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Gmate Yopy

  • Editors' rating
    6.0 Good

Pros

  • A true pocket Linux device.

Cons

  • Non- backlit display
  • MMC port is limited to memory cards
  • no stylus holder
  • slow.

Gmate’s Yopy, which is being sold via the French Tuxmedia Web site, is attractive in terms of design but difficult to use due to lack of a backlight for the display. This clamshell-format, mini-keyboard-equipped device uses a Linux-based operating system, and offers an alternative to Palm OS and Microsoft’s Pocket PC.

Announced around two and a half years ago, the original Linux handheld is finally available -- Tuxmedia is targeting French users, but the devices it is selling use an English-language version of the OS, and the company can ship to the UK on demand. Originally conceived to compete with Pocket PC, it now appears to have fallen behind its competition.

The Yopy is built around Intel’s 206MHz StrongArm processor, which is now practically obsolete -- most new Pocket PCs, for example, use Intel’s new PXA250 (XScale) processor. The 240 by 320 pixel screen displays 65,536 colours, but has no backlight. In terms of memory, things are not much better. Despite integrating 64MB of RAM like many other handhelds, only 32MB are actually available to use. There is an expansion slot, but this is an MMC (MultiMedia Card) unit rather than the more flexible SD (Secure Digital) format, which is rapidly replacing MMC.

By far the most annoying aspect of the Yopy is its lack of display backlighting. As a result, it requires sufficient and well-oriented ambient light to be legible. Light coming from behind the device is the best orientation, whereas lateral exposure makes the display difficult, if not impossible, to read.

The Yopy flips open in the same manner as Sony’s CLIE PEG-NR70V, protecting it from damage when the unit is closed. The keys on the QWERTY-style keyboard are usable enough, but the placement of certain keys takes some getting used to. You can also use a handwriting recognition system inspired by Palm’s Graffiti, but the writing area is too small for comfort. Another annoying -- if less serious -- feature concerns the stylus: the Yopy provides no place to store it when it’s not in use.

This handheld may be equipped with an infrared port, but we found impossible to transfer a vCard between a Palm device and the Yopy during our tests. The Linux operating system has a reputation for stability and speed. Stability can only really be tested via extreme usage involving the installation of external programs, but given the rarity of such applications we weren’t able to accomplish this. Speed is disappointing: all of the bundled programs take several seconds to load, and even validating a simple selection within the configuration process requires a short wait.

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The Yopy’s PIM (Personal Information Management) functionality includes typical PDA-type applications like Task, Contact and Schedule, but is way behind the competition. The interface is pleasant but can be difficult to control, and it often takes several attempts before an operation is successfully launched. The rest of the programs are rather good. A development environment based on connecting a host PC to the Yopy with a serial cable will no doubt delight Linux users, and there’s also an MP3 player offering decent sound quality.

The USB docking cradle acts as a battery recharger and enables you to synchronise with Outlook on a desktop PC. Unfortunately, the Linux synchronisation software is not provided as standard.

This Linux handheld falls between two stools. It’s too technical to appeal to the mass market, but a device targeted at developers could have jettisoned the MP3 player in favour of a proper add-on keyboard.

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