MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
- Every feature you could want. Native Wi-Fi, 3G compatible, swivel screen
- Large, bulky and heavy, processor too slow, poor battery life
The mother of all smartphones, this monster has a large price tag to match its large dimensions
Price$ 1,699.00 (AUD)
Welcome to the device that has everything. The strangely named JasJar from I-mate is technically a smartphone, as it combines both PDA and mobile phone functionality. However, given the size, weight and form factor of this model it's more appropriate to think of it almost as a 'mini-laptop.'
Let's start with the form factor. The JasJar is unlike any other smartphone we have seen before. This is because the unit has been designed with a rotatable screen. The screen can be rotated to sit on top of the unit, so you can use it as a normal PDA, or to sit above the fully QWERTY keyboard, thus resembling a laptop.
Before you decide to buy this device, you should realize one thing - it is one chunky piece of hardware. Not only is it hard to hold in one hand, you will really struggle to fit it into a pocket. The JasJar weighs a whopping 285g, which to our minds is really stretching the definition of a 'pocket PC.' We think the JasJar is targeted specifically at high end mobile users, who requires the best of all features, not people who want a simple and light PDA based phone. The other downside to the form factor is that holding it up to make a phone call both looks and feels ridiculous. We would recommend using the JasJar with a Bluetooth headset as much as possible.
The JasJar is finished in a dark grey colour and while this doesn't look as fancy as the glossy black of the O2 Atom for example, it is infinitely more practical, as it doesn't pick up smudges and fingerprints to any great degree. To cater for the dual configurations of the screen, I-Mate has made good use of the space provided and littered the JasJar with buttons, ports and slots.
At the front of the unit are shortcut buttons for the camera and voice dialing, a button to toggle the back light of the screen, a volume slider control, an infrared sensor and two tiny speakers. At the base of the JasJar is one SD card slot and the power button, while the headphone jack and USB port and situated at the rear of the device. Two small Call Start & End buttons have been placed on top of the hinge to use when the unit is closed. A stylus is placed on the top left of the device and we struggled to get used to this as every other unit we have tested so far has it on the right. As you can see, there has obviously been much thought in both the placement and number of controls on the JasJar.
While the JasJar isn't by any means the first unit to ship with a keyboard, it does have perhaps have one of the better keyboard implementations we have seen. The buttons are responsive, although maybe too responsive, as they are quite close together. On the whole, we loved the convenience of a full QWERTY keyboard compared to the fiddly onscreen interfaces or error prone handwriting recognition. The keyboard itself also has shortcut buttons to email, Internet Explorer, voice calls, 3G calls, Calendar and Contacts. There is a red backlight which helps in low light conditions.
Above the keyboard sits the crown jewel of this model - a 3.6 inch VGA 65K colour touchscreen that is an absolute joy to use. Yes, the JasJar is big and heavy, but having a gorgeous screen this size showing WM5 almost makes it all worth it. Perhaps we are being a little greedy, but with the spare real estate on the top hinge, we think the screen could have been a little larger still! When the unit is being used with the keyboard, the screen display is in landscape mode. When the screen is rotated, the display automatically switches to portrait mode, which is a nice touch.
One thing that we would have loved to see on the JasJar is a small external screen. This is because when the unit is closed, it is impossible to tell if you have a missed call or new message until you actually open the screen. You could always rotate the screen to the PDA form factor, but then this leaves it open to scratches, while closing it ensures its protected. Even a flashing light or sensor would have been useful to signify a missed call.
If you switch the phone from PDA to keyboard mode, the screen display alters as mentioned above. But what was very obvious to us was the noticeable lag in the unit as it performed this operation. In fact, the Intel Bulverde 520 MHz processor seemed to struggle with Windows Mobile 5.0 and this sluggish performance really detracted from the user experience. We would go so far as to say the slow processing speed is a reason to avoid this unit. We did install a new ROM update from the I-mate website, and while this improved things significantly, we think the JasJar needs a faster processor really make use of all its features.
The JasJar is also a little disappointing in the memory stakes, with 128MB of ROM and only 64MB of RAM available to the user. An SD slot is provided though, so much of your data can be stored on that.
Due to the form factor of the JasJar, the size of the display and the presence of a full keyboard, it is actually possible to use it to work with documents. Users who want PDA functionality will not be disappointed with the software installed on the unit. Along with the usual organizer and Office applications, I-mate has included a PDF viewer, a wireless connection manager and also a Backgammon game.
The phone performance of the JasJar was lackluster to say the least. For the most part our calls were clear, but on some calls the level of static reached annoying levels. We also wished we could turn the volume higher, especially outdoors. Although the JasJar is fitted with two speakers, the speakerphone performance was poor and almost unusable in noisy conditions. Ergonomically speaking, the JasJar felt uncomfortable to hold up to our ear and after one ten minute call, our shoulder developed an ache from holding such a large device. If you are going to make a lot of calls using the JasJar, we would recommend using a Bluetooth headset, like the Jabra JX10 for example, as this will be infinitely more comfortable.
As it is a 3G phone, the JasJar is fitted with two cameras. The first is a VGA camera used for 3G calls and the second is a 1.3 megapixel version. The pictures we took were at best average in quality, but frankly, you shouldn't be buying this unit for the camera functionality in the first place. The JasJar will suffice for happy snaps and that is fine with us. The camera has quite a few operating modes though and can be used for photos, videos, contacts pictures and MMS videos. You can also create more advanced Panorama shots, capture a still sequence using Sports or Burst modes and create framed Picture Themes. Images are either BMP or JPEG files while video is AVI, MP4 or H.263.
At first glance, it appears the JasJar excels in terms of connectivity, and it does when you consider that Bluetooth, Infrared, Wi-Fi and USB is supported. On closer inspection though, only Bluetooth 1.1 is supported (not 1.2), the native wireless is only 802.11b Wi-Fi (not 802.11g) and the USB port is the older 1.1, not the newer and faster 2.0. While we would like to see all these upgraded in the future, the fact that the JasJar does support all four types is in itself impressive when compared to the competition.
One are where we really struggled with this unit was in battery life. We barely managed to get through 2 days without a charge and only used the phone moderately. Using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or GPRS will of course drain the battery even faster. I-mate do provide a USB cable and this can also be used to charge the device instead of the AC adapter. Still, if you do buy this phone and intend to use most of the features on, you will undoubtedly need to charge it every night.
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