E-TEN Glofiish V900

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INTRODUCTION

    E-TEN is back, and this time it’s with the Glofiish V900, a VGA flush touchscreen device that not only brings to the table an impressive spec sheet, but the ability to watch over the air television in Europe and parts of Asia. In the past, we haven’t been terribly impressed with E-TEN’s offerings, but is the V900 the one that changes our tarnished opinion of the company? We’ve got a very comprehensive review to follow. Read on for more!

WHAT’S HOT

    The V900 has a strong list of specifications. Running on Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, it’s got one of the fastest CPU’s to be found in Windows Mobile device – it’s a Samsung S3C6400 chip running at 533MHz (the Touch Diamond and Pro clock in at 528MHz). The flush VGA touchscreen is 2.8". It has 256MB ROM and 128MB RAM, plus expansion for microSD. The V900 is a quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900) and triband UMTS (850/1900/2100) phone, with Bluetooth 2.0+EDR, WiFi b/g, and HSDPA. It has an external telescoping antenna, used for the FM Radio and over the air TV, supporting these TV standards: T-DMB/DAB/DVB-T/DVB-H. On the front there is a VGA camera for video calls, and on the rear is a 3.1MP autofocus camera with an LED light. The V900 can connect to a projector or monitor with the TV-out cables, and can also output audio with the red/blue composite wires. Powering the device is a 1530mAh battery. For even more specs on the V900, check out PDAdb.net.

(all images link to larger versions)

The V900 features a design that is quite similar to the HTC Touch with a minimal amount of hardware buttons and no keyboard.

Though it’s difficult to tell in the image, the paint is blackish/blue metallic, which looks interesting in bright light, but is a bit tacky in my opinion.

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

WHAT’S IN THE BOX



Here’s the unboxing of the V900.

Here is a shot of the box. E-TEN is touting the TV capability as the main selling feature for the V900.

This was funny. I think E-TEN used their promotional materials for the box. On the bottom it says "Where to Buy." But wait, if the box is in my possession, didn’t I already buy it?

    E-TEN does a good job with the accessories. Included is a wall charger and sync cable, an extra stylus, earbuds with extra gels, a composite video/audio out cable with miniUSB passthrough (nice!), and a high quality (albeit bulky) case. Not pictured is an Outlook 2007 trial software CD and short user guide.

THE DEVICE

This is E-TEN’s first device with a flush touchscreen.

    Like the HTC Touch, the V900 has no hardware soft keys – just a call start/end key, and the D-Pad. The D-Pad on the V900 is horrible – possibly worthless, because it’s difficult to operate and not precise. When you move it around, there is no "click" feedback to tell you that you’ve made an up/down/left/right selection.

On the top we have a light sensor next to the front-facing video camera. The earpiece is surrounded by two system indicator lights. The V900 branding is small and tasteful.

The back is covered in that nice soft plastic, which gives the device a non-slip feel while in hand. Notice the bottom corners of the back. On the left is the stylus silo, and on the right is the TV/FM antenna. We’ll cover these later.

Focusing in on the top we have the 3.1MP auto focus camera, self portrait mirror, LED flash, and large speaker. The speaker allows for plenty of volume and clear audio output.

Taking out the 1530mAh battery, we find the SIM card slot. Note the flap on the battery, which will get caught hanging outside of the cover if you don’t "tuck" it inside.

    Turning over to the side we see a dual-action camera bottom (slight press to focus, full press to take the picture), plus an external microSD slot with a dust cover (nice!). To the right of that is a well-placed soft reset hole, and to the right of that is the standby/power button.

On the other side, we have the volume up/down rocker, plus a button to initialize Voice Commander.

    On the bottom we have a 2.5mm headphone jack – which we welcome with open arms (as it’s better than having no dedicated headphone jack), though 3.5mm would have been even better. To the right of that is the miniUSB port used for syncing/charging/video and audio out, and the microphone is to the right of that.

And on the top it says "GPS".

The stylus is collapsible and feels cheap, and I found it difficult to remove from the silo at times.

If we pull on the black nub in the left corner (with the front facing you), the TV/FM antenna is revealed.

The antenna, which feels flimsy and will probably break off with heavy use, will extend about 7 inches.

Here is the case, which is more like a holster. It’s made to clip onto your belt.

But look how thick the pair becomes when the device is inserted!

And here’s a front view of the case. The device comes out to the left.

And if we turn off the lights, we get a red and green glow from the call start/end keys. The lighting is dull and ugly.

COMPARISONS

Here we have a shot comparing (from left to right) the Apple iPhone, AT&T Tilt (TyTN II), HTC Touch Pro, E-TEN Glofiish V900, CDMA HTC Touch on Verizon, and Samsung Omnia.

And here they are again in the same order, stacked. The V900 is almost as thick as the HTC Touch Pro.

And here is another profile shot.

Flip on over to the next page where we will cover all of the software enhancements made to the Glofiish V900.

    Most new Windows Mobile devices have some sort of interface replacement that covers up Windows Mobile (like TouchFLO, etc). In this case, E-TEN, like Toshiba on the G810, decided to use Spb Mobile Shell. We like Mobile Shell because it places all the most used functions of the device in a graphically pleasing interface that is on the screen every time you take your phone out of standby. From here you can see the weather, access SMS/Email, change the device profile, see your next appointment, and of course see the time and date.

The V900 has a built-in accelerometer which will rotate the display in any screen of the operating system. More on this later.

    To get to the second tab of Spb Mobile Shell, you can swipe your finger to the right, or press the icon on the bottom. Here is a customizable program launcher that features really neat animations to go the next screen. If we click Internet, for example…

…we are taken to this finger-friendly display that interfaces with Pocket Internet Explorer.

And in the third tab, you can make a grid of favorite people to call.

    Another really neat feature of Spb Mobile Shell is that you can quickly enter either of the three Mobile Shell panes by swiping your finger from the top to the middle of the screen…as seen here. You can do this from practically any screen in the OS.

SYSTEM SOFTWARE

    This is what the Today screen looks like out of the box on the V900. Very cluttered, indeed. You can, of course, cut down on the clutter by turning most of these items off through the Settings menu. The right soft key will get you back into Spb Shell, and the left one shows you speed dial.

This is what speed dial looks like, which will sort your calls by frequency. This is a very useful feature…the interface is simple and ugly, but useful.

Here in the index view, we can quickly get to a letter of a person we want to call.

And we can also adjust the color of this layout.

Speaking of dialing, this is what the phone application looks like. It’s skinned in a cool brushed metal theme.

And take a look at the context menu – it is not touch friendly. On the HTC Touch devices, context menus are larger.

When someone calls, you get this pop up. The huge phone icon covers up the phone number! Bad design.

And when you’re in a call, you get that same brushed metal theme.

The Call History screen is not skinned.

Ok, let’s get into the Start menu, which is also not touch friendly. From here we can go into Office Mobile…

Where we see the usual entries. Let’s go into Word and see the on screen keyboard options.

E-TEN includes just one keyboard option, called Easy Keyboard. This pales in comparison to other new Windows Mobile devices which let you choose between T9/SureType/QWERTY keyboards.

Huh?? What is this? Is this a QWERTY keyboard? The keys aren’t even aligned correctly. But to be fair…

…flipping it into landscape allows you to see the correct keyboard layout.

Here we are in the Programs menu where we have several sub folders to go through. Note that the V900 includes Voice Commander, which is good, but not as good as Microsoft Voice Command. To start, we’ll go into Multimedia.

We’ll cover all of these entries except for Camera, which will be shown over on the following page.

This is the photo gallery, which is a pleasant deviation of the standard one for Windows Mobile.

When you enter a picture, you get a black background. You can swipe right or left to change the picture, but there is no easy way to zoom in (like double tapping, etc).

Pressing on the grid in the upper right corner, we get some options – we can email the picture, trash it, start a slideshow, etc.

And here we are zoomed in 200%.

The V900 can act as an FM transmitter to presumably broadcast music/etc to, say, a car stereo. Unfortunately, I could never test this feature. Every time I would change the band to USA, the application would exit! Even after numberous resets, the same thing happened. Rediculous.

And then we have the FM tuner. All WinMo devices that have an FM tuner make you plug in the headphones to get reception. But since the V900 had an external antenna, you can just pull that out.

The radio application will scan the airwaves to find the clearest stations. This worked very well!

I couldn’t do much testing – or any testing – with the TV viewer, because we don’t have T-DMB/DAB/DVB-T/DVB-H support in the US.

And finally, Namecard Manager is supposed to be a program that lets you snap pictures of text and business cards and have them converted to digital text – but it didn’t work very well for me. The program was slow and difficult to use.

Further down the list in Programs is the Utilities folder.

    This is neat. When you first start up the V900, it asks you if you want to install…well, everything you see here. If you hit no, you can still go back, with the Application Recovery program, and reinstall items selectively. That’s a good way to keep the device clean and not load it up with junk that E-TEN thinks you should install, but only what you find useful.

The backup utility is basic.

    Look at this! Because Windows Mobile devices’ program memory gets full over time, you can have the V900 reset itself once a day to get a fresh start. At first I thought this was a silly idea, but after I reasoned that it may indeed be a good way to keep the device running fast, it made sense. Yikes, E-TEN should polish their included applications before deploying them. Look at that placement of the comma on the second part of the screen!

Flip on over the next page where we’ll cover the interesting device settings, plus review the camera quality with sample shots.

The Communications Manager features finger-friendly buttons.

Here we are in settings. There’s nothing too interesting in the Personal tab.

On the System tab, there are some unique entries: Contrast and Gravity Sensor.

Moving the slider, I really couldn’t tell much of a difference of the contrast on the screen.

From the Gravity Sensor setting you can turn the function on and off, plus change its sensitivity. The Exceptions button is a good addition…

From here you can select which programs that the G Sensor

shouldn’t

work in. The Samsung Omnia should have this! That said, the G Sensor didn’t work right all the time. More on that on the next page.

The 128MB of RAM doesn’t seem to be enough. We only have 40MB remaining with just ActiveSync and Pocket Controller running.

    And here are the settings for the TV-Out. The cables included are the analogue red/white/yellow composite cables, so don’t expect amazing image quality. But if you’re using it to show the family a slideshow with music on a big screen, it’s alright. The maximum output resolution is around that of VGA.

And in the connections tab, we have something called Connection Wizard.

Connection Wizard seems like a good idea – as it’ll load the settings for any carrier, except that it didn’t work, and I had to manually enter the settings for AT&T USA to get the data connection going.



Take a look at this video that illustrates some features that I’ve written about.

CAMERA

    The camera application features small cryptic icons that are difficult to use. For example, to change the image size to the highest resolution, you have to cycle through all of the other resolutions to get to the one you want. Instead there should be a pop down menu.

Here is an outdoor shot taken at max 3.1MP resolution. The image is clear, but noisy when you view the large version.

Color reproduction was generally good.

The camera didn’t perform well at taking macros, even when using the flash.

Click on to the next page as we wrap up the review with a note on performance, battery life, and talk about all the Cons of the device.

BENCHMARKS

   Spb Benchmark from has been used for the
following benchmark comparisons with the E-TEN Glofiish V900.

These benchmarks are a good representation of performance: the V900 is a very fast Windows Mobile device, thanks to its speedy 533MHz Samsung CPU.

BATTERY
    You’d think that 1530mAh was enough to get through the whole day, but it really isn’t. With moderate use of HSDPA for internet browsing, plus some use of GPS, and a few calls, at the end of the day, I was about 15% battery remaining. Another phone call, and I may have drained the battery around dinner time. Perhaps by turning down the screen brightness you could squeeze a few more hours out of the V900 (though I had it set to auto-brightness), but as far as I’m concerned, the V900 has inadequate battery life. This may be remedied in a new ROM.

HELP SUPPORT

    The guide that comes with the V900 isn’t terribly comprehensive. The company is responsive to email.

BUGS AND WISHES

    Lots to talk about here. Let’s start with the bugs. I’ve been in communication with the company regarding these bugs – and they don’t seem to have many answers. My guess is that I received one of the earliest units, meaning that future shipping models will have a newer ROM. That said, I can’t be sure of that, so I have to comment on the current ROM.

    The device, at times, was very buggy. For example, sometimes it wouldn’t come out of standby, requiring you to take out the battery. Other times, the device would become unresponsive during use, thus requiring a soft reset (which make me glad the hole is placed within easy reach!).

    Regarding build quality, the Glofiish V900 doesn’t hit the mark. If I shake the device, I hear a slight rattle. The D-Pad feels like a hollow piece of plastic. All of the buttons on the device rock slightly back and forth and are made of plastic. Speaking of plastic, there is no metal to be found on the device, and so it feels cheap. E-TEN needs to take a lesson from HTC and Samsung and step up the quality a bit.

    Speaking of that D-Pad, never have I used such a cumbersome selection tool! Not having a good D-Pad makes one-handed usage difficult. The D-Pad on the V900 doesn’t present the user with any sort of feedback that they’ve moved in a certain direction – not so much as a click or a feeling of falling into a "notch" is present.

    The G-Sensor is a great addition, especially since it works in any screen in the operating system, and it rotates the orientation very, very fast. Too bad it doesn’t work right all the time. What would happen is that I’d rotate the device to landscape, and suddenly, it’d be stuck on this setting. I’d literally have to go into Start>Settings>Screen, change the default orientation to portrait, and then turn off the G-Sensor and turn it back on.

    A device that has no hardware keyboard ought to have good onscreen keyboard options. The Glofiish has just one – called Easy Keyboard, which is a horrible name for a keyboard that doesn’t even have a standard QWERTY layout in portrait. While on ease of use, the Glofiish is widely lacking in touch enhancements except for the use of Spb Mobile Shell, which we like. There is no flick scrolling, large menu buttons, or as implied above, usable on screen keyboard options. Perhaps E-TEN wasn’t aiming for the V900 to be a device that could be operated with a finger – but the lack of hardware soft keys doesn’t align well with that theory.

    The web browser that the Glofiish includes is Pocket Internet Explorer. Admittedly, PIE in Windows Mobile 6.1 is better than it is in the previous version because it allows you to zoom, but it’s still generally unusable for more complex pages. Newer WinMo devices are coming with Opera. Why shouldn’t the V900? Another corner cut.

    And the price. Wow, E-TEN, if you’re going to cut corners and make this sort of "budget power device" (new term!), price it lower than $700. Of course, the price will come down after a short period of time.

PURCHASING

    As of the writing of this review, pre orders for the V900 are being taken. Right now you can get it unlocked for about $700 over at Clove Technology.




PROS

  • Very responsive (most of the time)

  • Crisp VGA screen with fast automatic screen rotation

  • Quadband GSM/Triband UMTS

  • Hot-swappable microSD expansion


  • Includes Spb Mobile Shell


  • Video-out (with cable included)

  • TV tuner for over the air broadcasts in Europe and parts of Asia
  • Excellent FM radio

  • Includes case and extra stylus


  • aGPS/WiFi/FM Radio/HSDPA

CONS


  • Poor build quality


  • Buggy


  • Inadequate battery life


  • D-Pad is difficult to use


  • Unattractive and bulky


  • Screen rotation feature doesn’t always work


  • Horrible on-screen keyboard options


  • Very few touch-friendly enhancements (flick scrolling, large menus, etc)


  • No good web browser included


  • No screen protector included


  • Pricey

Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    E-TEN has come very far since the days of the X500 and X800. This is by far their best device. But in a world where one device doesn’t exist without being compared to others, the V900 isn’t a winner. It’s a shame that the V900 isn’t a winner, because it has a lot of great things going for it: it’s fast, does TV out, has an accelerometer and very quick automatic screen rotation, can do over the air TV, and has fantastic FM radio reception. It’s the coming together of all of these elements that just doesn’t work, plus all of the little bugs listed above. The device looks and feels cheap, unrefined, and not worth $700. If E-TEN is going to survive in a world with HTC Touch Diamonds and Samsung Omnias, they need to go back to the drawing board and stop producing partially baked devices.

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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.