O2's first xda hit the headlines in June 2002. A lot has happened in the handheld computing world since then, but O2 has found that the xda design and branding works well, and has boosted the product range over time. Late in 2003 came the xda II, which internalised the original antenna and boosted the specifications. Earlier this year we saw the xda IIs with its slide-out keyboard. The latest member of the family is the xda IIi.
In design terms, the xda IIi echoes the classic xda format. As a direct descendent of the first connected Pocket PC to hit the UK, its arrangement of buttons retains the ergonomics of the original. It also retains one of the key annoyances: the headset jack is still on the bottom right edge, where, when used with a handsfree kit for voice calls, the jack is easily jarred in a pocket or bag.
In size and weight terms the xda IIi is almost unchanged from its immediate predecessor, the xda II. At 69 by 130 by 19.9mm it matches the xda II precisely, while its 200g weight adds just 10g to the earlier model. There is a digital cameral built in, with a dedicated camera button on the left edge of the device, along with volume button and a shortcut to the built-in Notes software.
The xda IIi has a 520MHz Intel PXA 272 processor, and 128MB of RAM, of which 93.9MB was available to share between programs and storage on our device. There is an additional 59.7MB of Flash memory available from the 128MB ROM, making a total of 153MB of available memory. In addition, there's an SDIO-compliant SD card slot for expansion.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are both present (the xda II only offered Bluetooth), each accessible via their own icons on the main screen. A third icon sitting alongside allows you to rotate the screen into landscape format, thereby making use of one of the important features of the second edition of Windows Mobile for Pocket PC Phone Edition. Continuous taps of this icon align the landscape screen for right- and left-handed users, before returning to portrait format.
The built-in camera has been upgraded to 1.3 megapixels, and can now shoot stills at resolutions up to 960x1,280 pixels (and also at 480x640, 240x320 and 120x 60). Video capture is available at 240x320, 144x176 and 96x128. There are separate camera setting choices for MMS video (offering a variety of sizes and both MPEG-4 and H.263 formats) and for photos to use with the supplied Photo Contacts software. The camera incorporates a range of ambiance settings and there is also a 'picture theme' option that throws a frame around any image you shoot.
Much of the provided software matches what came with the xda II. The ClearVue PDF and PowerPoint readers are on the ROM, as is the aforementioned Photo Contacts application and a MIDLet Manager for running JAVA applications. Windows Media Player is upgraded to version 10 -- still a rarity on handhelds at the moment. xBackup and a wireless modem tool round off the bundled suite.
The phone module is still tri-band GSM with GPRS, and the screen retains the 89mm diagonal size, 16-bit colour depth and 240x320-pixel resolution of the xda II.
O2 also retains its O2 Active screen, which provides quick links to connected applications and tools, as well as the standard Today screen notification of upcoming appointments and tasks, unread email, SMS and MMS messages, and a battery status monitor. We have always found this extremely useful -- and as it simplifies the use of connected services, it's no doubt a good revenue driver for O2. But if you don’t like O2 Active, it's easy to switch to the standard Today screen using the Today option on the Start menu.
When using the xda IIi it's easy to see why there has been no tinkering with the general ergonomics. It works well, both as a handheld and for connected communications (except for that awkwardly located headset jack).
O2 claims 4 hours of talk time, 168 hours on standby and up to 15 hours use in handheld mode (with the GSM radio turned off). Our battery rundown test, which involves turning the GSM radio off and looping MP3 music with the screen forced to stay on, achieved a total of 4 hours and 38 minutes of battery life, with 3 hours and 48 minutes of this delivering music. There is a processor speed control option available, and we ran our test under 'standard mode' rather than 'turbo mode'. For the record, this same test delivered 4 hours and 31 minutes when we ran it for our xda II review.
Editied by Charles McLellan
Additional editing by Tom Espiner