The PDA side of the Sprint PPC-6700 centers on Windows Mobile 5, the latest version of Microsoft's operating system for handhelds. In addition to tried-and-true PIM functions, the update includes feature-enhanced versions of Pocket Word and Pocket Excel--now Word Mobile and Excel Mobile, respectively--and a new presentation viewer, PowerPoint Mobile. Word Mobile and Excel Mobile now support charts, tables, and embedded images, and we had no problems viewing such items when we transferred some test documents on to our device. We were also able to open and view PowerPoint presentations without any problems, but unfortunately, you can't edit the content on the slides.
Of course, a big draw for a device such as the Sprint PPC-6700 is e-mail, and there's plenty of support here. Aside from synchronization with Outlook and Microsoft Exchange Server support, you can access your POP3 and IMPA e-mail accounts, plus you get Good Technology's GoodLink for push e-mail and Sprint PCS Business Connection. The latter supports not only push e-mail but also remote access to company contacts and calendars. Sprint throws in a couple of extra applications as well, such as AudiblePlayer for listening to Audible.com content and a trial version of Citrix GoToMyPC.
As a phone, the Sprint PPC-6700 offers most of the features you'd expect, including contact-list dialing, speed dial, call history, and a speakerphone. Sadly, voice dialing isn't an option unless you buy Microsoft's $40 Voice Command software.
The real news here is the wireless trifecta: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and EV-DO. You should check Sprint's Web site to see if EV-DO coverage is available in your area. If it is, you can count on peak download speeds of up to 2Mbps, though real-world usage will most likely be in the area of 400Kbps to 700Kbps. In the meantime, you can link to Bluetooth headsets or GPS receivers, or you can hop on to any nearby Wi-Fi hot spots. When it detects both EV-DO and Wi-Fi, the PPC-6700 wisely autoswitches to the latter. Even more impressive, Sprint gives you three ways to use the PPC-6700 as a wireless modem: infrared, USB, and Bluetooth. All three connection options are outlined in the manual thoroughly--a welcome change from having to dig online for setup instructions. Configuration is a bit technical, but it's a small price to pay for such incredible flexibility.
Finally, the Sprint PPC-6700 includes a 1.3-megapixel camera--a significant improvement upon the Treo 650's paltry VGA resolution. In camera mode, the entire display becomes your viewfinder, with simple onscreen icons used to access various settings. The camera has a built-in flash for illuminating close-up subjects; a macro mode; various capture modes, including Burst, Panorama, and Sport; and even a Contacts Picture option for snapping head shots for your contacts list and photo caller ID purposes. As icing on the cake, the camera can double as a camcorder, capturing 3GPP2, Motion-JPEG, or MPEG-4 video at resolutions up to 320x240. Photos were above average for a camera phone, with solid color reproduction and acceptable illumination from the flash. There's a noticeable shutter lag, however, when you snap a photo, and since the shots are only 1.3 megapixels, they do look a bit jaggy.As a PDA, the Sprint PPC-6700 performed admirably. Windows Mobile 5 still isn't nearly as friendly or intuitive as the Palm OS, and the smallish screen makes for smallish text relative to a full-size PDA, but it's hard to argue with the functionality. Movies, music, and most games ran smoothly, though the unit was sluggish when opening large documents and loading applications. Even something as simple as switching screen orientation, which happens automatically when you open or close the keyboard, was slow. What's more, our demo unit took a surprisingly long time to reboot (nearly 2 full minutes), and for some reason, Windows Media Player simply would not run.
As a phone, the Sprint PPC-6700 produced mixed results. Overall call quality was decent, though there were times when callers said they couldn't hear us. The speakerphone was generally disappointing. We had to crank up the volume to the highest level just to hear the caller, but the voice sounded distorted. We were able to pair the PPC-6700 with theBluetooth headset with ease; however, call quality did diminish slightly.
The Sprint PPC-6700 worked like a champ in our various wireless data tests. In areas with solid EV-DO coverage--which, to our surprise, included a basement office in a distant Michigan suburb--Web pages appeared about as quickly as with a Wi-Fi connection. And speaking of Wi-Fi, the PPC-6700 was able to tap into even the weakest hot-spot signals.
Battery life on the Sprint PPC-6700 was impressive. In CNET Labs' tests, where we looped a video clip with the backlight and volume set to high and all wireless connections turned off , the PPC-6700 ran for nearly 11 hours--an outstanding score for a smart phone and a PDA. Sprint promises up to 3.7 hours of talk time and 10 days of standby time.
CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo contributed to the performance analysis.