HTC P3300 review: Compact navigator

Jiří Kuruc, 31 October 2006. Read the original review at
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Focused on navigation

Apparently, HTC has done its best to catch up with the latest technological trends, especially the one focused on navigation. This is the first “Compact" equipped with a GPS receiver. The manufacturer has used the chip SiRF Star III (the best solution in terms of price), adding a useful application for faster satellite search. Once activated and before it determines user’s position, the receiver needs first to connect to the satellites and download detailed information about their location. The fewer the satellites the GPS receiver detects, the longer it takes it to start running. The above mentioned additional application helps to download all necessary information (a few KB) via Internet, advancing the start of the navigation. As the satellites move constantly, however, the validity of downloaded data expires within approximately three days and a new download is required. At the same time it is all the same whether the necessary information is gathered via mobile data transfers, via a Wi-Fi network, or through synchronization.

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A simple application for downloading of indispensable navigation data from Internet

Let’s now put an end to theoretical explanations and start practicing. Although we downloaded the most recent positional details by mobile data transfers, it took quite a long time to the communicator to locate the satellites (the sky was clear). For example, iPaq hw6515 featuring a similar additional application starts to navigate within a few seconds after having been activated. It feels as if in HTC P3300 the navigational chip and the corresponding application were not linked. Yet, let’s not forget that we are working with a sample unit, not with an officially sold model.

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HTC P3300 helped me catch several hidden treasures

Once HTC has found the satellites, it starts to navigate seamlessly. During our weekend trip it helped us find three geocache treasures. Along with HTC P3300 we also carried a MDA Compact (HTC Magician) with an external GPS receiver and an older navigation chip SiRF Star II in order to be able to compare both devices simultaneously. The result was stunning: on a hill under a clear sky both communicators showed absolutely the same position including navigation preciseness. In a deep forest, however, as well as inside the city HTC P3300 scored far better. The older MDA Compact with external receiver simply failed to deliver.

HTC is going to offer P3300 in two versions differing by the range of the application TomTom Navigator enclosed in their retail packages. We apologize for not being able to tell you exactly which cartographic data will be offered as standard. The final original package is just not available yet.

Camera: where have the times of S200 gone?

The camera has a fully remade interface and works in a resolution of 1600 x 1200 pixels. P3300 takes pictures in landscape mode, just like cameraphones do. A key on the right side of the phone or the trackball can be used as a shutter release button.

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Camera setup options are extensive

The camera also has a 10x digital zoom, but this is only accessible in the lowest available resolution. In higher resolution the zoom is virtually useless. Standard functions like exposure compensation, white balance, multi-step quality control or self-timer are available too. In addition, you could even choose between evaluative and spot exposure metering; pictures can include the date and the time when they were taken.

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Unfortunately, HTC P3300 scores worse than expected in one of the most important aspects for all mobile devices nowadays – image quality. Sharpness is poor even at the highest-quality setting. Exposure metering does not work well, either (have a closer look at the fifth picture with vines). The observed results disappointed us, but most of all they surprised us, because Qtek S200, which we wrote about in the summer this year, made so good photos that they could even compete with top-rated mobiles like Sony Ericsson K750. Allow us not to make any conclusions from the above findings, though, as a few software tweaks can easily turn this situation upside down.

Standard and additional software

The OS offers numerous useful applications. The communicator has a user-friendly calendar with several views and plenty of features for new events. Event can be alerted about in advance, but not on a particular day or at exact time. Windows Mobile 5 supports neither manually typed notes, nor voice notes. The same holds true for the task manager.

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Standard calendar with daily and weekly views

Let’s also mention the remade version of the office applications Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, and Power Point Mobile. The first two of them open documents and provide trouble-free editing. For example, you can receive documents, modify them and send them back via Internet. Although Microsoft has recently been working hard to improve these applications, there are still components suffering from partial incompatibility.

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A great application for data back-up

Here are a few more interesting applications: a standard image browser, a MIDlet Manager for Java applications and games, a calculator, a file browser etc. HTC also has a special offer, outside the standard menu: an excellent application for data back-up called Sprite Backup. It can make a backup of the entire device or of selected sections only. HTC has also added a ClearVue PDF browser, but its performance is far worse than the spectacle of the special version of the Adobe original application. A few less important novelties can be found in the settings menu too. The most visible one is the Task Manager. It does not display a full list of all running applications, but is only able to modify the meaning of the key with a cross so that the corresponding application could be fully closed.

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Voice control/dial application

And do not forget: should you need any application, just browse the Internet for a while – you would find a suitable solution for sure.

Nobody is perfect

The communicator HTC P3300 surprised me very positively: its size is perfect; it has a great shining display, Wi-Fi and EDGE support, an integrated GPS receiver, and last, but not the least – a great single-hand control mode. As it usually happens, however, no device could be absolutely perfect. HTC P3300 has a rather slow processor and lacks a universal audio output. On the other hand, neither of these two drawbacks is of great importance if you do not plan to play games or use the communicator as a music player.

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