3 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash light
  • HTC VueFLO accelerometer for web browsing
  • HTC ExtUSB with USB 2.0 support (used for charging/syncing/audio jack)
  • HTC proprietary 16-pin port for USB 1.1 host and VGA out
  • 2200 mAh removable Lithium-ion polymer battery
  • Mini-SD card slot for external storage cards (SDHC compatible)
  • Stereo speakers

You'll find the list of included applications a bit later in the review.

Hardware - What's in the box?: I covered most of what comes in the retail box in photos I took in my first impressions post, but I'll list what I had in the box here.

  • HTC Advantage X7501 (obviously) and QWERTY keyboard cover
  • VGA out cable
  • Leather carrying case (actually the best included case I have EVER seen in a mobile device box)
  • USB sync cable (can also be used to charge the device)
  • AC adapter
  • Stereo headset (connects to the proprietary HTC ExtUSB port)
  • Extra stylus

Hardware - buttons, ports, slots: Starting on the front of the device, since that is the first part you will see when you pull the device out of the box, we can see the navigational control/joystick in the upper left of the display. This is actually a very nice joystick that has a rubber end for better gripping to your finger or thumb. There is an indicator light around the directional controller that lights up orange when charging and green when fully charged. Pressing in on the joystick also activates the OK or selection chosen.

Moving down the left side you will find an OK button to confirm entries or minimize/exit the program in use. Below this button is the Start menu button. At the bottom of the left side is a hole for the onboard microphone.

Along the top of the 5 inch VGA display you will find the HTC logo on the left and a set of indicator lights along the right top. There are GSM/BT/WiFi/ and Alert indicator lights that show green and blue at different times.

Moving down the right side of the front you will find the web browser/VueFLO button that actually has Opera assigned by default. Pressing and holding the button while in a browser toggles the VueFLO functionality. That is everything on the front of the device.

There is nothing along the top of the device, so let's move along the bottom and find the miniSD/SIM/battery cover and copper keyboard connector, along with 3 screws that I imagine can be used to open the device. The cover along the bottom secures the miniSD card so you won't have to worry about a large capacity card falling out. It actually took me several minutes to figure out how to get to the SIM slot since you have to slide open the battery latch/prong and remove the battery. Then you have to flip open a white SIM card latch that again securely holds the SIM card in place. The battery is a 2100 mAh model that I have found gets pretty amazing battery life, which is one major reason the Advantage may work better for you over a UMPC. Someone asked if miniSD accessories could be used and due to the large door that slides closed after inserting the battery, SIM, and miniSD card I do not think it is practical or reasonable to add anything but miniSD cards to the slot.

Starting at the top of the right side (as you look at the device) we find the stylus silo. They stylus is about 3 inches long, made of black and clear plastic, and is way too light and short to actually use it as the primary stylus for the device, IMHO. You will then find the camera button that can be used to start the camera and capture photos and video. Below this is the right stereo speaker, Communications Manager/Voice Recorder button (default press and hold set to launch Voice Recorder), and then the power button at the bottom. A simple press puts the device into sleep mode and a press and hold actually powers it off completely.

At the top of the left side you will find the volume slider, left stereo speaker, proprietary VGA out/USB port, HTC ExtUSB port (for charging/syncing and USB stereo headset), and 3.5 mm earphone jack.

The last face of the device is the back and along the top you will find the 3 megapixel camera and flash light (makes a great flash light when walking in the dark). Car antenna and GPS antenna connectors can also be found under small rubber covers below the camera area. Along the center bottom of the back is the soft reset button than can be pressed with the stylus.

The device has a matte black finish over most of the body that does a good job of hiding any fingerprints and staying scratch-free with a reasonable level of care. The area around the top and around the camera does have a glossy (PSP-black) type of finish and does show fingerprints quite easily. The device feels rock solid and has nice curves around the main long edges.

Hardware - 8GB Microdrive: The 8GB Microdrive is a Seagate model that gives you 7625.13 MB of storage space. I loaded 90% of the 3rd party programs I tested on the microdrive and was surprised that I saw no lag in performance, especially after seeing the lag that Palm has on the 4GB LifeDrive. I watched movies that played flawlessly and synced and stored lots of music and podcasts on the drive. Photos and video taken with the camera can also be stored directly on the microdrive and this is the only time it may take a second or two to write the image to the drive.

I played all of my video (when not testing) and audio content off of the hard drive and could not feel or hear any drive spinning. I was also pleased to find there was no detectable heat generated from the drive spinning.

Someone asked me about hard drive upgradeability and the official policy is that HTC does not consider the drive replaceable or upgradeable by users and any unauthorized attempt by uses to upgrade the hard drive will result in the devices warranty to be voided.

Hardware - VGA display: The 5 inch VGA display is the most prominent feature of the HTC Advantage. It measures 5 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 480 x 640 with support for 65,000 colors. You can easily flip it between landscape and portrait orientation with the default designed orientation being landscape. At first I was impressed by the clarity of the display resolution, but the Windows Mobile operating system really doesn't take advantage of the resolution and all the icons appear quite large. I did select the smallest default font, but I personally still want to see more information on the display. The nice aspect about the larger icons at this resolution is that the device is easy to control with your finger.

Thus I looked for utilities that I remember using on the older VGA Toshiba Pocket PCs and gave the MVrTrueVGA utility a try. It did install and appeared to work at first (as you can see in some of the images I took of it on the device), however there were several parts of the device that did not support this utility. I saw most of the issues when trying to change settings. In addition, it looks like the utility is still at Windows Mobile 5 as the splash screen and G wireless icon show (there is no 3G or H) icons that appear when connected.

The display is very bright and 80% of the time I have it at 20-30% brightness. I only go to 90-100% brightness when outside. Like most touch screen displays, the Advantage is not very visible in bright sunlight. I did find it acceptable with the brightness all the way up, but in all honesty I rarely use the device in sunlight (especially since I come from a region of the country that is overcast more than sunny).

The display is not soft, like the Nokia N800, and works well as a small tablet device with handwriting recognition, note taking, and more capabilities.

Hardware - accelerometer and VueFLO technology: VueFLO is a cool new motion sensitive feature that allows you to browse with Internet Explorer or Opera by simply tilting the Advantage forward, back, and side to side. It takes a bit of practice to figure out how much tilting you need to do to scroll around at the proper speed, but it is a convenient way to browse longer web pages. I would like to see the ability to activate the functionality in other applications like an ebook reader or when scrolling through lists.

Hardware - QWERTY keyboard: The QWERTY keyboard is the first of its kind and attaches securely to the Advantage through the use of very strong magnets. You can hold the keyboard an inch or so away and it will get "grabbed" by the Advantage and secured. While not particularly designed as a thumb keyboard, the magnet is strong enough to allow you to hold the device in your hands and use it in thumb keyboard mode. I wouldn't advice this if you are moving though since dropping an expensive device may occur.

It also acts as a magnetic screen cover when you place it over the Advantage. The clear plastic part of the keyboard lays over the bottom of the front of the display and when placed on the Advantage the Subdisplay appears on the device screen, very similar to Windows Sideshow. The Subdisplay lets you view notifications, music info, time, connection status, and more in an indigo like color. You can change the info that is shown by sliding the volume slider up and down.

Unfortunately, there is no keyboard backlight so it is difficult to use in low light situations. Although the display does put off some good light, it is very tough to see the blue alternative keys. I primarily used the keyboard in laptop mode by using my fingers to touch type on it. There is very little feedback on the keys so it does take a bit of practice to get it right. You won't be writing novels with the keyboard, but it does work very well for entering passwords, typing short emails, or creating other shorter documents. I am faster with other thumb keyboards, like the newest HTC Professional device models, but I would rather have this one than not have one at all.

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Hardware - 3 megapixel camera: Windows Mobile devices, particularly those from HTC, are not known for having good quality cameras and the HTC Advantage is not much different. I do think the camera is better than others I have tried, but it still can't really compare to the Nokia cameras. I took a few photos with the Nokia N95 and Advantage of the same objects in the same lighting conditions (and selected a 3 megapixel option for the N95) so you can see some of the differences in quality. In a couple I actually like the HTC Advantage output better than the N95, which was a bit surprising. The software has several settings and options, but the software isn't really what you are looking for with a mobile camera. FYI, the white balance options are auto, daylight, night, incandescent, and fluorescent. The thick manual does have some good tips for helping you take the best photos possible and my main recommendation is to find good lighting.

I included a couple of photos taken with the flash in complete darkness and low light conditions and as you can see . I also took a photo of text, but without a macro mode these kinds of photos don't work too well.

You can capture photos in several different modes (photo, video, MMS video, contacts picture, picture theme, panorama, sports, and burst) using the dedicated camera button. Photos are captured as .jpeg images and videos are captured in MPEG-4 (.mp4) format. You can capture photos from 160x120 resolution up to 2048x1536. Video can be captured in resolutions ranging from 128x96 to 352x288. There is 1x to 4x digital zooming for the lower resolution captures, but I find digital zooming on any camera to be useless.

You can store your images and video on the internal storage, miniSD card, Microdrive, or even USB attached device. It is cool to know you can take over 1,000 photos or 30 hours of video without worrying about filling up a card.

Hardware - wireless connectivity: The HTC Advantage has all of the best wireless functionality found in mobile devices today, with U.S. HSDPA 3.5G support, UMTS, EDGE, quad-band GSM, Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support and 802.11 b/g WiFi. I simply popped out my iPhone SIM and put it into the Advantage to get full HSDPA connectivity. I regularly saw download speeds from 700 to 900 kbps, tested using the www.dslreports.com/mspeed site. You will need to get an AT&T SIM card to see the full HSDPA wireless speeds, but the device will also work with T-Mobile and its EDGE data service.

I was able to connect a pair of Cardo Scala S-2 stereo Bluetooth headphones to the Advantage and listen to flawless Yahoo! Music via Bluetooth from about 25 feet away through 2 interior house walls. My iPhone sometimes starts to lose Bluetooth signal if a I hold a headset an arms reach across my body and I have found the Bluetooth radio in the Advantage to be quite strong.

Hardware - GPS receiver: The GPS receiver is what impressed me after the first 15 minutes of using the device since I quickly downloaded Google Maps and found that the GPS receiver tracked my location in my house on the bottom floor about 8 feet from a window. I have never had a GPS receiver pick up a signal this well and was quite impressed. There is a QuickGPS utility that uses wireless data connections to help obtain the initial signal faster so that may have played a big factor in the speed of satellite aquisition. I then used the TeleNav software that came loaded on the device during a few road trips and time and again found the GPS to pick up signals quickly and maintain them very well while driving around. I have a bit more detail about the TeleNav software itself down further in this review. I regularly would have the Advantage sitting on the console of my truck's bench seat between the driver and passenger so no direct access to the sky was present, but it was set back about 2 feet from the window.

Hardware - accessories included: The HTC Advantage comes with a very nice leather case that has three rigid plastic braces on the top for the main Advantage unit. You simply slide the Advantage up into the braces until it rest against the top brace. You will find that HTC thought of the user experience and there are openings on the two side braces for the stereo speakers to still provide you with a rich multimedia experience. There is a slight cutout on the top back right for easy access to the stylus and another larger cutout on the top back left for the camera and flash light. An HTC logo is branded into the center of the back behind the center brace. The bottom appears to be a flat piece of leather, but as soon as you get the keyboard close to it you will realize it has some metal in it as the keyboard snaps into place magnetically. I actually kept the Advantage in the case 95% of the time and you will find the leather supple enough to support using the Advantage in laptop mode with the case wrapped around it.

You will also find a USB cable for syncing and charging and an AC adapter for charging in the package. A wired stereo headset, with 3.5mm male end, is provided for listening to media or making/receiving calls. There is a small dongle on the cord for volume control and to answer a phone call. I personally did not use these since I prefer to use a Bluetooth headset for phone calls and my Ultimate Ears for music and media. An extra lame plastic stylus is included, as previously mentioned.

The last piece of gear included with the HTC Advantage X7501 is the VGA out cable that connects to the proprietary HTC port located above the miniUSB port. The cable is a total of about 7 inches long from end-to-end and includes a small cap on the HTC port end with a standard 15-pin female VGA connector on the other end. You can use this to connect to an external display or monitor and have everything on the display output to a larger display.

Hardware - accessories available: To test out some of the advanced functionality of the HTC Advantage, I purchased the HTC 4-in-1 cable from Mobile Planet for about US$24, plus US$22 shipping and handling. This cable/adapter is about 7.5 inches from end-to-end and also includes a small cap (easily lost I am sure) on the HTC port end. At the other end you will find 3 more connections over the included VGA cable, including composite video output, S-video output, and USB 1.1 ports. I used the composite video output to connect to my 37 inch HD TV as shown in my YouTube video and it allows you to easily demo the device or show off your photos to family and friends. The USB 1.1 port allows you to plug in and use low power USB accessories. You can use USB keyboards, flash drives, hard drives, and more with the HTC 4-in-1 cable.

I tested a 2 GB SanDisk Cruzer card and even played video flawlessly directly from the card (again shown in my YouTube video). I was able to transfer my screenshots from the device to the USB flash drive with no issues and found the USB flash drive to be a wonderful option for memory expansion and transportation. I also tried connecting to my 80GB hard drive enclosure (came from my MacBook Pro) and while it did see the drive and connect to it, the USB 1.1 connection speed made it an extremely slow experience that I didn't think was practical for daily usage. The cool new microSD to USB adapter from Kingston that I am checking out worked well too, but I think using USB thumb drives are probably the best use for the port. I did try connecting to the Neuros OSD to capture video directly from it to the 8GB microdrive on the Advantage, but it did not work and I think it had to do with host vs. client behavior.

I also recommend miniSDHC cards and may be looking for some large capacity ones soon myself. The Think Outside Sierra Bluetooth keyboard is a must have for serious text entry.

Other accessories you may want to consider are a Bluetooth headset, Bluetooth stereo headphones, real stylus, good 3.5 mm earphones, and some kind of car mounting solution (I am looking for a good solution here if any readers have any suggestions). You do get a screen protector in the box, but I found it to be a rather cheap standard one that leaves lots of bubbles and trapped dust on the display so I haven't used it myself. I may look to Boxwave or JAVOEdge since they have screen protectors I like for most devices.

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Software - Windows Mobile 6: The HTC Advantage X7501 is loaded with the latest Windows Mobile 6 Professional operating system. There were apparently a few units that made it to the retail stores with test ROMs on them, but HTC quickly took action and posted a ROM update for buyers to download and remedy the situation.

This flavor of Windows Mobile 6 includes the standard PIM suite, Internet Explorer Mobile, Messaging, Office Mobile applications, Solitaire and Bubble Breaker games, Windows Live Messenger, lame calculator, weak File Explorer, voice recorder, Internet Sharing, a Java Midlet Manager (good for Gmail), Pictures & Videos, Windows Media Player, and Windows Live.

Software - included 3rd party applications: HTC generally includes some 3rd party applications or HTC branded applications and the first one you may find is Opera Mobile 8.5 that is set as the default browser for the Internet Explorer button. It took me a bit of usage to figure out all the settings and options, but I found this browser to be MUCH better than Internet Explorer Mobile and I was actually able to access just about every site I wanted where IE would joke much of the time. I am a huge fan of tabbed browsing and on a display this large it is a real treat, especially since the browsers tend to work in a more truer VGA mode.

Adobe Reader LE is included so you can view PDF documents and email attachments. IA SIM Manager is there to help you manage your SIM card contacts. The Zip program lets you open and create Zip files of your documents. Voice Speed Dial is included rather than Microsoft Voice Command 1.6 (like you get on the T-Mobile Dash) and at first I was a bit disappointed. Then in MobileTechRoundup show #108 James pointed out you could initiate calls via a Bluetooth headset with this program so I became a convert.

Lastly, TeleNav Navigator is included on the HTC Advantage X7501. You may have seen sites talking about the inclusion of TomTom and that is only for those devices bought from U.S. importers and not through the "official" U.S. retailers. This is a subscription service that costs about US$10 per month. You can also use other 3rd party GPS applications, even Google or Nokia Maps, with the GPS receiver, but after using TeleNav for 2 weeks I personally think the monthly cost may just be worth it due to the traffic alerts and rerouting, fuel finder (finding diesel can be tough without this system), and easy operation. There are a few things I would like to see differently on the software (better contact integration, data on the driving display, and Home screen option. I actually used the software during my daily commute since there was major work on I-5 and the traffic alerts (checks conducted wirelessly every 5 minutes, but only audibly alerted me about every 15 to 20 minutes if traffic wasn't much of an issue) helped reroute our vanpool around trouble spots. I also found the fuel finder (searches for lowest cost fuel in the area and even lets you select diesel only) valuable while driving my truck. The Points of Interest works very well and the large buttons that let you map or call the destination were helpful. All the buttons and controls on TeleNav are large so you can easily manipulate the system. Check out all of the screenshots in my image gallery for a good look at TeleNav Navigator. The software also works on lots of other devices so you may want to check out the software for yourself.

Software - additional 3rd party software tried on the Advantage:

One application I reviewed a few years ago on Pocket PC Life (http://www.pocketpclife.co.uk/featureddetails.asp?article=130) that now makes even more sense with a device like the HTC Advantage with 8GB drive is MightySync that you can try for 7 days or purchase for only US$5.95. MightSync lets you sync any folder on your PC to any folder on your device so I had it setup to sync my iTunes podcast folder directly to the 8GB microdrive when I connected the device.

Since the HTC Advantage has such a large display and accommodating hard drive I think it makes a perfect mobile writing platform and to really help turn the device into a UMPC/laptop replacement you need to try the SoftMaker Office Suite that gives you a full desktop quality and feature packed word processor (TextMaker) and spreadsheet application (PlanMaker). I plan to take a deeper look at these powerful applications in the near future.

I love using 3rd party applications, another reason I probably keep coming back to the Advantage over the iPhone, and have also loaded and tested Pocket Informant (PIM application), Agenda Fusion (PIM application), Google Maps (works well with the GPS receiver too), ListPro (database application), Mobipocket (my favorite ebook reader), Laridian's PocketBible (loaded the hard drive with Bible translations too), Ilium Screen Capture (for taking all of my screenshots), Skype (does pretty well on the Advantage), SlingPlayer Mobile (watching TV via HSDPA is actually pretty enjoyable), Spb Menu and Spb Shell (apps that can really make the interface much more touch friendly and iPhone-like), Sprite Backup (the best backup solution IMHO), and the Stowaway BT keyboard and mouse drivers.

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Usage scenario - mobile phone: As I stated earlier, HTC really doesn't even advertise the phone functionality of the HTC Advantage and it really is not designed to be held up to your head. However, if you are like me and primarily want data connectivity with occasional phone calls then I found the HTC Advantage to be a perfectly good phone. You can use smart dialing to dial contacts directly from the Today screen. The stereo speakers make the speakerphone functionality quite good and I personally prefer to use the speakerphone in most cases so I can work with my hands at the same time. It connects easily to Bluetooth headsets and I found the signal strength to be quite strong so all of my connections have been clear. It does not have a vibrate mode so this may be a concern if you have to leave the device off and don't see the display when a call comes in. My wife also said I sounded like I was on a land line when talking on the device with a Bluetooth headset. I was able to stuff it into my jeans pockets, but it isn't designed as a super portable mobile phone so don't buy it if that is what you are looking for.

Usage scenario - GPS navigation system: I find the high resolution display, loud stereo speakers, and touch screen to be a perfect combo for a navigation system. And then you throw in a powerful GPS receiver and high speed wireless data connection and you have a very nice and compact navigation system. TeleNav does not allow you to preload maps so you will want to find another solution there (maybe the free Smart2Go maps) if you will be traveling in an area without a connection. I set the Advantage in laptop mode on the keyboard and rest it on my center console while driving. I would like to find a better mount and think it would be nice if HTC made something available for better in-car navigation.

Usage scenario - multimedia machine: The HTC Advantage plays media fluidly and supports SlingPlayer Mobile. I also was able to load it up with music from my Yahoo! Music subscription service so it works well for music on the go. With the magnetic keyboard it sits at a perfect angle for watching video on an airplane trip and the battery will last you much longer than a laptop.

Usage scenario - practical battery testing: On one Saturday, I took the HTC Advantage off the charge with a 100% charge at 8:00 am. Throughout the day I had Direct Push enabled and only received about 35 emails, 5 calls totaling 17 minutes, watched Slingbox for 25 minutes (via HSDPA), surfed the web with Opera for about 1.5 hours, took about 10 photos, and kept the display at 30% brightness. At 10:00 pm I went to bed and the battery indicator showed 30% battery remaining.

To simulate taking an airplane trip and wanting to use the device to watch movies, I set the display to 30% brightness, set the backlight not to go off, put a video (Dune recorded legally using the Neuros OSD device) on repeat mode playing off of the 8GB microdrive in full screen mode. Flight mode was activated so there were no wireless radios functioning at the time. After 2 hours the battery was between 60 to 70% full. After 3 hours the indicator showed 50% capacity remaining. The device then gave me low battery warnings after 4 and a half hours and then finally ended up shutting down just after 5 hours. This is just about enough to get me more than 2 movies on a cross country trip, which is much more than I can say for UMPC and laptops I have tried in the past.

On a typical work day, I get about 50 to 75 emails (Gmail does a great job filtering my spam), surf on the device for at least an hour during my daily 2.5 hour commute, receive and place about 5-8 calls, and listen to an hour or two of podcasts and music. I find the device will go all day and at the end of my day, typically around 7 pm or so it shows 20-30% remaining. This is more than acceptable to me as I just need my device to get me through a full day without having to worry about being able to be charged. An additional great thing is that the Advantage can be charged via miniUSB to USB and even works with the Proporta USB portable power pack.

There is no extended battery option and I don't think you'll really need one with the excellent battery life the included 2200 mAh battery gives you. You can always carry a spare and maybe 3rd parties will come out with something with slightly more capacity in the future.

Advanced functionality for die-hard mobile users: I also had the chance to try out some functions that only a few people may care about so I put them in this particular section. I setup custom Windows Media Player playlists and was able to stream my XM Satellite radio channels via the wireless connections. Radio played flawlessly and using this allows me to leave another piece of gear behind.

I wrote a bit about connecting the 4-in-1 HTC cable to my HD TV and combined with my Think Outside Bluetooth keyboard this allows me to use the HTC Advantage as a main mobile computer, especially with the storage capacity and wireless connectivity.

Video that I converted into mobile format using freely available tools played back flawlessly on the HTC Advantage, as shown in my YouTube video. The video I converted was almost 1GB in size, but I can usually reduce that down to 500 to 700 MB and still have a good quality video.

I called James Kendrick, also on an HTC Advantage, via Skype and found that we had to turn the volume down most of the way to avoid the echoing effect. After that there was a bit of lagging on Skype too. I then tried the Cardo S-2 Bluetooth headset and had no issues with echoing so use a headset if you want to use Skype on the Advantage.

Warranty for U.S. buyers: Warranties are handled by HTC America in the U.S. Procedures for the Warranty service may be found by calling 1-866-449-8358 or at the Advantage site. The manufacturer’s warranty length is 12 months from the date of original purchase. HTC does not offer any extended warranties at this time – however, other warranty/service programs may be available through the HTC retail partners at the time of sale. CompUSA usually offers extended warranties so you may want to check with them if you purchase one at CompUSA.

Conclusion: I had no serious interest in purchasing an HTC Advantage after just reading the specs online and a couple of reviews of the earlier models. It wasn't until I was able to get my hands on one and take it for a serious test drive that I have come to realize how amazingly powerful and functional the device really is for a person who is data-centric like me. Considering I paid over US$850 for my MDA II Phone Edition a couple of years ago, US$850 for a device that packs in every wireless radio available along with GPS and an 8GB drive seems like a bargain to me. The HTC Advantage is the fastest and most powerful Windows Mobile device on the market and I highly recommend you get over to your local CompUSA and give it a try. I hope to have a bit more time to play with this device before I succumb and fork over some cash for my own Advantage so if you have any specific questions on the device that I did not answer in my review, feel free to post them in the TalkBack comments.

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