As we mentioned earlier, the Asus P527 is a well-stocked smartphone. It runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition, which includes the full Office Mobile Suite for document management, Windows Live integration, and Microsoft Direct Push Technology for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. Asus also throws in a number of other utilities, including a business card reader, a meeting planner, an RSS reader, a ZIP manager, and a backup application.
Wireless options aren't lacking with integrated Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS. Supported Bluetooth profiles include those for wireless headsets, hands-free kits, and dial-up networking, but sadly, no A2DP love for a stereo Bluetooth headsest. And while we always appreciate the inclusion of Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), we're particularly glad to see it on the P527 since it lacks support for U.S. 3G bands.
To complement the built-in GPS radio, the Asus P527 comes preloaded with several travel and tracking applications. You can record your travel moments in photo and notes with the Asus Travel Log program and then export them to Google Earth. There's also Asus Location Courier and despite an odd name, it's actually a nice safety feature as it gives you the coordinates of your current location, which you can then send to others in case of an emergency or accident. It's also handy if you're planning a meet-up with friends or family.
As for voice features, the Asus P527 offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, voice dialing and commands, smart dialing, three-way calling, and text and multimedia messaging. The phone book is limited only by the available memory (SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts), and each entry can hold multiple numbers and addresses and other information. For caller-ID purposes, you can assign a contact to a category or pair it with one of nine polyphonic ringtones or a photo. There's also something called the Asus CallFilter, which lets you manage incoming calls and block unknown callers.
The P527 is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera with video-recording capabilities. It has an autofocus function, a 2.5x zoom, and a self-timer, but it lacks a flash and self-portrait mirror. For still shots, you have a choice of three scene modes, six image sizes, and three picture qualities. There are white-balance and brightness settings for color adjustment, but accessing these options in camera mode requires you to fish through several layers of menus. Oddly, it's easier to get to these settings in video mode. The P527 can record videos in 3GP or MPEG-4 format and in two sizes (176x144 or 128x96).
Picture quality was OK. Objects had good definition, but we thought the colors were a bit harsh. Recorded videos weren't the best as the picture looked a bit blurry, but fine if for short clips. However, our biggest complaint wasn't about image quality; it was about the performance delays. Everything from camera activation to accessing the various editing options took a long time and led to a very frustrating experience (see Performance for more).
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) Asus P527 in San Francisco using AT&T service, and call quality was fair. There was a slight background hiss on our end, and voices sounded muffled at times, but we were still able to carry on conversations and use our bank's automated voice-response system. Friends didn't have any major complaints. Speakerphone quality was decent as well, though voices sounded garbled at times. We had no problems pairing the P527 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
The downfall of the Asus P527 is its general performance. The 200MHz TI OMAP 850 processor simply didn't provide enough horsepower, and we experienced numerous delays when trying to accomplish even the simplest tasks, such as opening an application. We've come to expect some sluggishness from Windows Mobile devices, but the P527 was worse than others. Whether we were trying to use the camera, open documents, or listen to music, it was a waiting game. Plus, on more than one occasion, we thought the system froze, when in actuality it was just slow to process the task. By the end of our testing period, we were pretty fed up with the device.
The Asus P527's 1,300mAh lithium-ion battery is rated for 5 hours of talk time and up to eight days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get an impressive 8.5 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the P527 has a digital SAR rating of 0.84 watt per kilogram.