- ✓Large screen
- ✓Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and infrared
- ✓Plenty of internal memory
- ✓SD-format memory expansion
- ✓Good battery life
- ✕Windows Mobile 5.0 rather than Windows Mobile 6
- ✕Large and heavy by modern standards
- ✕Tri-band GSM/GPRS connectivity only (no 3G)
O2's Xda range of Windows Mobile handhelds has something of an aura about it. The original Xda appeared back in 2002, kicking off a line of O2 devices that has proved both popular and enduring. As well as introducing new models into the range, O2 has consistently updated the original Xda form factor, the most recent incarnation being the Xda IIi. The Xda Argon is another update.
If you want your new handheld to be small, light and eyecatching, then this isn't the device for you. The Xda Argon is heavy at 200g and bulky at 129.7mm tall by 69.8mm wide by 18.8mm thick. All Windows Mobile Pocket PCs used to be this size, but in recent years we've become used to devices around a third smaller.
The big advantage of the Xda Argon's bulk is that it can support a screen measuring 3.5in. from corner to corner. This provides a spacious viewing area that's likely to appeal to those who find smaller screens difficult to read because of tiny text sizes. It's a shame that the display resolution is the standard 240 by 320 pixels, though: we think O2 could have pushed the boat out and gone for VGA resolution (480 by 640), which is rarely seen in Windows Mobile Pocket PCs, but which the 3.5in. could have handled.
The Xda Argon's mostly silver colouring is reminiscent of its predecessors; it stands out because many Windows Mobile devices these days sport black and/or slate-grey colour schemes.
The button arrangement should be familiar to those who have used devices such as the Xda IIi. Beneath the screen is a small panel housing a navigation button, Call and End keys, two softmenu keys and Windows Mobile Home and OK buttons. Above the display are two further buttons: one launches the Windows Mobile Messaging software, the other opens Pocket Internet Explorer. There are side-mounted buttons to adjust volume, use the built-in camera and launch the voice-control and voice-record software.
The Xda Argon comes with mains power adapter, USB cable for PC connectivity and stereo headset, all of which share the same mini-USB connector on the bottom edge of the casing. You also get a flip-type protective case, software CD, printed getting-started guide, full manual and screen protector.
The Xda Argon runs Windows Mobile 5.0 rather than the newer Windows Mobile 6. Corporate users may be particularly unhappy about this, as they will be unable to take advantage of some of the new features of Windows Mobile 6 that are designed specifically for Microsoft Exchange Server-driven networks.
The good news, though, is that the Xda Argon has plenty of internal memory. With 256MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM, our review sample reported a healthy 182MB of free storage capacity. If you need still more storage, there's an SD card slot on the upper edge of the casing. People who choose the Xda Argon because of its large size and easy handling may also be pleased that a comparably sized flash memory form factor has been chosen over the fiddly miniSD and microSD formats.
A 400MHz Samsung processor drives the Xda Argon, which with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and infrared built in is well equipped for wireless communications. It is only tri-band GSM, though, rather than quad-band, and those who are keen on mobile email and other data-heavy communications may be disappointed that it does not support 3G or HSDPA.
The integrated camera shoots stills at resolutions up to 2 megapixels (1,600 by 1,200 pixels) and has a self-portrait mirror but no flash.
There are some useful software extras in addition to Microsoft's standard Windows Mobile bundle. A tappable icon on the Today screen allows you to close any application that's currently running in order to free up device memory. There's an audio manager for organising sound files and managing playlists, which can even cope with the composer tag and has its own media player attached.
A second audio-specific application, MP3 Trimmer, lets you edit sound files to use them as ringtones for example (although your boss may not approve!). A Zip file manager and voice-recording application are also included.
Performance and battery life
O2 claims you will get four hours of talk, 200 hours of standby time from the Xda Argon's battery. In our tests, from a full charge and with the screen forced to stay on, it delivered just over nine hours of non-stop music, which is pretty good going.
In general we found this a comfortable handheld to use. It's a lot larger than anything we've reviewed for a while, but as we've already noted, this may enhance its appeal to those who find it hard to handle or read smaller devices.
O2's updated Xda Argon fits into the current portfolio of Xda devices neatly enough. If you're currently using an Xda IIi and are seeking an evolutionary upgrade, the Xda Argon has definite appeal.
However, we would have liked to see a bit more from O2. Windows Mobile 6 would have been a real benefit to many business users, while 3G could also have had a place. And with GPS receivers beginning to appear in Windows Mobile devices, maybe O2 could have pushed the boat out in that direction too.