There's been a lot of buzz lately about big-screen, powerful notebooks that are designed to be desktop replacements. Now Sprint PCS and Hitachi are serving up a beefy handheld that they hope can take the place of your laptop. Though the G1000 is big for a PDA, it has a handy keyboard, a built-in camera, and wireless phone and Internet service via Sprint's "high speed" data network. It won't appeal to fashion-conscious users, but it may attract those with the dreaded "laptop shoulder" virus.
Take one look at the Hitachi G1000, and you'll notice that it's huge--about as large as an HP iPaq with an add-on keyboard. The silver-and-black device measures 5.8 by 3.3 by 0.9 inches and weighs a portly 8.4 ounces. The Hitachi's large size is partly due to its built-in keyboard, which is roomy, and the model has a 37-key, QWERTY layout, with two phone buttons and a speakerphone key. Unlike the cramped keyboards on Handspring's Treo 300 and 600 models, we found Hitachi's version easy to type on.
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Big and burly: To say the Hitachi is a bit on the large side is to put it mildly.
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Thick puppy: The G1000 measures nearly an inch from front to back.
Another factor that accounts for the G1000's size is its great number of components, ports, buttons, and switches. Above the screen, you'll find a color VGA camera, as well as an IR port, a phone antenna, and a power button slightly toward the back. On the left side of the unit, there's a 2.5mm stereo jack, a Secure Digital card slot, a scrollwheel, a voice-dialing button, and two switches.
We thought the voice-dialing button activated too easily, but we liked the two switches. One lets you quickly change between phone modes such as Silent All, Outdoor, and Normal; the other is a keyguard that deactivates all of the phone buttons. We also appreciated that the device has an AC jack and mini-USB port on the bottom for cradle-free recharging and syncing, plus controls on the right side for midcall volume adjustments.
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Room to roam: A big keyboard gives your thumbs some breathing space.
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You may power up in the cradle, but there's also an AC jack on the bottom of the unit.
Like the unit itself, Hitachi's cradle is somewhat big and clunky, but as we said, you may charge and sync without it. Hitachi doesn't provide a USB-to-mini-USB cable for syncing, but it does include a 3.5mm headphone jack adapter, so you may use your favorite headphones with the device. There's also a protective leatherette case with a belt clip--which is a welcome addition because the G1000 isn't very pocket-friendly. A precharged, removable lithium-ion battery comes with the package, so you may begin using the unit right out of the box.
The Hitachi has a strange combination of cutting-edge features and last year's technology. Though it's powered by the current 400MHz Intel XScale PXA255 processor, it has only 32MB of RAM and ROM, as well as the older Pocket PC 2002 operating system. The screen is a roomy 3.5-inch transflective TFT capable of displaying 65,536 colors at 320x240 pixels. You may add more memory via the SD slot, but it's not SDIO-compliant, so add-on modules such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi cards are out of the question.
Phone features revolve around the Hitachi's built-in, single-band (sorry, no analog roaming), CDMA PCS Sprint phone. The phone is integrated well with the system software and hardware, above and beyond the components of the Pocket PC Phone Edition OS. As we mentioned earlier, hardware buttons on the unit let you dial; hang up; switch to speakerphone; initiate voice dialing; or toggle between standard, outdoor, and silent modes. You may dial contacts by clicking their numbers in the contact database, dialing onscreen, or even using the numbers at the top of the keyboard. Better yet, you can use the integrated camera to snap pictures of your friends and attach them to their contact listings; when someone calls, his or her picture shows up.
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The headphone jack is of the 2mm variety, but Hitachi supplies an adapter to accommodate the more common 3mm headphone plugs.
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Just shoot me: The camera swivels 180 degrees and captures images up to 640x480 pixels in size.
Somewhat of a newcomer to the Pocket PC scene, the camera is a nice addition to the device. Set on a spindle, the camera can rotate 180 degrees to snap pictures of you or a subject in front of you. It captures color images up to a 640x480 pixels--good enough for a quick e-mail message but the camera's lack of a flash and its low resolution will restrict your shooting to well-lit areas.
As a smart phone, the Hitachi can also handle Internet access and e-mail through Sprint's network. While you may always go online to access your POP accounts, you can also sign up for Sprint's Business Connection, which gives you access to your work Outlook or Lotus Notes accounts for an extra fee.
The software CD contains the garden-variety Pocket PC apps such as Microsoft Reader, Money, and Pocket Streets, plus a few games. Though it includes the latest ActiveSync version (3.7), this model offers only Outlook 2000, not the 2002 packaged with other PDAs. But the most useful software is included on the unit itself. ClearVue Suite can view Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or PDF documents in their native formats. There's also a launcher bar built into the Today screen that lets you speed dial as well as access your call log, your voicemail, the camera, your tools, and your running programs list with one tap.
Despite housing Hitachi's 400MHz PXA255 XScale processor, the G1000 turned in average performance. Syncing and transferring files to and from the device via the cradle was particularly slow. On the bright side, games and video played very smoothly, perhaps due to the unit's ATI Imageon 3200 graphics chip. And we had no complaints with the G1000's 65,536-color transflective screen.
Display of affection: There's a lot to like in the Hitachi's bright and colorful transflective screen.
As with most smart phones, the G1000 takes a while to load Web pages but speeds up considerably if you disable the graphics. Wireless Web access via Sprint's 1xRTT next-generation network was relatively fast for most tasks. Though page-loading times vary based on traffic and other factors, pages displayed at a tolerable rate, though not as quickly as with the Palm Tungsten C's faster Wi-Fi connections. Downloading a 1.11MB file took slightly less than three minutes.and
Phone performance in the San Francisco area ranged from very good to irritating. The speakerphone was loud enough that we could hear callers clearly, and they could hear us with a minimal echo. Not only does holding the phone to your ear look bizarre, voices also get a bit choppy in loud environments, though the sound improves indoors. We suggest using a headset; the acoustics aren't perfect, but we sounded good to callers, and they were clear at the right volume level. Fortunately, the volume buttons are on the side of the unit for easy access.
Equipped with a capacious 1,500mAh replaceable lithium-ion battery, the Hitachi also performed well in our battery tests. We squeezed 3 hours, 12 minutes of talk time out of the unit, a half hour more than its rated time. Battery life during regular Pocket PC tasks was rather impressive. With the backlight at the halfway point and the phone off, we played a MPEG movie file in PocketTV for 5 hours, 43 minutes before the cell wound down.