Asus MyPal A730

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WHAT’S HOT

   A VGA screen (640×480), 3.7"
display, Bluetooth, 520 MHz processor, Windows Mobile
2003 SE, built-in 1.3 megapixel camera, Compact Flash
& SD slots, 64 mb of RAM (45 mb user accessible)
+ 64 mb ROM, 19
mb non-volatile flash-memory and USB host
options.

    Size and weight of a device is a very important aspect of any
Pocket PC device. Below you can see that the A730
compares quite favorably to other devices on the market.

Device
(no cover)
Size
(inches)
Weight
(grams | ounces)
Asus MyPal A730 4.63"
x 2.87 " x 0.67"
170 | 6.00
HP iPAQ hx2755
4.71"
x 3.01 " x 0.65"

164 | 5.80
HP iPAQ hx4700
5.17" x 3.03" x 0.59"
187 | 6.60
HP
iPAQ rx3715
4.50"
x 2.80" x 0.64"
158
| 5.57
HP
iPAQ rz1715
4.48"
x 2.75" x 0.53"
120
| 4.23
HP
iPAQ h6315
4.68"
x 2.95" x 0.73"
190
| 6.70
HP
iPAQ h2215
4.57"
x 2.95" x 0.63"
142
| 5.01
HP
iPAQ 1910/1940
4.46"
x 2.75" x 0.50"
120
| 4.23
HP
iPAQ h4150
4.47"
x 2.78" x 0.50"
132
| 4.60
HP
iPAQ h5450
5.43"
x 3.30" x 0.63"
206
| 7.26
Dell Axim X50
4.70" x 2.90" x 0.70"
167 | 5.90
Dell Axim X50v
4.70" x 2.90" x 0.70"
175 | 6.20
Dell
Axim X3i/X30
4.60"
x 3.21" x 0.58"
138
| 4.80
Dell
Axim X5
5.00"
x 3.20" x 0.71"
196
| 6.90
Toshiba
e740
4.90"
x 3.10" x 0.60"
190
| 6.70
Toshiba
e310
4.90"
x 3.10" x 0.40"
138
| 4.90

BOX CONTENTS


   Asus has released 2 models of
the A730: the A730W offers Wi-Fi + Bluetooth and 128MB
of RAM, and the A730 which has Bluetooth only and 64MB
of RAM – this review is for the Dubya-less version.


In
the box:

  • A730 Pocket PC
    device
  • 2 Styli
  • Charging Cradle
  • Li-Ion 1100 mAh
    battery
  • AC Adapter & Power
    Supply Cable
  • Warranty & Owner
    information cards
  • Bonus CD with demo
    and free software
  • Windows Mobile
    Software CD
  • USB charging cable
    / cradle connector
  • Carrying Case

    While the Asus does offer USB Host connectivity, they
do not provide you with a cable to do so. This is
extra, and can be found online for around $25. As a
result of this omission, I was not able to test this
functionality.

THE DEVICE

 

  Now, let’s explore the details of the A730.


The
Asus A730 has a sturdy cradle formed out of gray
plastic, with a side slot for you to rest your stylus.
The base feels as if it has extra weight added to it,
helpful in preventing it from toppling over.

  

The
backside of the cradle has a slot for the USB
charge/sync cable, as well as a plug for the power
adapter.

    Both plugs are needed
when performing a full battery sync/recharge. The USB
synch/charge cable can provide a daily battery
refresh, but lacks enough power alone to do a full
recharge.


    Asus includes 2 identical styli for use with the A730.
Each have a metal center and plastic tips. One is to
be kept in the bottom of the unit, the other is for
the stylus slot on the charging cradle. I thought the
bottom was an odd place to locate the stylus, but this
must have been to accommodate the IR port and memory
slots being located on the top. As such, when the unit
is cradled, you do not have access to the stylus. Asus
solved this by providing a second stylus for the cradle’s slot. I had no trouble
getting used to the location of the stylus, it slides
in firmly and never slips out. Though if you switch
between Pocket PC devices, you may find yourself
reaching to the wrong spot when you need the stylus.


    On
the subject of power, one downside is that you must
have the sync/charge cable and the AC Adapter if you
want to recharge while on the road. There is no single
slot on the device for just the wall plug. Instead,
the sync/charge cable is plugged into the device, and
the connector has a slot where you can plug in the AC
adapter. I found this all rather cumbersome, and I
really think a better solution could have been
devised.



    The MyPal A730 is surprisingly lightweight. Compared
to the weight of my Axim X5 400 (6.0 oz), the MyPal
felt like nothing at all. I didn’t think an ounce
would make that much of a difference, but it did
indeed. I was also impressed with the design of the
casing for the device. Whereas the Axim was a but
bulky and oddly shaped, I found the A730 to be very
appealing to the eye, as well as being very
comfortable to hold. Interestingly, it is very similar
in shape and form to the newer Axim,
the X50
.



Right side of A730


Left side of A730

    Those who are used to rubber grips on the sides will
be disappointed, the A730 has none. Instead, the sides
are made of a smooth silver metal. The right-hand side
has a sliding latch that releases the battery cover
(and works best when used with the stylus). On the
left you will find two buttons, one for the power and
the voice-record button) which is also to be used with
the built-in camera).



The
docking port resides, as expected, on the bottom of
the device, along with the reset function. Resets can
be initiated by pushing in the circular recessed hole with your stylus. To do a
hard-reset, you push with the stylus while holding
down the power button.



    On
top, you will find headphone jack and IR port, as well as slots
for both the SD (SDIO 3.3V) and the Compact Flash Type
II memory cards. The memory cards, of course, are not included, but Asus did
include the plastic inserts shaped to fit the slots,
to prevent dust accumulation for times slots are not
in use.


    Flip the device over and you will discover a pretty
cool little extra – a 1.3 megapixel camera! Actually,
don’t get too excited about this, but more on that
later in the review. The larger, silver circle is the
camera lens. To the left, is a small domed area. It
looks like a parabolic mirror, and is beveled out just
enough to keep the A730 from resting flat on a table
top. I assume that this is to prevent the camera lens
from scratching. The flash is the white circle just
below the lens.


    The
battery compartment for the A730 is a bit unusual. I
don’t think I’ve ever seen a design quite like this.
The backside of the unit slides off, to reveal the
battery and exposes the camera and the speaker. While
it does give the back of the device a sleek, elegant
look, the removal process is a bit clumsy.


    Once removed, you can pop out the Li-Ion 1100 mAh
battery. The back cover is made of painted plastic,
and feels rather flimsy. Since it will most always be
on the A730, this isn’t a big issue. However, were you
to be too rough sliding the cover, I think it could crack or one
of the latches could break off. This is unlikely,
since the cover slides on and off smoothly, but being
plastic, it is a possibility. One thing that I did
notice while playing a game was that the back cover
seemed to give a little. Not much, but as I gripped
the device to use the directional buttons to move left
and right, there was a noticeable sound of the back
cover shifting slightly. Not a major issue, but I did
wonder at times if I might crack it somehow if I
gripped it too hard. Maybe I should play less
stressful games, like "Bookworm."



   
Asus describes the VGA screen as "’3.7′ Brilliant
Transflective TFT LCD, 65,536 Full-Colors, 16-bit
Display, 640×480 resolution." I would definitely
agree with the word "brilliant." Compared
with my Axim, I might toss in the word "Amazing" as
well! The resolution is extremely crisp, and bright.
The blue glow at the top is to indicate that Bluetooth
has been turned on (blue for Bluetooth, very clever).



   
Also worthy of mention are the hardware buttons on the
front of the A730. Gone is the directional pad I had
come to love. At first look, I really didn’t think I
would like these buttons at all. As it turns out, I
found them to be a great improvement. The four
application buttons have a tactile feel each time you
press one. Press it, and you know you’ve pressed it.
On my Axim, each press is rather "squishy" and I was
never really certain if the device knew I had pressed
one. The center directional button sends back a nice
"click-click" when pressed in any direction. I was
concerned that this would cause problems when I played
games that required fast movement left or right. After
a few rounds of
Resco’s Guardians
, my fears were put to rest –
movements were precise and responsive. With the Axim,
I was always a little concerned that I would wear out
the D-pad. With the sturdy design on the A730’s
directional button, there is no reason to be worried
about that again.



    Asus included a protective case, which is made from a
combination of nylon and leather. It does the job, but
I have a few comments to make about it later in this
review.


PICTORIALLY – ASUS A730 AGAINST OTHER DEVICES
    Unlike other reviewers at pocketnow, I only have one

Pocket PC device. So, for the comparative photo
section, I had to scrounge around for some other
items. My choices? The 20 GB 4th Generation iPod and
the Nokia 3595 T-Mobile (non-Pocket PC) phone. The
following photos should not only showcase the elegant
design of the A730, but also it’s relatively small
size.


From
left to right: Nokia 3595, Apple iPod, Axim X5, and
the Asus A730. Next to the A730, the Axim looks like a
behemoth!


Bottom
to top: Asus A730, Axim X5, Nokia 3595 and Apple iPod.
Notice that the A730 is just a bit longer than the
iPod, and shorter than the Axim X5.


Once
again, bottom to top: Asus A730, Axim X5, Nokia 3595
and Apple iPod.


Back-to-back: Axim X5 (left) & Asus A730 (right). Note
that the Axim is not only thicker, it is much wider as
well.

Continue On. . .

THE CASE


   
When a Pocket PC manufacturer ships a decent case with
their device, usually, I appreciate the effort. When
they send a quality case, I am shocked. I didn’t
expect a case this nicely constructed to arrive as
part of standard factory packaging for the Asus A730.
The front has a leather flap with the Asus logo, which
is held in place very securely by two strong magnets
inside. The magnets give a nice, firm sounding "pop" when
you close the top, letting you know it has closed.
On the side is a metal ring where the wrist-strap can
be attached.


The
backside has a non-removable leather loop through
which you can thread a belt.



To use
the case, you simply slide the A730 into and out of
the top opening. Hard to do without smudging the
screen.


The
left and right side both have a thinner strap to hold
the A730 in place, but also allow for access to the
headphone jack and IR port.

   
The case is very well constructed, with good
stitching, and all of the sides are firm. It is a very
snug fit, with no shifting around of the device. This is not
a flexible case, it holds its shape whether the A730
is inside or not. You could use the device while it is
inside the case, maybe for playing music through
headphones, but due to the "slide in" design,
you would have no access to the touch screen. Needless
to say, you can not charge/sync while the A730 is inside
the case.

    Personally,
I felt the case looked a little too much like a
small handbag or coin purse, so it wasn’t something
I carried in my hand or wore on my belt. I also
found it very hard to get the device out of the
case without getting my fingerprints on the screen.
You have to grab the exposed side by the top and
bottom edge and work it out moving left to right.
A slight push from the opposite edge of the case
is helpful to speed things up. While it is a nice
case, I would still have preferred a flip style
so that I would have access to the screen.



One of
the things I did appreciate about the A730 (and the
case) is that it fits very well into your pants
pocket. Wow, a Pocket PC that actually fits into your
pocket!

DEVICE SPEED


   
The A730 can operate in three processor modes: Turbo,
Standard and Power Saving. "Turbo" has better CPU
performance and is recommended for games or video, but
tends to drain the power faster. "Standard" is best
for when you are working in applications, or playing
MP3s.  "Power Saving" mode sets the CPU to a
lower speed but can make the battery life last longer,
good for programs such as Excel or Word. Checking the
"Enable Automatic Mode" box will let the
device adjust the CPU speed based on the programs you
are running.

   
All benchmarks were performed in "Turbo" mode
after a hard reset, with only the ROM applications
and


Spb Benchmark from

Spb Software House

installed.

The
Asus MyPal A730 came in fourth on the Spb Benchmark
Index, not quite the best we’ve ever tested.


Speed
was not one of the highlights of the A730 when
compared to other devices on the market.


Asus
dropped to 5th place in the graphics speed benchmark.


The
A730 is now in 6th place, losing considerable ground
on the file system.



Jumping back up to 4th on the platform index, the A730
ends with a very lackluster performance.

   
The benchmark results prove that the A730 is a capable
device, just not an outstanding one in terms of speed.
The combination of the 512 MHz processor and 64 mb of
ROM  and 45 mb user accessible RAM was not very
impressive compared to other handhelds on the market.
To be fair, most of the top devices sported a faster
CPU, as shown on the chart below.

Device



CPU


Memory

HP iPAQ hx2275

624 Mhz Intel PXA270

128 mb RAM + 128 mb ROM

Dell Axim X30

624 MHz Intel PXA270

64 mb RAM + 64 mb ROM

HP iPAQ rx3700
533 MHz Samsung S3C2440 128 mb RAM + 64 mb ROM

Asus MyPal A730
520 MHz Intel
PXA270

64 mb RAM + 64 mb ROM

Dell Axim X50

512 MHz Intel PXA270

128 mb RAM + 64 mb ROM

HP iPAQ h6300 (Smartphone)

168 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 1510
64 MB RAM + 64 MB ROM


BATTERY LIFE

    Here are the results of
our run it to the ground tests:

Full brightness, normal utilization,
automatic performance level (where applicable):

Device

Time until 0%
battery


Asus MyPal A730 (Turbo mode)

2h 09m

HP iPAQ hx2275

5h 22m

HP iPAQ hx4700

4h 19m

HP iPAQ rx3715

7h 13m

HP iPAQ rz1715

3h 13m

HP iPAQ h6315

6h 42m

Dell Axim X50

4h 07m

Dell Axim X30

3h 38m

i-mate Phone Edition

3h 53m


The A730 delivers very poor battery life performance.

   



Official A730 Battery Life Stats (click to enlarge)

   
According to the PDF handbook, shown above, the Li-Ion 1100 mAh
should have up to 9-hours of battery life. The fine
print add that this is "according to Microsoft Logo
Test Kit-Battery Life Test." I really wonder what
conditions the "Logo Test Kit" creates, because
in my real-world experience, the battery shipped with
the A730 is very inefficient. 9 hours? Not even close. 

    Asus
should really have included a stronger, longer
lasting battery since the VGA screen just chews
away at the device’s energy (as does camera use
and Bluetooth). Power users might consider a second
battery (although there is no other way to charge
it than inside the cradled unit). A 1800mAh Extended
Battery is available as a separate purchase (around
$70), though the estimated life-span is not stated
on their web page. Extended not only means duration
of use, but actually also extends the backside
of the device.

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About The Author
Darren Garyson