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HTC Athena Advantage - X7501 (Unlocked) review: HTC Athena Advantage - X7501 (Unlocked)

HTC Athena Advantage - X7501 (Unlocked)

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
8 min read


HTC Athena Advantage - X7501 (Unlocked)

The Good

The HTC Advantage X7501 features a large, gorgeous display and offers integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, and GPS. The Windows Mobile 6 mobile computer offers document viewing and editing, push e-mail, and Web browsing. It's also equipped with a 3-megapixel camera and a full QWERTY keyboard.

The Bad

The Advantage is bulky and heavy, and the keyboard is cramped. The design makes it hard to use as a phone, and even then, the speakerphone is on the weaker side.

The Bottom Line

The HTC Advantage X7501 is a powerful mobile computer for on-the-go professionals, delivering a full feature set and speedy performance. However, it will probably only appeal to early adopters and gadget hounds.

The HTC Advantage X7501 is a tricky gadget to categorize. It doesn't neatly fit into the mold of a smart phone nor does it exactly work like an ultramobile PC (UMPC). Instead, HTC calls this mobile computer the "perfect device for three days on the road" when you really don't feel like lugging around your laptop. It certainly provides you with the tools for doing so: an 8GB hard drive, a large display, a full QWERTY keyboard, Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition, and all the wireless options one could want, including 3G and GPS. And it delivers with good performance. However, it has its share of problems too. The keyboard design is poor, and given its bulk, we can't even imagine using it as a phone. As such, we think most people will still stick with an ultraportable laptop and cell or smart phone, while the HTC Advantage will probably only appeal to a small segment of early adopters and gadget hounds (think Nokia N800 Internet Tablet). Neither T-Mobile nor AT&T have picked up the HTC Advantage X7501, but you can now buy an unlocked version of the device for $899 at retailers such as Amazon.com and CompUSA .

Depending on how you look at it, the HTC Advantage X7501 is a really big smart phone or a really small laptop. And even though the Advantage is sort of in a category of its own, you could liken its design to a UMPC like the Oqo Model O2 and Sony VAIO UX390. It measures 5.2 inches long by 3.8 inches wide by 0.6 inch tall and weighs 12.6 ounces, so while the device will fit into a bag or purse, it's certainly going to add some heft to your travels.

The HTC Advantage X7501 is pretty hefty, so it'll add some weight for your travels.

The Advantage consists of two parts. First, there's a flat piece that has the full QWERTY keyboard on one side and magnetically attaches to the bottom of the main unit, giving it more of a laptoplike design. When you're not using the device, you can turn the keyboard over and use it as a protective cover for the screen. There's a small clear window along the bottom, so you can still view the time, battery life, network strength, and other information.

When not in use, you can protect the device's screen with the other side of the magnetic keyboard. There's a clear window that allows you to view information, such as time, network, and battery life.

The second component of the HTC Advantage is the main body, which houses the spacious 5-inch TFT LCD. It's beautiful and sharp, showing off 65,536 colors at a 480x640 pixel resolution, and of course, the extra real estate makes it wonderful for viewing e-mails, Web pages, Office documents, and multimedia. The touch screen is pretty responsive, but it's hard to use when propped up on the keyboard. It requires a firm touch for actions to register on the screen, and this sometimes causes the Advantage to tip over when you have it attached to the keyboard and placed on a desk.

The full QWERTY keyboard is cramped and hard to use with its flat buttons.

The full QWERTY keyboard isn't all that easy to use either. Compared to a smart phone, the individual buttons are large and there's a good amount of spacing between them. However, unlike a smart phone, you're not going to be holding the Advantage in both of your hands and using your thumbs to compose e-mails and such. Instead, it's more of a notebook experience and as a result, the keyboard feels pretty cramped. It's too small to use like a regular keyboard, and we found it easiest to peck at the keys with just our index and middle fingers. Even then, the keys are extra flat and there's minimal tactile response so it's not the most satisfying user experience.

To the left of the display, there's a multidirectional joystick that you can also press in to select items, an OK key, and a Start button. On the right, you will find an Internet Explorer launch key, and there are three LED indicators above the screen for the network, wireless options, and alerts. The left spine has a volume rocker, a VGA-out port, a mini-USB/power connector, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the right side, you have the stylus holder, a camera-activation key, Communication manager shortcut, and power button. The bottom of the unit holds the battery, miniSD expansion slot, and the SIM card holder. Finally, the reset hole and 3-megapixel camera lens and flash are located on the back of the device.

HTC packages the Advantage X7501 with a high-quality and thoughtfully designed protective leather pouch.

HTC packages the Advantage with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a VGA cable, a protective leather pouch, an extra stylus, a wired headset, and reference material. The leather cover is of good quality, and it's thoughtfully designed (there is a cut-out for the camera lens, and the plastic pieces that hold the main body in place don't interfere with any of the side controls). For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

As we've noted before, the HTC Advantage X7501 isn't really a UMPC. Case in point, the Advantage doesn't run a full Windows Vista operating system but instead uses Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition like the T-Mobile Wing and Sprint Mogul. You get full viewing and editing capabilities for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, as well as Windows Live integration and an enhanced Calendar application. (You can learn more about the operating system in our Windows Mobile 6 review.) Outlook Mobile and Microsoft's Direct Push technology are on board to handle your e-mail needs, and it also works with POP3, IMAP4, and Web-based accounts.

Other PIM tools include Adobe Reader LE for opening PDFs, a calculator, a tasks list, a voice recorder, a notepad, and a ZIP manager. The device is also built to handle the demands of a mobile professional, as it's powered by a fast 624MHz processor and an ATi Graphic Chip W2284 and has an 8GB hard drive with 256MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM. There's about 123MB of user accessible storage, and 70MB of free program memory.

The Advantage comes with the full gamut of wireless options: Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), 3G, and GPS. Supported Bluetooth profiles include A2DP for stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, dial-up networking, and wireless synchronization between the device and your PC. The Advantage didn't have any problems finding and connecting to our test access point for easy Web browsing. And we enjoyed the same seamless experience when surfing via AT&T's HSDPA network, averaging speeds of around 400Kbps to 700Kbps with the potential to hit up to 2Mbps. Road warriors will also be pleased with the integrated SiRFStarIII GPS receiver that you can use with a location-based service, like TeleNav GPS Navigator, for turn-by-turn text- and voice-guided directions, color maps, and local business searches.

You have your choice of two Web browsers: Internet Explorer and Opera. We preferred the latter because of its excellent ability to optimize Web sites for mobile devices and its tabbed window browsing. The Advantage also has a unique feature called VueFLO that lets you scroll through Web pages by tilting the device up and down, or side to side. It's certainly an interesting way to navigate sites, and it worked as advertised, though it's quite sensitive as it rapidly moves around a page and doesn't quite stop when you want it to. There is an option to adjust the sensitivity in the Settings menu, but you can't turn the feature completely off. Instead, you can choose which browser you want VueFLO to work on, so you could, in theory, just activate it for the browser you are not going to use. Still, I really have to wonder about this technology's real-life practicality. I just can't imagine browsing sites by moving a device in your hand like an Etch-a-Sketch.

Given its design, one wouldn't really think of using the Advantage as a cell phone, but it does have voice capabilities. The speakerphone-only, quad-band world phone has smart dialing, voice commands and dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory and the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. You can store up to 12 numbers for a single entry as well as home and work addresses, e-mail, IM screen name, birthday, spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one of 25 polyphonic ringtones.

The Advantage is equipped with a 3-megapixel camera with a flash and video-recording capabilities.

The HTC Advantage is equipped with a 3-megapixel camera and built-in flash. There's an option of eight shooting modes, including video and burst. For still images, you have your choice of six resolutions and four quality settings. Also at your disposal are white-balance settings, various effects, a self-timer, and flicker adjustment. For videos, you can record MPEG4 clips with sound and in varying lengths. Picture quality was pretty good. Images had sharp definition, but the color tone was a bit off. It was also really hard to get a clear shot since it was awkward to steadily hold the large device while pressing the capture button.

Picture quality was OK. Images had sharp lines, but the color tone was off and it's hard to hold the device steady to get a clear shot.

Finally, with its large, gorgeous display, the Advantage makes for an attractive option for viewing multimedia files, like videos. It's stocked with the standard Windows Media Player Mobile, supporting popular music and video formats, such as AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG 4, and WMV, to name a few. If you have TV shows recorded on your Windows Media Center PC, you can transfer them to your device for on-the-go viewing.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE; UMTS/HSDPA) HTC Advantage X7501 in San Francisco using AT&T service, and call quality was OK. There was a hollowness and a tinny quality to the speakerphone, and we sometimes had a hard time hearing our callers. On the flip side, our friends said we sounded clear, but there were a few occasions where the audio would cut out. We were able to interact with our bank's voice-automated response system, but really had to speak up to be completely understood. We had no problems pairing the Advantage with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

General performance was quite snappy. We rarely experienced delays when opening various work documents and multimedia files, and we had no problem synchronizing our Outlook e-mail, calendar, and contact information with the device using ActiveSync. Multimedia performance was OK. Songs sounded weak through the device's speakers, lacking any sort of richness or bass, and turning up the volume only blew out the audio. Fortunately, the Advantage is equipped with a 3.5mm jack, so we were able to plug in a nice pair of headphones and enjoy better-sounding tunes. Videos looked pretty good, except when we switched to full-screen mode, and then the picture became quite pixelated.

The Advantage's 2200mAh lithium ion battery is rated for 5.5 hours of talk time for GSM or 4.5 hours for UMTS and up to 12.5 days of standby time. In our battery tests, we were able to get 6 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the HTC Advantage has a digital SAR rating of 0.836 watts per kilogram.


HTC Athena Advantage - X7501 (Unlocked)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 7