Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
O2 XDA Atom
- Compact size, Native Wi-fi
- Slow, No SD support, Average picture quality,
While O2 has impressed us in the past, the XDA Atom fails to live up to its potential. A small form factor and inbuilt Wi-Fi support fail to compensate for slow processing performance
Price$ 1,229.00 (AUD)
Confession they say, is good for the soul, so here is ours: We have been counting down the hours waiting for the release of the O2 XDA Atom. This is because we have been big fans of O2 products in the past and we were so impressed with the O2 XDA Mini that we nearly ended up buying one.
Unfortunately, great expectations often lead to great disappointment, and while there are some aspects of the Atom we simply adore, the overall package left us somewhat dissatisfied. In fact, we recommend you give this unit a miss for the time being, because at the asking price, it doesn't deliver the goods.
Our biggest problem with this unit is speed. It is frustratingly slow and this will become apparent almost as soon as you turn it on. The review unit we had even struggled with the on-screen calibration process. For nearly every operation or application we opened, we experienced a significant lag, which is really unacceptable on a newly released model. For some inexplicable reason, O2 has kept the same processor from the Mini - an Intel PXA272 416Mhz. If you are going to release a new unit packed with features and a new operating system, why not then give it a processor that can cope?
However, we soon discovered that O2 had shipped us a unit with an old version of the ROM (20051129B2). If you have this version, we strongly recommend you go here to upgrade it, as it makes a substantial difference to the speed of the unit. The ROM update is around 35MB and a rather involved process, but well worth it for the speed improvement. When the upgrade was completed, the Atom performed better, but still not at a level we would consider fast.
O2 has upped the memory on the Atom to 128MB ROM (from 64MB on the Mini) and 64MB RAM. This should be more than sufficient for most users and a mini-SD slot is provided for extra memory. We were a little disappointed by this, as many people use SD cards rather than their smaller and more expensive mini-SD counterparts. If you do end up buying this unit, you will have to factor in the purchase of a new mini-SD card into your price considerations. As with the Hewlett-Packard iPAQ hx2190, the Atom runs on Windows Mobile 5.0, meaning user files are stored on non-volatile memory, so data won't be lost in the event of a dead battery.
When we tested the Mini, one of the reasons we loved it was purely because of its diminutive design. Compared to other bulky and blocky smartphones in the market, the Mini was a picture of contoured elegance. In the good news department, O2 has outdone themselves by making the newer model Atom even smaller and lighter than its predecessor.
The Atom weighs just 140g and fits comfortably into either a hand or a pocket. The downside of the size is that O2 had less real estate to play with, thus the onscreen keyboard is smaller and some applications do feel cramped. However, we feel this is a small price to play for such an attractively sized unit and the convenience this offers.
In fact, we found the Atom to be one of the more stylishly designed devices we have seen. On the front of the unit is the trademark O2 high quality display, under which reside two dedicated call buttons, a 5 way joystick and two shortcut keys. The display is a 240 x 320 pixel LCD touchscreen which was a delight to use, although very difficult to read outdoors. A stylus is positioned at the top right and this is securely tucked into the device so you won't have to worry about losing it.
At the bottom of the unit is a USB 1.1 connection used for synchronising and charging and a 2.5mm headphone jack. The headphone jack is non-standard (most are 3.5mm) so it does rule out using the top line headphones if you have a pair. We did find the maximum volume is not particularly loud, meaning the sound can be difficult hear in outdoor conditions. O2 has also included an FM Radio on the Atom.
The volume toggle for the Atom has been placed on the left hand side and on the right are dedicated buttons to launch the camera, video capture, voice recording as well as the Infrared port. We like the layout of the controls as the interface is simple and uncluttered. While the Atom looks attractive, coated in a glossy black finish, you will soon find this attracts smudges and fingerprints with relative ease.
At the rear of the Atom, O2 has placed a 2 megapixel camera (with self portrait mirror). The Mini shipped with only a 1.3 megapixel camera so this is a definite improvement. Unfortunately, the quality of the photos with this camera was not as good as we've seen on rival phones, and this coupled with the slowness of the application meant we didn't feel inclined to use it much at all. For users who value high quality photos, we suggest you look elsewhere. In O2's defence, this unit is targetted more at mobile professionals, so including a top of the line camera is not high on the priority list.
Where the Atom wins points is in the connectivity stakes. With support for Bluetooth 1.2, Wi-Fi, Infrared and a USB connection, this is one device you will have no problems connecting to. The biggest flaw of the Mini was the lack of Wi-Fi support, but the Atom supports this natively which is a welcome and useful addition. The presence of Bluetooth allows you to use the unit in conjunction with wireless hands-free kits.
Operating as a phone, we had no real complaints about the call quality though at times we did detect a slight echo. The Atom includes multiple phone features such as Call Accept/Ignore, Voicemail, Speakerphone, Call Hold, Conference Calling and Muting. For the security conscious, you can set a PIN which locks the device. Running on Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0, the unit is well equipped in terms of software, shipping with Pocket Word, Excel, Outlook and Internet Explorer. As a PDA, the Atom will not leave users wanting. O2 has also included proprietary software to organise your media and conduct self diagnostics.
Battery life on the unit is around 5.5 hours talk time and 150 hours standby, slightly higher than the Mini.
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