Mitac Mio 8390

  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good

Pros

  • Available SIM-free
  • small and compact

Cons

  • Expensive compared to carrier-subsidised alternatives
  • lacks Bluetooth support

The Mio 8390 from Mitac is a clamshell-style SIM-free smartphone powered by Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones. Mitac must be hoping to take some custom from similar phones that are subsidised by network operators, but it faces an uphill struggle against, for example, Motorola’s MPx200, which can be obtained at varying prices -- including for free -- on contract from Orange.

Design
In fact, comparing this phone to the MPx200 is a valid exercise in terms of more than just price. The Mio 8390 is slightly larger and heavier than Motorola's phone, measuring 9.9cm tall by 5cm wide by 2.4cm high as compared to 8.9cm by 4.8cm by 2.7cm, and weighing 125g against the MPx200’s 118g. These are small differences, but they make the Mio 8390 feel slightly less comfortable in smaller hands when the two phones are compared side by side. The Mio 8390 loses out further because its antenna protrudes some 2cm from the upper edge of the device, while the MPx200 has no protruding antenna. The clamshell design protects the main screen effectively, and also provides plenty of room for generously spaced keys. The number pad is particularly successful, with big rectangular keys that are very clearly marked. Immediately above them lie the Call and End buttons, and above these, to left and right respectively, are Home and Back keys. At the top are the two keys that activate the left and right soft menus, which are two of your main controls within Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones. Further control is provided by a circular navigation tool with a select button at its centre. The Mio 8390 has two screens. The main one is a 2.2in., 176-by-220-pixel colour display that's your interface to data and applications. With the clamshell closed this is not visible, so a secondary screen provides some basic information including battery level, signal strength and the current time (in old-fashioned analogue mode). There is an icon for missed calls, and incoming calls are indicted by caller number, but there's no sophistication to this system -- numbers can’t be linked to the name of an individual in Contacts, for example. The front of the phone features a camera lens and a speaker that allows whichever of the 40 polyphonic ringtones you have chosen to blast out pretty loudly.

Features
Powered by Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones, the tri-band GSM/GPRS Mio 8390 is almost out of date as soon as it's launched: the newly announced Orange SPV C500, due later this summer, is expected to run the second edition of this operating system. Nevertheless, the Mio 8390 has some attractive features. The built-in camera puts it a step ahead of Motorola's MPx200, which lacks this feature. The camera can capture stills at up to 640 by 480 resolution as well as movies. You can grab four continuous stills at intervals of 0.5 seconds, 0.75 seconds and 1 second. Software provided to view images on-screen also allows you to add frames to shots and use a slide-show mode, as well as send images as MMS messages or locally via infrared. As soon as the camera is selected, the main screen turns into a viewfinder, and you can then capture images with a single button press. To frame yourself in a picture, you use the small mirror that sits above the camera’s lens. The processor is Intel’s PXA262 running at 200MHz, and there is 16MB of Flash storage available plus 20MB of user memory. An SD card can be used to augment this, providing access to data such as photos or music. Mio 8390 has no Bluetooth support, which will disappoint business users who like to use their mobile phone as a modem to connect a notebook to the Internet. Mitac augments the applications that come with Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones, although our review unit did not have all these available. Extras will include: Phone Explorer, a file manager that allows you to see what's stored on the internal memory and SD cards; SIM Cleaner, which tidies up the SMS messages stored on your SIM; SMS Sync for Outlook, which allows you to create SMS messages on a PC and send them to the Mio 8390, and to synchronise SMS messages with Outlook; SD Backup Utility, which will back up to an SD card; you also get a Scientific Calculator, and a tool for monitoring GPRS data usage. The phone comes with Java, which provides access to a range of software, including games. As well as the Mio 8390 itself, the box contains a docking cradle and separate cable, earphones, a belt-clip style case and a mains power charger.

Performance
The Mio 8390 performs on a par with other Windows Powered Smartphones we have used. The lack of a touch-screen and some of the ergonomics of operation are annoying, but it feels pretty responsive. That said, the Microsoft hourglass still makes the occasional appearance. Battery life is reasonable: Mitac quotes three hours of talk time and 70-100 hours on standby, although we would not like to be away from mains power for more than 24 hours at a stretch. The Mio 8390 is something of an all rounder as far as smartphones go. The camera and ability to add frames to images cry out ‘consumer’, but the data sharing with Outlook offered by Windows Powered Smartphones is equally useful as a business tool. Business users will appreciate the inclusion of a docking cradle and a separate cable, which makes it easy to sync with one computer at work and another at home. However, the lack of Bluetooth will disappoint those wanting to use the Mio 8390 with a notebook for mobile Internet access.

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