Next to its sister phone, the sharp-looking , MWg's Zinc II looks like the frumpy step sister. The matte black plastic that surrounds the screen and comprises the battery cover gives us the impression that the Zinc II was designed with economy in mind, and at 18mm in thickness and 185g in weight, your bulging jeans pockets will hate the Zinc II.
The screen itself is fine, though not extraordinary. It's 2.8 inches diagonally and sports a QVGA resolution, which is in line with what we expect for a Windows Mobile smartphone. The display lays flush with its plastic frame making single-handed operation a breeze. Below the screen we find call and end soft-keys and a shiny, stainless steel nav-pad. Given that the Zinc II runs on Windows Mobile 6.1, and that WM has always been tricky to navigate using a touchscreen with your fingers, it would have been handy for MWg to include extra soft-keys, or perhaps a dedicated Start Menu key, like we see on the Atom V.
Of course, the reason you'd be leaning towards the Zinc II over the Atom V is because of its full QWERTY keypad. If this is the case then stop, turn around and run screaming in the opposite direction. The keypad, which lays flush with the underside of its sliding mechanism, is the worst keypad we've encountered. The keys are poorly defined, divided by tiny raised partitions, and crammed together. Every single message we typed was riddled with typos and frequent excursions to the backspace key, which is so close to the Enter key we'd invariably put in several page breaks before finally correcting our mistake. Using this keypad is a frustrating and hair-pulling exercise.
During the torment of typing we often considered resorting to the stylus and the abysmal Windows Mobile on-screen keyboard. That was until we drew the stylus from its sheath on the bottom-right corner of the handset and found little more than a telescopic toothpick. We're not asking for a broomstick, but a stylus with a little more length and heft would be greatly appreciated.
In terms of hardware and connectivity the Zinc II is no slouch. A 500MHz Samsung processor with 64MB RAM powers the handset which features HSDPA, Wi-Fi and a SiRF III GPS receiver. For travellers, the Zinc II features quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and tri-band UMTS (850/900/2100MHz) frequencies support. This also means the Zinc II is compatible with all Australian mobile networks including Telstra's Next G network.
The Zinc II is pretty light on pre-installed software and productivity tools, it's a pretty bare-bones Windows Mobile release. There's the obligatory MS Office document and Adobe PDF readers, plus access to Microsoft's ActiveSync for file transfers and setting up email through an MS Exchange server.
Similar to WM handsets from HTC, the Zinc II features an interface shell to improve access and ease of use. In fact, the Zinc II Quick Menu looks remarkably similar to the sections of HTC's last generation TouchFlo interface, and even more like Sbp Windows Mobile shell. With the lack of mechanical keys, mentioned earlier, the Quick Menu is a godsend, providing finger-friendly shortcuts to most basic features, with pages of free space for customising with shortcuts to your favourite programs.