Asus MyPal A620

  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good
  • $279.20

Pros

  • Runs the new Windows Mobile 2003 OS
  • good price given the specification
  • useful SmartKeeper and Asus Settings utilities.

Cons

  • No built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
  • awkwardly placed voice recording button.

The MyPal A620 from Asus is the first handheld running the new Windows Mobile 2003 operating system that we’ve seen. Like the new OS itself, the MyPal 620 is hardly revolutionary, but for anyone who wants to be at the forefront of the Pocket PC world, it offers the latest software and good hardware features for a very reasonable price.

Design
The MyPal A620 is the second Asus handheld we've examined. The first, the MyPal A600 was pleasantly small, light and thin, and performed well for its price. We rather liked it, albeit with some reservations. The A620 has a meatier specification, and debuts at a somewhat lower price than its predecessor. In terms of hardware design, the MyPal A620 looks every inch a Pocket PC. It's silver all over, and has the usual array of four application shortcut buttons and a navigation cursor sitting beneath the screen. Three of the shortcut buttons take you to standard Pocket PC applications -- Tasks, Contacts and Calendar. The fourth, which sports a 'home' symbol, takes you to a range of tabbed screens that give access to various system configuration settings. The navigation button is slightly raised from the main body of the device and has a nice rolling action that sends the cursor in eight directions and makes selections if depressed. There's no scroll wheel, so it's just as well that this button is ergonomic. In fact, the only buttons in addition to the five beneath the screen lie on the top of the casing. One is the power switch, the other an activator for the Voice Recorder application which, like the other core Pocket PC applications, makes the transition from the 2002 to 2003 versions. The positioning of the Voice Recorder button is problematical for two reasons: first, it's relatively easy to hit the button accidentally when taking the MyPal A620 out of its cradle; second, it's all too easy to obstruct the microphone when holding down the button to initiate a recording. The MyPal A620 is slightly bulkier than its predecessor at 7.7cm wide by 12.5cm high by 1.3cm deep. Asus has opted to equip the MyPal 620 with an internal CompactFlash slot rather than the SD slot seen in the previous model. This is good news for fans of very high-capacity external storage, and you'll also be able to add both 802.11b (Wi-Fi) networking and Bluetooth via CF card if necessary. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth fans will be pleased to note that Windows Mobile 2003 supports wireless networking much more smoothly than its predecessor. The MyPal A620 ships with a cradle into which it fits very snugly, plus a soft carrying case that offers plenty of protection but adds considerably to the device's bulk and 141g weight.

Features
The MyPal A620 runs the new Windows Mobile 2003 operating system, which offers plenty of changes over Pocket PC 2002, even if many are evolutionary enhancements rather than major developments. The new OS doesn't require more Flash ROM or RAM than its predecessor, and the MyPal A620 comes with 32MB of the former and 64MB of the latter (58MB of which is available to the user). This specification is no different to standard Pocket PC 2002 devices. The processor, an Intel PXA255 chip running at 400MHz, is also nothing new -- we've already seen this new version of the XScale processor in a small number of recent Pocket PCs. The 3.5in. screen has the usual 240-by-320-pixel resolution and 16-bit colour depth. It's what Asus calls a 'semi-transflective' display that performs well in a range of lighting conditions. Asus has added three utilities to the standard Windows Mobile 2003 suite to help increase the MyPal A620's appeal. SmartKeeper backs up the 'system status' to an external CompactFlash card. In other words, all 64MB of RAM are backed up to the card, replicating precisely the state of your device when the backup is made. The software can do this on command or automatically when battery power reaches a preset low level. Cleverly, if you have Smartkeeper set to operate automatically it will perform a backup when the battery threshold is reached whether the A620 is powered on or off -- providing there is a CF card with at least 64MB of free space in place. You can then recharge the depleted battery, restore the 'system status' and carry on where you left off, having lost no vital data from RAM. Asus Backup allows you to manually create separate data backups to Compact Flash cards. You can choose either all data or just PIM data, but that's about as flexible as the program gets. There is no possibility of backing up to any segment of Flash ROM. Asus Settings is a useful suite of tools that's accessible from one of the four application shortcut buttons. A series of tabbed menus allow you to make various system changes. One menu lets you alter the speed of the processor in order to save battery power; another provides display brightness settings; a third controls audio volume, balance, treble and bass; a fourth handles microphone sensitivity and gain control, and so on. This is a sensible innovation that should encourage users to take steps to prolong battery life.

Performance
Anything that helps you get more out of the battery should be welcome. When we flogged the MyPal A620, running it at full speed and screen brightness and blasting out MP3s at full volume, the battery died after 4 hours and 25 minutes (having given up on MP3s some time earlier). Asus claims that if you switch the processor right down you can get 18-19 hours' life from the device. There's nothing wrong with the MyPal A620, but it doesn't stand out from the Pocket PC crowd in any significant way. Its hardware design and specification are both fairly standard, although the price is attractive. Windows Mobile 2003 gives it an edge -- but only temporarily, as there will soon be plenty of devices running the new OS on the market.

Specifications

Display
Resolution 240 x 320
Technology TFT active matrix
LCD Technology reflective, transflective
Diagonal Size 3.5 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 8.9 cm
Output Type color
Native Resolution 240 x 320
Miscellaneous
Included Handheld Accessories stylus
General
Operating System Microsoft Windows Mobile for Pocket PC 2003
Processor
Clock Speed 400 MHz
Type XScale PXA255
Manufacturer Intel
Audio
Type speaker(s)
Memory
ROM 32 MB - flash
Networking
Wireless Connectivity IrDA
Input Device
Type touchscreen, navigation button
Multimedia
Audio Microphone, speaker
Battery
Technology Lithium ion
Run Time (Up To) 19 sec
Technology lithium ion
Header
Brand ASUS
Product Line ASUS MyPal
Model A620
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
Expansion and Connectivity
Expansion Slots 1 x CompactFlash Card - type II
Interfaces 1 x headphones
1, 1
1 x dock
1 x headphones
System
Platform Windows
Handheld Type handheld
Expansion / Connectivity
Free Qty 1
Chassis
Included Expansion Base(s) docking cradle + battery charger
ROM
Installed Size 32 MB
RAM
Technology SDRAM
Installed Size 64 MB
Audio Output
Type speaker
Audio Input
Type microphone
GPS System
Navigation none
Expansion Slots
Type CompactFlash Card
Form Factor type II
Total Qty 1
Interface Provided
Interface dock, headphones
Qty 1
OS Provided
Type Microsoft Windows Mobile for Pocket PC 2003
PDA Software
Type ASUS Backup, Calendar, ASUS SmartKeeper, Contacts, Pocket Word, Microsoft Pocket Word, Tasks, Microsoft Transcriber, Terminal Services Client, Notetaker, Voice Recorder, Windows Media Player 9.0 pour Pocket PC, Inbox, MSN Messenger, Microsoft ActiveSync 3.7, Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer, Microsoft Pocket Outlook, Microsoft Pocket Excel, Pocket Excel
Power Device
Type power adapter
Nominal Voltage AC 120/230 V
Frequency Required 50/60 Hz
Dimensions & Weight
Width 3.0 in
Depth 0.5 in
Height 4.9 in
Weight 4.97 oz

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