When HTC unveiled the HTC S720 (the CDMA variant of the Vox) at CTIA 2007, we couldn't help but be disappointed that it was being released in Canada first. And here we are, four months later and still no signs of a U.S. release--though the company has said it will come out later this summer. Lucky for us, we got our hands on an unlocked version of the HTC Vox S710, and the Windows Mobile 6 smart phone delivers on almost every front. It offers excellent call quality, all the tools to keep a mobile professional productive on the road, and a dynamite design that packs a full QWERTY keyboard into a compact slider chassis. So what's its downfall? The lack of 3G. The extra boost of speed could really have pushed the S710 ahead of its competition. Even without it, however, the HTC Vox remains a very powerful and able smart phone. There's no word yet on when the Vox will be officially released in the States, or whether it will be a CDMA or GSM version, but if you can't wait, you can purchase an unlocked version (for use with T-Mobile or AT&T Wireless) now for about $450.
The main attraction of the HTC Vox S710 is its design, and it's easy to see why. The smart phone combines some of the best elements of the company's other smart phones to make for one killer device. It has the compactness and cell phone chassis of the Cingular 2125, while still managing to pack in a full QWERTY keyboard thanks to a slider design much like the Sprint Mogul. The S710 measures 3.9 inches long by 1.9 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and 4.2 ounces with a candy-bar style and soft-touch finish, making it more comfortable to hold and use as a phone than the bulky Cingular 8525 or wider T-Mobile Dash. The trade-off is that the S710 on the thicker side, so it will make for a tighter fit in a pants pocket.
On front of the device, there is a 2.4-inch diagonal screen that displays 65,536 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution, but be aware it's not a touch screen. That said, text looked sharp, and images and videos popped with vibrancy. We didn't have much problem reading the screen in various lighting conditions, though it gets a bit washed out in direct sunlight, and we also noticed that it can get pretty dirty with smudges and fingerprints. To personalize your phone, you can change the layout, color scheme, and background image of the Home screen, as well as adjust the backlight.
Below the display, you'll find another benefit of the Vox's design--a dedicated alphanumeric dialpad along with the standard navigation controls. The keypad allows you to dial numbers without having to search for the number buttons in a sea of other keys (Ã¡ la Dash or BlackBerry Curve). You also get two soft keys, a shortcut to the Home screen, a back button, the Talk and End keys, and a four-way navigation toggle with a center select key. Given that these controls are squeezed onto the lower third of the face, they are a bit on the smaller side, so users with larger fingers may encounter some difficulties when first trying out the smart phone.
To expose the full QWERTY keyboard, just slide the front cover to the left, which also triggers the screen to automatically switch from portrait mode to landscape mode. As we've come to notice with similar slider smart phones, the S710 experienced a delay when changing screen orientation. Otherwise, the sliding movement is smooth and solidly locks into place. We wish there was the same kind of locking mechanism in its closed state, as it's easy to nudge the front flap when holding the phone.
The HTC Vox S710's keyboard features smallish, square buttons, but the extra spacing between them makes it quite manageable for cranking out e-mails, text messages, and notes without much problem. It may require a short period of acclimation, but it's certainly roomier than any of the latest BlackBerrys and the Dash, so if you can use those keyboards, you'll be fine with the Vox. Like the T-Mobile Wing, there are two small LEDs at the top of the keyboard that illuminate blue to confirm the Caps or Alt functions, as well as two additional soft keys.
On the left spine, you will find the volume rocker and voice command/recorder launcher, while on the right side, there is the camera activation key and microSD expansion slot. The camera is located on the back of the device, along with a self-portrait mirror. The power button is on top of the unit, and a mini USB port is on the bottom. Finally, in a unique twist, the SIM card slot is located on the back of the front cover, which you can access when the phone is in its open state.
HTC packages the S710 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired headset, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phones accessories, ring tones, and help page.
Underneath all the fancy hardware, the HTC Vox S710 isn't much different than other Windows Mobile smart phones. The Vox runs the latest Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition. We won't touch on all the details of the operating system (You can learn more about the OS in our full review of WM6), but some notable additions include Windows Live integration, and you now get the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite instead of third-party software for viewing and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (view only) documents in native format. The Vox also features Direct Push Technology out of the box for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. The S710 also supports POP3 and IMAP accounts, but now you can also view e-mails in their original HTML format, regardless of account type. Other PIM tools and utilities include Adobe Reader, a task manager, a voice recorder, a calculator, notes, and more.
As for voice features, the S710 is a quad-band world phone and offers a speakerphone, smart dialing, voice commands and dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory (128MB RAM/64MB SDRAM; 50MB user accessible) while 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.
Wireless connectivity is the one area where the HTC S710 disappoints. Sure you get Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth 2.0, but the addition of 3G support could have really pushed the Vox ahead of the competition. But alas, you're left to surf the Web via EDGE speeds or by hopping onto a hot spot. On the bright side, the S710 was able to find and connect to our test access point immediately, so we were surfing the Web in a matter of minutes. As for Bluetooth, the smart phone supports wireless headsets, hands-free kits, object exchange, file sharing, and A2DP for stereo Bluetooth headsets.
The HTC S710 is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera with zoom and video recording capabilities. The options are pretty standard for a camera phone. You have your choice of five resolutions and four quality settings. There's no flash, but you do get white balance settings, including one for night shots, and various effects you can add the picture. There's also a self timer, time stamp option, picture counter, and flicker adjustment, among other things. For video, the Vox can capture clips with or without sound in MPEG4, Motion JPEG, or H.263 format. There are only two resolution choices, but you get the same white balance and color effect settings. Picture quality was disappointing, mainly because we couldn't quite get a shot with good lighting and coloring. We adjusted the white balance a number of times, but as you can see from our standard test image, there's an orangeish overtone--a shame, since there's sharp definition.
Finally, the HTC Vox S710 is outfitted with Windows Media Player Mobile, supporting a number of popular audio and video formats--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. The S710 also includes an Audio Manager application as an alternative music browser and player.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) HTC Vox S710 in San Francisco using AT&T Wireless service, and call quality was excellent. We enjoyed clear sound with plenty of volume when talking with friends, and our callers also reported good audio. We had no problems interacting with our bank's automated voice response system, either. For the most part, speakerphone quality was also quite good. We heard a slight background hiss, but we could still hold a conversation, and our callers said they didn't even realize we had turned on the speakerphone as they noticed no drop in call quality. We had no problems pairing the S710 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
Powered by a 201MHz Texas Instrument OMAP processor and about 24MB of program memory, we worried that the S710 would suffer from sluggish performance, but for the most part, this is not the case. There were times when the system got bogged down when we had numerous applications on, causing a slight delay in response time but nothing that truly slowed down our productivity. We were able to transfer and view various Office documents and PDFs, as well as music and video. Music playback through the phone's speakers was OK. Songs sounded tinny through the single speaker, and upping the volume only blew out the sound. As usual, plugging in the included wired headset, as uncomfortable as it is, improves the experience. Video playback was surprisingly decent, as pictures looked great on the S710's sharp screen, and audio and video always synced up. That said, the smaller display isn't optimal for longtime viewing.
The HTC S710 is rated for 7 hours of talk time and up to 7 days of standby time. In our battery tests, the Vox well surpassed the rated talk time with a total of 11 hours on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the S710 has a digital SAR rating of 0.8 watts per kilogram.