ASUS have taken a very familiar looking PDA handset to a place where other PDA manufacturers fear to tread: the sub AU$700 price range.
We did a double take when we opened the box of the ASUS M530w, wondering "Have we seen this phone before?". The M530w is a very familiar looking PDA-phone, resembling certain BlackBerry handsets, but looking nearly identical to device.
The M530w is a hand-friendly 65mm wide with an ergonomically positioned jog-wheel under your thumb when using your left hand. The navigation buttons are well laid out and easy to distinguish for quick use, however, the QWERTY keypad below the nav keys is comprised of positively tiny buttons, and mis-strokes were, for us, a familiar occurrence.
The 2.4-inch landscape QVGA display isn't outstanding by any means, but then, the M530w isn't being sold as a media player, and the screen does the job of displaying e-mails, text messages and Web pages just fine.
ASUS have approached the mobile market with a similar approach to what we'd expect to see from ASUS notebooks, that is, a bare-bones Windows Mobile 6 operating platform and nothing extra. Unlike HTC's Windows Mobile devices, the M530w has no funky interface shell to give the drab WM6 interface some fun and flare.
Not only is this interface dull, it's also laborious to navigate. Searching through pages of settings is less than ideal and will have you wishing for category tabs like we see in Nokia's S60 settings and on Sony Ericsson phones. Unlike WM phones with touchscreens, finding useful info, like the remaining battery life, is likewise several pages of drilling down rather than selectable from the "Home" screen.
For business users these cosmetic concerns may seem extravagant. After all, we are talking about Windows Mobile whose functionality outweighs its yawn-worthy aesthetic. There's support for all popular e-mail protocols, Windows Live messaging and Internet Explorer, and the M530w is able to view MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, as well as PDFs, but not edit them.