HTC VOX S710 with WM6 Standard

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INTRODUCTION

    It’s a crazy world out there. Our Smartphones are suddently called "Standard", and keyboards are sliding open from all parts of our devices (front, side, bottom). Now, we have a new device to throw into the mix: the new HTC Vox S710, which seems almost magical to those in the Windows Mobile community with two firsts (the first Windows Mobile 6 production device and the first Smartphone that has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard). There’s a lot we have to say about the Vox before we declare it a winner. Read on for our thorough review!

WHAT’S HOT

    Unless you’ve got a Samsung SGH-i600 or a Motorola Q, you don’t typically find full keyboards on Smartphone-style phones. That’s what’s hot about the Vox S710 – it’s small enough to slip into your pocket, though a full keyboard is just a screen-slide away.  

    Let’s talk specs. It’s got a 201Mhz TI
850 OMAP
CPU, 128Mb ROM, 64Mb RAM, Windows Mobile 6 Standard,
a 2.4" QVGA screen
, Quadband GSM/EDGE, Bluetooth 2.0, WiFi (b & g), and a
2.0MP camera.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

    Compared to other devices out there – the Vox is much thicker than, say, the Motorola Q, but also less wide. It weighs 20 grams more than the T-Mobile Dash, and I can confirm that in-hand, it feels heavy compared to other Smartphone’s without a keyboard.

WHAT’S IN
THE BOX

(all images link to higher resolution)

HTC-branded devices come in black boxes. The Vox S710 is shown as a "pro" device, probably because it’s got a keyboard.

Inside the Vox, or, I mean "box", we have the usual: the VOX S710 with battery, user manual, warranty, software, charger, USB cable, and earphones with proprietary connector.

THE DEVICE

    Prototype pictures of the Vox showed it having a black number pad and D-Pad. Well, as you can see, the production version uses silver in these spots. The device is outlined in chrome, which gives the Vox a touch of class. The chrome, plus shiny screen, means that you’ll be cleaning the screen often with your shirt, as it’s a fingerprint magnet.

    On the bottom of the image is the miniUSB port (covered by a piece of rubber) which is used for charging, and, unfortunately, for audio output (how about a standard jack?). On the bottom right corner is the slot for the microSD card, which is also covered by a piece of rubber. Notice the offset of the number buttons, such that the bottoms are taller than the tops. This makes "feeling" for numbers on the keypad very easy and comfortable.

    Ah, the glorious keyboard. Notice how the Vox S710 only has three rows of keys, whereas the HTC Hermes and Wizard has four. This was achieved by leaving out any sort of hot keys. I didn’t like the placement of the hardware soft keys – I felt they were about 1mm too close to the screen, because my finger nail would rub up against the screen part.

    If you’re a user of the Smartphone OS (or Standard, whatever you want to call it), you know that the home button is used a lot – it takes you back to the Homescreen. On the Vox, when the keyboard is open, the only way to access the home button is to press the one near the number pad, which feels strange if the keyboard is slid out, since the home button is sideways at that point. I wish they’d include a home button on the keyboard.

    And here’s how it looks from a profile shot. The screen takes up about a third of the width of the device. The keyboard is spring-assisted, which feels great, and allows for a satisfying lock-in sound.

    And since it’s a Smartphone-style phone, it’s meant to be a bit smaller than a Pocket PC phone. Even with the keyboard fully extended, the Vox S710 fits nicely in-hand. While we’re on the topic – the screen rotation on this device is WAY too slow. We’re talking 2-4 seconds before the screen orients the opposite way.

    The back is branded with the HTC logo. The sides and back are covered with rubber-plastic, making the phone feel secure in-hand. Also on the back is the 2MP camera sensor, a self-portrait mirror, and the speaker (which wasn’t very loud, and at loud volumes, would distort).

Opening up the back cover we see the 1050mAh battery.

Oh, and this is new – they put the SIM card receptacle on the back of the screen. Usually it’s behind the battery.

And at night, there’s a lot of backlighting going on in a cool blue color.


COMPARISONS

    Here’s a comparison shot, from left to right, with the glofiish X500, Palm Treo 700wx, i-mate JAQ, HTC Vox S710, i-mate SP5m (HTC Tornado), and Dell Axim X51v. Notice the size of the S710’s screen – it’s 2.4" compared to 2.2" on the i-mate SP5m.

And here’s the same shot with the Vox S710’s keyboard extended, just so you can have an idea on size.

    In the side shot, we see that the Vox indeed has a good bit of thickness to it. From top to bottom: the glofiish X500, Palm Treo 700wx, i-mate JAQ, HTC Vox S710, i-mate SP5m (HTC Tornado), and Dell Axim X51v.

And a shot from the bottom…in the same order.

And a shot from the top – in the same order.

SOFTWARE
    As mentioned in the introduction, the Vox S710 is the first Windows Mobile 6 Standard device on the market. As a reminder, what used to be called "Smartphone" is now "Standard" – both meaning that it has no touchscreen. Several months ago, we published a thorough review of Windows Mobile 6 Standard. In the following section, I’m not going to review the new OS, but rather go over some interesting things about this particular device in the software department. If you want our full take on WM 6, check out the review.

Here’s the Homescreen – nothing special here. HTC devices come with a green skin installed, but I changed that to red (which came on the phone). I think it looks much better.

And here’s the Start menu, new icons and all. The icons are arranged such that the most used are at the top.

…and this is what happened when you flip the keyboard open.

When you click on Messaging, you can the account chooser shown above.

Sending a message in landscape is always more comfortable than portrait – you can see more text, or at least it seems that way.

    The Vox S710 has a microSD slot, so some consumers may want to use this as a music phone. HTC includes an Audio Manager that has an interface similar to that of an iPod. I didn’t test the program extensively, but it seems like a good alternative to using Windows Media Player.

    Windows Mobile 6 includes Windows Update, which can be found in the Settings menu and can check automatically or only when asked. After I got the Vox S710, I ran Windows Update, but no updates were available.

Clicking on the "Office Mobile" folder in the Start menu will take you here. I’m not sure why Voice Notes and Calculator are considered part of Office Mobile…oh well.

    There’s also a note taking application in the Vox S710, which I didn’t give much use. You can switch between two text entry modes…ABC and xT9. xT9 is showing up on more devices – it brings up word suggestions at the bottom of the screen, and you can’t turn it off unless you go to ABC mode. When typing on the QWERTY keyboard, I left it in ABC mode, though when typing on the number pad (sometimes I didn’t want to pull out the keyboard), I had to put it in xT9.

Saving a note will keep it in your Quick Notes list.

The Vox S710 includes a Task Manager that lets you see your current free memory, and kill programs should you need more.

And finally, Connection Manager lets you see all of your current connections and settings. There’s a handy setting that lets you turn on and off flight mode quickly to save battery life.

   

The 2MP camera takes pretty good pictures relative to other WM devices – actually, I was quite impressed!

   

And here are some more shots. The image to the right has some color issues – but it’s still clear.



HELP SUPPORT

    Since this is an HTC device, you’re likely to have better luck getting support than if it was rebranded. Over at the HTC website, they have a pretty good support section that includes FAQs, email contacts and phone contacts.

BUGS AND WISHES

   

 Bar far the biggest wish I have for the Vox is 3G. Where is the 3G? There are a few reasons I can think of that HTC didn’t 3G-ify the Vox. Chief on the list is sales: the Vox is selling very well, and I think HTC knew that it would be hot because of its nifty form factor. The 3G version of the Vox, named the S730, isn’t due out until around July. At that point, there will be a renewed interest in the Vox, and thus a new wave of sales.

    By the time it takes the screen of the Vox S710 to rotate from portrait to landscape once you slide out the keyboard, you could have mailed a piece of snail mail instead of type an email from your phone. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. If you use an HTC Wizard or Hermes, you know that the screen rotation takes about 1-2 seconds. That’s annoying, but you can live with it. The Vox S710’s screen takes 2-3 seconds, sometimes 4 seconds when there is a lot of data on the screen. That’s utterly unacceptable! I know flipping a screen is hardware intensive, but come on R&D, figure it out!

    Another issue I have with the Vox is the small keys – I think it’s fair to say that if you get a great QWERTY typist and a great T9 typist, put them side to side and have them peck out a text message on the Vox using their respective preferred input methods, the T9 typist would win. Why? The keys on the Vox are just a bit too small to warrant a speed increase over T9 on a good number pad. That said, I much rather type on a QWERTY than with T9 because if I have to spell someone’s name, or a word that’s not in the dictionary, I don’t have to switch T9 off.

    This is a classy device, no doubt. The strip of chrome around the front tells you so. That strip of chrome also attracts fingerprints like a magnet. Chrome also shows scratches well, so beware if you’re one to drop your phone or put it in a pocket with your keys.

    Proprietary connectors are on their way out in terms of charging (miniUSB seems to have taken hold, finally), but not for audio. The Vox S710 uses a sort of-mini-USB connector for audio, meaning, you can’t throw on your favorite headphones with the Vox.

PURCHASING

   

To buy the HTC Vox S710, visit our friends at Smart Mobile Gadgets. They’ve got the device selling for $579.99. Smart Mobile Gadgets has fantastic customer service, great prices, and super fast shipping.

PROS

  • Unique form factor with QWERTY slide-out
  • Sleek design
  • Windows Mobile 6 Standard
  • Excellent number pad
  • Big, bright screen
  • Good camera

CONS

  • No 3G
  • Painfully slow screen rotation
  • QWERTY keys are small
  • The front is a fingerprint magnet
  • Proprietary audio port
  • Inferior speakerphone
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?


OVERALL IMPRESSION

    I was excited to write this review. The Vox S710 is the kind of device that gets attention wherever it goes. My favorite is showing the device to a friend, and after they’re slightly impressed by the nice screen and chrome surrounding – BAM! – I slide out the keyboard. Who would have expected a ful keyboard from such a small phone?

    There are a lot of Windows Mobile users that have their eye on the Vox S710. It’s a slick device, with a slick form factor, and productivity written all over it with a full keyboard and Windows Mobile 6 Standard. That said, because of the fact that the screen rotation takes an eternity, there is no 3G, and I need a device with a great speakerphone (like the BlackJack), I couldn’t and wouldn’t use the S710 as my daily driver. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still an amazing little piece of gadgetry, and if you’ve been drooling over it, it’s finally time to get in. But me, I want to see what HTC does with the S730.




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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.