The Acer beTouch E200 is the latest in a slew of handsets released to coincide with the launch of Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system. This one is aimed at the budget end of the market, and can be picked up for around £250 SIM-free.
Built to last
The E200 is something of a rarity among Windows Mobile smart phones, as it features a slide-out keypad, rather than the much more common Qwerty keyboard. The sliding mechanism feels like it's been built to last, opening and closing with a satisfying 'clunk'. In fact, the whole phone feels quite sturdy -- it doesn't bend and flex like some of the other models in Acer's current line-up. The handset looks quite attractive too -- the glossy black or white finish on the front and rear goes well with the silver paint used around the edges.
One complaint we have with the E200's design is that there's no standard headphone jack, so you can't use your own headphones with it. Instead, the phone's mini-USB port handles audio duties, as well as being used for charging and syncing the phone with your PC. This is especially disappointing given that the stereo headset supplied with the E200 isn't all that comfortable to wear and delivers pretty weedy sound quality, lacking bass.
The resistive touchscreen has a rather low resolution of 240x320 pixels, which means you have to do plenty of scrolling around Web pages when you're viewing them in the new and improved Internet Explorer browser. On the plus side, however, it doesn't suffer from the image ghosting that affects the screen on the cheaper beTouch E101, and colours also look much richer and more life-like. Nevertheless, it's not as good as the displays we've seen on lower-end devices from HTC.
The E200 is built around a Qualcomm MSM7225 processor, clocked at 528MHz, and has 512MB of ROM and 256MB of RAM. In use, it feels relatively speedy for a phone of this price, and certainly has no problems running a few applications simultaneously. If you need more storage, you can add extra space via cheap microSD cards.
The Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system is a significant improvement on Windows Mobile 6.1. But it's still quite fiddly to use, and far from being as user-friendly as the iPhone or Android operating systems. Unlike other manufacturers, Acer has only added some minor tweaks to the UI. The main difference is that Acer's 'today' screen presents you with a grid of icons that act as shortcuts to commonly used applications. But this can easily be turned off if you'd prefer to use the standard Windows Mobile screen instead.
The main problem with this handset is its connectivity, or lack thereof. Although it supports 3G, Bluetooth and GPS, Acer has bizarrely left out Wi-Fi support. It's a very odd decision, given that Wi-Fi is pretty much a standard feature of all smart phones, and it means you're totally reliant on the 3G mobile network for all connectivity.
On the plus side, call quality is pretty good, with the microphone and speaker doing a commendable job of keeping calls sounding crisp and clear. Battery life isn't too bad either -- we got around two days of moderate use out of the E200 before it needed recharging.
The camera is also pretty decent. Although it lacks a flash, it does have autofocus, and the 3.2-megapixel resolution isn't too bad. It struggles to take decent shots indoors in low light, but produces pretty good outdoor pictures.
The Acer beTouch E200 is a mixed bag. We like its low price, sturdy design and slide-out keypad, but the low-resolution screen is a turn-off and the lack of Wi-Fi is pretty much unforgivable. It's worth checking out some rivals, such as the HTC Tattoo, before you decide to lay down your cash.
Edited by Charles Kloet