Thursday, June 8, 2006
The HTC Star Trek: Thin is In
Posted by Jason Dunn in "HARDWARE" @ 08:00 AM
Software Glitches That Will Hopefully Be Fixed
The HTC Star Trek contains the typical glitches from Windows Mobile applications - settings not configured properly. For some odd reason, Microsoft doesn't set a cache size limit for Internet Explorer Mobile � they leave it up to their OEM/ODM partners to set a reasonable limit. The net result? No one sets a limit and you have an Internet cache that grows and grows, eventually grinding the device to a halt, and the end user has no idea why his device is so sluggish. After two weeks, the cache on my phone was at nearly 4 MB. You definitely want to have a cache on bandwidth-limited phones, but 1 MB would be plenty. Can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine with Windows Mobile?
Another glitch that I assume will be fixed in the final shipping product is that pressing the power button briefly should bring up the profile selector � this is the only fast way to put the phone into silent mode. On the HTC Star Trek, pressing the power button has no effect. So in order to get the phone into silent mode, you have to go Start > Settings > Profiles > Silent. This issue would be eliminated entirely if Microsoft finally adopted the universal standard for adjusting the volume of the ringer: the volume buttons. On every phone out there, if you're not in a call, the volume buttons change the ringer volume, and allow you to turn the ringer off or put the phone into silent mode. On Windows Mobile Smartphones, the volume buttons change the earpiece volume�when you're not even in a call. It's not logical, it's not normal for a phone, and in the case of a flip phone, putting the phone into silent mode requires you to open the phone and likely use two hands. Sure, Smartphones have sophisticated profiles that go beyond what "dumbphones" can do, but my wife can put her simplistic Samsung phone into silent mode a lot faster than I can with my fancy Smartphone.
So What's It Like As A Phone?
First and foremost, Windows Mobile Smartphones are designed to be phones. How does the HTC Star Trek perform in this regard? I'd say very nicely. The ring volume is loud enough, it answers quickly when you open the flip, and you can see who's calling and punt the call directly to voicemail without even opening the phone. It does seem to be slightly quieter than other phones in terms of microphone reception, but I haven't had people complain they couldn't hear me. I don't use a Bluetooth headset, or Bluetooth headphones, so I can't speak to the functionality of this phone in that regard. It's nice to finally see support for Bluetooth stereo headphones come in a phone out of the box and not be a "wait months for it" scenario all previous generation phones offered.
I haven't talked about the screen much, but it's bright and vibrant with strong contrast. It's 2.2 inches in size, and when combined with the 320 x 240 resolution, displays text and graphics very crisply. Fonts are smooth, almost as nice as the VGA screen on my Jasjar - icons look a bit jagged though. The backlight is the high-power, maximum brightness variety that sucks battery life, so thankfully you can configure it to time out after 5, 10, 15, 30, 60 seconds, or never. The display will go from low power (dim) mode to completely off after 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 30, 60 minutes, or never. There's also a light sensor that turns on the keyboard backlight � this can be turned off in the settings if you never want to have it come on.
And The Camera? Well, More of the Same
I've yet to be impressed by any camera in a phone, and this phone is no different. It's 1.3 megapixels, resulting in images 1280 x 1024 pixels in resolution, but as you can see with this sample picture I took indoors under fluorescent lighting, the quality isn't great. There's a saying that the best camera you have is the one you have on you, but I honestly don't feel like I'm carrying a camera when I have the HTC Star Trek on me. It lacks a flash, is essentially useless in low light scenarios, and has a very slow shutter lag, making it horribly awkward to take photos of people with.
I will say that the camera software has evolved nicely, allowing for adjustment of exposure by +2/-2 stops, a self timer (though I can't imagine how you'd use this), several photo modes (greyscale, sepia, cool). There's also a "frame" mode where the camera will wrap a cutesy frame around your image. I've read announcements from Samsung boasting of a 10 megapixel sensor in a camera phone, but this is much less about the megapixels and more about the sensor size (camera phones have small and noisy sensors) and optics. Until the quality of the image is improved, making it bigger just gives you a bigger poor-quality image.
All Sweetness and Light? No, But I Still Want One
This review had a lot of negative points in it, but I still want to buy one of these. Why? Simple: every phone has trade-offs, and the key to finding the perfect phone for your needs is to decide what you care about and what you don't. The things I want in a phone are a clamshell design, a slender profile, great battery life, Bluetooth, EDGE, a bright screen, great keypad, and a slick design. The HTC Star Trek delivers on all of those requirements in spades. The use of the external screen is basic, but it's a great start. I also have a lingering concern about dust under the screen, because every single HTC phone I've had has gotten a significant amount of dust under the screen. No phone this expensive should get dust under the screen, so I sincerely hope HTC has finally put some effort into sealing the phones against dust.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys mobile devices, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, his sometimes obedient dog, and he was sorry he had to send the HTC Star Trek back.
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