Control is quite unusual. The standard four-way control key has been substituted by a steering ring. Even more interesting, however, is the white ball located inside the wheel. Its function will be no mystery for those of you experienced with Trackball (frequently used in older notebooks). By scrolling the ball in all directions you drive the cursor on the display and can basically control almost all available functions without having to pull out the pencil or to use both your hands. When active, the ball is illuminated in dark blue. The cursor control mode applied in HTC P3300 is similar to the one used in HP iPaq hx4700 (a device with touchpad beneath its display).
Theory is important. Yet, practice is even more important. I am not sure what type of mechanism scans ball’s movements, but I suppose it has a lot in common with the roller system applied in a traditional mouse. Horizontal and vertical shifts are smooth. Diagonals are managed in a sort of jumps, a bit clumsy. In sum, the cursor sometimes moves in unpredictable ways, so be patient when you target smaller fields like the soft keypad or when you switch between days in the calendar.
The glossy silver ring around the ball scrolls in both directions substituting the vertical ways of a standard navigation key. It is a truly practical and very fast driver, whom the manufacturer named Trackwheel. Yet it has one shortcoming, which we would better describe in a practical example: first we make a move downwards in the application menu using the ball and at the same time we select one application. A press on the ball, however, does not run the selected application but "confirms" the place, where the arrow is aiming. After having scrolled the respective page with the ball you have to grasp the ball once again, select the respective application with the arrow and run it. The entire process creates a significant time lag. Let’s hope that it is a pure software problem, which designers will manage to eliminate before the communicator hits the mass market.
It is quite a pity that HTC does not offer the ability to press the steering ring in all four directions. The lack of real arrows may be a difficulty for some users. The navigation applications, for example, are hard to control, certain games are nearly impossible to play. Our words may sound much too critical, but in general the trackball is an exciting element to deal with. What’s more, we are convinced that this is the only way technology could progress until Microsoft manages to adapt its operational system to control through hardware buttons. The stylus is only indispensable when text is entered. In any case, it is highly recommendable that all above mentioned details are improved in the upcoming new models.
The ring is accompanied by 8 keys: two with receivers, two context ones, whose functions appear in the bottom bar of the display, two preset keys that run the communication manager, and the Internet browser. Just next to them are the Start and the OK/Close keys, which notably facilitate overall control.
Above the display there is a speaker bordered by LEDs. The right one indicates availability of GSM signal and charging; the left reacts to data-transfer technologies. On the top edge you will only find one speaker. The left side features a key for running voice-control applications. If you are used to working with a voice recorder, just pre-set the key. A bit lower there is a dual volume-control key; in the bottom – a slot for instant soft-reset.
As usual, the synchronizing connector is located at the bottom. It is a universal, practical miniUSB connector, but has one specialty: only one of its edges is beveled so that the earphones enclosed in the standard retailer package could not be used with another device. The communicator has no other physical output, like a standard 3.5mm jack, for example. In other words, the manufacturer makes users fully dependent on the original headset. So far we have no information about adapters. The only alternative to the original earphones is the high-quality wireless headset working with Bluetooth.
On the right side of the communicator are the camera button (in the bottom) and the on/off button (at the top edge). Their location is exactly the same like in older Compact models. The difference is that the stylus in HTC P3300 is situated in its lower corner instead of its upper one. The pencil holds firmly to its bed; a bit of nail helps pick it out for sure. We recommend you to try out the trackball though. Its functions are worth the efforts.
The lens of the digital camera is located in the center of the rear panel of the communicator. It is flush with the surrounding surface, but not protected – a perfect condition for making scratches. Beneath the camera lens there is a tiny mirror for self-portraits. There is no LED flash. Unlike Qtek S200 there is no manual macro mode, either. Pay attention to the rubber band at the top of the panel – if you open it (from right to left, using the stylus, for example), you will reach the connector for the external antenna of the GPS receiver.
The battery panel occupies a great part of the rear side of the communicator. It covers a Li-Ion battery with a capacity of 1200 mAh. The SIM card bed is positioned underneath it. Finding the slot of the memory card (a tiny microSD one (TransFlash) was a harder job to do; it took me several long minutes. Would it have ever occurred to you that it could be positioned under the SIM card bed? In other words, any change of the memory card not only requires that the battery is eased off, but also that the SIM card is removed. Card swappers with bigger fingers may as well forget about it! On the other hand, the better hidden the card is, the less dirt it attracts.