Review: HTC Advantage X7510 with 16GB flash drive, haptics keyboard and Windows Mobile 6.1

The most powerful Windows Mobile device I ever evaluated was the HTC Advantage X7501 that was released back in August of 2007 and I wrote quite an extensive review that was my most viewed blog post of 2007. The successor to the Advantage X7501, the X7510, was announced at Mobile World Congress in February of this year. I was able to see the T-Mobile version at the show and play with it for a few minutes and have been looking forward to seeing the device released ever since. We were in a session with Eric Lin, from HTC, at Mobius last week and I was asking questions about the Advantage when Eric announced that each attendee was going to be receiving their own HTC Advantage X7510 at the event. Needless to say I was shocked and extremely excited since I have been using and thoroughly enjoying the original Advantage since last summer. I was actually using the Advantage paired with the Celio REDFLY to take notes and keep up on events during the conference last week. Check out my image gallery, video and thoughts/experiences with the device to find out if I think this latest model is a worthy upgrade for existing Advantage owners.

The most powerful Windows Mobile device I ever evaluated was the HTC Advantage X7501 that was released back in August of 2007 and I wrote quite an extensive review that was my most viewed blog post of 2007. The successor to the Advantage X7501, the X7510, was announced at Mobile World Congress in February of this year. I was able to see the T-Mobile version at the show and play with it for a few minutes and have been looking forward to seeing the device released ever since. We were in a session with Eric Lin, from HTC, at Mobius last week and I was asking questions about the Advantage when Eric announced that each attendee was going to be receiving their own HTC Advantage X7510 at the event. Needless to say I was shocked and extremely excited since I have been using and thoroughly enjoying the original Advantage since last summer. I was actually using the Advantage paired with the Celio REDFLY to take notes and keep up on events during the conference last week. Check out my image gallery, video and thoughts/experiences with the device to find out if I think this latest model is a worthy upgrade for existing Advantage owners.


 Image Gallery:The HTC Advantage X7510 is a powerful Windows Mobile device. 
Image Gallery: HTC Home plugin
 
Image Gallery: Close-up of the new keyboard design
 

I posted my first thoughts and initial impressions last week and wanted to follow up with a more in-depth look at this new HTC device to help you make informed decisions about these devices. We were informed by HTC that the ROM on the device is not the final shipping ROM, although the hardware is finalized so I will try to make it clear where there may be issues related to the ROM that will hopefully be updated when we are sent the final ROM.

I won't rehash my entire review of the Advantage X7501 since the hardware and device is very similar to the X7510, but I do think there are very important differences that you need to understand.

Hardware: As you can see in the list below, the specs are virtually the same for the X7510 as the 7501 and I have highlighted the differences in bold font.

  • 624 MHz Intel PXA270 processor with ATi Graphic Chip W2284
  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
  • QUALCOMM MSM 6275 processor for 3G mobile data connectivity
  • 128 MB RAM (about 77 MB available to the end user after a hard reset)
  • 256 MB Flash ROM (about 102 MB available to the end user after a hard reset)
  • 16 GB Flash drive
  • 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 13.22 ounces with the keyboard attached (12.66 ounces for the X7501), 16.2 ounces with leather case attached
  • 5 inch transmissive TFT-LCD with backlight LEDs and touch sensitive screen, VGA 480?640 resolution and 65k color support
  • Removable QWERTY keyboard with haptics feedback
  • Tri-band 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 (no software included)
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP support
  • 802.11 b/g WiFi
  • 3 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash light
  • Front facing VGA CMOS color camera (this type of camera was included on the T-Mobile Ameo
  • HTC TouchFLO finger-friendly optimizations
  • 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 and standard 3.5 mm headset jack

The name given in the device information for the X7501 is ATHE100 and the name shown for the X7510 is ATHE400.

I'll continue with hardware differences below and then a bit later in my review you can read about the software and applications on the Advantage X7510.

Hardware - What's in the box?: The box for the Advantage X7501 was quite compact and appeared in a cube shape. The 7510 box was more rectangular and has the cool black matte design we have seen on recent HTC devices. The contents are very similar to what was included with the 7501, but with one surprise that is quite valuable.

  • HTC Advantage X7510 (obviously) and QWERTY keyboard cover
  • HTC 4-in-1 cable (USB/VGA out/S-video/RCA video) (I paid US$46 for this last year)

  • Leather carrying case
  • USB sync cable (can also be used to charge the device)
  • AC adapter with Euro prongs
  • Stereo headset (connects to the proprietary HTC ExtUSB port)
  • Extra stylus
  • Screen protector
  • Nylon zipper case that holds your accessories and cables

Hardware - so what's different in the X7510?: One of the first things I noticed was the loss of the joystick controller located on the front left of the X7501. I personally use this quite a bit on the Advantage for scrolling down lists and for ebook reading. You will also see that the OK and Start menu buttons on the lower front left are missing on the 7510. In addition, the Communications Manager button found on the right side of the device is also missing. There is now a front facing VGA camera on the front upper right, but this was also present on the T-Mobile Ameo and other models not sold in the U.S.

There is now a 16GB flash drive (15172.31 MB shown available) included instead of the 8GB Seagate Microdrive found on the 7501. I never felt heat or had any major issues with the 8GB drive (it "disappeared" twice in File Explorer and required a soft reset to appear again), but we should see a bit longer battery life with the flash drive and better power management in Windows Mobile 6.1.

The T-Mobile model of this latest Advantage I saw at Mobile World Congress was silver in color, but the HTC branded model has a matte black finish like the U.S. sold HTC Advantage 7501.

Hardware - accelerometer: The Advantage X7501 had an accelerometer with VueFLO technology that allowed you to scroll the web browser by tilting the display forward and backward. Using the Athena Project 4.0 update you can also make the 7501 auto-rotate, which is a very cool feature. The new 7510 does not appear to have this accelerometer, but I won't be able to verify that until I hear back from HTC and have a chance to test the final shipping ROM. The display does rotate to landscape when you connect the keyboard and then switches back to portrait when the keyboard is disconnected. You can also rotate the display using the utility on the device, but it is not automatic.

Hardware - TouchFLO: TouchFLO technology is integrated in the device so that you can more easily manipulate the device with your finger. The X button area is touch sensitive and you can scroll with your finger in selected applications. You do not get the "cube" and touch sensitive functionality seen in devices like the HTC Touch and Touch Dual since the HTC Advantage 7510 is not designed as a single-handed device, but as a portable computer for use with two hands. The upcoming HTC Diamond will give you an even better touch experience with TouchFLO 3D.

Hardware - QWERTY keyboard: The QWERTY keyboard has the same magnetic design and attachment mechanism as the 7501 keyboard and you can actually swap them between devices. However, the keys are not mapped the same (dedicated number row on the 7510, different shortcuts on the 7501, etc.) so the keyboards really are not functionally swappable between the two devices.

I haven't made a final decision on whether or not I like the new keyboard better, but it is unique and different than the keyboard on the 7501. The main difference that is immediately noticeable is that the keyboard no longer has distinct keys, but is flat with raised lines differentiating the keys. Haptic feedback is available on the keyboard so as you press keys a "bloop" sound is made and the key vibrates slightly. However, if you silence the sounds then the haptic feedback is also turned off and you can't really tell if you are pushing a button or not. While the 7501 keyboard was not liked by all because of the short travel, the keys are distinct and offer some physical feedback when pressed.

The 7501 keyboard has a few more shortcuts right on the keyboard so you could manipulate the device without touching the screen in most cases. The shortcuts now missing on the 7510 keyboard are the phone send and end keys, right and left soft keys, display toggle (I use this all the time to turn on the display and start using the device rather than having to press the power button), and File Explorer. You do now get the Communications Manager shortcut on the 7510 keyboard along with a shortcut to MMS/SMS. The 7510 keyboard does have a dedicated number row on the top compared to the FN number keys arranged in a phone keypad layout on the 7501 keyboard. Unfortunately, neither keyboard is backlit so it is difficult to enter text in low light condition.

It really is almost a toss up on the keyboards as to which is better and if the 7510 keyboard had the left and right soft keys then I think I would be very satisfied with the new keyboard. I wish there was a utility that would allow you to assign customizable FN shortcuts so you could create your own shortcuts and become more efficient with the keyboard. I plan to spend more time with it to see which I prefer.

The new keyboard 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. One improvement HTC made in the very high quality leather case included with the device was to create an opening so you can actually use this Subdisplay while the Advantage 7510 is in the case.

The 2200 mAh batteries are interchangeable between the two Advantage units, but you will notice a slightly different method of securing the battery inside the X7510. There is no a small red clip that locks it into place, in addition to the metal U-ring clip that you press down into the battery compartment. There are two step directions on the battery, but I missed this at first and had a bugger of a time getting the battery out so I could insert my SIM card. You simply insert your stylus and press the red button and the battery should then come out after raising the U-ring.

Software: Keeping in mind that the current ROM I have on mine states Test Only, Not for Sale when you come out of a hard reset, there are some differences in the applications included in the X7510 compared to the 7501.

Software - Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional: The HTC Advantage X7510 is loaded with the latest Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional operating system that now gives you threaded SMS messaging, new connection setup and better wizards, Office Mobile that supports the latest Office formats and includes OneNote Mobile, Windows Live Messenger, latest version of Internet Explorer Mobile that includes a zoomed out view (the IE Mobile 6 update is coming later this year), and all the other standard Windows Mobile applications. There were other back end improvements in Windows Mobile 6.1 that are not as easily identified, but improve the performance of the device.

The connection setup wizard did a great job at automatically configuring the Advantage 7510 to run with AT&T and was much easier than trying to remember all of the settings I usually have to manually enter on my devices. It was also a breeze to connect to Bluetooth headsets as I didn't even have to enter the standard 0000 pin code, but Windows Mobile figured that all out and made the connection a snap. This is what novice users need when they try a Windows Mobile device and small improvements like this can actually go a long way in making a product more usable and functional.

One thing to watch out for with Office Mobile is that by creating a new document from scratch you will only be able to save the document in the newest Office 2007 format, which many people still don't have on their PC and won't be able to read. I did figure out that if you open an existing document in Office 2003 format then you can change the document and save it in the older format. I guess the key is to keep one Word and one Excel document on your device to use as a "template" when creating new documents, unless you are sure the recipient of your document can read it on their PC.

Software - included 3rd party applications: The most revolutionary 3rd party application that is included as part of the ROM is Opera Mobile 9.5 that I covered in quite a bit of detail in my Mobile software Monday review, image gallery, and video. I can't say enough about how impressed I am with this browser and it really does take this device to the next level.

Other included 3rd party applications and utilities include Adobe Reader LE, Audio Booster, Audio Manager, ClearVue Presenter 5, Esmertec Jbed Java application, Jetcet Print 5, RSS Hub (Ilium Software's RSS aggregator), Zip utility, and WorldCard Mobile. WorldCard Mobile lets you take a photo of a business card and then have that information imported into your Contacts database.

After looking a bit further into the RSS Hub application, I see that it is powered by Ilium Software Newsbreak version 2.1.1.1063. At first I didn't think much of the application because I generally browse my RSS feeds using Bloglines or Google Reader in a web browser. However, I discovered that this application provides functionality that I was getting on my S60 Nseries devices and that actually kept me using the S60 devices more than others for this functionality. The ability I am talking about is the capability to subscribe to and download podcasts wirelessly with no PC stuck in the middle. I quickly exported my podcast OPML file from iTunes and imported the channels into RSS Hub on the Advantage 7510. I am truly happy now that I can have my podcasts downloaded whenever I want since I listen to several podcasts and prefer them over listening to the radio. If you have any podcasts that you recommend, please feel free to leave a comment in the Talkback section for me.

You can also select to have the HTC Advantage 7501 16GB flash disk show up as a disk drive on your Windows PC by activating this option in the USB to PC utility. I tried to connect this way on my MacBook Pro, but nothing showed up in the Finder. When you select Disk Drive mode and connect your Advantage via USB to a Windows PC your 16GB flash drive will not be accessible on the device and applications that are loaded on the flash drive will not be usable (a warning dialog will appear). You will be able to directly move files back and forth to and from your Windows PC and 16GB flash drive though so this is a much faster way to get media content onto your Advantage.

HTC also includes the HTC Home plugin that I find extremely useful on the Home screen. You get a large clock, email/SMS/phone call notification, speed dialer, weather updates, utility/program shortcuts, and profile controls that are all finger friendly thanks to TouchFLO.

Software - What else did I install right away?: I immediately loaded a few of my favorite applications on the 7510, including TeleNav Navigator, Google Maps, Agenda One, Evernote, eWallet, HanDBase, iFitOne, RealVGA, Ilium Screen Capture, ShoZu, Skype, SlingPlayer Mobile, Spb Backup, Splash Money, Celio REDFLY utility, TCPMP (crashes and will not launch), MessagEase, Mobipocket Reader (no need for a Kindle now) and PocketBible 4.0 (brand new release).

RealVGA also works like a champ with the 7510 and lets you see much more of the display in most applications. There are still a couple of minor issues with it (soft input keyboards don't work that well), but I prefer to see all my application shortcuts on a single display and view smaller fonts and icons.

Conclusion: The usage scenarios mentioned in my review of the 7501 model still apply to the 7510 model and now with Opera Mobile 9.5 on the device I can truly use it as a mobile writing and blogging platform and have plans to travel much lighter in the near future with the Advantage serving as my primary computing platform.

I am very thankful to HTC for providing the X7510, but when you can get Opera Mobile 9.5 (still not even available in public beta form) on the existing 7501 I probably would not recommend you spend the US$850 to US$1000 (or more) estimated retail price to upgrade to the 7510. If you do not have an Advantage and have work and play scenarios where this device would fit, then by all means pick up a 7510 for yourself. Unfortunately, due to the Qualcomm/Broadcom legal issues it doesn't look like this device will be sold by U.S. retailers like Best Buy or Amazon. You should be able to find it from a U.S. importer like Dynamism though, but they are only showing as pre-order at this time.

The HTC Advantage is a device for a niche market so we may not see a Windows Mobile 6.1 upgrade release by HTC for the U.S. X7501 model of device. If you decide you want to take some risks then you may want to check out the Athena Project 4 forum at the XDA Developers site, but I am in no way recommending this route for everyone.

If you have any specific questions on the device that I did not answer in my review and you want me to try out, feel free to post them in the TalkBack comments and I will answer them as soon as I can.