- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi built in
- SD and CompactFlash card slots
- removable battery
- Battery life could be better
- relatively bulky and heavy
- no SDIO support
When we reviewed Fujitsu Siemens’ first handheld, the Pocket LOOX 600, we thought it was a serviceable device, but didn’t find anything especially outstanding. This time around, with the LOOX 610 BT/WLAN, Fujitsu Siemens has pulled out most of the stops in terms of specifications, and has come up with a good-value alternative to HP’s high-end iPAQs. However, moderate battery life and lack of SDIO support let the side down.
Fujitsu Siemens ploughs its own furrow when it comes to hardware design, so the LOOX 610 stands out from the Pocket PC crowd. The heavy dark-grey screen surround and the oddly shaped bevel surrounding the navigation button and two of the application shortcut keys are different -- and since we regularly bemoan the similarity of many Pocket PCs, we have to give Fujitsu Siemens points for originality. The LOOX 610 is a little bulkier and heavier than the average handheld. Its 14.7cm height measurement includes a 10mm antenna that protrudes from the top right-hand side of the casing, making this device look taller, on paper, than most of its ilk. The width of 7.8cm and depth of 1.82cm aren’t far from average but the weight is the wrong side of what we regard as a crucial barrier, being 5g over the 200g mark. There are two expansion slots, both located on the top of the device. It’s unusual, but nice, to see both CompactFlash and SD cards supported in a handheld these days. However, SDIO is not supported, which will come as a surprise to many, as this is something of a de facto standard these days. The company line is that SD-based hardware expansion does not, currently, offer enough variety or value for money over CompactFlash to warrant support. Anyone thinking of upgrading their handheld who owns SDIO hardware may beg to differ. The left-hand side is home to the infrared port, plus a trio buttons used to activate and then control one of the applications supplied on ROM -- FSSpeedMenu. This is a tool for quickly accessing applications on the device, and going directly to the Windows Mobile Running Program list, where you can switch between or close any running applications. There’s a mains power connector on the right-hand side for recharging independently of the docking cradle, while the stylus -- a lightweight model -- fits into a slot on the upper right edge. On the top edge, to the left of the two expansion slots, sits the headphone jack -- well done Fujitsu Siemens for putting it in the ergonomically the correct location.
The key selling point of the LOOX 610 BT/WLAN is that, as its name rather suggests, it has both Bluetooth and 802.11b wireless networking built in. Fujitsu Siemens has allocated one of the four application shortcut buttons to wireless controls. Pressing it starts the company’s Connect2Air tool, which allows you to select either wireless system or turn wireless connectivity off completely. Connect2Air is available via this button regardless of the application you are currently using, and it will be especially handy for heavy wireless users who dip in and out of connectivity regularly and are conscious of the need to conserve battery power (of which more later). Connect2Air also provides shortcut access to Pocket Internet Explorer and ActiveSync, (which can make use of wireless connections), the Windows Mobile Wireless Settings area and Fujitsu Siemens’ Pocket Plugfree software, which is used to manage Bluetooth connections. We used PlugFree to get onto the Internet via a Sony Ericsson P800 without difficulty, but novice users may find this a little difficult at first. Fujitsu Siemens is generous with RAM, providing 128MB -- of which 123MB is available for your own applications and data. A 28MB portion of the 64MB ROM is set aside for user data, as storage space which can survive power loss. Fujitsu Siemens calls this the LOOXStore. When it comes providing extra software we have already noted Pocket PlugFree, FSSpeedMenu and Connect2Air. Along with a backup utility, these are supplied on ROM. In addition you get a range of tools aimed at professional users, such as F-Secure’s File Crypto, Westtek’s ClearVue and Certicom’s Movian VPN. Java Virtual Machine from bSQUARE is also supplied.
Generally speaking, the performance of the LOOX 610 BT/WLAN was impressive. We hopped around on various wireless networks and Bluetooth-enabled devices without a hitch, and found Connect2Air very useful. However, as already noted, anyone new to Bluetooth may find the PlugFree software a little confusing at first. The processor did not let us down, and that 128MB of RAM, along with the LOOXStore area, should provide professionals with space for corporate email and crucial backups. We were disappointed with the battery life, though. The cell is removable, which is good, and Fujitsu Siemens provides a 30-minute buffer battery, which should give you time to hunt down either mains power or a charged spare. But with the processor set to run at its fastest, the battery itself only pumped out MP3s for 1 hour and 50 minutes. After it stopped delivering sound, the battery carried on for a while, finally collapsing after a total of 3 hours and 57 minutes. You’ll get longer if you use the built-in controls to slow the processor down, but nonetheless, this is not particularly outstanding longevity, and if you use the wireless features heavily you may find the lack of battery life irritating. There is a second version of this device, LOOX 610 BT, which lacks 802.11b but does have Bluetooth, and which has just 64MB of RAM. This retails for £386 (inc. VAT), and may be a good alternative if you don’t need the advanced features of our review model.