ETEN G500 Pocket PC Phone with GPS

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INTRODUCTION

    Back in 1982, I was a
sophomore in high school.  MTV, punk rock,
parachute pants…THAT was coolness defined, until
Disney released TRON; and suddenly Jeff Bridges and
Bruce Boxleitner were way cool (yeah…like THAT
lasted…HA!).  Anyway, it brought computers to
the forefront, and ushered in a new era of
computer-based special effects. I think I still have
bumps and bruises from where my friends threw
Frisbees at me from short distances, and I tried to
block them with another Frisbee I was holding in
front of me.  Ouch.


   
This weekend, I got thrown back to those days of
Yore (without the pain) when ETEN sent me their
latest introduction to the Windows Mobile Phone
Edition arena, the G500. With its black exterior and
blue backlit lines I got a free trip back in time.
However, the G500 is definitely a device for today’s
times. With quad-band GSM/GPRS cellular
features, Bluetooth 2.0 functionality, and built in
SiRF III GPS receiver, is it the all-in-one
converged device you’ve been looking for, or just
nice to look at?  Let’s take a thorough look!

WHAT’S HOT

    Sleek lines in a well built, firm
package.  Those were my first thoughts when I
picked up the device and held it in my hands. 
Having owned an ETEN M500 for a short time, my
expectations on build quality were set low.  I
wasn’t very impressed with the M500.  You can
see my original New Equipment Blogs here: (Day
00
,

Day 1
,

Day 2
,

Day 3
,

Day 4
).  Unfortunately, I never really
finished the series.  The biggest problem with
the M500 was its cellular radio.  The device
has real problems with the 850MHz band.  It
doesn’t pull it in right, and as a result, the darn
thing keep dropping calls.  With my

K-JAM
, and

Treo 700w
, I’ve gotten quite spoiled. 
Little to no dropped calls since the M500 was sold. 
I’m very pleased, and very spoiled.  The G500
has a big row to hoe.

   
The device itself is about as tall as my PDA2k,
though not as wide.  However, it is a bit
thicker, by almost a quarter inch. Honestly, it has
almost the same form factor as the Treo 700w, minus
the stub antenna.  However, at 191 grams, this
is one big brick, with only the PDA2k and h5450
being heavier.  It’s not a bad form factor, and
it’s not too heavy to hold. I am glad, however, that
I have cases to stick this thing in when I’m not
actively using it because it does have some heft to
it.

Device (no cover)
Size (inches)
Weight (grams |
ounces)
ETEN G500
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.91"
191 | 6.73
4.18" x 2.31" x 0.68"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.30" x 0.90"
180 | 6.40
4.80" x 2.88" x 0.76"
186 | 6.56
4.60" x 2.79" x 0.82"

165 | 5.82

4.25" x 2.28" x 0.93"
160 | 5.64
4.92" x 2.81" x
0.71"
210 | 7.40
4.18" x 2.31" x 0.68"

150 | 5.30

4.70" x 2.90" x 0.70"
175 | 6.20
4.60" x 3.21" x 0.58"

138 | 4.80

5.17" x 3.03" x 0.59"
187 | 6.60
4.50" x 2.80" x 0.64"
158 | 5.57

Click on any of the above handheld links for the review.

PRODUCT FEATURES


(all images link to higher resolution)

The ETEN G500
box.  I was impressed with the
packaging…

   
I love doing hardware reviews; but the biggest
problem with them, for me, is taking pictures. 
I always want to tear into the packaging and get at
the goodies inside.  I purposefully did not do
that with the G500. I received it by noon, but
waited until I got home to actually break into the
box.  The pictures you’re seeing are my first
look at the device and box contents.

 The contents
of the ETEN G500 box included the following (please
note the red numbers circle counter-clockwise from
the bottom of the picture):

  1. The G500 Quick
    Start Guide
  2. The ETEN G500
    software CD
  3. Car cradle
    instructions
  4. G500 Car
    Charger
  5. Alcohol Wipe
    (for cleaning the windshield glass where you’re
    going to mount the car cradle)
  6. Car cradle
    windshield mount
  7. Car cradle
  8. Wired headset
  9. USB and power
    cable
  10. AC charger
    with international power attachment
  11. Magnetic,
    leather flip case
  12. Belt clip (for
    the flip case)
  13. Included
    crystal clear screen protector
  14. 1400mAh
    Battery
  15. ETEN G500

From left to
right: Axim x50v, Treo 700w, ETEN G500, i-mate
K-JAM and i-mate PDA2k.

    The G500 (pictured
above, center) is about the same height and width as
the Treo 700w, without the Treo’s antenna.  Its
bigger than the K-JAM, slightly wider, but about the
same thickness, even though it doesn’t have a built
in keyboard. I’ve heard some people describe the
G500 as a brick.  I don’t know if I would go
that far, though again, it does have a fair bit of heft
to it.

   
Again, while a tad heavy at 191 grams, the device still feels
comfortable in your hands.  Its lack of
hardware buttons or a utility that remaps/maps push,
double push, push and hold, etc. functionality for
the WM5 hardware based soft buttons makes one handed
operation difficult.  Yes, you can use
Smartskey (a utility made available via freeware to
solve the same problem with the HTC Wizard, found,

here
) or even

AE Buttons Plus
(shareware, $7.99USD); but both
programs don’t quite give the same kind of one
handed operation that you see on the

Treo 700w
, which is the ultimate, one-handed WM5
device as of this writing.

   
I am really noticing the lack of a keyboard with
this device.  Using my PDA2k and K-JAM over the
last two or so years has really spoiled me when it
comes to answering e-mail. While I’ve got Spb’s Full
Screen Keyboard installed and working on the G500,
the experience isn’t the same.  Full Screen
Keyboard requires some bit of accuracy when tapping
keys on a device’s touch screen. Unfortunately, its
very easy to determine which of my e-mail responses
were typed on the G500 and which were done on the
K-JAM.  I’ve got a terrible case of "fat
thumbs" when it comes to the G500.

From top to bottom: i-mate
K-JAM, ETEN G500, Treo 700w, Axim x50v, and i-mate PDA2k
.

From top to bottom: i-mate
K-JAM, ETEN G500, Treo 700w, Axim x50v, and i-mate PDA2k
.

   
Please note that the bottom and right
side of the G500 are relatively plain.  The
bottom of the G500 has the sync connector and to the
left-center, the microphone.  The right side
has the MiniSD slot.  The door to the MiniSD
slot folds up when you insert a card, which means
this device doesn’t have a dummy card in the slot. 
Very nice.

From top to bottom: i-mate
K-JAM, ETEN G500, Treo 700w, Axim x50v, and i-mate PDA2k
.

From top to bottom: i-mate
K-JAM, ETEN G500, Treo 700w, Axim x50v, and i-mate PDA2k
.

   
The top of the G500 (second from the top) houses the
GPS antenna.  The rubber housing covers an
external antenna connector.  The left side of
the device has 4 buttons and also sports the headset
connector and rubber cover for it.  From top to
bottom on the left side of the ETEN G500 are the
camera button, the volume rocker, the Recorder/Voice
Commander button and soft reset button.  The
headset cover is near the bottom-left corner of the
device. The device doesn’t have an IR port that I
can find.



PHONE EXPERIENCE
    For me, it’s all about the convergence.  I am definitely
into PDA phones, and I want more PDA than phone, but
I only want to carry one device.  Obviously, WM
devices are right up my alley. If I can combine two or
more pieces of functionality into a single device,
and then carry one less device, I’m happy.  The
ETEN G500 combines your basic WM PDA, cell phone and
GPS receiver into a single device.  The PDA is
a no brainer.  As long as it successfully
integrates with Outlook, I’m golden on that point
(and it does).  The GPS receiver is a wonderful
convenience (more on the specifics in a bit), but
the phone’s the thing.  I’ll be using the
device as a cell phone more than anything else, and
it has to do that well; or for me, it just not worth
it.

   
ETEN has historically had trouble with the 850MHz
cellular band here in the US.  I’m not exactly
certain why.  The phone experience in their
M500 was so bad, that I had to get rid of the
device.  I understand that the radio in the
M600 is a bit better, but still has problems with
the North American frequencies, again, specifically
850MHz.  The G500 is no different, though I
suspect its 850MHz experience is likely better in
the G500 than it is in the M600, so we’re definitely
moving in the right direction.  You have to
give at least that much to ETEN.

   
On my commute to and from the office here in
downtown Nashville, TN, I usually run up the I-24
corridor, hop on to a few side streets and the
occasional cow path.  There are 3 spots in that
commute where I run into signal problems.  The
first spot is on I-440 at Hillsboro Pike.  The
second is on the transition ramp from I-440 to I-24
East Bound (I call this "dead-man’s curve" because
this curve usually kills all of my GSM calls), and
the third is on a side street about 2-3 miles from
my home.

   
In all fairness to ETEN, the M500 and G500 aren’t
the only GSM phones that have given me trouble on
the transition ramp from I-440 to I-24 East Bound. 
My PDA2k dropped calls there too, until I upgraded
to the 1.15 Radio ROM for the HTC Blue Angel. 
The K-JAM has never dropped a call on "dead-man’s
curve," but the G500 drops about 1 in 3 calls there. 
Reception on I-440 at Hillsboro Pike is bad, too. 
I’ve dropped about 3 calls there in the last 2
weeks.  If I don’t lose the call there, the
reception is so bad that you think the call will
drop, but it hangs on by the skin of its teeth. I
also drop 2 out of three calls on that side street near
my home.  Like I said, I’ve gathered some log
files for ETEN and have sent them to their
engineers, but I have no idea what the information
will result in.  Hopefully, this is nothing
more than a radio ROM issue, and it can be resolved
with a ROM update; but we’ll have to wait and
see…and your mileage may vary.  I honestly
haven’t had the phone out of the Nashville area, so
I don’t know how well it will or won’t perform in
other areas.

   
Onto software. ETEN also ships all of its PPC Phones with a
profiles app.  Most traditional cell phones
come with some kind of profile application. If
you’re used to using something like this, the G500
has a built in solution for you.  Profile apps
usually allow you to control volume and notification
settings based on certain conditions you specify. 
Accessing the app is easy, just tap on its icon in
the bottom bar of the Today page.

The G500’s
Profiles app is accessed by tapping the PPC
and music note icon in the bottom bar.

The Scenario
Page. To get to the settings for each
profile, tap it and then tap the Details
button

Make the changes
to volume and other settings you want here
.

Control
Backlight levels with your profile here.
When you’re done, tap Save.

   
I personally wasn’t pleased with the profiles app that ETEN
included. It really only has the ability to control
how the phone rings, the volume level it rings at
and the back light.  I much prefer

PPCProfiles Pro
. It’s freeware, and allows you to
control everything that the ETEN app controls as
well as Notification settings, and Bluetooth radio
settings (for use with a BT Headset).  The link
above will take you to the PPCProfiles Pro download
page.  The software works with WM 5.0 and with
2003SE devices, so one size fits all.

BLUETOOTH
EXPERIENCE

As the G500 is an integrated
GPS device and doesn’t need to connect to a serial,
or more importantly, a Bluetooth GPS receiver, one
of its most important Bluetooth functions is Hands
Free headset.  While the G500 does this, I’ve
noticed that it has two issues.  First and
foremost, the volume level on both my BT headsets is
extremely low on the G500.  I have a hard time
hearing callers in my Honda CRV.  I’m not sure if its
the amount of insulation in the CRV allowing in too
much road noise, or if its the G500, but I don’t
have this problem with my K-JAM or any of the Treo
700w’s I’ve been using.  BT headset use on
those is great, I’m not certain why the volume
doesn’t come through as well on ETEN’s devices, but
they need to address this issue as well.

   
To access the device’s Bluetooth settings, tap the
Wireless Manager icon on the bottom bar of the Today
Page.  By default, it should be the first icon
in the right corner.  See the figure of the
G500’s Today Page, above.

The G500’s
Wireless Manager is bold and bright.

Tapping the
Wrench on the Bluetooth button takes you to
the BT Connection Wizard
.

   
Tapping the wrench in the Bluetooth button will
bring up the Bluetooth Connection Wizard. 
Setting up a headset partnership was pretty easy,
but the Wizard could have done with a bit more hand
holding for novice users.  While using the
headset, I also noticed that callers had a hard time
hearing me, due to road noise, unless I turned down
the GSM and Bluetooth microphone gain to zero with
the Microphone Control Panel applet.  While
this worked for people that I was talking to, they
could hear me better, it didn’t solve the volume
problem I had with both headsets I was using.

BENCHMARK
RESULTS

    The ETEN G500 has a 400MHz
Samsung S3C2440 processor, which seems pretty peppy. 
The i-mate JAM, which is a 2003SE device, seems to have
scored the best here, but Persistent Storage has
made quite a dent in the way Pocket PC’s function.  These benchmarks reflect that. However, the device
performed pretty well against other WM 5.0 devices.

Table of results

  ETEN
G500
i-mate
K-JAM
HP
iPAQ h6300
Asus
a636
i-mate
JAM
i-mate
JAMin


Spb Benchmark index
353 245 736 214
1217
221


CPU index
1420 929 702
1675
1583 896


File system index
145 101 667 81.6
921
89.8


Graphics index
2721 2773 1682 1880 1346
2933


ActiveSync index

4899
2608


Platform index
727
1067


Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1037 520 584 611
1152
233


Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
4.24 2.69 11.1 2.88
20.6
2.43


Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
873 522 585 501
1209
279


Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
276 101 459 192
783
87.3


Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
2.06 1.65 5.07 1.13
7.32
1.69


Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
251 165 428 173
630
131


Directory list of 2000 files
(thousands of files/sec)
1.3
0.963

21.3

0.698
16.1
0.881


Internal database read
(records/sec)
1328 546 590
1456
1279 611


Graphics test: DDB BitBlt
(frames/sec)
291 437 226 43.3 130
473


Graphics test: DIB BitBlt
(frames/sec)

31.1
16.7 12.3 21.9 20.8 17.7


Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt
(frames/sec)
354 494 263
539
163 521


Pocket Word document open
(KB/sec)
26.4
30.3


Pocket Internet Explorer HTML
load (KB/sec)
6.7 5.51
9.61
5.61


Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG
load (KB/sec)
108 108
185
93.3


File Explorer large folder list
(files/sec)

535
323 456 298 468


Compress 1 MB file using ZIP
(KB/sec)

262
139 165 183 207 139


Decompress 1024×768 JPEG file
(KB/sec)
444 241 229 602
607
243


Arkaball frames per second
(frames/sec)
160 160 87.4
185
105 150


CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS
(Mop/sec)

0.078

0.032

0.028

0.079

0.079

0.032


CPU test: Whetstones MOPS
(Mop/sec)
50 25.8 24 57.1
57.2
25.7


CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS
(Mop/sec)
4.94 2.18 2.09 5.05
5.15
2.16


Memory test: copy 1 MB using
memcpy (MB/sec)
63.6 71.3 29.4
100
75.5 61.3


ActiveSync: upload 1 MB file
(KB/sec)

484
266


ActiveSync: download 1 MB file
(KB/sec)

663
322

The overall Spb
Benchmark Index.  The G500 did better
than the K-JAM and JAMin, both.

The G500’s
processor scored pretty well, but not better
than the original JAM.

The G500’s file
system score was better than the K-JAM and
JAMin, too.

The Graphics
Index is one area where the G500 didn’t do
better than the K-JAM and JAMin

The G500’s ActiveSync index was better than the JAM’s.



CUSTOM
SOFTWARE

   

The G500 comes with a number of different custom
applications for Multimedia, Phone, Utilities and
Voice Commander.  You can see screen shots of
the custom program folders below.

This is the Multimedia
folder

…and the Phone folder

…followed by the Utilities
folder

and finally, the Voice
Commander folder
.


    All
of these applications are pretty much stock with
just about any PPC Phone Edition device you
purchase.  I’m not going to go into a lot of
detail with these, as they have been covered ad
nausium in a number of different reviews. 
However, there are two items regarding custom
software that I do want to mention.


    The
device has an FM radio that its supposed to use for
TMC (traffic information) in conjunction with your
GPS software.  As long as your navigation
software of choice supports TMC, AND you’re in a
city that uses the TMC traffic system, your
navigation software should be able to reroute you
around traffic jams.  ETEN is ALSO supposed to
release an FM radio application that will allow you
to listen to FM radio stations with the device. 
That software hasn’t been released yet, though I’m
told that it should be released within the next few
weeks.



    The
device also does NOT come with GPS software by
default.  That software, I’m told is an
additional purchase that may be bundled with the
device, but WILL cost extra.  I had to pull out
a copy of TomTom Navigator to use with the G500. 
After a bit of difficulty with COM port settings, I
was able to get the device’s GPS functionality to
work.  Please see the GPS section below, for
more information on that.


    The
Phone Control Panel applet also has some custom
functionality that I found very interesting. 
The G500 comes with a custom phone skin that it uses
as its default.  It has the standard WM5 phone
skin, as you can see below; but the custom skin is
pretty cool, and I’ve enjoyed using it.

The customized
tabs in the Phone applet. This is the
custom phone skin
.

The standard WM 5.0
Phone skin. Yawn.

This is what it looks like when the G500 custom
phone skin is in use. Slick!

   
The other screen that I wanted to show you was the
Others tab from the Phone applet.  This is the
tab where you choose the GSM frequencies you want
the phone to use. I’ve noticed that I can get a
signal even when the 900/1800 radio button is selected. 
While I understand that the 850 and 900MHz bands are
very close, the radio often confuses the 900MHz
setting for the 850MHz band.  I’m not certain
if this is part of the 850MHz problem the phone has,
but its behavior that I’ve noticed.

Here is the Others tab
on the Phone applet.

GPS FUNCTIONALITY

    The big draw for the G500 is its GPS receiver.  It’s got
one of the most sensitive GPS receivers available.
When I found out that the device didn’t
automatically come with a GPS app, I got a little
concerned, but I was relieved to know that it should
work with just about any app.  I found a copy
of TomTom Navigator 5 to use with the device, and
after a little trouble with COM Ports and setting,
was able to get everything working.


    If
you’re using TomTom Navigator 5, then you need to
insure that you’ve got the software configured to
use the following GPS receiver and settings


  • GPS Receiver:     

  • COM Port Speed: 
    38400 Baud

  • COM Port:          
    S2410 IRDA2410


If you’re not using
TTN5, then simply change the COM Port to COM4. 
All of the other settings should be similar or the
same.

Select

Other Cable
NMEA GPS as your GPS receiver

…set the COM Port
speed to 38400 Baud

…then select S2410
IRDA2410 as your COM port
.

Viola! GPS
activity…


    GPS Lock time is
supposed to be relatively quick with the SiRF Star
III chip set, no more than 30-45 seconds from cold
start.  However, the weather here in
Nashville hasn’t been the greatest as of late, and
I’m pretty certain it has lengthened the sync time I’ve
been seeing.  After a GPS lock, the performance
of the built in receiver has been exceptional. 
I love GPS functionality in my PDA’s, and am totally diggin’ the fact that the G500 has its receiver
built in.  TTN5 on the G500 is simply awesome,
and it’s a huge plus that the functionality
is

in

the device without any external dongles or
wireless receivers.

HELP SUPPORT

    The manual is ok, but not
great.  I tried looking for specifics on which
COM Port and baud rate to use for GPS configuration;
but didn’t find anything even close to what I was
looking for.  The ETEN Support site finally has
soft copies of the G500’s manual, but that has only
appeared within the last few days before posting
this review.  During my
review period, the site didn’t have any kind of
materials on the G500, aside from the product pages,
at all.

BUGS AND WISHES

   


 I’ve already mentioned the problems I ran into
with the phone and with the Bluetooth headsets I’ve
been using, so I won’t go into it again. 
However, I received screens like the ones below far
too many times when trying to connect the device to
my laptop PC.  The "white page errors" below
are for PhoneService.exe and repllog.exe.  I
also got errors like this for tmail.exe.  This
wouldn’t be a problem so much if the device didn’t
freeze after getting them… a soft reset and I was
back in business, but I still shouldn’t be getting
them as often as I have been (5-6 times a week over
the last 2 weeks or so).  ETEN needs to do a
little research and prevent these from occurring. 

   

These white page
errors are occurring all the time with my
G500.  I think that the last hard reset
I did didn’t go as it should have

   
The G500 doesn’t come with AKU2, so it’s missing
Microsoft DirectPush.  I also haven’t seen any
press or news about if and when ETEN will release
AKU2 for the G500.  While this isn’t a HUGE
issue (SMS based pull isn’t bad…), some people may
have a problem with it. I’ve got AKU2 on my K-JAM,
and I can tell you without a doubt that it is by
far, a much better experience to have push e-mail
than SMS based pull.  I’ll be glad to see it
released for the G500.

PURCHASING

   
I have only found two purchasing links for this device
right now.  The first is

here
, for $587.99 USD.  The second is

here
, for $589.99 USD. 

This device hasn’t hit the mainstream yet, but I
anticipate that it will shortly.  Many of the
G500 specific accessories you could want can be found at

eXpansys USA
.


PROS



  • Quad Band GSM world phone
  • Integrated
    GPS with great performance
  • 128MB of
    Flash ROM for internal storage
  • Crisp screen
  • Solid
    construction and build quality

CONS

  • Trouble
    with 850MHz band (in my area.  This may NOT be
    a problem in YOUR area)
  • GPS
    Software may be an additional purchase
  • FM radio
    software has yet to be released
  • Low Bluetooth headset volume
  • No external keyboard
  • No flash
    on the camera
  • The device
    doesn’t come with a desktop cradle
  • The device
    was released without Microsoft DirectPush (AKU2)
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    Over all, this is a great device. 
Yes, it does have its quirks and issues, but most
devices do.  While I would like to see ETEN
work on the 850MHz band issue, and get it resolved (I was quite disappointed with its initial
cell phone performance.), I’d also like to see an
ETEN device with some kind of keyboard.  Using Spb Full Screen Keyboard to respond to e-mail is NOT
easy. Color me spoiled by the HTC Wizard if you want,
but I’ve really gotten used to an external,
permanently attached QWERTY keyboard that tucks
neatly away when its not in use.

   
However, the G500 has a great deal to offer with its
integrated GPS receiver.  The screen is simply
amazing.  Colors are clear, vivid and bright.  The fact that the
device has 128MB of internal storage is also a huge
plus.  Its probably one of the better overall
solutions available today.  It comes with just
about everything most users will need, including a
car charger, and holder for use in the car.  I
also think that every device should come with a
desktop cradle, but the G500’s cradle is only
available as an extra accessory.  The main issue keeping the G500 from getting a higher rating is the phone’s performance in the area I
live, and that may be an isolated issue.

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About The Author
Christopher Spera