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HTC 'Magician' PocketPC phone

Box of tricks?

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I've always favoured Palm PDAs over PocketPCs for their smaller size, better display and superior OS. I dropped my first-generation Tungsten for Nokia's 6600 smart phone simply because I got fed up of carrying and using two devices. Magician is smaller than any Palm I've used and provides the same phone functionality as the 6600 - with a considerably better screen and more memory (64MB of RAM, of which just over 57MB are available to the user). Can I feel another switch coming on?

HTC 'Magician' Windows Mobile 2003 phoneWell, Magician hasn't totally cast a spell over me. Even in its Second Edition, Windows Mobile 2003 doesn't work well one-handed. Too often I needed to pull out the stylus to close a window, activate a menu item or - crucially - write a quick text message, where before I'd just use my thumb. Like Blue Angel, Magician has an SD slot that makes it ridiculously hard to lock down or release cards.

Magician is based on a 416MHz Intel XScale PXA272, but it's not still not the fastest PocketPC I've used. Opening new apps sometimes felt slow to respond, with the screen taking a noticeable moment to update. To be fair, it's much the same with my 6600, though that contains much less memory and a slower CPU.

I rarely use the camera integrated into my own phone, but it's nice to know the thing works well should I ever need it. The 1.3 megapixel job built into Magician is, on paper, a better device, but the results are the opposite. The image on the viewfinder seemed noisier than other cameras I've used in comparable lighting condition, with clear distortion patterns when a GPRS link was being established to email the pics. The result smeared, particularly at higher resolutions - the camera goes up to 1280 x 960 pixels. It's workable but disappointing - and even when set to 'night' mode. Daylight shots are better.

Magician's power comes from a 1200mAh battery, enough for 2-4 hours' talk and 130-150 hours in PDA mode. I got around two-and-a-half days' usage before I needed to recharge, which is par for the smart phone course, I've found. But it's still a crime that Windows Mobile 2003 still doesn't have a battery state indicator on the Today screen. Even for PDAs, let alone phones, you shouldn't have to visit the Settings to find out if your device is about to die.

Verdict

With Magician, HTC has conjured up the perfect PocketPC, balancing without a hint of a wobble the compact size of a handset with the user experience of a traditional PDA. If you need a keyboard, either for typing or for quick SMS entry, Magician's trick will fall flat. But if you're happy with a stylus - or even your finger - you're going to wonder just how HTC did it. ®

Review by
The Register

HTC 'Magician'
aka the i-mate Jam, T-Mobile MDA Compact, QTek S100, O2 XDA Mini, etc.
 
Rating 90%
 
Pros — Phone size; traditional PDA look'n'feel; very nice display; Bluetooth; SD IO support.
 
Cons — Not really usable without a stylus; fiddly SD slot; poor camera.
 
Price From £80, depending on contract and supplier.
 
More info The i-mate site
The Expansys i-mate Jam page

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