- Fingerprint recognition
- HSDPA support
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Built-in VoIP client
- VGA and 2Mpixel cameras
- Windows Mobile 5 rather than Windows Mobile 6
- Slider format results in somewhat chunky hardware
- Battery life could be better
At the 3GSM event in Barcelona in February 2007, Toshiba announced two new Windows Mobile devices, the Portégé G500 and G900. Here, we review the slider-format Portégé G500 is now available. The Portégé G500 is Toshiba’s first Windows Mobile Smartphone, and is also the first product in its class to feature fingerprint recognition.
Toshiba has chosen a slider design for the Portégé G500. This is a popular format for consumer-grade mobile phones, and can result in relatively thin, stylish minimalist-looking devices. However, Toshiba's Portégé G500 is actually a somewhat chunky smartphone: the overall footprint 96mm tall and 49mm wide is not out of proportion, but the G500 is thicker than normal at 22.9mm. With the slider open, the Portégé G500 is about 135mm tall.
The good news is that the slider format allows Toshiba to incorporate a good-sized screen measuring 2.3in. from corner to corner, with a resolution of 320 by 240 pixels. Beneath the display sits a set of controls that will be familiar to any Windows Mobile smartphone user: Call and End buttons, a pair of softmenu keys and Home and Back buttons, separated by a round navigation pad with a sliver frame and a central select button.
The slider opens to reveal the phone’s numberpad. Its keys are large, deliver a clearly audible click when depressed and have a good return, all of which helps you to use them at a good speed. The keys are slightly bevelled, which also helps their usability.
Buttons of the side of the G500 handle volume control, accessing the built-in camera and power on/off. The camera’s lens is at the back as does the fingerprint sensor, beneath the slider mechanism.
If you're seeking a stylish and eye-catching Windows Mobile smartphone, you may find the sPortégé G500's bulk a little off-putting. The same can be said for its black and silver livery, which is a touch unimaginative. The plastic casing seems pretty robust, though, and we like the tactile the rubbery finish to the front buttons and the number pad.
The Portégé G500 ships with a mini-USB connection cable, a two-piece stereo headset, an application CD and a printed user guide. The two-piece headset connects to the device via a 2.5mm jack, and there's a break beyond the microphone with a 3.5mm connector to which the earbuds connect. This arrangement allows you to substitute any 3.5mm-connecting headset you feel comfortable with.
The G500 also ships with a two-piece mains power adapter, although we prefer a simple one-piece mains-to-mini-USB unit.
The Portégé G500 runs Windows Mobile 5.0 rather than the latest Windows Mobile 6 operating system. This may lessen its appeal for corporate users, as Windows Mobile 6 offers some additional features for those running Exchange Server 2003 SP2 or later on their corporate networks.
The phone is a tri-band GSM unit with GPRS/EDGE and also 3G/HSDPA connectivity. After a hard reset, our review sample had 37MB of free memory for storing user data and applications. This can be augmented with miniSD cards — the memory card slot is under the battery cover, on the left edge of the device.
To take advantage of the 3G/HSDPA connectivity, there's a front facing VGA-resolution camera designed for video calling. This can also be used to capture still images, but only at resolutions up to 640 by 480 pixels. The main camera lens is on the back and is accompanied by a small LED-type flash. This camera can shoot stills at resolutions up to 2 megapixels (1,600 by 1,200 pixels) and video at 144 by 176 or 240 by 320.
Toshiba has opted for its own camera management application rather than use Windows Mobile's built-in utility, but it offers similar functionality. For example, you get a burst capture mode, a self timer plus various settings for different lighting conditions and image effects such as sepia and greyscale.
The fingerprint sensor is obviously a key feature of the Portégé G500 for businesses. Once configured, this provides a strong element of security to a device that, because of its size, could be easily lost or stolen. Toshiba has also thought laterally about how to expand the fingerprint sensor's functionality by including an application called FingerLaunch. This allows you to assign each finger and thumb to an application for quick-launching up to ten applications with a finger- (or thumb-) swipe.
This is theoretically a clever idea, as it could prove quicker than working through the menus and also give a level of protection to applications that store commercially sensitive data. Unfortunately, we found the system to be unwieldy in practice. The problem isn't with the fingerprint sensor itself, which we found to work very efficiently. Rather, it lies in the location of the sensor on the back of the device: this is only accessible when the slider is opened, and even then it's just too awkward in that position to swipe with ease on a regular basis. We can live with it for accessing the Portégé G500 itself, but find it irritating to use for getting to applications as well.
Bluetooth (2.0) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) are both built in, and Toshiba takes advantage of the latter by providing its own TIPTalk VoIP client. Other applications added by Toshiba to the Windows Mobile bundle include Opera and the Picsel viewer. The former is a web browser that many find more effective to use than Pocket Internet Explorer — though IE is also present. One of Opera’s advantages is the ability to open more than one web page at a time. You flip between open pages using the softmenu keys. The Picsel document viewer should prove handy if you use the Portégé G500 for mobile email, as it handles a good variety of popular formats.
Performance & battery life
We set the Portégé G500 to play music continuously through its loudspeaker with the battery fully charged and the screen forced to remain on. The maximum volume is not very loud, and battery delivered 6 hours 50 minutes of music, which is less than we've seen from other Windows Mobile 5 smartphones. If you're alikely to use 3G or Wi-Fi a lot, you may find that battery life is on the short side.
The general chunkiness of this smartphone makes it feel a little unwieldy, at least to us. Having said that, people who tend to find mobiles somewhat lightweight may respond more positively than we did. Finally, fingerprint recognition functionality will doubtless prove a clincher for many larger businesses.