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i-mate JAMin review: i-mate JAMin

Small form factor design with a touch screen/stylus as the input method of choice is very much in vogue in the smartphone arena these days. The two previous models we looked at -- the O2 Atom Exec and the HP iPAQ rw6828 -- both used this look, so we weren't surprised to pull the i-mate JAMin out of its box only to discover that it looks almost identical to the O2 and HP offerings.


i-mate JAMin

The Good

Clean and compact design. Matte finish. Push e-email. Large screen. Pleasing battery life.

The Bad

Poor performance. Multimedia features are sparse. Lack of keyboard makes heavy data input tedious. Camera quality is questionable. Doesn't support 3G.

The Bottom Line

More about business than pleasure, the JAMin has a lot to offer the discerning mobile professional, despite its disappointing multimedia performance.

With dimensions of 108mm by 58mm by 18.2mm and a weight of 150g, the JAMin is 10g heavier and slightly larger than the Atom Exec and the rw6828, but you'll struggle to notice the extra weight during everyday use.

Like the Atom Exec, the JAMin offers up a matte black finish that's pretty much immune to fingerprints and much less vulnerable to scratching than the glossy finish found on the original Atom. The plastic chassis is coated in a thin rubber layer, which makes it easy to grip and difficult to drop accidentally.

The motto of O2's design department is undoubtedly "less is more", as the overall layout of the JAMin is distinctly uncluttered. On the front there's a five-way directional pad, "Accept" and "End" calling buttons, a Start menu quick launch button, an "OK" button and two soft keys whose functions change depending on the software application you're running.

On the left there's a camera button, a button to launch the "Communications Manager" (used to enable/disable the various wireless connectivity features) and a handy slider to adjust volume levels on the fly. The Comms manager button doubles as a voice record button when it's held down.

Up top is a full-size SD slot, while on the right you'll find a power button and an Infrared sensor. Predictably, a USB connector and a 2.5mm headphone jack are located on the bottom of the device.

Like most recent smartphones, the JAMin runs Windows Mobile 5.0 Phone Edition, and thus comes bundled with handy office productivity applications including Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It's also got an extensive array of messaging capabilities, including push e-mail, which you can enable by following our recent DIY guide.

Internally, when compared to the O2 and HP offerings referred to above, the JAMin appears significantly underpowered. It uses a 200MHz processor, which pales in comparison to the Atom Exec's 520MHz chip and the rw6828's 416MHz chip. Memory-wise, the 128MB flash memory and 64MB RAM boasted by the JAMin is identical to that of the rw6828, although the Atom Exec offers up 64MB more flash memory (which equates to increased file storage space).

Technicalities aside, despite the paired-down processor the JAMin has a lot going for it. We're impressed with its 2.8-inch (71mm) screen, which offers a resolution of 240x320 -- identical to that of the Atom Exec and the rw6828. The JAMin's connectivity options are also extensive, and include quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900), Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Infrared.

Multimedia functionality isn't one of the device's strong points. Although the screen is great and there's a 2-megapixel camera (with macro mode) on the back, this is where the multimedia features end. The integrated camera lacks a flash, so low-light shots are poor, and there's no built-in FM radio tuner. Further, while the O2 and HP offerings include pre-installed audio/video playback software, nothing of the sort is present on the JAMin. It's clearly designed predominantly for work applications, lacking many potentially distracting "fun" features.

The JAMin's performance is hamstrung by its relatively slow processor. Video playback isn't nearly as smooth as it is on the O2 and HP devices, and if you're working with multiple applications at a time, expect the experience to become sluggish fairly quickly. That said, it handles basic tasks such as e-mail, Web browsing and word processing just fine, and call quality is virtually trouble-free.

If you need to bash out lengthy documents, you'd probably prefer a device with a hardware keyboard such as the BlackBerry 8700 or the HP iPAQ hw6965. The small software keyboard on the JAMin can make extensive data entry tedious, and the handwriting recognition feature isn't as fast as using a thumbpad.

The JAMin's slower processor and dearth of multimedia features has a distinct benefit -- it means the device draws far less power and thus offers a longer battery life. The exact length will vary depending on your usage patterns but, under occasional use with moderate calling, don't expect to see a low battery warning for around four to five days.

Under the Spb Benchark battery test, the JAMin lasted for eight hours and ten minutes, which is noticeably longer than the Atom Exec and iPAQ rw6828. Whether or not this is worth the drop in performance depends on the individual user.

The JAMin is sure to please business users thanks to its pleasing battery life, great design and push e-mail capabilities, but if you're looking to make the most of your smartphone outside of work hours, we find the O2 Atom Exec and HP iPAQ rw6828 to be more well-rounded devices.