HTC 'Magician' PocketPC phone

Box of tricks?

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Review It's not hard to see why Taiwanese manufacturer HTC calls its latest PocketPC-based phone 'Magician'. Its new handset does indeed work magic: it looks and feels like a traditional PDA yet it's no bigger than some of the smallest smart phones around.

HTC 'Magician' Windows Mobile 2003 phoneHTC's own high-end wireless Windows Mobile 2003 device, codenamed 'Blue Angel' but better known as the O2 XDA IIs, the Vodafone VPA, or the T-Mobile MDA III. As a full-size PocketPC, it makes a great PDA. But it's a poor handset for exactly the same reason: it's too big.

Devices like Nokia's 6600 and Siemens SX1 make for decent phones, but less-than-satisfactory PDAs. PalmOne's Treo, Sony Ericsson's P910 and, to a lesser extent, RIM's Blackberry 7100 sit between these two extremes, but they still have screen size and/or device size compromises.

Magician pulls off the trick of delivering both features at once.

Look at its picture and you'll see a classically styled PocketPC device: the 240 x 320 portrait display mounted above application keys and a five-way navigation control. HTC has borrowed the flattened-oval control layout from PalmOne's Tungsten T3, here using two of the four buttons for call make and break keys. On the left-hand side of the device you'll find the power key fitted flush with the casing and an IR port; on the right-hand panel buttons activate the integrated 1.3 megapixel digicam with 8x digital zoom, adjust the unit's ring and speaker volume, and launch the PocketPC notes app. A headpiece socket and USB port are mounted into the base, and there's an SD slot - pick a card, any card - on the top.

What the picture doesn't reveal is Magician's can-you-believe-your-eyes size. Not much different from my Nokia 6600, HTC's handset is an iPod-sized 10.7 x 5.9 x 1.2cm and fits very snuggly in the palm of your hand. It weighs 150g, so it's easy to carry, comfortable to hold up by your ear, and sufficiently compact to use one-handed.

But if the size is handset-perfect, the screen has got to spoil the illusion, right? Wrong. Magician runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, so there's support for a 480 x 640 display, but wisely you're limited to 240 x 320. While QVGA isn't too pretty on a 3.5in screen of the kind seen on most PocketPCs, on Magician's 2.8in job, it's just the ticket, particularly if you enable ClearType font smoothing. The LCD's got a decent viewing angle, and with the ability to display 65,535 colours, pictures look great - better than many PocketPCs I've seen.

HTC 'Magician' Windows Mobile 2003 phoneMagician would make for a rather good standalone PDA, but with tri-band GSM/GPRS, infrared and Bluetooth in there too, plus SMS, MMS, email and instant messaging, it's almost as functional as a communications gadget can get. I'd happily sacrifice an integrated Wi-Fi adaptor to keep Magician the size it is. Since its SD slot can handle IO devices, I can easily slide in SanDisk's 802.11 card if I need to connect to a WLAN.

Next page: Verdict


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