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Telstra hiptop 2 review: Telstra hiptop 2

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The hiptop 2 runs a proprietary OS based on the mobile-optimised Java J2ME platform, with a GSM mobile phone transceiver (not, as you may have expected, Telstra's shiny Next G network) bringing the wireless element to the table.

Most of the bundled applications centre on communications. The MSN Messenger client looks and works pretty much like its desktop cousin, although there's no facility for sending or receiving files.

A natty e-mail client is preset to your personal address but also supports three additional mail accounts. These range from ISP-style POP3 mailboxes to ready-rolled configurations for Big Pond and Yahoo! Mail. If that's not enough, you can also use the bundled micro-browser to check Web-based mail services or just surf through all of your favourite sites.

On the more conventional phone side of the fence the hiptop 2 sports separate apps for text and multimedia messaging.

The remaining run-of-the-mill PDA apps include an address book, calendar, to-do list and note jotter, while a photo gallery stores and manages shots taken with the inbuilt digital camera -- just don't expect megapixel magic from this rudimentary VGA snapper. Despite the flash, it underwhelms in anything but clear (and not too sunny) daylight.

There's also no facility to install extra software beyond what's available through the hiptop 2's own online catalogue where a score of applets, games and ringtones sell for anywhere from $4 to $12, although there are a few notable freebies, such as a Yahoo Messenger client.

PC connectivity and synchronisation with Microsoft Outlook is via the hiptop 2's mini-USB port, although you'll need to fork out $11 for the required Intellisync software through the Telstra hiptop 2 desktop Web interface. The Web site also lets you access your hiptop 2 photos, calendar, address book, notes, e-mail and to-do list.

We were prepared for the natural limitations of a pint-sized PDA, but the hiptop 2 punches well above its weight. For example, while the GSM network was long ago written off by road warriors and most casual notebook users, a device like the hiptop 2 simply doesn't need the high packet speed (and equally high pricing) of Next G or even 3G.

The 60kbps throughput of the GPRS-enhanced GSM system is more than sufficient for online chat, text messaging and basic email. And in GSM's favour is exceptionally wide coverage, solid signal soak and that the long-established network can easily carry Telstra's $30/month all-you-can-eat data deal.

This flat pricing is a cornerstone of the hiptop 2's appeal as a "carry-anywhere communicator". It can also be used as a plain vanilla mobile phone -- the battery is rated to a modest 4.5 hours talk time and 60 hours on standby -- but the $30 plan doesn't include voice (or SMS/MMS messages to overseas numbers).

You can partner the hiptop 2 to a competitive voice plan, but we expect most buyers will keep their compact fashion phone for chit-chat and use their hiptop 2 for just about everything else.

The mobile e-mail works a treat and handles attachments with aplomb. Images, text files, Word documents and even PDFs are all rendered directly into the body of the message as well as retained in their "attached" state for forwarding to regular PC users. But be warned: with only 48MB of total system memory and no slot for an expansion card, you'll need to be vigilant in weeding attachments out of your inbox.

Expect mixed results from the Web browser, depending on the complexity of the sites you visit. All Web traffic is routed through a Telstra-hosted gateway which as much as possible renders sites into a hiptop 2-friendly format. We found that sites specifically designed for mobile and PDA use, especially WAP sites, came through clean and fast.

The best thing is that the hiptop 2's native multitasking and always-on status means you can effortlessly flick between Web sites, e-mails and IM chat sessions without having to close any one application.

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