O2 Xda II mini
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ROUNDING off our reviews of the new O2 devices released recently is the O2 XDA II mini.
What’s the XDA II mini? Well, as the name suggests, the XDA II mini is a mini version of the regular XDA II, running the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for Pocket PC Phone Edition.
This means that the XDA II mini is primarily a Pocket PC (touchscreen interface and all) with a built-in phone.
This hybrid device is O2’s attempt at finding the right balance between the functionalities of a Pocket PC and the comfortable size of a cellphone.
The device is about as tall as a Sony Ericsson T630 and just half a centimetre wider – quite amazing really.
It looks pretty cool, with metal covers (or at least it feels like it’s metal) and a simplified button design that’s clustered around the directional pad.
Topping off the design is a nice black-ribbed finish on the sides, with a very well-hidden stylus slot.
In fact, the stylus is so well camouflaged that I started challenging people to locate it whenever I showed them the phone for the first time!
The theory of relativity
What’s interesting about the XDA II mini is that it features a relatively tiny 2.8in LCD (liquid-crystal display) screen, which is much smaller than the usual 3.5in LCD of most Pocket PCs.
However, compared with other smartphones from Nokia and Sony Ericsson, the XDA II mini’s screen is actually a lot bigger and boasts a higher resolution.
In fact, despite my initial reservations about the small size of the screen, I found that it was not an issue at all because the mini still retains the same 240 x 320pixel resolution of most Pocket PCs.
What’s more, the screen has a very nice contrast and colour reproduction that is much better than those on almost all Pocket PCs I’ve seen recently.
As far as hardware is concerned, the XDA II mini has a fast 416MHz Intel XScale processor, 64MB RAM, 64MB ROM and even Bluetooth wireless.
However, if you’re expecting WiFi (Wireless Fidelity) built into the device, then you’re going to be disappointed.
I suppose the company had to leave out something in the quest for a smaller form factor and extended battery life.
Nevertheless, the XDA II mini does have an SD WiFi card as an optional accessory if you really need it.
Performance and speed on the XDA II mini is very reasonable – I experienced no slowdowns while using the device.
My usual BetaPlayer test (which has the extensions to support the XScale processor’s MMX extensions) turned in a score of 145% playing a high bit-rate 640 x 352pixel movie trailer of The Matrix.
That’s not bad at all considering the trailer was encoded at a higher resolution and bit-rate than required for the 240 x 320pixel screen of the XDA II mini.
Running SPB Benchmark, I got a score of 1,265 points, which is still less than the 1,605 scored by the older HP iPAQ H4150.
However, real-world performance was actually pretty zippy and I dare say you won’t notice any difference between the XDA II mini and any other 400MHz-based Pocket PC.
Picking up the phone
As far as the phone functions go, the XDA II mini performs much like the XDA II, which runs on the same operating system.
like all O2 handhelds, the XDA II mini has dedicated call and hangup buttons, along with buttons to access the calendar and phonebook.
The phone and SMS (short message service) functions are all very straightforward, which is definitely a plus.
Another notable feature of the XDA II mini is the new IntelliPad input panel.
This input panel actually mimics the buttons on a regular handphone, giving you an alphanumeric keypad and, most importantly, the ability to utilise the phone’s T9 predictive text input system.
The problem I’ve found with other PDA phones running the Windows Mobile operating system is that you’re stuck with either the onscreen Qwerty keyboard, or any of the other input methods like Block Recogniser or Letter Recogniser, all of which require both hands to operate – one hand to hold the device and the other to write.
With the IntelliPad, however, you can easily tap out SMS messages with just one hand, just like you would with a regular mobile phone.
Another cool thing about the IntelliPad is that it works throughout the system, meaning you can even tap out Word documents this way.
It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds – the T9 input method is used by almost everyone who has a handphone and is actually pretty fast and doesn’t have as steep a learning curve as the other Pocket PC input methods.
In fact, I found myself often using IntelliPad (even though I’m very proficient with Block Recogniser) because it was faster and more convenient.
Overall, the phone worked without any major hitch, although the callerID function was a bit buggy. For some bizarre reason, when I got calls, the callerID would show the last number I dialled instead of the one currently calling me.
However, this could be a bug in the review unit as it was running a non-final version of the operating system.
Battery life on the XDA II mini was about two days, which is far shorter than that of the Xphone II which lasted about three days. Still, two days is quite reasonable for a Pocket PC device.
By the way, the battery charges automatically whenever you connect it to your PC via the USB port, so you generally won’t need the dedicated charger unless you’re travelling.