Toshiba Portege G910

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INTRODUCTION

    Toshiba has a new one for us, the Portege G910, which aims to be a top choice for business users (especially in Europe) who want to go Windows Mobile. It features two screens, one of which sports the highest resolutions that Windows Mobile can support, 800×480. That’s 25% more pixels than found on a VGA screen. But what about the rest of the phone? Does it perform well in daily use, or should Toshiba stick to making Notebooks and X-Ray machines? Read on for our thorough review!

WHAT’S HOT

    Let’s do a rundown of specifications. The G910 has the commonly used Qualcomm MSM7200 CPU running at 400MHz. It is a triband GSM phone with EDGE/HSDPA, has 256MB ROM and 128MB RAM, WiFi (b & g), aGPS, Bluetooth 2.0, and USB 1.1. The camera on the rear can capture photos at 2MP and includes an LED fill light, while the camera on the front, used for video calls, supports VGA resolution. Powering it all is a 1320mAh battery. For even more specs on the G910, check out PDAdb.net.

     It’s important to note that all screenshots on this page are scaled down from the large 800×480 resolution. The shots with a thick border link to the original size.

When connected to Windows Mobile Device Center, a thumbnail of the G910 actually shows up on the screen. Neat.

This is pretty much what you get when you turn on the G910 for the first time. The only add-on to the Today screen is the Live Search plugin.

The phone skin is Windows Mobile 6 default.

And here’s what it it looks like when you try to place a video call. It’s quickly terminated because we can’t do video telephony in the US.

Because of the resolution, we get to see a lot of icons all in one shot. Here in the programs, we see a few unique entries, such as Networks, Fingerprint Launcher, Image to Text, and Opera. Let’s go through those now.

Networks will allow the device to configure itself based on the European carrier you use. For me, on AT&T in the US, I had to configure the GPRS settings manually to get data to come through.

This is the Fingerprint Launcher. From here you can choose a finger which has been enrolled…

…which is done via an application in Settings.

Entrolling a finger requires that you swipe it three times on the reader. If you don’t swipe carefully, it will ask you to swipe again.

     And while we’re in the settings of the Fingerprint Reader, you can set the pad to scroll through lists, and select with a tap of your finger. Sounds good, right? Not really. The awkward placement of the fingerprint reader on the bottom edge of the keyboard means that you’ll probably never use this feature.

Back into the Fingerprint Launcher program. Here it shows me which fingers I have enrolled. Clicking on any enrolled finger will allow you to choose a program to launch.

     Swipe a finger, launch a program. Neat. Well, there’s a big caveat. In order to launch a program, the Fingerprint Launcher program must be active in the foreground! That’s right, you have to

launch a program to launch a program

. This really takes away the utility of the Fingerprint Launcher.

     That said, if you lock your device with a PIN and have a fingerprint enrolled, you can choose to unlock your device by swiping your finger. That’s a nice feature, though there were times when it took me many swipes to finally unlock the G910.

The G910 has an Image to Text program built in that uses the camera to do OCR.

And so if you take a picture of a book or newspaper…

…it will try to translate the image into text. With proper lighting and time spent lining up the on-screen guides with the page correctly, this function should prove to be quite accurate.

     Next up on the list is Opera. Unfortunately, it’s the old (or, current) version of Opera – 8.65, which doesn’t bring the same iPhone-like browsing experience to Windows Mobile like 9.5 does. That said, it’s much better than Pocket IE, in that it allows you to see entire webpages similar to how they’d appear on the desktop. The WVGA resolution of the G910 really shines through here, allowing a ton of data to fit on the screen at once.

Here is a picture of the screen when we go full screen.

Here is the same page loaded in Pocket IE, full screen. Blek.

     And going down the list, we have PhoneDialler (is this mispelled on purpose? The program requires that you install desktop software. It will then allow you to use Bluetooth or USB to dial from your computer to the phone), plus Piscel Viewer, and the other usual programs. I installed Pocket Informant to show how it looks on a WVGA screen.

And it looks really good!

Spb Mobile Shell had some trouble stretching to the 800 pixel wide display on the main panel…

And yet on the launcher screen, it looked great.

Ouch. This is VITO’s FunContact, which just freezes the device upon loading.

While we’re on third party applications – take a look at the tremendous amount of map data you can with Live Search.

Before we venture into Settings, here’s a shot of Office Mobile 2007 which is included on the Toshiba G910.

SETTINGS

If we go to "Buttons" in the Personal tab of Settings, we can assign the shortcut buttons around the screen to a program.

Here is the second tab of the Settings. Nothing unusual. As you saw on the first page of this review, the brightness of the screen leaves a lot to be desired…

…even when turned to maximum. Here you can have the screen brightness adjust automatically with the ambient light sensor.

The aGPS utility will decrease the time it takes for the device to get a GPS fix. I was able to get a GPS fix within about 10-20 seconds using Windows Live Search.

With just ActiveSync and Pocket Controller running, we have 35MB of program memory remaining.

Toshiba only gives us Windows Mobile 6. Is it too much to ask for a bump to 6.1 on a high-end phone?

And because the pixels are so tiny on the G910, you can set the system text size to be quite low so that you can see a lot of text on screen at once, if your eyes will allow it.

And lastly we have the Connections tab…which points to the Wireless Manager…

…skinned in the Windows Mobile 6 default.



Here is a video that shows more about the OLED screens and fingerprint scanner.

CAMERA

     Here is the camera application, which is well done from a usability standpoint (the wide screen allows the icons to be placed out of the shooting area), but unfortunately the frame rate is low, and the shutter speed is very slow, so you need a steady hand to get a clear shot. From here you can turn on the LED fill light, adjust the resolution, flip from the rear camera to the front, zoom in (digital), and change the shooting mode.

In one mode, the G910 will snap 4 photos in rapid succession. Using the camera is cumbersome, as the shutter button is on the keyboard, and the camera lens is in an awkward place.

Click on the images for larger sizes. This indoor shot exhibits poor color and a lot of noise.

These bright yellow flowers don’t look bright.

In this photo, the image is tinted green.

Click on to the next page to see speed benchmarks, plus a final conclusion on the Toshiba G910.

BENCHMARKS

   Spb Benchmark from Spb Software House has been used for the
following benchmark comparisons with the G910.

 

In terms of performance, the G910 feels slow. It becomes exhausting to use the device sometimes because there is a lot of waiting and screen redrawing.

BATTERY
    Because the G910 does not work on any USA 3G network, I can’t give a completely accurate claim on battery life. That said, I can tell you that with WiFi running most of the time and moderate internet and GPS usage, the battery on the G910 lasted me just over a day. I fear that if I were using this on an HSDPA network with direct push, I may not make it through the entire day.

HELP SUPPORT

    The user guide that comes with the G910 is quite thorough. There is an FAQ section of the Toshiba website that has additional info.

BUGS AND WISHES

    First and foremost, the performance on this device is lacking. I realize that rendering images on a WVGA screen is no easy task, but the hardware should be able to handle it, right? I think people rather have a VGA screen on a device that is responsive than a WVGA screen on a device that is slow.

    Oh, and it’s buggy. Meaning, it does unexplainable things that would annoy the heck out of you. For example, I’ll set the "sleep" time for the front display to be 5 seconds so that I can take some pictures of it (for this review, for example). Several hours later, it resets back to 1 second. Then, I’ll go to turn on WiFi from the Wireless Manager, and for some reason, the Wireless Manager becomes unresponsive. Then there are times when opening the folder on the phone doesn’t turn on the screen, or it does turn on the screen, but 3 minutes later. Good thing for the well-placed reset hole! I used it a lot.

    This is a high end device, true? I mean, it’s expensive, has features that lower-end models don’t have, etc. So why doesn’t it come with a case? Wouldn’t I want to protect my $750 phone with some kind of covering? And perhaps a screen covering so that I don’t scratch that fancy display? Come on, Toshiba.

    Speaking of high end, where is the refinement? This device is made entirely of plastic and thus feels cheap. It uses an ugly leather pattern on the back of the device that is supposed to imply high-end but instead screams "cheap!" Perhaps a rubbery coating as found on most modern devices would better suit – and then the user could use it atop a table.

    And the screen. The screen is extremely crisp – and with 800×480 pixels, that makes sense. But it’s also quite dim, especially outdoors. The whites aren’t white, and thus the contrast seems off. On a similar note, the OLED screen, while useful for saving battery power and screening calls, is unreadable outdoors! I was amazed by this.

    And finally – would it kill to get some USB 2.0? It’s been the standard for what, like five years now?

PURCHASING

    The Toshiba Portege G910 can be had for $739.94 over at Smart Mobile Gadgets. The phone is unlocked, so you can use it with any carrier. In the US, you can get up to EDGE data speeds on T-Mobile, and just GPRS speeds on AT&T. It’s not likely that we’ll see a quadband version issued.

PROS

  • Very high screen resolution
  • Terrific keyboard feel
  • Satisfying "click" sound when phone is closed
  • Opera 8.65 (but not 9.5) included
  • External OLED screen can be useful
  • OCR software works pretty well
  • aGPS/WiFi/HSDPA

CONS

  • Laggy performance
  • Buggy
  • Not USB 2.0 compatible
  • Some third-party programs are not WVGA compatible
  • Doesn’t include WinMo 6.1
  • Keyboard lag
  • Triband
  • Fingerprint reader lacks adequate security software
  • Poor camera
  • Screen brightness is too low
  • OLED screen is small, impossible to view outdoors
  • Cheap materials used
  • No case or screen protector included
  • Big in the pocket
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?




OVERALL IMPRESSION

    I feel bad being so hard on Toshiba lately, but they just aren’t getting it right.

The game has changed in Windows Mobile land

– no longer can OEMs get attention and sales by issuing devices that are

just average

. We now expect good performance, UI enhancements, a good camera, the latest version of Windows Mobile, useful accessories, and stinkin’ USB 2.0. The G910 lacks on so many fronts that it overshadows the coolness of the WVGA screen, the excellent keyboard, the the OLED display. If you’re looking for the ultimate Windows Mobile powerhouse and want to buy something now – the i-mate Ultimate 9502 is still the way to go. If you can wait, the XPERIA X1 and HTC Touch Pro look to be great. But unless you can ignore my huge list of Cons above, skip this phone.

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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.