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Disappointingly, we received only the Pharos GPS Phone 600e, so we couldn't test the navigation features, which we consider to be the main draw of this device. We should be getting a review unit of the 600 soon, but in the meantime, we thought we'd see how the 600e performed as a smart phone. We liked its thin design, and Pharos includes some nice utilities to differentiate itself from competitors like the HP iPaq hw6900 series. That said, call quality was subpar, and if you're going to plunk down that kind of cash for a smart phone, we think you'd be better served by the HP iPaq hw6900 series, which comes equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard for a better messaging experience.
For a Pocket PC phone, the Pharos GPS Phone 600e is pretty darn thin. It's actually a rebranded version of the E-ten X500 Glofish, which was dubbed the world's slimmest Pocket PC phone; with its dimensions of 4.4 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.6 inch high, we believe it (though probably not for long). It's certainly the sleekest Pocket PC Phone we can remember seeing in years. While the thinness helps, the 600e still resembles a PDA, so using it as a phone will take some acclimation due to the wider body. But the device has a solid construction and feels comfortable to hold; in addition, the 600e features a soft-touch finish that makes it easier to grip.
Front and center, there's a 2.8-inch QVGA touch screen that displays 65,536 colors at a 240x320 pixel resolution. The screen is smaller than the one found on the Cingular 8525, but images and text had sharp definition and vibrant colors. The screen is readable in various lighting conditions, including direct sunlight, and you can adjust the theme, backlighting, and font size, and switch between Landscape and Portrait mode. Unfortunately, the 600e isn't equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard, unlike the 8525 and the HP iPaq hw6900 series. There is a full onscreen keyboard that you can use for text message, but for heavy e-mailers, you may want to consider getting an accessory Bluetooth keyboard.
Surrounding the display are the 600e's various navigation controls. There are two shortcut keys above the screen: one with a laser-etched satellite icon for GPS and one with a Home icon for the Today screen. You can, however, reassign these buttons to open any other app on the device. Beneath the display are the Talk and End buttons, two soft keys, and a four-way navigation toggle with a center "select" button. The latter is the only control that gave us any real trouble. The toggle is a slim outline of a rectangle so it's hard to press it any direction with your thumb and not press the OK button in the middle. Plus, the toggle is a bit stiff.
The Pharos GPS Phone 600e is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera, which is located on the back of the device with a flash and a self-portrait mirror. On the left spine, there are volume up and down buttons, a customizable shortcut key, and a 2.5mm headset jack, while a power button, a reset hole, and the camera activation key sit on the right side. Finally, you'll find a microSD expansion slot, a mini USB port, and a stylus holder on the bottom of the device. The Pharos GPS Phone 600e comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a belt holster, a wired headset, desktop software, and reference material.
The Pharos GPS Phone 600e runs Window Mobile 5 Pocket PC Phone Edition, rather than the latest Windows Mobile 6, but you can still view and edit Word and Excel documents and open PowerPoint presentations with the full Microsoft Office Mobile suite. The 600e also supports Microsoft's Direct Push technology for wireless synchronization with Microsoft Exchange and your Outlook e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks. In addition to the standard PIM tools, Pharos throws in a handy utility called Spb Menu that, in our opinion, does a better job of presenting and organizing the device's apps. Other goodies include a calculator, a voice recorder, a download agent, a program manager, two games (Bubble Breaker and Solitaire), and an FM radio.
As far as voice features, the 600e is a quadband GSM world phone with an address book that's only limited by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts). As with most Windows Mobile smart phones, there's room in each entry for multiple numbers, e-mail, IM, and physical addresses, notes, birthdays, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, a group ID, or one of eight ringtones. The 600e also has a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, voice commands, a SIM toolkit, and a utility called EZDial for easier contact search and dialing.
Wireless options on the 600e include Bluetooth 2.0 and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), and the onboard wireless managers help you get connected to Bluetooth devices or the Web. The phone supports a number of Bluetooth profiles, including wireless headsets, Bluetooth stereo headsets, hands-free kits, dial-up networking, file transfer, and vCard exchange. As far as Wi-Fi, the device was able to find and connect to our test access point, and we were able to easily get on the Web within minutes. Sadly, the Pharos GPS Phone isn't 3G-capable, though it does support EDGE speeds.
Now, while the 600e is equipped with a GPS radio, its functions are limited without the inclusion of navigation software. Pharos does include a copy of Microsoft Streets & Trips 2005, so you can transfer maps from your PC to the smart phone. However, it will not give you real-time driving directions.
As we noted in the Design section, the Pharos GPS Phone 600e has a 2-megapixel camera with a flash and video recording capabilities. You have a choice of five resolutions and a number of setting options for white balance, special effects, and frequencies. You also can enhance your photos with a frame or add a time stamp. In video mode, you get three quality settings and three resolutions, as well as many of the white balance and special effects option, but you lose the photo frames. Overall, we weren't very impressed with the quality of the photos. They lacked definition and colors were washed out. Plus, we found you really have to keep the device steady, more than usual, to get a somewhat clear shot.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) Pharos GPS Phone 600e in San Francisco using Cingular service. Call quality was OK; there was a lot of background noise and a distracting echo on our end, and while our friends said they could hear us fine, they could tell we were using a cell phone. When we activated the speakerphone, the results were reversed. Conversations were much clearer, but our callers said we were barely audible as a crackling noise disrupted things. The one bright note is that we had no problems pairing the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
The 600e is equipped with a 400MHz processor and has 128MB ROM/64MB SDRAM with about 40MB of user-accessible storage and 28MB for running programs. General performance was mixed. The smart phone was quick to perform certain tasks like opening office documents, but it slowed considerably when launching the camera or activating certain wireless features. Obviously, we didn't get the benefit of 3G speeds when browsing the Web on the 600e, but it wasn't horrible, as pages loaded fairly quickly. Music playback through the phone's speakers was, as expected, pretty poor, lacking bass and richness. Watching video, however, was surprisingly good. Though you get some pixilation, video quality was better than some other smart phones we've tested and the picture and audio always matched up.
The Pharos GPS Phone 600e is rated for 5 hours of talk time and up to six days of standby time. In our battery tests, the 600e just met the rated talk time.