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One week with the HTC Advantage X7501

Now that it’s been a full week since I unboxed the HTC Advantage X7501, I think it’s a good time to share some of my early impressions.

Htc_x7501_week1

I’ve also recorded a short video demonstrating the incredible strength of the magnets built into the device.

I’ll start with that first, as it’s one of most unique and talked-about features, and then just flesh out some of the notes I jotted down during the past week.

Magnets

If you’re concerned about how easily the main unit can "fall off" the keyboard, watch the video (it’s only 44 seconds) and put those fears to rest!

As amazing as it is, I obviously don’t recommend holding the Advantage upside down by its keyboard. The magnets are strong, but it’s important to remember that the pieces aren’t bolted or fused together.

VGA vs. TrueVGA

The 5-inch touchscreen is listed as being a VGA display, but as with most Windows Mobile devices touting the same resolution, it isn’t really VGA. Some say the device’s true resolution is actually 320 x 240 stretched to 640 x 480, which is why an actual QVGA device and the Advantage show the same amount of information on their screens (the latter just uses bigger fonts and icons), but I’m not sure if this is technically accurate.

X7501_vga

In any case, by default, most of the OS does not run in true VGA mode.

X7501_truevga

This is especially evident when using utilities such as MvRTrueVGA, which makes everything run in full VGA resolution.

There are a number of quirks and incompatibility issues when taking this route (it completely hung my system twice) and the benefits aren’t very significant, especially because more applications are now either resolution-aware or configurable to take advantage of the screen estate. For example, Office Mobile and the three web browsers I’ve tried (Pocket Internet Explorer, Opera 8.65, and Minimo 0.2) can all run in full resolution without any TrueVGA utility installed.

Personally, I love the oversized icons. They’re nicely optimized for fingertips and generally just nice to look at.

Syncing

The Advantage syncs to a computer via USB or Bluetooth using ActiveSync in XP or Windows Mobile Device Center in Vista.

Mobile_device_center

I don’t use Outlook or even have it installed, so I just sync to drag-and-drop content onto the device’s internal memory (256MB ROM, 128MB SDRAM), miniSD card, or 8GB microdrive.

It’s worth noting here that performing a hard reset does not affect the microdrive; there’s a separate "Format Microdrive" option in the System Settings. I keep a copy of all my CAB files in a dedicated folder so that reinstalling third-party applications after a hard reset can be done quickly and without a computer.

Software

X7501_spb

And speaking of third-party apps, here’s a list of what I’ve installed so far:

  • Spb Mobile Shell
  • Spb Full Screen Keyboard
  • Spb Benchmark
  • Spb Imageer
  • TypePad Mobile
  • Minimo 0.2
  • eWallet
  • ListPro
  • Screen Capture
  • Resco Sudoku
  • Mobipocket
  • WisBar Advance 3

X7501_wa3

I was actually already impressed with the preinstalled programs (particularly Office Mobile, Opera, and Adobe Reader LE), but Windows Mobile’s extensive catalog of robust applications really takes it to the next level.

Web Browsing

I’ll go into more detail about the browsing experience at a later time, but since I touched on it in the Q&A session the other day, I’d like to say that I feel better about it now than I did then. In other words, my first impressions did not "stick" and transform into conclusive opinions.

X7501_opera

I still have a few tests to run and more intensive sessions to go through, but I’m feeling a bit more positive. I’ll run some side-by-side comparisons with a couple of mobile devices to see how the Advantage fares. I think the Nokia N800 may have it beat.

X7501_minimo

X7501_minimo_fs

I’m liking Minimo a lot, but Opera seems to run a bit faster.

And that’s about all my notes so far. I’ll likely write a few more bits about the device before my full review because it seems the more I use it, the more I like it. Every day I learn something new and become more impressed by its power and functionality. I’m already irrevocably won over by the hardware and form factor.

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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13 thoughts on “One week with the HTC Advantage X7501

  • Avatar of Bruce Wilson

    Great review Jenn — although you admit to being “won over” you still seem able to present a balanced perspective. From my own Advantage experience I share your views. I still prefer to do my browsing on a larger screen but find myself readily using my Advantage browser (I prefer Opera) without hesitation when a larger screen is not available or is inconvenient – I hardly ever did that with my Hermes (couldn’t read the screen text). It’s been said before — this Advantage is a “sleeper” — it offers the beautiful screen, long battery life, lots of memory (plus that HD), all the connections we need, GPS …. can’t think of anything that’s missing. Looks a bit clunky next to the Nokia and iPhone but its greater capabilities and ability to change more than offset “looks” in my mind.

    Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I realized that I ran the speedtest.net tests on the SIM in the Sierra Wireless Card with my notebook. My first test with the SIM in my HTC Advantage wasn’t very impressive — only 478K download speed. But, my office is in a high-rise and my cell coverage isn’t very good. More testing. Glad you are liking the X7501 better. I’ve decided to keep mine, so now I’m really looking forward to your suggestions. I’m off to check out some of your 3rd party app suggestions now.

    Tax Man

    Reply
  • With respect to the differences in how Windows Mobile handles QVGA and VGA displays, the OS handles them in two ways.

    In the UI and for hi-res aware applications, WM uses a different set of graphical resources for VGA – essentially all graphical elements have 4x (2x height and 2x width) the number of pixels as against QVGA elements. This is typically why you need separate programs/installers for VGA applications, and why VGA versions tend to be much larger in size.

    For non-hi-res aware applications, WM uses what’s called pixel-doubling technology, where each graphic element is essentially duplicated across the screen (again 2x height and 2x width) – I suppose you could call that stretching. The pixel-doubling ensures that legacy apps are displayed correctly on a VGA screen, but results in a fuzzy look. Perversely, these apps also tend to take a bit of a toll on battery life, as the CPU load is higher.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Clayton Costa

    Hello Jenn,

    Thanks for the very nice review! I’m almost decided to buy mine, soon. To me, the closer competitor would be a good 3G smartphone, plus a N800. In some ways, it would be more “pocketable” (without the N800), but still two different boxes :(
    I’m specially curious about the comparison with N800 on two fields: FIE (or the closest possible “experience”) and ebook reading (PDF’s, Windows .hlp books, etc.). Are you planning to put these sections on your full review?

    []´s from Brazil!

    Clayton

    Reply
  • “where each graphic element is essentially duplicated across the screen”

    Sorry, that should be “…every pixel of a graphic element…”

    Reply
  • You also have a Sony UX180P don’t you? If you have time, I’d be interested to hear your comments on the Advantage vs. the UX180P — which you’d rather use for what and why.

    Reply
  • @ Bruce: Agreed! Did you have a similar experience in that you weren’t immediately enamored? I suspect my initial software reactions were due to my limited experience with Windows Mobile because that’s what I’m becoming more impressed with every day.

    Have you been able to get Flash working? I’m probably doing something wrong, but even after I downloaded and installed Flash 7 for PPC, any page that includes Flash in Opera still tells me I don’t have it installed.

    @ Tax Man: Thanks for the info. I’m interested in hearing about your additional tests. I’ve been on Sprint’s EV-DO Rev A network before, and the speeds were really inconsistent (sometimes as low as 333K).

    Glad to hear you’re keeping yours. I love company :-)

    I’m looking for a good DivX player at the moment. I think it’s TCPMP, but I’m going to do a little poking around first. Are you using the Advantage as a PMP at all?

    Reply
  • Thanks for the explanation, Nurhisham. I’ve been in dire need of an expert opinion, as most of my googling yielded outdated results. It’s been about 4 years since I last used a Windows Mobile device, so I’m basically brand new to the OS.

    Hi there, Clayton. Thanks for your comments. One of the interesting things about the Advantage is that it can tether to a Bluetooth-enabled phone to get online (like the N800) and it can be tethered to a Bluetooth-enabled computer for the computer to get online (like most other phones). Very versatile.

    I don’t plan on including a straight comparison between the Advantage and N800 in my full review, but I may do a dedicated post about it. I haven’t decided yet. It’s too soon to say this with absolute certainty, but my gut reaction is that the N800 comes closer to providing the FIE and the Advantage is better for ebooks (possibly depending on the format).

    Reply
  • Avatar of Matt

    Jenn, there is a VGA tool specificaly written for the Athena/Advantage here: Link
    It has 196dpi (the default QVGA look)
    96 dpi (proper VGA mode, similar to mrvtruevga))
    128 dpi (a nice in between setting). Cheers.

    Reply
  • @ stevenf: I actually began using my UX180P a bit less after I got the TZ. It used to be my primary computer, hooked up to an external keyboard, printer, mouse, monitor, etc., but now it’s more of a companion. (On a related note, what the TZ has kind of obliterated from my daily gadget use is the Samsung Q1P. I haven’t turned it on in weeks.)

    The UX’s resolution (1024 x 600) makes the screen look amazing, but it also causes a bit of eyestrain after extended use. Because of that, I don’t do much web browsing or writing on it. I’m still in the preliminary stages of using my Advantage (still getting acquainted with the nuances of WM6), so there hasn’t been much overlap in terms of functionality yet. I’m looking for third-party apps that take me as close as possible to what I usually do on a full-fledged PC (well, a UMPC, anyway), and so far I haven’t found very much it can’t do.

    I’m getting an OQO Model 02 to demo next week, which I think may be closer in size to the Advantage than any other UMPC. That should be interesting because they’re both competing for the same pocket/bag space.

    The Advantage’s battery life makes it much more ideal for things like reading ebooks, listening to music, watching videos, word processing, etc. (basically tasks that don’t require too much power), but a UMPC is clearly the choice for the FIE and CPU-heavy apps. I don’t think it will ever be an either/or for me.

    Reply
  • Jenn,
    About 600K is the fastest download speed I have experienced. I also swapped emails with a couple of reviewers and they both said they were getting speeds between 600 and 700K. Curiously, I get faster speed using thee ssame SIM in the Sierra wireless card.

    As for video, I cant make any site work with flash player 7 on either PIE or Opera. I did have success using TCMP and the flash plugin to watch a youtube video. You have to run a program called youtubedownload.exe to download the video to the device and then open it in tcmp. it did work.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Rance

    Hi
    I was wondering is the HTC x7501 advantage can work on Rogers network?

    Reply

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