Toshiba made a comeback into the handheld market last year with its Portégé G900 and G500 devices. Recently it launched two more, the BlackBerry-style Portégé G710 and, reviewed here, the clamshell-format Portégé G910.Design
Clamshell Windows Mobile devices are rare beats, although we recently looked at an example from ASUS — the M930. The M930 looks like a phone on the outside, opening up to reveal a keyboard and a second screen on the inside. The Portégé G910 is an altogether different proposition on the outside.
With the clamshell closed, you'd be hard pressed to identify the G910 as a handheld at first glance. It lacks both a large front screen and a keypad, while its faux leather trim makes it look more like a fancy storage case than a mobile device.
Look closer and you'll see Call and End buttons, which give the game away. These flank a navigation button that drives a tiny letterbox-style screen offering a minimal amount of information. It will name an incoming caller if their details are stored in the phone, and if you push the navigation button to the left it will scroll through your contacts — when you reach the one you want, you press the Call key to dial. Pressing the right side of the navigation button causes the display to scroll through missed calls, upcoming appointments, incoming SMS messages and profile settings. On this last option you use the up and down parts of the navigation button to switch between profiles. A notification light on the front of the device flashes if you have a missed call or some other alert.
The front of the Portégé G910 is a minimalist affair with a tiny screen and a navigation button flanked by Call and End buttons.
This provides enough functionality for basic usage, although scrolling through a large number of contacts isn't a great way to spend your valuable time. The screen is also frustratingly small and doesn't display enough information. For example, it will tell you that you've received a SMS but can't display the message itself: to see the content, you have to open the clamshell.
On doing so, you're greeted by a much more familiar-looking arrangement of a wide-format screen and a miniature QWERTY keyboard.
Inside the clamshell, the Portégé G910 has a 480-by-800-pixel screen and a mini-QWERTY keyboard.
The keyboard is relatively large, with individual keys measuring some 10mm wide and 8mm tall. The spacebar is double width and there's room for an inverted-T arrangement of cursor control keys. There is no separate number row, so number keys are embedded and only accessible in combination with a function key. Every QWERTY key has a second function of some sort, either offering an additional character or access to a feature. Unfortunately the '£' sign is only accessible from a bank of symbols.
The inner screen is 480 pixels wide and 800 pixels tall, which is a high resolution for a Windows Mobile device; the width is particularly welcome as it allows many web sites to be rendered full-width.
However, as with the ASUS M930, the screen looks a little lost — it measures 3in. across the diagonal, but could easily have been a third wider. Some of the spare space is taken up by a quartet of shortcut buttons on each side of the screen.
The left-hand buttons bring up Contacts, Messaging, Internet Explorer and Calendar while the right-hand quartet accesses Tasks, the Windows Mobile Today screen, File Explorer and Windows Media Player.
The sensitive areas are not the icons indicating the functions, but small dots that sit between the icon and the screen. You can tap at them either with a finger or the stylus, although with a finger it's all too easy to tap the screen instead of the icon. The stylus is long, thin and very lightweight, and we resorted to using the head of a pen much of the time, which can't be good for the screen.
The Portégé G910 comes with an AC adapter, a USB cable for PC connection, a stereo headset, an application CD and a printed user guide. The headset is a two-piece affair: the connector to the Portégé G910 is proprietary, but just past the handsfree microphone is a second 3.5mm connector for the headset itself. You can substitute your own headphones for Toshiba's if you wish.
The Portégé G910 is a feature-rich device that runs Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional. For storage, it has 128MB of RAM plus 256MB of ROM; after a hard reset, our review sample reported 120MB of free storage memory. You can augment this with a microSD card — the slot is on one of the short edges, protected by a hinged cover that can be difficult to remove (a comment that also applies to the power and headphone connectors).
There's a fingerprint scanner on one of the long edges of the device, which should endear the Portégé G910 to security-conscious business users.
As far as wireless connectivity is concerned, Bluetooth (2.0) and Wi-Fi (802.11g) are integrated, along with a GPS receiver that uses Qualcomm's Assisted-GPS solution (called gpsOneXTRA Assistance, for the record). The Portégé G910's phone is a tri-band GSM unit with GPRS/EDGE and 3G/HSDPA support. sports an LED flash and autofocus, There's a VGA camera for two-way video calling, which sits next to the main inner screen. A second 2-megapixel camera, equipped with LED flash and autofocus, sits on the back of the device. Toshiba's Image to Text software is intended to add OCR functionality to the camera: we tried it on newsprint, with less than perfect results.
At the rear there's a 2-megapixel camera: note the faux leather styling.
Toshiba adds a fair amount of software to the standard Windows Mobile bundle, including the excellent Opera, which will probably become your web browser of choice over Internet Explorer. You also get the Picsel viewer for reading documents in a range of formats including TXT, PDF, ZIP and various image formats.
The fingerprint scanner can do more than simply provide biometric security for the Portégé G910. You can also assign finger scans to particular applications, giving you a quick way of launching up to ten of your favourites. Scanning is fast and easy, but you have to run the Fingerprint Launcher software before scanning a finger. It would be better to have the scanner active all the time, as then you'd simply need to swipe to launch an application.
Toshiba includes the full Office Mobile suite of applications, allowing you to edit Word and Excel documents and view PowerPoint presentations. It also adds OneNote Mobile, a useful extra for those who like to use OneNote on their PC (or Tablet PC).
Performance & battery life
Toshiba does not divulge the processor used in the Portégé G910, but we found it to run a little sluggishly at times. With multiple applications open, there were occasional lags before tasks were preformed, which could be very annoying. In the end, sluggish performance could be this handheld's downfall.
The overall build quality is excellent. The exterior casing might look unusual and have limited functionality, but it seems to be exceptionally solid and robust.
Battery life was not as good as we have seen in some Windows Mobile 6.0 devices: we got just 6 hours and 45 minutes of continuous music playback from a full battery charge. Toshiba says the battery will give you up to 265 minutes of talk and 330 hours of standby time.
The Portégé G910 is a feature-packed handheld with a relatively large and usable QWERTY keyboard. The touch icons flanking the inner screen are innovative and useful. The design of the front of the device is quirky but not unpleasing, although the G910's functionality when closed is limited: many users may prefer a more traditional phone-like fascia.