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Toshiba Portégé G900

  • Editors' rating
    7.8 Very good

Pros

  • Windows Mobile 6 Professional
  • High-resolution (800-by-480-pixel) display
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • 3G/HSDPA support
  • Slide-out keyboard

Cons

  • Slightly chunky and heavy hardware
  • Sizeable two-piece AC adapter
  • Lacks GPS

Toshiba signalled its re-entry into the handheld computing market earlier this year with the announcement of the Portégé G500 and G900 at 3GSM in Barcelona. The G500 is a slider-format Windows Mobile 5 smartphone, while the Pocket PC-sized G900 runs Windows Mobile 6 and has some high-end features that Toshiba hopes will appeal to buyers of its notebook computers. Our review sample was supplied by Expansys.

Design
The Portégé G900 follows a recent trend for combining a reasonably usable QWERTY keyboard with Windows Mobile and targeting users who are as concerned about data entry as they are about voice features. For mobile professionals, this typically means managing their email. The G900 has a horizontal slider format, opening along the left-hand long edge to reveal the keyboard. This is not a new idea, and other devices — notably HTC's P4350 — have managed to be several millimetres slimmer than the Portégé G900's 21.5mm. It's also a little tall at 119mm, although there's a good reason for that (of which more later). At 61mm wide it's on a par with other Windows Mobile devices, but the weight is on the heavy side at 196g.

The keyboard is nicely designed and makes the most of the space available. All of the keys except the double-width space bar are 9mm wide and 6mm tall. The middle part of each key is raised, which makes typing a lot easier than it would be with flat keys. To the far left and right of the main keypad sits a pair of keys that map onto the Windows Mobile softmenus. There's an embedded numberpad and function keys for accessing various services offered by the device.

With the keyboard hidden away, the Portégé G900 looks like a typical Windows Mobile handheld. Beneath the screen is a bank of buttons surrounding a navigation key with a central select button. To its immediate left are the left softkey and Call buttons, stacked one above the other. To its right are the right softkey and End buttons in the same arrangement. To the extreme left is a pair of stacked buttons that bring up the Windows Mobile Start menu and take you to the Windows Mobile Contacts application. On the opposite side is an OK button and one that fires up the Windows Mobile Messaging application. Above the screen is a button that launches the Windows Mobile Web browser. Finally, the right edge houses buttons for starting the camera and adjusting volume. Four of these buttons — Messaging, Contacts, Camera and Internet &mdash are user-programmable.

The screen measures 3in. from corner to corner and is taller than usual for a Windows Mobile device, although no wider. This means it delivers an unusual resolution of 800 by 480 pixels. It's surprising the difference a few extra pixels over a VGA display in terms of enhanced usability. If you configure the Windows Mobile Today screen to show upcoming appointments and tasks, there's far less chance of your busy schedule dropping off the bottom of the screen, for example. With the keyboard visible, the screen automatically reconfigures itself into landscape mode, and in this orientation the extra pixels can be even more useful, particularly when reading web pages.

The Portégé G900 comes with an AC adapter, a PC sync cable, a USB host cable, earphones, a printed getting-started manual and CDs containing applications and the full device manual. The AC adapter is a sizeable two-piece affair of the type we are more used to seeing supplied with notebook computers. Fortunately it has a mini-USB connector at the device end, so we could use a standard USB AC adapter and direct charging via the PC sync cable instead of this beast.

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The earphones are two-piece: the connector to the Portégé G900 is a 2.5mm jack, but just past the microphone is a second 3.5mm jack into which the earbuds fit. This means you can substitute your own headset for Toshiba's if you prefer.

Features
The Portégé G900 runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional and is a tri-band GSM phone with GPRS/EDGE and 3G/HSDPA support. There's a front-facing camera just above the screen for video calling. It has just 40MB of storage memory, and after a hard reset our review device reported 31MB free. Most users will need more storage capacity than this, and the left edge houses a miniSD card slot for expansion purposes. Although microSD cards are commoner of handhelds these days, many users will be pleased with Toshiba’s selection of a slightly larger flash card format.

An increasingly common feature on handhelds is an integrated GPS receiver, but the Portégé G900 gives this a miss. This is a shame, GPS support would make the G900 a true Swiss Army Knife of a handheld. Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) are present, adding personal- and local-area wireless connectivity to the wide-area options noted above.

In addition, like the Portégé G500, the G900 incorporates a fingerprint sensor for securing access to the device. This is hidden away on the back of the keyboard section, which although slightly inconvenient does keep it out of sight when not needed and helps to keep it clean. As on the G500, you can register up to the full ten of your digits to launch different applications using a swipe of the fingerprint sensor; considering its location, we're not sure this is entirely practical, but some people may find a use for it.

The main camera, whose lens is at the back, shoots stills at resolutions up to 2 megapixels; there's no self-portrait mirror or LED flash unit, but a tiny light provides assistance in darker situations as long as you are pretty close to the subject.

Toshiba does not overload the Portégé G900 with additions to the standard Windows Mobile 6 Professional bundle. It does, though, include several programs that mobile professionals may find useful. The Opera web browser offers some extras over Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Its key features are the ability to open more than one browser window at a time, and its more expansive zoom options which, coupled with the enhanced screen resolution on the G900, should make for more efficient web browsing.

Toshiba also includes the Picsel viewer for viewing documents in a wide range of formats. Used in conjunction with Office Mobile, the enhanced versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Windows Mobile 6 (the latter still a view-only application), this should cater for most mobile email and other document reading/creation requirements. Toshiba also includes its own TIPTalk VoIP client.

Performance & battery life
To test the longevity of the Portégé G900, we fully charged the battery and then set the device to play music non-stop with the screen forced to remain on. It did this for a little over seven hours, which is pretty impressive for a Windows Mobile 6 device. Not so impressive was the fact that the first and only low battery warning came just 12 minutes before the power died completely. If you are out and about with the Portégé G900, in a working situation where mains power is not readily available, you'll want a lot more warning than that.

The enhanced screen resolution that Toshiba has used on the G900 is a very nice feature: it significantly improves the user experience, and does so for very little overhead in terms of hardware bulk.

Conclusion
Toshiba’s Portégé G900 handheld is a more satisfying device than G500 smartphone we recently reviewed, and not just because it runs Windows Mobile 6 rather than WM5. It has a good set of wireless connectivity options and the 800-by-480 screen is a real advantage, although Toshiba needs to try and slim this device down in its next iteration. We’d like to see GPS integrated too, and the USB 1.1 connector replaced by USB 2.0 for faster data transfer.

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