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Mitac Mio 339

  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Built-in stills/video camera with flash
  • Headphones supplied
  • removable battery

Cons

  • Battery life could be better
  • no wireless
  • no CompactFlash slot

The Mio 339 is the second Pocket PC to hit the UK from Taiwan-based company Mitac, following its entry level Mio 338. This is the first Pocket PC we’ve seen that incorporates a digital stills/video camera, and it has one or two other nice features too. But it enters a crowded market where there’s lots of similarly priced competition: so is the camera enough to make the Mio 339 a viable choice?

Design
The hardware design is reminiscent of plenty of other Pocket PCs in that the screen sits above four application shortcut buttons, which are bisected by a navigation button in this case in the shape of a mini-joystick. On the left side of the casing sit the power and record buttons, and a headphone socket as well as a lanyard eyelet. The top of the casing houses the infrared port and an SD/MMC card slot. At the bottom there’s an AC power slot and a connector to the docking cradle, which, at its USB end, has a through port to the power cable. This handles charging both in situ at your main PC and when out and about with a second mains adapter. The battery is removable, and the docking cradle has a slot for charging a spare. The left side of the casing houses the battery cover’s lock. On the back of the device is the Mio 339’s standout feature -- a digital camera, complete with flash. There’s no lens cover, but both lens and flash unit are surrounded by a raised metal housing, which means they are slightly recessed from the main body. This offers some protection when the device is laid on a flat surface, but not as much as would have been provided by a sliding cover. The Mio 339 comes with a slip case (which isn’t as nice as the one that came with the Mio 338), and a set of somewhat tacky-looking remote control headphones that perform remarkably well -- certainly well enough for use while out and about.

Features
The Mio 339 is pretty standard in terms of dimensions, at 12.4cm tall by 7.2cm wide and 1.53cm deep, and weighing 170g. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC, and comes with a fairly standard 64MB of RAM. The single SD card slot supports SDIO, so although there’s no wireless networking on board, you could add it via a card. What’s probably going to ensure this Pocket PC’s place in sales listings is its digital camera, which grabs stills at 640 by 480 and 320 by 240 pixels, and which can also shoot video at 320 by 240 and 176 by 144, with or without sound. Mitac provides some software called MioCam which acts as the user interface to the camera. Running in landscape mode, this provides touch icons to control both shooting and viewing. Where stills are concerned, these run to selecting the flash, self timer and up to 2x zoom at the lower resolution, and choosing black-and-white or colour shots; image manipulation includes changing the white balance and brightness. Mitac’s ROM-based software suite includes a Picture Viewer tool in addition to the Album software that comes as part of Windows Mobile 2003. The ROM also contains an MP3 player with its own equaliser, which augments Microsoft’s own Media Player. The equaliser, which comes with a large range of presets, works surprisingly well, and is at its best when used through the supplied headphones. The player copes with MP3 and WAV files but not WMA. Mitac offers a few other software extras, including: a backup tool that sends data to a storage card but not to any of the ROM; eMenu, an icon-driven alternative to the Today screen; and Mitac Utility, whose main useful function is to offer automatic or user control over the 400MHz Intel PXA255 processor’s speed to help extend battery life.

Performance
In use, the Mio 339 performed well, if not exceptionally. We were impressed with the sound output to the supplied headphones, and surprised at how well the equaliser on the provided MP3 player worked. The camera software is quite good, though obviously no substitute for a standalone digital stills camera. The battery is something of a let-down, though. It’s good that the Mio 339 has a removable battery, but not good that the provided cell only managed two hours of MP3 playing and then a further 35 minutes of life before shutting down completely, with Mitac’s own power manager at its middle performance setting. Mitac is not a particularly well-known name in Pocket PC circles, but the Mio 339 is a perfectly good device, if you can cope with its relatively poor battery life.