G.Mate YOPY YP-3700 Linux PDA Review (Pics, Specs)

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Review of G.Mate YOPY YP-3700
reviewed by Ian Giblin

Overview

The YOPY YP-3700 is a new flip-top PDA based around the StrongARM SA-1110 CPU and running a version of Linux called Linupy.

Rumours of a new YOPY release in the US have been circulating for more than a year, but this device is now available through SDG Systems along with a leaner (and thinner) version called the YP-3500. The main differences are a smaller battery in the 3500 and no CF slot. The 3500 and 3700 models are currently priced at $429 and $459 respectively.

Contents

The content sections of this review are listed below.

Hardware:

Software:

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Packaging

The YP3700 packaging is standard; cardboard box with colour pictures of the YP-3700, plastic spacers inside holding the PDA, 110-page manual, CD-ROM and cradle along with power supply. The manual is in English; the translation is good enough to be quite understandable.

First Impressions

This device is geeky, and I mean Battlestar Galactica geeky. Aside from the overall retro-futuristic design (“twenty years ago this is what the future looked like”) and the peculiar 10-by-5 button silver keyboard, there’s the rainbow coloured LEDs on the front cover. If you close the YP-3700 without putting it in standby mode, these eight LEDs flicker in sequence from left to right and back, twice, letting you know that your YOPY is happy and that technology is your friend. It’s cute, it’s silly, and everyone I’ve shown it to loved it.

The colourful LEDs are also triggered as a visual cue if you’ve chosen to set an alarm for a scheduled event.

In terms of software, my first impressions were that the potential of the YOPY is huge, since it supports a very deep X Windows GUI, and also that the HTML PIMs access via the cradle is outstanding.

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Features

  • 206 MHz StrongARM SA-1110 Processor
  • 240×320 65000 colour display
  • 128 MB SDRAM, 32 MB ROM
  • Built-in QWERTY keyboard
  • 4 Quick Buttons (Action, OK, End and Power)
  • 4-way cursor pad on the front, 2-way scroll key on the side
  • Infra-Red (IrDA) port
  • Compact Flash (CF-II) and Secure Digital (SD, also called MMC)
  • Speaker and Microphone
  • 3.5mm audio out jack
  • 2300 mAh (non-removable) battery
  • Size 4.0×2.7×0.9 inches, Weight 7.0 oz

…And the software includes:

  • Personal Information Manager (PIM) suite
  • MP3 player, Sound recorder
  • Office applications
  • Games including DOOM (on the CD)
  • File manager, Text editor, etc…

Design

The silvery plastic case of the YP-3700 is light and durable and looks like brushed steel. It doesn’t feel very solid, though; overall the device feels like it has a fair amount of empty space inside the shell. There was slight evidence of glue or sealant on the seams around the screen assembly but I had to look closely to find it.

The flip-top design of this PDA is very nice; the screen is protected when not in use, and the device wakes up automatically when you fold open the screen. The screen will not stay at any position other than closed or fully open; at an angle less than 60 degrees it snaps shut and any greater angle will open it fully. The screen assembly on this review YP-3700 was very slightly loose at the hinge – there’s less than half a millimetre of motion from side-to-side but it is noticeable. I got the impression that removing the YOPY from its cradle carelessly could result in this wobbly screen and make it worse, so I was very careful.

Although is tempting to try to flip the YOPY open Star Trek style, I don’t think it would be a good idea and I didn’t try it.

Here are some pictures of the YP-3700 case and ports. There’s no power socket on the device itself; as far as I can tell there is no way to connect the YOPY to the power other than when it is in the docking station:


Front – Rainbow LEDs are just below the YOPY logo.


Top, showing CF-II socket, stylus socket and 3.5mm audio jack.


Left side: Scroll switch, IR port, SD socket.


Right side: Nothing much.


Bottom: USB cradle connector.

The next section shows the device open and the display visible.

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Display

The display is a 240×320 pixel, front-lit touch screen. The front light is a strip along the bottom of the screen (near the hinge); this has the effect that the top of the screen is visibly darker than the bottom when the screen is not viewed squarely. When the screen is viewed squarely this darkening is not really noticeable. The brightness range is very good although colours tend to wash out slightly at the highest brightness setting.


The Open YOPY YP-3700

Note that I have purposely accentuated the problem with the screen illumination. Here, the screen is angled about 10 or 15 degrees back from the optimal viewing angle.

In terms of touch sensitivity the screen required a stronger tap than I am used to giving on my Zaurus or on other PDAs I’ve used. It was perfectly accurate in all my tests. Using the YP-3700 in one hand while tapping the screen with the other does require that you brace the screen somehow – I found that it was comfortable to do this with my index finger while holding the screen between thumb and middle finger. This was because the screen does not solidly lock in the open position; it stops but there’s still enough movement to make tapping a little tricky if you don’t get a firm grip. This is particularly important where you need to double-click as in, e.g., the File Manager. Holding the screen between thumb and forefinger was functionally as good but not as comfortable.

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Stylus

The stylus, like the device overall, feels strangely hollow. I don’t know whether this is because it really is hollow, or maybe it’s just made of a very light plastic. As a stylus it works perfectly well; I don’t think it will serve as an oyster-opener (for comparison, the iPaq stylus feels like it has a reinforced steel core and would be great for that job). Personally I’m happy to leave the osyters in their shells. The stylus bends very slightly during normal use.

The light grey plastic of the stylus is 3.5″ long and supplemented by a small red tip which you can see in the picture below. I included the YOPY stylus, Zaurus stylus (middle), and an old-style iPaq stylus (bottom).


YOPY (top), Zaurus (middle) and iPaq styli

As you can see the YOPY stylus has a pretty serious sticky-out-bit which ensures a good registration with the PDA body when stored. There is no risk of this stylus falling out. In use, I found the stylus to be trouble-free. It’s not the most comfortable pointing device ever, but with the YOPY’s integral keyboard, only a madman would try to write a Great American Novel in PDA hand scrawl.

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Memory

According to the manual, the YP-3700 has an impressive 128 MB of SDRAM, and the ROM size is 32 MB. Looking in the System Info applet tells me that “User Storage” is 79327KB (45914KB free) and “Memory” 47020KB (1704KB free). There’s also another field indicating 12288KB allocated to “Application Backup Storage”. These totals add to about 135MB; presumably the 128MB SDRAM is just the first two.

Storage Memory

The example screen shots are from G.Mate so the numbers don’t match exactly.

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The Keyboard

The picture of the open YOPY above shows the keyboard well (click here to see it in a new pop-up window). There are 49 keys on the main keyboard arranged in a 5 by 10 grid, with the space bar taking up a double slot. The cursor pad allows four-way navigation but does not have a central action button; this is provided by the first of four unique buttons to the right of the cursor pad; Action, OK, End and Power.

Overall the tactile response of the keyboard is excellent and I had no trouble using the basic alphabet or upper case (accessible via Shift or the the CAPS key as on a standard keyboard). Punctuation and special characters are reached using the Shift, Function and Ctrl keys and some of these are a little trickier to use.

When the YOPY keyboard is compared side-by-side with the Sharp Zaurus keyboard, neither really dominates. The Zaurus keyboard has only 37 buttons compared to the YOPY’s 49 but they are colour coded and laid out in a wider pattern. My feeling is that after prolonged use I’d be as familiar with the YOPY keyboard as I currenly am with the Zaurus’. I can’t imagine using a PDA without a keyboard, but I use my Zaurus for programming (primarily bash scripts) and less so for plain text.

Aside from the physical keyboard there are an on-screen keyboard and handwriting recognition, detaled later.

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Battery Life

With the 2300 mAh battery, this device is clearly going to last a long time between recharges. I’ve been using the YP-3700 for 6 or 7 hours on one charge but not in a continuous stretch, and I haven’t had the opportunity to wait for it to run down.

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Review continues on page 2, Software Review of YOPY YP-3700 >>

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