Searching for a handheld computer that is small, light and practical enough to double as a mobile phone is a bit like deciding whether to take punt on England winning the World Cup -- heart says it can happen, head refuses to agree. But now they can both agree, on the handheld computer side of things at least, if you plump for Orange's new SPV M600. This is a Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC that supports SIM cards. Nothing ground-breaking there, but it is all squeezed into hardware small enough to work ergonomically as a mobile phone.
The SPV M600 is exclusive to Orange and is available at £99.99 on tariffs between £25 and £39.99; it's free on tariffs over £40.
The SPV M600 is a smaller format Pocket PC, like the MDA Vario from T-Mobile. It's actually almost the same size as the MDA Vario when laid flat, but it's considerably thinner as it lacks the slide out keyboard -- 18mm as opposed to 24mm.
These few millimetres mean the SPV M600 is both easier to pocket and lighter to carry. Its 150g might seem like a lot when compared to mobile phones, but the additional features more than make up for the extra 50g or so in your pocket.
The front of the SPV M600 is almost all screen, which measures 71mm diagonally and delivers 240x320 pixels of information at you. The screen is touch sensitive -- a major win over Windows Mobile Smartphones that don't have touch-sensitive screens.
The stylus lives in a housing on the top-right edge of the casing. You can use this to make selections from the screen, or with the built-in tappable keyboard or handwriting recognition. You can also prod at the screen with your fingers, useful, for example, when dialling phone numbers. And a third option for working with the SPV M600 is to use the navigation wheel and softkey buttons which sit underneath the screen. This is also where you'll find the Call and End keys.
You charge and synchronise with a PC using a mini USB connector on the bottom edge of the SPV M600, and this is also where the connector for the provided headset is found. We'd rather this was on the top next to the SD card slot, and also prefer it if it were 3.5mm, rather than 2.5mm in size.
When you are making voice calls you hold the SPV M600 to your ear just as you would a normal phone. When you are using it 'PDA style' you'll find the various buttons fall neatly under the fingers in both two-handed and one-handed mode.
Orange includes a protective case, stereo headset and PC synchronising /charge cable with the SPV M600, as well as the software you need to synchronise with a PC.
Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Phone Edition is the base software inside the SPV M600. It has AKU 2.0 pre-installed. Don't worry too much about the technical jargon -- it basically means that companies can use the 'push email' system they have with Exchange Server 2003 Second Edition to send email directly out to the device.
For the rest of us, EDGE is probably more interesting. EDGE is a network standard Orange is gradually rolling out to 1500 sites this year, and the idea is that it will provide up to three times the data speed of GPRS for no extra cost. It should be a benefit if you can't get, or don't want to buy, a handset with 3G support. Handsets have to be EDGE enabled to take advantage -- not many are, but the SPV M600 does have this feature.