If you are keen to try navigation but not necessarily keen to buy dedicated navigation kit, your other option is to tag route-planning capability onto a smart phone or PDA. The ideal in this situation is to choose kit with GPS already built in. That'll save you the bother of carrying a separate GPS antenna and it'll give you true all-in-one navigation.
The latest example of such kit to cross our path is E-TEN's strangely named glofiish X500.
At £429 from Expansys, the glofiish X500 isn't a pocket-money toy, and you will have to allow for route-planning software on top of that, but it does do just about everything a Pocket PC with built-in navigation could be expected to do.
E-TEN says the glofiish X500 is the world's thinnest Pocket PC phone, GPS and Wi-Fi device. That may be true, but we wouldn't suggest you buy on that basis alone -- something thinner is sure to come along fairly soon. For the record, the glofiish X500 measures 60mm by 113mm by 16mm and weighs 146g.
The glofiish X500 is an attractive slate grey colour, with buttons ranged around the screen and designed to look slightly '70's retro -- we rather like it. The buttons glow a mix of blue, green and red when one is pressed, and in the dark they look rather appealing.
Buttons which start the GPS running and link to the Windows Mobile Home screen are above the main display, and beneath it are Call and End buttons and two softkeys. Dragged a few millimetres down from this bottom set of buttons is the navigation key. This is a little more awkward to use than some, but you are likely to spend most of your time prodding at the touchscreen rather than using this key anyway.
The screen measures 71mm corner to corner, which is on a par with other current Pocket PCs. It delivers 240x320 pixels and 65k colours -- again, nothing special screen-wise, but perfectly acceptable nonetheless.
Around the edges are a few buttons and slots. On the bottom is the mains power slot, which doubles up for PC synchronising, and you'll also find the memory expansion slot here. On the left side are two buttons for adjusting volume and one that lets you make a voice recording, as well as the 2.5mm slot for the provided stereo headset. The right edge is where you'll find the main power switch and a button for using the built-in camera.
While there is nothing outstanding about the general design of the glofiish X500, the overall effect is quite neat and tidy.
The E-TEN glofiish X500 is a quad-band phone with GPRS support. Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are built in -- we'd have liked infrared too, but that is not offered.
There is 128MB of ROM built in, and our review unit had just over 50MB free for programs and data fresh out of its box. You can add to this with microSD cards. The uncovered but easily accessible microSD slot is, as we noted earlier, on the bottom edge of the casing.
There's a 2-megapixel camera with its own minute LED flash and a small self-portrait mirror. When you press the camera side button the screen becomes a viewfinder and around the edges of the screen, framing your shot as you line it up, is a series of large icons you can tap to alter settings. Making quick alterations to things like image size, colour effects and use of the self-timer is therefore very easy.
E-TEN generally peppers its Pocket PCs with add-on software and the list provided with the glofiish X500 is long. Among the extras we are pleased to see an FM radio, which is still something of a rarity in Pocket PCs.
E-TEN, however, has made one of its few mistakes by not catering for 3.5mm headsets. The provided headset has a 2.5mm jack and you have to use this as the radio antenna. We’d have liked a two-piece headset allowing you to use your own 3.5mm headphones.
Among the library of extra software is a replacement for the Windows Mobile Today screen that uses tabbed sections to provide access to programs and settings via big, tappable icons. Or, if you prefer, you can add tappable icons to the Today Screen itself using another of the bundled applications.
There are a couple of useful extras on the phone, including Call Filter, which lets you set up 'allow lists' and 'blacklists' -- handy when you only want to take calls from your nearest and dearest.
As for the GPS antenna, you can get a fix on your location and then send that location information via an SMS using pre-defined texts. E-TEN should have got someone with a grasp of English to check out its pre-set SMS texts as there are plenty of errors in them, but you can edit them to suit your own needs.
There are a few utilities for messing with images and a backup utility among the other extras.
We had no problem making and receiving calls with the glofiish X500. We did find the touchscreen a little unresponsive at times, though, and not just when using speed dial or the tappable on-screen numberpad.
The battery was very impressive, giving just over ten hours of continuous music from a full charge with the screen forced to stay on. This bodes well for those wanting to use the glofiish X500 for music and radio listening, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or GPS away from mains power.
Thanks to Expansys for providing a review sample of this phone.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield