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i-mate Ultimate 6150 review: i-mate Ultimate 6150

The Ultimate 6150 goes like grease lightning but be warned: you'll need deep pockets to own one, and not just to pay the price tag.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
5 min read

It's been a while since we reviewed the i-mate JasJam; a well-featured PDA smartphone, if a tad bulky and a tad pricey to boot. The Ultimate 6150 is one of four new devices from i-mate to be released in close succession and is a keypad-less replica of the Ultimate 8150. Similar to the JasJam the 6150 is a Windows Mobile device but in keeping with the basic rules of handheld technology i-mate have shaved several millimetres off each of the 6150's dimensions, and about AU$150 off the RRP, as compared to the last generation. That being said, at 118mm wide and 60mm long the Ultimate 6150 is still a hefty feeling handset.


i-mate Ultimate 6150

The Good

Excellent VGA display. Fast 520MHz processor. XGA TV-Out. Excellent connectivty options.

The Bad

Dismal battery life. Large, heavy handset.

The Bottom Line

If we didn't regard battery life so highly the 6150 would have earned itself an editor's choice award. As it stands, the Ultimate 6150 stands apart as one of the fastest Windows Mobile devices currently available.

The Ultimate series now sports a sleek black exterior giving the devices a smart business appearance rather than the "gadgety" look of the JasJam. Avoiding the glossy piano black craze we've seen so much of lately, the 6150 is encased in matte black metal, which is no doubt part of why the handset feels heavier than you might expect, but is thankfully fingerprint resistant. Sitting within the classy black frame is an exceptional 2.8-inch VGA display which is bright, sharp and colourful, perfect for reading and watching videos in Windows media player.

To navigate the keypad-less 6150 you'll be required to become well acquainted with the attached stylus, or handy with a finger, for banging away at the touchscreen. Alternatively, the Ultimate series features a tiny joystick on the front or spring-loaded jog-stick on the side to scan the menus. The physical navigation options are located in the most convenient position for left-handed use, freeing up your right hand to stab at the screen with the stylus.

One design feature we were pleased to see was the Micro SD expandable memory slot under the "jog-stick" on the left hand side of the phone, rather than under the battery which is common. This is a very handy position for a PDA, offering the opportunity to use different memory cards to store different business content, or to separate business use from personal use and "hot-swap" these cards without shutting down the handset.

Love it or loath it; Windows Mobile 6 is pre-loaded on all of i-mate's latest devices. Putting aside its boring aesthetic there's no doubting the practicality of the WM6 platform, which features a decent suite of business apps; including an editable version of mobile Office -- Word, Excel and PowerPoint -- Internet Explorer and Enterprise for syncing your MS Outlook e-mail and contacts with those from the office. In addition, there is a plethora of WM compatible software to download online to expand the functionality of your PDA.

For the uninitiated, using WM6 is a very similar experience to using any other Windows operating systems. The upside to this is that you're probably familiar with where to find most settings and options starting by selecting the "Start" menu key. The downside is most of these options live in menus three or four selections from the standby screen. So while you might be used to changing a setting with a single click or two using a Nokia or Sony Ericsson, you will have to drill deep into the menu structure using WM6 to perform a similar task, and this can get tedious.

One feature that could definitely sell a bunch of Ultimate series handsets is the TV-Out port located inconspicuously on the right of the phone. We tested the TV-Out on a computer monitor here in our office and the results were very good. At XGA (1024x768) TV-Out resolution, the possibility of running a PowerPoint presentation off the handset and displaying it for an audience via a projector or TV is very appealing for those who want to leave their laptop at the office.

In regards to connectivity, the Ultimate series definitely has all the bases covered. The phones are tri-band UTMS/HSDPA capable as well as being world-roaming quad-band GSM. During our tests we saw excellent Internet data speeds and generally browsing was a breeze. To compliment mobile data access the 6150 also connects to Wi-Fi networks supporting 802.11b/g/e/i protocols. Also, as is standard these days, the Ultimate series can make Bluetooth connections for file transfers, Internet sharing or for connecting to a compatible hands-free phone headset.

The longevity of the battery between charges was well below par during our tests. During very light testing we saw approximately three days of charge, but any greater use -- particularly of connectivity features like Wi-Fi or HSDPA -- and we found ourselves charging the 6150 at the end of each day. On the upside the battery level monitor is far more accurate that the common four-bar level display so you can follow the disappointingly fast depletion of battery level and be on standby with the charger.

While the battery life is lacklustre, we were impressed generally with the phone's operation. The i-mate Ultimate smartphones run on a 520MHz processor with 128MB RAM and is complimented with NVIDIA graphics acceleration. What this amounts to is speedy processing of menus and applications -- we found there were only a few apps which require more than a moment to register onscreen. This may sound like standard fare for a mobile phone, but from our repeated experience of laggy Windows Mobile devices, the Ultimate 6150 exceeded our modest expectations.

In our opinion, touchscreens are still a contentious feature. Many touchscreens make using the devices more difficult and require far more patience and concentration than the use of traditional hard inputs. This said, the touchscreen on the Ultimate 6150 is better than we've seen recently. We found it to be reasonably accurate and responsive, particularly when using the stylus, and even though typing with it feels like collecting baked beans with a toothpick, we managed to get faster as our tests continued, and relied on the backspace button less and less. Of course, this is as much to the credit of our exceptional hand-eye coordination as it is to the 6150's useability.

The truth is it took a little while to get used to using the Ultimate 6150. Being forced to type with the touchscreen was a drag before we mastered it, and WM6, while practical, is just a drag. The saving grace for the Ultimate 6150 was the processing power. If every menu selection had lagged while we drilled down layer by layer we would have thrown the handset in the bin, or better still, out a window. The 6150 might be a big handset by current standards and the battery life verges on dismal, but it packs a punch and definitely out-performs the other WM6 devices we are reviewing at this time, in processing and graphics rendering.

Either the 6150 or the 8150 would make a good handset for business users who want a Windows Mobile phone to compliment their current business practices. But be warned: you'll need deep pockets, not just to pay the RRP of AU$1,099, but deep, wide pockets to lug around the hefty handset.