First UK Review Intel's XScale processors have traditionally been incorporated into PDAs and smart phones, and promoted by the chip giant as the ideal CPU to handle the heavy lifting these devices' operating systems require. But a few years back, Intel decided it ought to widen XScale's target market. The result was 'Manitoba', a feature-phone platform designed to show handset makers that XScale is just as relevant to lower-end devices as it is to high-end ones. Manitoba was launched early 2003, and Intel named Orange as a carrier as a partner.
Two-and-a-half years on, and Manitoba has finally arrived as a shipping product, though with the O2 logo rather than Orange's. O2 calls the phone the XM and is pitching it as an entertainment device, with an emphasis on music.
The XM's box sports a cunning sliding mechanism - pull out on side tray and a second tray slides automatically out of the other end. Remove the XM and you'll see it's a typical clamshell phone that might have come from Samsung, LG or any number of vendors. It's not unattractive, but neither does it stand out - ideal for carrier-branding, in other words.
Closed, the tri-band XM presents a 1.3 megapixel camera and an 65,000-colour external display. On the right-hand side of the base sits an SD card slot, protected with an easy-to-remove rubber cover, though getting the card in and out is difficult. On the other side is the similarly covered earphone slot, plus Play/Pause, volume and Music Player activation buttons.
The tip of the lid fits tightly against the handset's body, so it's almost impossible to open one-handed. The only place a chin or lip - think phone in one hand, luggage in the other - can get a purchase on the lid is along the side. Inside there's a very nice 176 x 220, 262,000-colour LCD, backlit keypad and navigation cluster. The central OK button doubles up as the menu activator. It's surrounded by a circular four-way control, which is itself encircled by buttons to active the two on-screen items, call make and break buttons, a Clear key, a second Music button (this one with an earphones icon rather than a musical note) and another for O2 Active.
All the keys are comfortable to use, and the proprietary OS that ships with the device is basic but straightforward and responsive. My only quibble is that you can't change the two on-screen options - Camera and Contacts - to, say, Messaging and Calendar. T9 is available for text entry, but it's pleasingly turned off by default. Using the keypad to type displays all the characters available on the key you've just pressed, making it easy to select the correct character without having to take your eyes off the screen. A nice touch.