If you've read our review of T-Mobile's MDA Compact III you may get a sense of déjà vu with O2's XDA Orbit, as the devices look similar and share many features. But the Orbit is the first XDA model to come with built-in GPS and bundled navigation software, so T-Mobile needs to start watching its back and keeping a close eye on what O2 is up to.
The XDA Orbit is a nifty Pocket PC with loads of good features built in, and depending on your chosen O2 tariff you can get it for prices that range from free to £199.99.
We're talking unassuming black with silver flourishes here. The XDA Orbit's overall size and weight shouldn't trouble many pockets or bags.
Like other small-format Windows Mobile Pocket PCs, the Orbit seems to be all screen, with the touch-sensitive display taking up a good three quarters of the available front space. The upside of this is that the 240x320-pixel resolution makes it clear to read, and this is going to matter -- this pocket gizmo has loads of different things to show you, some of it pretty complex.
The downside is that there isn't room for a proper pad for number dialling. Like many Pocket PCs, you need to tap the green Call key under the screen, then tap at the screen itself to dial numbers or access speed dials.
Other front-facing buttons include a shortcut to Internet Explorer and one that starts the built-in GPS antenna running as well as a pair of softmenu buttons.
The best part is the combination of a miniature trackball and a wheel, where you would normally expect to see a navigation button. This is the same combination used in the T-Mobile MDA Compact III and we like it a lot.
The trackball is particularly good. It lights up a lovely blue when in use -- yes, it's purely aesthetic, but we love it -- and you can use it to scroll around the screen quickly, both vertically and horizontally, pressing it to make selections. Sure, you could tap the screen, but the trackball is more fun. The wheel is a vertical scroller, and this is easy enough to use too.
A few side buttons extend the range of things you can do readily. On the upper-left edge is one that when held down lets you record a voice note and when pressed lightly activates voice speed dial. Beneath this is a volume rocker. On the right edge there's the main on/off switch and a camera control button.
The XDA Orbit is a quad-band handset with GPRS. Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are built in, which means you can use it with your home Wi-Fi network or a hotspot to access the Internet and check email. There's a button on the touchscreen that lets you easily turn both flavours of wireless communications on and off individually.
Just like the T-Mobile MDA Compact III, there's an FM radio built in. Six of its 20 preset stations can be chosen by tapping at the radio's main screen, with the rest accessible from a simple menu option. The radio is superb, but it grates that you have to use the provided headset as an antenna. This is far from unusual, but the headset uses the same mini-USB connector as the mains power and PC connection cable, so you can't use your favourite 3.5mm headset to improve the sound quality, or use the radio while charging the battery.
The built-in GPS antenna is not good for much without navigation software, so you'll be pleased to learn that O2 gives you the software as part of the deal. It's the excellent CoPilot software from ALK.
On the downside, there's no flash or autofocus to accompany the built-in 2.0-megapixel camera, but it manages to take pictures of reasonable quality in most conditions. Like many of its competitors, the XDA Orbit takes better outdoor photos than indoor.
It's the norm to be able to expand on a Windows Mobile Pocket PC's built-in memory with flash memory cards, and in this case microSD cards are the chosen format. The memory card slot is hidden away under the SIM card, which is itself under the battery, making it very fiddly indeed to swap cards.
We had no trouble making calls with the XDA Orbit and call quality was fine. Web browsing is a more positive experience than on many phones, thanks to the larger-format screen.
The battery life was very impressive. O2 quotes 190 hours standby and up to five hours talk. On a continuous music playback test, we got just a shade under 10 hours of music, which is very good going for a Pocket PC. In general use, we certainly didn't feel the need to keep charging the battery every day.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide