- Clamshell design with thumb keyboard
- 128MB of RAM
- nice user interface
- good battery life.
- Flimsy stylus
- Outlook synchronisation could be smoother
- MMC card support only
- no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
GMate’s Yopy is a Linux-based handheld, which we first looked at in October last year. At that time we reviewed a version of the device that had to be bought from France. Now, two models are available direct from the UK. We looked at the less expensive device, the YP3500; the other, the YP3700, has a CompactFlash slot and costs £360 (inc. VAT). There are some significant differences between the Yopy of today and the model we first looked at.
The Yopy’s designers have tried hard to make this hardware stand out from the crowd. To that end, it uses a clamshell format, with the screen sitting -- notebook-style -- in the underside of the lid. This makes the hardware rather thick, at 1.8cm, but the remaining measurements of 10.1cm tall and 6.9cm wide are very close to those of Palm’s Tungsten T. Weight-wise, 170g is not excessive. Beneath the screen, in the lower half of the clamshell, there’s a thumb keyboard, four application shortcut buttons and a round directional cursor. The design of these elements is different from the original Yopy -- the changes have apparently been made to enhance ease of use. The left-hand side of the case hosts a scroll button that works well (although it’s not as responsive or tactile as those found on some other handhelds), an infrared port and an MMC (but not SD) card slot. On the right-hand side of case the stylus grips onto a recess rather than slotting into a holder. The stylus is flimsy and an awkward shape, and is unlikely to get used much. You also get what the manual calls a ‘fashion stylus’ which is of better quality, but which needs to be stored separately from the Yopy. It may never get used at all. There is a wide and thin ‘event LED’ on the front of the lid that lights up in red, green, orange, yellow and blue when you open and close the lid, and provides a visual alarm for events when the clamshell is closed. The innovative cradle deserves a mention. The Yopy sits almost flat in it, so that when the lid is up you can see the screen. This arrangement takes up quite a bit more desk space than standard cradles, but it works well enough.
The processor is an Intel StrongARM that runs at 206MHz. It’s not the very latest XScale CPU, but we didn’t notice any performance issues during our tests. You get a whopping 128MB of RAM -- but before becoming too excited, note that only 80MB of this is available for user storage. The remainder is set aside for the operating system and for user application backup. It would be nice to have the ability to adjust the RAM allocation via an on-board utility, even flashing applications to ROM. Although this should be possible with Linux, you don’t get any help with it out of the box. The 3.5in. screen has a Pocket PC-style resolution of 240 by 320 pixels. The LCD is backlit, unlike that of the Yopy we reviewed last year, and although it’s not as bright as some transflective screens, it is still pretty good. The Linux operating system is crucial to the Yopy, of course. The implementation includes some well thought-out elements, but it’s let down in a couple of places. The user interface is extremely good, and we particularly like the start-button-style arrangement for launching applications. The screen is touch-sensitive, supporting both handwriting recognition and a soft keypad. The OS supports multitasking, and switching between open applications is a matter of tapping one of several icons that sit along the bottom of the screen. The latter provide quick access to other features like volume, expansion card contents, volume control and a battery monitor. The ROM-based application suite includes a task manager, diary and contact book, memo maker, MP3 player, sound recorder, painting tool, calculator, Web browser, email reader, a few utilities and a selection of games. A small suite called Yopy Office can be installed from the supplied CD-ROM. This suite comprises a notepad, word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool. For the desktop you get MyPIMS, a personal information manager that synchronises data with the Yopy -- but which doesn’t do so with Outlook or other desktop tools unless you first export tab-delimited files.
The Yopy 3500’s ergonomics are generally thought-out. Linux fans may like the fact that the Yopy provides an alternative to Sharp’s Zaurus SL-5600, but more casual purchasers will want convincing of the value of non-standard software. With Palm OS and Pocket PC devices and applications dominating the handheld market, there needs to be a good reason to dismiss them. The device works very well. The battery is good -- we got 5 hours and 50 minutes of continuous MP3 playing from a full charge, and the MP3 player is particularly strong. We were able to use the speaker to provide adequate background music for working to, and the output was superb through a set of noise cancelling headphones. The diary and contact mangers are fine if your needs are relatively unsophisticated. However, Outlook users will have to find a third-party tool to do the synchronisation tasks they require. So if you want to step outside the Palm OS/Pocket PC norm, the Linux-based Yopy is an option worth considering. But more help could be provided in the box by way of software to assist Outlook users, in particular. And for the price we’d expect SD card support rather than just MMC -- and maybe even a CompactFlash card slot in the less expensive 3500 model. Meanwhile, in the top-end 3700, we’d expect to see wireless connectivity of some sort.