Acer's purchase of handheld specialist E-TEN earlier this year has done nothing to stem the flow of devices, most of them impressively feature-packed. The spec sheet for the Glofiish V900 includes two noteworthy items: a digital TV tuner and an FM radio receiver. These sit alongside a comprehensive range of other features to provide what has to be the best-equipped handheld on the market. It's available, SIM-free, for around £600.
The Glofiish V900 is something of a wolf in sheep's clothing: it's staid of design and build and looks more like a mid-range device than an all-singing, all-dancing handheld.
The mostly black outer casing is bland enough, although the fascia's shiny finish is slightly more glitzy looking. Thankfully it's not the kind of piano-black finish that collects fingerprints. The backplate has a matte finish to make it easier to grip. The general build quality is good, but not outstanding.
There are just two buttons on the front, for Call and End functions. In between them sits a mini-joystick, which we found frustrating to use. It wasn't particularly responsive and, as with other mini-joysticks, it felt awkward under the thumb. We far prefer a D-pad.
The V900 is quite heavy at 147g and thick, too, at 18mm -- particularly as it lacks a slide-out keyboard. But E-TEN has kept the other dimensions in check: 106mm high and 61mm wide -- and remember, there is a lot of technology inside the shell. The screen measures 71mm (2.8 inches) across the diagonal and has a native resolution of 640x480 pixels (VGA).
There are few shortcut buttons around the edges of the device. On the left is a volume rocker and a button that launches the voice control software on a short press and starts the voice recorder when held down. The right edge carries the power button and a controller for the camera, as well as the reset hole and a microSD card slot.
There's a mini-USB connector on the bottom edge for power and PC connectivity, as well as the 2.5mm headset jack.
The Glofiish V900 ships with an AC adaptor, a book jacket-style carrying case with belt clip, stereo earbuds with three different-sized rubber in-ear fittings, a spare stylus, USB and TV-out cables, a printed quick-start guide and a software CD.
Despite the V900's 533MHz Samsung S3C 6400 processor, we found our review sample a little slow to respond to keystrokes and screen presses at times. There is 256MB of flash ROM and 128MB of SDRAM. After a hard reset, our review sample reported 110MB of free storage memory. When you first take the V900 out of its box, you are given the option to install whichever of the bundled applications you choose. We opted for everything, which used up a fair chunk of memory. You can add more storage memory via the microSD card slot if need be.
The operating system is Windows Mobile 6.1, which comes with Office Mobile -- including OneNote Mobile. Internet Explorer is preinstalled for web browsing, although Opera's mobile browser is far superior.
The V900 is a quad-band GSM handset with GPRS/EDGE and 3G/HSDPA support. There's a front-facing camera for video calling and a 3-megapixel camera at the back with a small LED flash and a tiny self-portrait mirror. The main camera can be used alongside one of the bundled applications, Namecard Manager, to scan business cards and then convert them into entries in the contacts database. We tried this with a few sample business cards and it worked well enough.
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) is integrated, along with Bluetooth (2.0+EDR) and GPS. There's no point-to-point navigation software preinstalled, but the GPS receiver can be used with two of the included applications: GPS Viewer reports your latitude and longitude, while Location SMS lets you send a text message with your latitude and longitude embedded. We've seen both applications before.
The Glofiish has FM radio and also an FM transmitter that can send a signal to an FM receiver such as the radio in your car. This could prove useful for listening to podcasts or other recorded material. The FM radio uses the same 175mm telescopic antenna as the TV tuner, which means you don't have to use the provided headphones -- you can listen through the device's loudspeaker if you want.
The antenna's main task, though, is to receive TV signals, which it does over DVB-T in the UK, giving access to 70 TV and radio channels. We had mixed results with this in our tests. When stationary, we got near-continuous TV reception, with just the occasional lost signal resulting in a short (and mildly irritating) gap in transmission. However, when we tried it on the move we were distinctly unimpressed: in the back of a car travelling on normal city roads the signal was too broken up to be of any use.
It's a shame the V900 doesn't have a stand of any kind. We had to prop it up against something or hold it in the hand to get a good viewing angle. When it worked, the TV picture quality was good and the internal speaker delivered enough volume.
Other applications include a gravity sensor that will rotate the screen as you twist the device in your hand. This is hardly a novel idea, but what is novel is that you can disable it for any installed application simply by going through a ticklist. You can also change the sensitivity, although we found it worked best on the 'high' setting.
E-TEN has added to the Windows Mobile Today screen with its own launcher bar offering large icons for applications and settings. The look may be too clunky for professional users, but you can disable it. You can add or exclude various other shortcuts, including weather and contacts. If you choose all the options, you'll need to scroll through the Today screen items.
An alternative is a version of SPB Mobile Shell, which offers a different take on an HTC TouchFLO-style tabbed Today screen. This lets you sweep the screen left to right with a finger to move between your favourite contacts, a grid of application shortcuts and a calendar view with shortcuts to weather, messaging and missed calls. There are some 3D-style animations that kick in when you make some selections but, as with all interfaces of this kind, you eventually end up back in Windows Mobile 6.1's standard UI.
You get a TV-out cable in the box, meaning you can look anything from your V900 on bigger, more satisfying screen.
We were disappointed that the V900 occasionally took a while to respond to screen taps, although at other times it ran smoothly. We've also noted the patchy digital TV reception, especially when on the move.
Battery life proved adequate. From a full charge we got 3.75 hours of TV watching. After a further full recharge we got nearly 5.5 hours of music playback. The latter result does not put the V900 in the vanguard of Windows Mobile devices we've tested, but it's a respectable showing for such a well-featured handheld.
The Glofiish V900's unique selling point is its TV capability, so it's unfortunate that our experience was so mixed. This poor performance when on the move -- which is when some discreet TV time might be most useful -- might prove a turn-off. It works reasonably well when stationary, however.
Otherwise, the V900 is a well-specified handheld, although some professional users might find both the software and hardware design lacking in business gravitas. Finally, the mini-joystick is a mistake: a D-pad would be preferable.
Edited by Marian Smith