HTC 'Blue Angel' Wi-Fi PocketPC phone

Aka i-mate PDA 2k, O2 XDA IIs, Orange M2000 etc, etc

i-mate PDA 2k/HTC 'Blue Angel'I've saved the best feature until last. I said earlier that out of box, Blue Angel looks like a typical PocketPC phone, perhaps a little thicker - it's 1.9cm - than previous models. The extra depth arises from the slider mechanism that splits the device into two halves, front and back, to reveal a full QWERTY micro keyboard, taking its length from 12.5cm to 17cm. Unlike the various Blackberries and PalmOne's Treo, Blue Angel uses an almost flat pad rather than calculator-style keys, though there's still sufficient movement to generate a click - it's not touch-sensitive. Press any key and the board's blue backlight kicks in. Each key decal has a tiny bump moulded onto it to make them easier to hit, whether you're holding the device on one hand and typing with the index finger of the other, or typing with two thumbs, mobile phone-fashion.

Either way, it doesn't take long to accustom yourself to the keyboard, and I found myself entering GPRS connection information, passwords, URLs, emails and even a chunk of this very review all with ease. It's a nice keyboard to use. Of course, there's the usual character/handwriting recognition facility if you just want to enter something without opening the device's slider.

Blue Angel's 1490mAh provides plenty of power to run the handheld's wireless connections. I was able to get several days usage out of a single charge, with Bluetooth turned on permanently and connected to a headset for most phone calls. I also checked my email regularly and browsed the web occasionally, both using GPRS. I used Wi-Fi a little less frequently. HTC's official spec. puts the device's standby time at 168 hours.

An afternoon's more intensive use of Wi-Fi had a bigger impact on battery life, but not enough, I'd say, to limit Blue Angel's usability. By its nature, it's not a device most users will want to keep associated with and connected to an access point for long periods of time. The Wi-Fi sub-systems power conservation settings will, in any case, help reduce wireless' ability to drain the battery.

Verdict

i-mate's PDA 2k is essentially the standard Blue Angel. The networks' versions, such as the XDA IIs, will be more closely tailored to their own brands and undoubtedly offer alternative software components. But beneath them the hardware should be uniform across the line-up. However it's labelled, then, Blue Angel represents probably the best-designed PocketPC phone around. The Register's chums at TrustedReviews recently gave the iPaq 6340 the thumb's up, but with the same connectivity, no annoying antenna stub and an integrated keyboard, I reckon Blue Angel in any of its guises has the HP machine licked.

That said, the HP wins on price, coming in around £110 less (£570 to £460) than an unlocked i-mate, even when bought with an airtime contract (£335 to £225). However, the price differential almost disappears when you look at the networks' own-brand models, such as the XDA IIs (£250). The Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile Blue Angels have yet to ship in the UK.

But even at over £300 (with airtime), Blue Angel is a cracking machine if it's complete connectivity you're after. ®

HTC 'Blue Angel'
aka i-mate PDA 2000, Orange M2000, O2 XDA IIs, Vodafone VPA III, T-Mobile MDA III
 
Rating 90%
 
Pros — Nifty stowable QWERTY keyboard; four wireless connectivity modes; solid build quality
 
Cons — No voice recogition for dialling; it's not cheap; WLAN software could be better
 
Price £570 (i-mate PDA 2k, sim-free)
 
More info The Expansys website

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