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Dopod P800W

Design
Dopod's P800W isn't an unattractive smartphone by any stretch of the imagination, but we still couldn't think of any description to put on it that was better than describing it as the Frankenstein's Monster of smartphones. Not because it has a ghastly green hue, or is covered in stitches and bolts, but simply because there are so many small parts of its design that instantly remind you of other phones with different capabilities. It's essentially a touchpad-driven phone unit with a large 2.8-inch (7.1cm) QVGA display screen -- par for the course -- that sits above a very Blackberry-Pearl-esque trackball. The rear of the P800W houses a 2-megapixel camera, and like the Navman N40i, it's possible to use this in conjunction with the P800W's embedded GPS receiver to embed co-ordinates into your photographs.

The entire phone body is encased in smooth feeling silver-grey plastic -- Dopod refers to it as "Iron Grey" -- and with a size of only 108 x 58 x 16.8mm, this is a small and sleek smartphone, reminiscent of the more high fashion designs of phone houses such as Nokia or Motorola. Keeping with the Frankenstien motif, the P800W's stylus feels like it's come straight from the mad doctor's surgery; it's the sharpest PDA stylus we've ever used, and a danger to eyeballs everywhere.

 

Features
The P800W runs on a Texas Instruments OMAP 850 processor with 64MB of RAM and 128MB of ROM. User data can be stored internally or via a microSD card, although irritatingly, the card slot lives underneath the battery, so it's fiddly and difficult to change cards on the fly. The P800W's embedded digital camera has a 2-megapixel sensor and a number of photographic modes in common with most other camera-enabled Windows Mobile devices -- or in other words, it can play some pretty camera tricks, but you're still not going to become Lord Lichfield with it.

The GPS chipset within the P800W is the de rigueur SirfSTAR III. On the phone side, the P800W is a quad-band GSM handset (850/900/1800/1900MHz) with nary a 3G capability in sight. On the wireless data front, it supports Bluetooth v2.0 and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi.

Performance
The P800W comes with a meaty 1200mAh battery that Dopod rates for up to five hours of talktime and up to 200 hours of standby time. Given that the P800W's usage patterns can vary widely, depending on how much you're using the wireless and GPS functions, we weren't expecting wonderful results from the phone, and were pleased to find Dopod's figures mostly accurate; on a light usage week we'd manage the full seven days in-between recharges, while heavy Wi-Fi and GPS use dropped those figures rather alarmingly.

On the Windows Mobile front, the P800W felt a little sluggish in operation -- we got very, very used to looking at the scrolling colour wheel while waiting for applications to load. That's a purely relative factor; if you're new to the smartphone market you probably wouldn't notice it, but compared to snappier smartphone models -- with perhaps the exception of the even more sluggish Treo 680 -- the P800W feels a touch turgid in operation.

We've perhaps become spoilt by all of the recent GPS units we've looked at -- such as the Mio A701, Navman N40i and Garmin Nuvi 310 -- that have upped the ante as far as GPS triangulation is concerned. We were pretty disappointed therefore in the P800W's synchronisation capabilities; despite using the same SirfStar III chipset as its competitors, we never once managed to clock in with a GPS signal that was useful in under three minutes, and sometimes as long as ten minutes had to pass. This also essentially cripples the GPS-photo capability, as aside from popping out of the car and taking a photo then and there, you've got to have a lot of patience to take GPS co-ordinate embedded pictures.

There's another larger strike against the P800W's GPS capabilities that needs bearing in mind, however; this is the only GPS-enabled smartphone we've tested in recent memory that doesn't in fact come with GPS software on the phone or in the box. Read that again, just to make sure it sinks in -- it's a GPS smartphone -- and at $1,329, it's not even a particularly cheap smartphone -- that requires you to sink extra dollars into purchasing a separate Windows Mobile compatible GPS package before you can actually make use of that function.

For the purposes of review, Dopod representatives provided us with a copy of Maction's PaPaGO!V7 mapping software. It worked acceptably, although annoyingly we couldn't work out a way to integrate the Dopod's camera/GPS capabilities with PaPaGO; if you're after a seamless camera/GPS combination, we'd suggest the Navman N40i/N60i instead. Ultimately, while the Frankenstein approach of appropriating design and feature elements from other phones gives the Dopod a lot of appeal in the pure functionality stakes, and its slim form factor does make it a player in the style race, the overall poor performance -- and complete lack of a supplied GPS software solution -- make the P800W a less than enticing prospect.

 

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