Eten M500

  • Editors' rating
    7.7 Very good

Pros

  • Small, neat and pocket friendly
  • some good extra software
  • impressive battery life
  • plenty of internal memory

Cons

  • No Wi-Fi
  • poorly located stylus
  • irritating mains charging arrangement

The M500 from Eten is the company's third SIM-free Pocket PC/phone combo to become available in the UK. We looked at its predecessors, the P300 and P700, a little over a year ago, and found them both to be adequate performers. The M500 is an improvement in almost every respect, although it lacks the built in Wi-Fi that would make it a sure-fire winner.

Design
The Eten M500’s vital statistics of 6.1cm wide by 11.2cm deep by 2.2cm high and 170g are almost identical to those of the T-Mobile MDA Compact, and it is equally pocket-friendly. There's a large Eten brand marking above the centrally positioned screen, and smaller Pocket PC branding below it, both of which detract from the generally appealing visuals. The tiny navigation button below the screen is flanked by Call and Contacts shortcut buttons on the left, End and Home buttons on the right. The right-hand side is bare, while the left-hand side houses a volume slider for phone and system sounds, a shortcut button for the built-in camera, a tiny rest button, and a small button that initiates the voice notes application on a long press or the built in Voice Command software on a short press. The 2.5mm headphone jack is protected by a rubber cover and sits at the bottom left edge. There's an SD card slot at the top. The stylus impressed us. It extends to 120mm and is well weighted, making it one of the most usable we've seen. Unfortunately, it lives in an awkwardly located slot on the rear right-hand side, at the bottom; this makes it impossible to extract when the M500 is in its (supplied) docking cradle.

Features
The M500 is powered by a Samsung S3C 2440 processor, running at 400MHz. There is a generous 128MB of ROM, of which 82MB is available on our test unit. Of the 64MB of RAM, we had access to 54MB. Overall, the total complement of user-accessible memory is in the region of 136MB, the bulk of this being in a storage area that would survive a battery rundown. The M500's integrated phone is quad-band with GPRS, and the SIM slot is only accessible with the battery cover removed. Eten differentiates the M500 from the competition by providing a good range of third-party software. We’ve already noted Voice Command, which does what its says on the tin and has a good range of built-in commands (asking ‘What can I say’ brings up a tutorial). It worked right out of the box, but has its limitations. You can use Voice Command for voice dialling, and in some instances the software seems to converse with you. For example, when fired up, it asks you to ‘say command’. If you reply ‘Today’s appointments’, it will respond with the number of appointments set up for today, and then read out your appointment list. Voice Command is clever, but its limitations are annoying. For example, it speaks in a very disjointed American voice, it gets confused -- on several occasions we asked it to ‘start calendar’, which it misheard as ‘start camera’; and although you can launch applications, you can’t close them with a voice command. Three programs make the Today screen stand out from the crowd. Battery Meter provides a small power bar that sits at the top right, letting you know how the internal battery is doing. QuickLink provides a range of icons for quick-launching applications, while Scenarios sits as an icon at the bottom of the screen and allows you to switch quickly between four profiles (General, Meeting, Outdoor and Silent). If you don’t like the Today screen, then M-Desk offers a tabbed, graphics-driven alternative. Eten also adds a backup utility, which is highly configurable. It can make automatic backups when system power becomes low or at preset times, sending files to a memory card, the My Documents folder on the device or the internal Flash memory. It can be set to keep a pre-defined number of old backups, and you can choose precisely what data you want it to backup. The only thing missing is the ability to define and save different backup sessions. Various communications-related applications sit in their own Programs folder. Call Filter (which has a block and allow list), SIM Toolkit, SIM Manager, Send SMS, MMS Composer, Speed Dials and Wireless Modem management are filed in a Phone folder in the main applications area, making them easy to locate. Another folder stores several utilities, including the backup tool, flash memory formatting and the aforementioned M-Desk application. A third folder houses multimedia tools, including image editing facilities for use with the built-in digital camera, which can capture stills at resolutions up to 1,280 by 960 and video up to 320 by 240. The tools for changing camera settings, applying filters, using the self timer and the camera’s flash light, and so on can be ranged around the upper and left edges of the screen, turned on and off by hitting an icon. This allows you to apply settings very quickly, and is a lot easier than having to go into separate settings screens. Bluetooth is built in, but sadly Wi-Fi is missing. For us, a business-focussed handheld without built-in Wi-Fi, is missing an important component -- integrated mobile phone notwithstanding. Eten provides a docking cradle in the box, with room to charge a spare battery; you also get a USB sync cable with a proprietary connector to the M500, which incorporates a jack for a (provided) mains power charger. This kind of arrangement is irritating as it means you need to carry two cables need to allow charging away from the host computer. You also get a stereo headset and belt-clip-style protective case.

Performance
We found the Eten M500 to be a responsive Pocket PC that's ergonomic to use. We missed a scroll wheel for navigating through applications, particularly as everything on the relatively small screen is somewhat reduced in size compared to a standard-sized Pocket PC, which makes prodding with a finger something of a hit-and-miss affair. The absence of built-in Wi-Fi is a real drawback, as we are simply too used to being able to log onto our wireless network to be able to function well without this facility. The positioning of the stylus slot is also a constant irritation, as you need to undock the M500 to get at it. Battery life is impressive though. With communications of all kinds disabled and the screen forced to stay on at half brightness, we looped MP3 music for a solid 6 hours and 30 minutes, after which the battery failed (having delivered a lot of very loud beeping as a warning). You wouldn’t want that to happen in an important meeting, but it certainly concentrates the mind.

Specifications

Cellular
Technology GSM
Application Software Align Screen, Calculator, Infrared Beaming, Jawbreaker, Memory, Microsoft Reader eBooks, Notes, Pictures, Pocket Excel, Pocket Internet Explorer, Pocket Word, QuickLink, Calendar, SIM Application Toolkit, SIM Manager, Solitaire, Tasks, Terminal Services Client, VPN Client, Voice Recorder, Volume Control, Windows Media Player 10, Camera, ClearType Tuner, Clock, Contacts, E-TEN Image Maker, File Explorer, Inbox
Phone Navigation Buttons navigation button
Type smartphone
Integrated Components rear-facing camera, voice recorder
Band GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (Quadband)
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Family Windows Mobile
Operating System Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for Pocket PC
Input Device Touch screen
Phone Features
Voice Dialing Yes
Phone Functions Voice dialing
Details
Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, voice recorder
Messaging & Internet
Cellular Messaging Services MMS, SMS
Messaging Services MMS, SMS, Windows Live Messenger (MSN Messenger)
Supported Email Protocols IMAP4, POP3
Communications
Data Transmission GPRS
Wireless Interface Bluetooth, Infrared (IrDA)
Processor
Clock Speed 400 MHz
Type Samsung S3C2440
Manufacturer Samsung
Display
Technology TFT
Display Resolution 240 x 320 pixels
Color Depth 16-bit (65000 colors)
Diagonal Size 2.8 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 7.1 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 2.8 in
Camera
Digital Zoom 4
Still Image Resolutions 1280 x 960
Media Player
Supported Digital Audio Standards WAV, WMA, MP3, MIDI
Memory
Supported Flash Memory Cards SD Memory Card
Battery
Run Time Details Talk: up to 180 min
Standby: up to 200 hrs
Digital Camera
Digital Zoom 4
Still Image Resolutions 1280 x 960
Header
Brand E-TEN
Product Line E-TEN
Model M500
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen
Features
Phone Functions voice dialing
Digital Player (Recorder)
Supported Digital Audio Standards MIDI, MP3, WAV, WMA
Power Adapter
Type power adapter
RAM
Installed Size 64 MB
Technology SDRAM
Flash Memory
Supported Flash Memory Cards SD Memory Card
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 1.3 megapixels

Top ZDNET Reviews