Fareed's HTC Excalibur reviewFareed Mahdi - Cell Phone Editor
HTC has done it again, introducing their first one-handed QWERTY Smartphone: the HTC Excalibur. The Excalibur is also known as the T-Mobile DASH and the HTC S620. The S620 is a direct competitor of the Motorola Q but offers a lot more features in a smaller more compact design. The Motorola Q GSM version has still not been released and the S620 may take all of its potential sales. The S620 has Windows Mobile 5, 200 MHz processor, built in Wi-Fi, GPRS and EDGE. The S620 is smaller than the Q and has better battery life too. Is the Excalibur worth getting? Should you renew your contract to get it? Read on to find out!!
The S620 is very small in size. Compared to the Motorola Q, the it is smaller in length but slightly thicker in width. The whole phone has a soft rubber feel and comes in black. The phone was designed very well. One design aspect of this phone I liked a lot is where the expandable memory is located. Usually phone’s expandable memory is either located on the out side or underneath the battery. The Excalibur’s memory card slot is located under the battery cover but not underneath the actual battery. This way the memory card does not ruin the design and looks of the phone. You can insert or remove the memory without turning off the phone and taking out the battery. The S620 has HotSwap capability, meaning you can remove/insert the memory card while the device is on.
The Excalibur is the first Windows mobile phone with a QWERTY keyboard and can be maneuvered by one hand. Other devices like Blackberries and the Motorola Q have a scroll wheel located on the top right hand side of the phone. Instead of putting a normal scroll wheel on the Excalibur, HTC had decided to change the style but not the scroll concept. The HTC Joggr is the new touch sensitive navigation bar. The navigation bar which is located on the right side of the phone, has four buttons. The top button when tapped twice goes back, the next two buttons are up and down scroll, and the last button is to access Outlook email. You use the touch navigation like it was an actual scroll wheel. To scroll down you would touch the top of the touch navigation and slide you thumb downwards, this motion will scroll down. You do the same to scroll up but place your thumb at the bottom of the navigation and slide your thumb upwards. To select something you just tap the navigation bar twice.
The keyboard looks good and the layout is excellent. The buttons are really small and it is sometimes difficult to type fast with. With the small size of the Excalibur the keyboard could not have been much bigger without making the phone bigger. It was a good idea for the rows of the keys to be spaced out because if they weren’t it would be even harder to type with. The keyboard has a shortcut to the camera, internet explorer and messaging. Overall the keyboard is excellent but the buttons may be too small for some.
The bottom of the phone has a mini USB port. The mini USB is used for rapid charging, syncing with your computer and is used for the stereo headphones. The mini USB has a rubber cover for protection when not in use. I liked the concept of the 3.5mm headphone jack that was on the HTC Universal, it is too bad that the new HTC phones all have mini USB for headphones.
The Excalibur has all the basic features that a Windows Smartphone has to offer. The phone has tasks, calendar appointments, alarm clock, games and a lot more. The best part about Windows Mobile is that you can always find small programs to suit your needs. There is a lot of freeware and shareware for Windows Mobile and you can do almost anything.
The S620 has many advanced features. The Bluetooth is version 2.0 and offers many features. The S620 has built in Stereo over Bluetooth (A2DP Profile) and works great for streaming your music wirelessly. Since the Bluetooth version is 2.0 the sound quality over Bluetooth is not only better it does not skip or cut out. The range on the Bluetooth seems longer too. Other Bluetooth programs include the Bluetooth explorer and Bluetooth internet sharing. Bluetooth explorer is an excellent program which lets you go through other people’s device using Bluetooth. The program is still a little buggy and sometimes does not work correctly. This is a great program and hopefully in newer the ROM they will fix the problems. Another new program which has been included is Internet Sharing. Internet Sharing is a program which is similar to the older version “Wireless Modem.” It uses the same concept but adds more features like Bluetooth PAN in which you can use your existing computer internet connection and use internet on your phone.
The Camera on the Excalibur is 1.3 Megapixel and has a small mirror for self-portraits. The camera setup is a lot better than in past devices and even though the camera is only 1.3 megapixel it takes excellent pictures. There is no flash for the camera. The camera program now tells you how many pictures you can still take according to how much free memory there is. There are also other camera programs available for download that have a lot more settings and picture options
Display & AudioDisplay
The Excalibur has a QVGA display of 240x 320 pixels. The display is the exact same resolution as the Motorola Q but is one inch smaller in size. The screen is capable of displaying 65,000 colors. Since the Excalibur is a Smartphone, it does not have a touch screen or stylus. All the new Smartphones have the 240x 320 resolution and there a lot of programs that are being made for this resolution.
The Excalibur is great for listening to music. All the new HTC devices have excellent speakers too. The speaker on the Excalibur is located on the back side and when on full volume is a bit too loud. The Excalibur comes with stereo headphones that plug into the mini-USB located at the bottom side of the phone. It is too bad that HTC decided to go with mini USB on their new devices because I think the 3.5mm headphone jack would have been much better. The Excalibur has built in stereo over Bluetooth and works great with the Sony Ericsson HBH DS970 headphones. The stereo over Bluetooth works great with Windows Media Player but is very limited in other programs.
Messaging, Internet, Storage & ConnectivityEntertainment
The Excalibur is excellent for entertainment. You can watch movies, listen to music, play games and much more. In my opinion with all Windows Mobile phones there is a must have media player called TCPMP. Due to the limited options and features that Windows Media Player offers, TCPMP does an excellent job. With TCPMP you can make your own custom play-lists, assign hardware buttons, adjust audio and video and play almost every kind of format. With the Excalibur you can also download a lot of new games and applications to keep you entertained and busy.
The Excalibur has built in Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, EDGE and GPRS. With the built in Comm manager you can turn the Wi-Fi on and off and see various wireless signal strengths before connecting. With Wi-Fi you can surf the internet with a wireless signal and not pay data charges from your service provider. Since T-Mobile USA released this phone as the T-Mobile DASH, you can use their T-Zones for internet. T-Zones are wireless signals all over the country that you can use for a fast internet connection at a low monthly rate.
The Excalibur also has EDGE and GPRS. The internet with your service provider’s data connection can be fairly fast if they offer EDGE. With EDGE you can surf the internet at rates of up to 237 kbps. Using EDGE you can also have access to Microsoft’s Push Email service. The Windows Mobile Push Email is almost the same as Blackberry’s Push email. With Push Email you can receive instant emails from your account, no matter where you are. If you are not planning to use Wi-Fi and use internet from your service provider, it is always a good idea to get a data plan.
The HTC Excalibur has 64 Mb RAM and 128 MB ROM. With the Windows OS on the device there is about 40 Mb of free space but different versions may have more or less. The Excalibur has expandable memory via Micro SD (Trans Flash). Sandisk has just released 2 GB Micro SD so this is good news for the new HTC devices because all the new devices have Micro SD slots. The memory card is located underneath the battery cover but not under the actual battery. I like this concept because the slot is not located on the outside which ruins the look, and it is not underneath the battery so hotswap is possible.
The S620 has GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. If your service provider offers EDGE it is a good idea to get a data plan. On this device you can setup Push Email service and using Wi-Fi may not always be an option. With internet connection you can receive real time emails when on the go. The S620 does not have GPS built in however you can buy a Bluetooth GPS receiver.
Overall I like the HTC Excalibur a lot. In pictures it doesn’t look as good as it does in your hand. The phone is a lot smaller than many people think and you can only tell when you see it for yourself.
This device is a direct competitor with the Motorola Q, but which is actually better? The Q might be a little thinner but at the same time is bigger in length. Although Motorola was first at designing this concept, there taking to long to release the GSM version. Even if Motorola were to release the Motorola Q today, the Excalibur has taken the spotlight. Compared to the Q the S620 offers Wi-Fi, Quad-band GSM and longer battery life.
The keyboard is little on the small side and sometimes can be difficult to type with. Unfortunately the buttons on the keyboard are also very small and it does take time getting used. Overall the device is very small so the keyboard could not have been much bigger.
Overall the Phone is great. It has excellent reception, excellent battery life and the new OS offers a lot more features. I like the design concept of the integrated scroll navigation bar but different versions of the phone may be different.
T-Mobile is offering this phone for only $199.99 with contract and $350 retail. At this price this phone is a steal. If you’re looking to extend your contract and get a new toy, look no further.