Hardly a "professional" review by any measure. But it just so happened that over the same weekend I accquired my Dopod 818 Pro
, a team colleague bought its rival model, the O2 Atom. So the following Monday brought the entire development team's work to a halt as everybody took turns to pit the devices against each other in the feature-list colosseum. And so the summary of this chance experience.
Everybody knows the Atom has a smaller form factor. And by a glance, it really does look shorter. But, when one carefully matches them up, the difference is fairly little and neligible for the most part. Only those who clasp vernier callipers in their hands would probably make a fuss out of it. However, it was noted the O2 was slightly thicker as well, plus actually being heavier
than the 818 Pro. The last point was something that truly amazed me; given the design decision to use finger-print retaining plastic as its casing to reduce weight, I was expecting it to be significantly lighter than the metal-encased 818 Pro.
As opposed to the 818 Pro's SD card slot, the Atom's expansion storage option is mini-SD
, meaning extra space is at a premium. For my colleague to have purchased her 512MB card at 80% the cost of my 1GB card, I have serious doubts over the economic viability of the mini-SD form. That aside, I regularly face the problem of my PDA losing awareness of the presence of my SD card; it cannot be detected no matter how many times i re-slot it. Only a power cycle can revive the connection. So is that a hardware or OS issue?
I was not bothered to test this out intensively (since I do not have Japanese blood in my veins), so I left it to my colleagues to take snapshots around the office with both (2M-pixel) cameras. The majority seemed to prefer the captures of the 818 Pro, potraying more colours more natural with the actual environment. However, i think they were relying too much on the LCD display of the devices themselves to make judgement calls. To "objectively" gauge they should have viewed the images via a "neutral" display, like another laptop. No trials were done for video recording, however.
Regarding video playback, here comes an interesting issue. For quick and easy playback without hunting for the various codecs to work with the Windows Mobile version of Media Player, my colleague recommended The Core PocketPC media player
which operates with its own package of codecs. Hers played highly animated videos smoothly enough, but when it came to my device, it was a slideshow experience
. Is this where the difference in CPU speeds now truly matter?
Apparently not. On further investigation, we found that my device lacked any evidence of a DirectDraw video renderer that TCPMP could make use of
, which was the renderer used by my colleague's Atom. Even playback by another colleague's Palm Treo with the Palm version of TCPMP was ok. So until I find out more about this DirectDraw mystery, I will not enjoy this device as a video player. (Oh well, i did not buy this PDA
to watch videos.)
Coming to the aural dimension, the 818 Pro's loudspeaker produces vibrations with more clarity. Now the funny part is the Atom comes with two speakers by the sides (818 Pro only has one at the back, near the camera lens), but I am not too sure how many people can find an optimal position to appreciate the stereo output. While I did not test the Atom, the 818 Pro lives true to the reviews of others who claimed voice reception for phone calls are not up to par.
On a separate note for the operating system alone, I found little, as a user, to appreciate over Windows Mobile 5. Irritatingly, programs still cannot be closed directly; shutting them down via the Running Programs tab in the Memory Settings is still necessary. When looking at the list of enhancements for WinMob5, one can probably rejoice if one is a developer given the slew of new possibilities opened up for development. But it terms of usability for the user, it still roughly remains the same.