E-Ten isn't a major name in the smart-phone market, not in the United States anyway, but that doesn't mean it can't play with the big boys. The E-Ten G500 is a mobile Swiss Army Knife of sorts, with blades for a phone, a GPS receiver, a digital camera, and a PDA. Like the competing and more businesscentric HP iPaq hw6515, the G500 packages all of this into one package that barely fills a jacket pocket. We like the overall design, applaud the engineering effort, and are impressed that the G500 does each task moderately well, but with its weight, as well as its lack of navigation software, Wi-Fi, and EDGE support, the G500 falls short. Without a U.S. carrier, you'll also have to plunk down a good amount of change ($575) for an unlocked version of the G500.
The G500's black-and-gray design is stylish and urbane, and its blue backlighting accents the perimeter and the controls for a streamlined look. But at 6.7 ounces and 4.7 by 2.4 by 0.9 inches, it's a lot to carry around and hold up to your ear when making a call. It's slightly larger and heavier than the Palm Treo 650 and nearly an ounce heavier and quite a bit thicker than the HP iPaq 6515 superphone. Otherwise, the iPaq hw6515 and the G500 match each other spec for spec, but the hw6515 has a larger screen and a thumb keyboard.
The G500's 2.8-inch, 320x240-pixel screen is a mixed blessing. It's too small for viewing maps while driving, but it's great for phoning, with large dialing icons. We also like that E-Ten's main screen has extra icons for battery status, missed calls, and other vital information. We should point out that the battery-level icon is duplicated, wasting some display real estate.
Below the screen, you have two shortcut buttons, the Talk and End keys, and a four-way navigation pad with a center selection button. There are two additional customizable quick-launch keys above the screen. All are easy to use and command, and again, the blue backlight makes for a cool effect. On the left spine, you'll find a camera activation key, a volume rocker, a voice-record button, a reset button, and a 2.5mm headset jack, while a Mini SD expansion slot sits on the right side. The camera lens is located on the back, along with a small self-portrait mirror and the speakerphone.
E-Ten packages the G500 with a healthy set of accessories, including an AC adapter, a car charger, a USB cable, a windshield mount, a wired headset, and a leather case, but it's not as well stocked as other devices on the market. First, it lacks a Mini SD card, but even worse, you don't get any of the needed navigation software for the GPS receiver, which could add another $100 to the device's already expensive price tag. More to the point, the manual barely even mentions how to set up the GPS receiver and doesn't suggest any software packages or give instructions on installation. E-Ten says the G500 will work with all Pocket PC mapping packages. For our tests, we tried Microsoft's Streets and Trips 2003 and had no problem using the program and GPS capabilities once we figured out we had to connect via the COM 4 port.
The E-Ten G500 has M-Desk, a wonderful utility that features a tabbed interface, grouping all apps by function: Phone, PDA, Fun, and System. For example, under the Phone menu, you'll find Speed Dial, SMS Sender, MMS Composer, and so forth. While we're on the subject, other phone features include speed and voice dialing; a speakerphone; photo caller ID; and WAV, MP3, and MIDI ring-tone support. As a PDA, the G500 is adequately equipped. Powering the device is a top-speed 400MHz Samsung processor with 64MB of SDRAM and 128MB of flash ROM, 90MB of which is user accessible. The device runs the latest Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC Phone Edition, so you get the full Microsoft Office Mobile suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer) for on-the-go access to all your work documents plus e-mail and calendar synchronization.
Unfortunately, the G500 is hurting in the area of wireless connectivity. It lacks integrated Wi-Fi, and there's no support for EDGE, so you'll have to find other means, such as a Wi-Fi card, for connecting to the Web. The smart phone, however, has Bluetooth 2.0, which promises faster transmission speed and lower power consumption; it's also backward compatible with Bluetooth 1.x.