Verizon XV6800 Review

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One of Verizon Wireless’ latest high-end smartphones is the XV6800, a Windows Mobile 6 Professional model with Wi-Fi, EV-DO, and a sliding keyboard. 

The XV6800 is basically a version of the device that’s sold by Sprint as the HTC Mogul. The two variants share more or less the same internal hardware, and differ only in the physical casing and software. For that reason, I’m mostly going to highlight the differences between them in this review.

 

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Table of Contents

Design & Construction

For those not familiar with the style, the XV6800 is a side-sliding Pocket PC phone. Its ordinary notepad-style design hides one of the thumb keyboards that are the hallmark of most new devices today.

Though the internal gear is identical to its cousin from Sprint, the outer shell is a bit different. Most noticibly, the XV6800 sports a light blue color over much of its body, rather than the silver of the Mogul. The lines of the two devices are also changed slightly.

Verizon XV6800

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Visual distinction apart, though, these two are most definitely the same basic model. If you hold them side by side, you’ll immediately realize that this is the same device wearing new clothes, right down to the placement of all the buttons.

While the Mogul has an awkward directional pad which requires the user to press the entire pad down evenly to activate the center button, the XV680’s designers wisely chose to go with seperate pieces for the action button and directional controls. This makes the directional pad easier to use, and less likely to trigger one of the compass points when what you meant to do was hit select.

The Verizon model’s other hardware buttons are also a little bit bigger and easier to press, particularly the Send/End keys.

Unfortunately, some of the other poor design decisions still carry over from the Mogul, like the absurdly pointless collapsible microstylus. I honestly don’t even bother to use it–the bother of pulling it out wastes whatever small time savings you might gain over just using a fingertip.

Some users may search the device’s software settings fruitlessly looking for a way to turn on the Wi-Fi — actually, it’s controlled from a small slider switch on the side of the device. I found this odd when I first saw it on the Mogul, but since then I’ve gained an appreciation for the usefulness of the idea. No need to go hunting through software to control your Wi-Fi connection, or even to see if it’s on. Just use the switch. On a device where battery life is all-important, it’s an easy way to make sure you’re not burning more power than you need to.

One more difference from the Mogul: While the former comes with a free 512 MB SD card in the box, the XV6800 does not. Of course with new 2 GB microSD cards costing around $12, I can’t say this is a terrible loss of value.

Verizon XV6800

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Like almost all of HTC’s new devices, the XV6800 combines its mini-USB port and headset jack, with the net result that you need to buy an adapter if you want to use standard headsets or headphones with it. One comes in the box, of course, but it’s a fairly basic generic headset/headphone combo. Better still probably, to rely on Bluetooth for all your music and headset needs.

While in general the XV6800 is very similar in design to the Mogul, the improved directional pad and hardware buttons make it slightly better in usability, even though it’s not quite as visually appealing.

Processor, Software, and Performance

The XV6800 runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional, Microsoft’s operating system for smartphones with touchscreens. The device doesn’t include the as-yet-unreleased Windows Mobile 6.1, but it’s possible Verizon will release a system software upgrade.

But it hardly needs a new version of the operating system to be useful. The standard suite of Windows Mobile software provides the tools you need to do a wide variety of tasks: access the Web, work with Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), exchange email messages, watch movies, listen to music, and on and on.

Running on the 400 MHz Qualcomm MSM7500, the XV6800 is quite snappy, with more than adequate performance for music, games, or most video. It tests out to a respectable 1.3 megaflops of performance, and will handle things like Slingplayer Mobile in good fashion. 

The Verizon device doesn’t yet implement the same software improvements recently made on the Sprint version, meaning that XV6800 users still don’t have access to the device’s EV-DO Revision A capabilities and internal GPS receiver. This may eventually change when and if Verizon provides an update for this device, but then again it may not.

In the mean time, if you’re the kind who doesn’t mind loading unofficial ROMs onto your device, there are ways to reflash the XV6800 to activate the GPS receiver. My advice: if the previous sentence made you go “huh?” or wonder about what “reflash” means, don’t bother trying to do it. This is dedicated gadgetmonger territory.

Verizon opted to forgo the exploding-sunflower-yellow Today theme Sprint used on its device in favor of an unflattering cyan scheme that matches the outside casing color. Once again, my first advice is change it to something else.

Bluetooth functionality is robust, despite the best efforts of the Microsoft Bluetooth stack. The usual suspects such as A2DP and AVRCP make their appearences. Not present is PAN or Dial-up Networking: to tether the device you need to go over USB and use the VZAccess Manager software on your PC. Enh. The Samsung i760 at least lets you tether over BT, even if you did have to switch off the on-device Internet connection to do so.

Usability

As with most Pocket PC phones, the XV6800 is a decent Pocket PC, less decent phone. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: dialing with a touchscreen, though feasible under most circumstances, is a disaster waiting to happen if you’re doing it one-handed, in a hurry, or not looking at the device. You need to have your wits about you and not be distracted in order to do it right.

Looking on the bright side, though, I suppose you could view it as a safety feature if you’re in the habit of calling others when drunk.

The keyboard on the XV6800 is more or less identical to most of those on most recent HTC devices: a bit on the hard, flat side for my taste, but usable. The keyboard backlighting isn’t super-powerful, but you can see it. Some of the smaller, blue-highlighted alternative markings can be lost in certain light.

Expansion is one of the places where the XV6800 shines. It’s the only Pocket PC phone on Verizon that fully supports large capacity microSDHC cards: the Treo 700wx and Samsung i760 are both limited to a maximum of 4 GB, even with tweaking. This means you can load an 8 GB card in the device and pile it high with all the files you could want.

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 (164 MB available)
Size and Weight 4.33″ long x 2.32″ wide x 0.73″ thick; 5.8 ounces
Expansion Single MicroSDHC 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; Inactive internal GPS receiver


Conclusion

While the XV6800 has its benefits, I would have to say that overall it’s not the best designed Pocket PC phone on Verizon’s network, that title going to the Samsung i760. But the XV6800 is the only one which fully supports SDHC cards, as well as having an internal GPS receiver that can be activated if you have the nerve.

These things, along with the greater internal memory, give the XV6800 a clear win on specifications. If that’s your primary buying criteria, then the XV6800 is the most powerful device Verizon offers.

Pros:

  • Ample memory
  • Complete wireless options
  • Possibility for internal GPS
  • Full SDHC support

Cons:

  • Marginal design
  • Awkward one-handed dialing
  • Combination USB/audio jack

Bottom Line:

Despite losing the design battle to the i760, the 6800 has superior specs.


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