Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/30/review_orange_spv_m3100/

Orange SPV M3100 3G handset

The ultimate smart phone?

By Lars-Göran Nilsson

Posted in Phones, 30th August 2006 13:34 GMT

Review Although the Orange SPV M3100 is a version of the HTC TyTN, Orange has come up with a better-looking design. That said, the two devices are otherwise identical. The black device with silver trim looks great and that's only the beginning of it, as this is a really terrific smart phone...

The SPV M3100 has taken all the good features of the SPV M600 and then gained some more for good measure. It has 3G and it supports HSDPA, although Orange has yet to launch its '3G broadband' service here in the UK. It supports video calls, but more importantly, it has a pull-out keyboard and a jog wheel.

Orange_SPV_M3100_front

Slide the screen to the right and turn the SPV M3100 horizontally and you're set to go. The screen will flip automatically when you open the keyboard. They keyboard is quite good, but you can't touch-type on it. Some of the keys on the review model where quite stiff, which quite often meant I had to re-type words. But it's still possible to type at a decent pace and entering text this way is far superior to using handwriting recognition or tapping the on-screen keyboard. In any case, those options are there as well for when you just want to enter some information quickly without having to open the keyboard.

The front controls are similar in layout to the M600. The M3100 has a slightly different button layout although the same functionality is there. There are two buttons that correspond to the on-screen soft menus; a Windows button that opens the start menu; and an OK button. Below these are the make and end call buttons, and in the middle is a four-way navigation pad with a select button in the middle. A new add-on is the video call button, which is located to the top left of the other buttons.

Above the screen is a second set of controls that launches the messaging software and Internet Explorer. Just above the screen on the right-hand side is the video-call camera. The display itself measures 2.8in and has a standard PDA resolution of 240 x 320. It's about time that these devices start to get higher resolution screens as many other mobile phone manufacturers manage to squeeze this resolution or higher into their standard handsets.

Moving on to the left-hand side of the device is a new addition: a scroll wheel. This allows you to navigate the M3100 more easily without having to take the stylus out, especially if you're reading emails or web pages. The scroll wheel can be depressed to make selections. Just below the scroll wheel is a second OK button, but this one also allows you to open the Start menu if you're on the Today screen. Below that is the voice dial/voice recorder button and, at the lower left-hand side, is a MicroSD memory card slot.

Orange_SPV_M3100_open

The power button, the Communications Manager button and, all the way on the bottom, the camera button are all on the right-hand side of the device. The stylus has been hidden right in the bottom corner. It's of the telescopic type and feels comfortable to hold. Finally, at the bottom of the M3100 you'll find the infra-red receiver, the reset button, a custom mini USB port and a small latch that opens the back.

The USB port has slightly different shape than usual, but you can still connect a standard mini USB plug - a battery charger with a mini USB connector is supplied. The reason for the customisation is to integrate the earphone adaptor - the M3100 doesn't have a headphone jack - so the connector doubles up as the port for the supplied headset, which is of rather better quality than those that shipped with previous SPVs.

Around the back is a two megapixel camera with a macro mode setting, an LED flash and a tiny self-portrait mirror. Release the catch that holds the back in place and you get access to the battery compartment. The SIM card slots in easily underneath the battery.

Internally, the SPV M3100 sports a Samsung 2442A processor which is clocked at 400MHz. This doesn't seem to be too fast, and if you intend to run Skype on the M3100 you're better off using the version developed for slower CPUs. The M3100 has 64MB of RAM and 128MB of Flash memory of which around 55MB is available to the user. On top of this you get 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 with wireless stereo support, aka A2DP.

The M3100 operates on all four GSM frequencies (850/900/1,850/1,900MHz) as well as UMTS 850/1900 and 2100 networks. Rather unusually there's also support for UMTS 800MHz which seems to be used only in Japan. You should be able to use the M3100 anywhere in the world, roaming charges permitting.

In operation, the SPV M3100 doesn't differ that much from the SPV M600, although it does feel slightly more responsive, which would make sense as its processor is twice as fast. An interesting feature that Orange has added is the wireless modem application, which allows you to set the M3100 to work as a dial-up modem. This can be done over a USB cable, Bluetooth or infra-red. It's just a shame that Orange doesn't have support for HSDPA as yet, but you can still use the M3100 instead of a 3G data card.

Orange_SPV_M3100_right_angle

Using the M3100 as an always-connected device works very well, although I had problems connecting to Orange's 3G and GPRS services at times. Wi-Fi worked very well, and you can adjust the transmission power of the integrated Wi-Fi adaptor to extend the battery life or to give you the best reception and range.

Voice calls also sounded a lot better than they did on the M600, with less noise and a clearer ear piece. As I mentioned earlier, the new headset is also much better and it's quite comfortable to wear even for longer periods of time. It's just a shame that you can't use a different headset if you want to listen to music on the M3100. Even so, the supplied ones aren't terrible for music.

You can get Microsoft push email straight to the M3100 and you can, of course, use normal POP3 email with it. It's much easier to write lengthy emails on the M3100 than just about any other smart phone except possibly a Blackberry device or a Treo, but the M3100 has so much more on offer than these devices.

Battery life is good for about two days of not-too-heavy usage - start connecting to 3G or Wi-Fi and you're down to about a day. You can manually disable 3G if you mainly use it for voice calls and this would make for a much better battery life.

Cost-wise the M3100 is quite expensive. Unless you spend more than £40 a month on your mobile phone tariff, it will set you back £150, but if you're a heavy user you can get away with paying £50 for it. Still, this isn't a bad price considering the features you get. However, you would really need to add a data package to get the most out of the M3100, and Orange sadly doesn't offer any great data packages yet.

Verdict

The Orange SPV M3100 is a first-rate Windows Mobile 5 smart phone with a wide range of excellent features on offer. It's not perfect, but it shows how good the Windows Mobile 5 platform can be with the right hardware. It easily out-manoeuvres its competitors in terms of both ease of use and of features, which goes to show that the traditional mobile phone manufacturers will have a hard time keeping up in higher end of the smart phone market. ®