Sprint HTC Mogul PPC-6800 Review

by Adama D. Brown Reads (122,696)

Sprint recently began offering the HTC Mogul, also called the PPC-6800. This Windows Mobile device offers a number of high-end features, like a built-in keyboard, Wi-Fi, and support for 3G cellular-wireless networking.

It is the successor to the Sprint PPC-6700.

Design & Construction

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Looks wise, the Mogul is a radical change from the old Apache, which was marketed under the PPC-6700 name. The external antenna is gone, the styling is different, and the Mogul has a wider and thinner form-factor. The overall appearence is evocative of the Hermes, sold in the United States by AT&T as the 8525.

The Mogul isn’t just a Hermes variant for Sprint, though. It has several noticible differences, the biggest of which is its slider mechanism. Older HTC slider units had a friction-based slider, where you simply pushed the screen up. The Mogul, though, is spring-loaded. One small push on the screen, and it automatically snaps to the “open” position.

HTC Mogul
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While this does make it easier to open by accident than the older models, the mechanism is as durable as ever, being able to stand up to routine use without seeming to give way. Of course, I’ve only been able to abuse it for a couple of weeks, so that’s no guarantee of long-term reliability. As much as moving parts have to be expected to fail eventually, HTC’s sliders have built themselves a pretty good reputation for robust design and long-term functionality.

For both docking and the connection of headsets or headphones, the Mogul relies on the same modified mini-USB plug, known as ExtUSB, that’s found on the Hermes and other HTC Pocket PC phones. For those who haven’t seen it before, ExtUSB is a specially shaped connector that lets all standard mini-USB cables serve for power or data. The headphone/headset, on the other hand, will only fit into the ExtUSB port.

The unit is practically covered in buttons. There’s buttons scattered all over the casing, for UI control, application launching, camera, voice recorder, etcetera. A total of thirteen buttons, not including the keyboard, 5-way directional pad, or the three-way jog wheel. You might call it the anti-iPhone in that respect — physical control is NOT an issue.

Photo Gallery

Front View   Rear View
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At top: camera lens, LED light, external antenna connector.
Bottom of unit: ExtUSB connector, microSD slot, infrared port, reset button.
 
 
Right Side
Power button, comm manager, camera button

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  Left Side
Wireless switch, voice recorder, OK/close button, jog dial

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Performance and Hardware

For a first, the Mogul ships with a 400 MHz CPU made by Qualcomm, rather than the XScale, TI, or Samsung processors typical in most Windows Mobile devices.

Using the Linpack benchmark, the MSM7200 chip managed 1.30 megaflops. This is just slightly below the 1.34 of the 400 MHz Samsung processor in the Hermes, but more or less inside the margin of error, and well above the 0.59 Mflop performance of the 200 MHz TI processors used in some PPC phones.

According to Qualcomm’s press releases, the MSM7500 boasts TV out and an ATI-based 3D graphics engine. However, the Mogul doesn’t appear to implement TV output, and without optimized applications, it’s anyone’s guess as to what graphics performance benefit the MSM7500 may entail.

The Mogul technically supports the use of EV-DO Revision A, which provides slightly faster internet access than the existing “Revision 0″ EV-DO devices. Revision A requires modifications on both the tower and the device end, so even some EV-DO areas may not have Rev. A coverage yet. Revision A provides an approximately 15% increase in download speed, and a several fold increase in upload speed.

The reason I say the Mogul “technically” supports it is because, while the hardware is there, the initial software version of the Mogul isn’t Revision A enabled. Sprint will need to issue a system update at some point later this year in order to turn on this capability. It seems odd to me that they would launch the device without one of the major capabilities that differentiates it from its predecessor, but there you go.

Wireless on the Mogul is rounded out by the presence of 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0. The latter supports the standard profiles such as headset, headphones, PAN, AVRCP, and HID. These might be a little fussy to use, though, as the Mogul implements the famously user-unfriendly Microsoft Bluetooth stack. While this has improved slightly in Windows Mobile 6, I’d still prefer to have the Widcomm suite back.

Wi Fi performance was average for an HTC device: less range than I would like, but still enough that it should get signal in any normally covered area.

Last but not least among the spec upgrades, the Mogul has 256 MB of internal Flash memory, twice that of most Pocket PC phones. A good thing, since it seems that with every new PPC phone HTC releases, the operating system and bundled software take up more and more room. The Mogul has 150 MB of free memory, around 45 MB less than other 256 MB devices.

That’s not all on the memory front, though. Sprint, apparently feeling generous, includes a 512 MB microSD card standard with the device, giving the user well over 600 MB of total storage out of the box. The Mogul is also known to support microSDHC cards at least up to 4 GB, thus removing the size restrictions that have typically accompanied such small slots. Good luck finding a decent price on a 4 GB card, though.

Software and OS

The Mogul is one of the first Windows Mobile 6 devices to hit the market in the U.S., so I’ll take an extra minute to go over some of the changes. At first glance, Windows Mobile 6 doesn’t look like much of an upgrade from WM5, but most of the improvements are under the hood.

The OS now supports receiving system software updates directly from Microsoft, rather than waiting for their release though a carrier or manufacturer.

Storage card encryption, HTML email viewing, AJAX, increased JavaScript support, and Windows Live have all been added.

A free update later this year will provide users with Office Mobile 2007, which will support the use of Office 2007 file formats.

Today Screen

The Microsoft Bluetooth stack has been improved in terms of reliability, if not user friendliness.

SDHC support is also included in WM6, so absent any huge hardware screwups, all WM6 devices should be SDHC capable.

Upon booting the Mogul, the first thing that you’re greeted with is a searingly, mind-blowingly yellow Today Screen. Really, it’s hard to overstate how yellow it is. I realize they’re trying to do Sprint colors here, but this is rather like being whipped in the face with a sunflower. I suggest that you switch it to a different theme once you’ve found a pair of sunglasses that are dark enough to let you look directly at the screen again.

Once you make it past that, the interface isn’t really much different than any other Pocket PC phone. WM6 adds some visual highlights and additional eye candy, but the underlying interface model isn’t much different. Probably the most significant alterations are to the icon set, which makes the user interface feel less familiar, even though most of the applications are fundamentally the same.

Usability

The user experience on the Mogul doesn’t differ that much from previous HTC slider devices. That is to say, it’s a very good data device, and a mediocre phone.

The lack of a physical keypad hampers dialing; though not unusable, it’s not as easy or foolproof as it could be, since you need to either dial on the touchscreen, or use the slide-out keyboard. The Mogul far more suited to email, messaging, and light web browsing than it is to heavy outbound calling. That said, it’s small enough that you don’t feel ruinously stupid-looking holding the thing up to your ear, but I wouldn’t recommend it for style points.

The 1500 mAh battery averages a little under four and a half hours of “talk time” on a charge, making it slightly farther than its predecessor, which also had a slightly smaller battery. I couldn’t get a good feel for standby time, since — like the PPC-6700 before it — my review unit seemed highly reluctant to turn off. Ever. It’s probably just an issue with this particular unit, or with the local network I’m roaming on, but the device would insist on turning itself on every few minutes, to the point where I had to pull the battery out whenever I wasn’t using it.

Specifications

Processor: 400 MHz Qualcomm MSM7500
Operating System: Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional (Pocket PC)
Display: 240 x 320 transmissive/reflective LCD
Memory: 64 MB RAM; 256 MB flash memory (150 MB available)
Size and Weight: 4.33″ long x 2.32″ wide x 0.73″ thick; 5.8 ounces
Expansion: Single MicroSD(HC) slot
Docking: HTC ExtUSB plug
Communication: Dual band CDMA/EVDO (Rev. A upgradable); 802.11b/g; Bluetooth 2.0
Audio: ExtUSB headphone/headset jack
Battery: 1500 mAh replacable Lithium Ion cell
Input: QWERTY thumb keyboard; 5-way directional pad; application buttons; 3-way jog wheel; touchscreen
Other: 2 megapixel camera

 

Conclusion

The HTC Mogul is not a huge single leap from the HTC Apache. It is a lot of little leaps, though personally, I don’t think that it would be enough to convince most Apache users to drop the cash for an upgrade for more memory and a newer OS.

Still, though, for both upgraders and new users, the Mogul represents the most high-end device available on Sprint’s network. Combined with their extensive EVDO coverage and cheap unlimited Internet, that’s a powerful enticement, even if it is only an evolutionary update to a well-worn series of devices.

Pros:

  • Full wireless capabilities
  • Large memory
  • EV-DO broadband
  • SDHC support

Cons:

  • microSD slot
  • Marginal one-handed dialing
  • Combination USB/audio jack

Bottom Line:

A solid if unimaginative device, the Mogul wraps a bunch of quality features into a design that, while not new, is well proven.

 


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