Qtek S200 review: A genuine tool box

Jiří Kuruc, 06 June 2006.

Display glows stronger

Qtek S200's display represents a truly pleasant surprise, even though it does not offer a VGA resolution, nor is it exceptionally big. It is the same 2.8-inch display with a QVGA resolution of 240 x 320 pixels, which is identical to the resolution applied in today's common mobile phones. Considering the diameter of Qtek S200's display, a VGA resolution would have probably been far too high. At the same time, a choice of another resolution could have been a step towards unreliable compatibility.

Qtek S200 Qtek S200 Qtek S200
Display is characterized by deep colors and high brightness levels

The Qtek S200 display surprises with great quality: white is pretty white, colors are generally deep; contrast is perfect. Backlighting is even. Compared to Qtek S100, 9100 or even 9000 (which has VGA displays), Qtek S200 is the undisputed champion in brightness. Legibility under direct sunlight is very good, much better than the one of Qtek S100 display, on which smaller letters are really hard to recognize. Well, to be more precise, the legibility of Qtek S200's display is not excellent, just like it happens to be with all color displays. In terms of touchpad display usability and functionality, however, it is simply the best.

Comparing various communicators: from the left to the right: MDA Compact (based on the same HTC as Qtek S100), Qtek 9000, and Qtek S200

I am sure that on sunny days you will really appreciate the maximum brightness setting of the display. At the same time, the lowest brightness level has its usage as well, for example during night driving. While I find the maximum brightness of Qtek S200's display excellent, I consider its minimum levels still quite high. The brightness option has four levels.

OS and innovations

In comparison to Windows Mobile 2003SE Windows Mobile 5 brings a few major changes, all of them rather invisible for having been carried out inside the device. On the other hand, as you will be able to see further on in the review, not all previous issues have been successfully addressed.

The first and most important change is the different mode in which the new OS works with memory management. This pocket computer is equipped with two types of operational memory: RAM and Flash ROM. RAM is faster, but requires a constant energy flow. Flash ROM offers a far lower memory speed than RAM, but is able to work independently on energy supply. Both the Windows Mobile 2003SE OS and other OS usually work with Flash ROM when it comes to storing the OS files. If there is any space left, the manufacturers would usually offer it as storage memory for user files.

RAM (usually with a twice as large capacity as the Flash ROM) was then distributed quite fairly (a subject to changes on behalf of the user) between space for user data (such as a computer's hard disk) and space for running applications (such as a computer's RAM). This way, once started, an application was transferred from the Flash ROM to the RAM, or alternatively from the memory card into RAM and everything was OK as long as the battery supplied the memory with energy. What happened in reality, was that numerous users would come back home after two-week holiday and would find their communicator completely discharged with the factory settings reapplied. Due to lack of energy the RAM had got deleted, including all important data, applications and documents saved in it. My own MDA Compact (HTC Magician, like Qtek S100), which works with WM 2003SE, sometimes resets itself when SIM card is quickly replaced. I was even told a case when Compact reset itself after a memory card had been inserted in it. In other words, the OS was in need of a serious modification.

Qtek S200 Qtek S200 Qtek S200
Main screen with a program displaying state icons

Windows Mobile 5, however, works in a different way. The distribution ration between RAM and Flash ROM has been made the other way round, that is Qtek S200 has twice more Flash ROM than older devices. OS uses up to 40-50 MB of Flash ROM. The rest of the space is left to cover user data. In this situation RAM only serves the necessities of running applications. In result of the above mentioned modifications one does not need to worry about how much data they could save directly into the device, instead of the memory card. And secondly, a possible discharge of the device does not imply the risk of losing one's important information (pretty negative news for back-up programs, btw). The true inconvenience here is the low speed of Flash ROM. The difference in speed between Flash ROM and RAM is less evident when applications are installed onto the memory card.

Qtek S200 Qtek S200 Qtek S200 Qtek S200
Qtek S200 in a palm, comparison with a credit card and with Sony Ericsson D750

The new OS shows significant delays when particular pre-installed applications are run, like the calendar, for example. I even dare to evaluate Qtek S200's calendar as slow, as a mere switch between the day, the week and the month views takes 4 long seconds, even if the whole application is saved in RAM. In Qtek S100, for example, work with the calendar application was lightning fast. The main reason for S200's slow work is to be found in the combination of the new OS and the slower processor.

The mode of communication between a pocket computer and a PC implies another recently made modification. The original specific communication has been replaced by TCP/IP protocol. In other words, the pocket computer operates as if it was a standard computer connected through the use of a network card. According to officially published information on Qtek S200, the advantage of this change is visible in the higher speed of synchronization (not very notable in practice, though). Yet, certain complications could occur as a result of the "stubbornness" of firewall, which can, in given specific situations, ban the communication between PDA and PC.

Qtek S200 Qtek S200 Qtek S200 
System Functions Menu, modifying display backlighting

Control has undergone certain modifications, too. One can finally move vertically from one icon to another, a message is possible to write and send without having to pull out the stylus etc. In any case, certain drawbacks still linger on in Qtek S200, which position Treo 650, for example, far better in this aspect.

Newly emerged is also the combination of two office applications: Word Mobile and Excel Mobile. Both programs support a far bigger range of documents, improving this way the overall compatibility of the communicator. One of the most frequently raised questions in this field refers to older applications compatibility. There are designers who launch modified versions of old, somewhat forgotten applications, which are however often incompatible with new OS. The greatest difficulty users usually meet has to do with the bottom system bar, which, in certain applications, overlaps the menu elements bar.

In the case of Qtek S200 I highly miss the option of hand-written notes to be attached to both events and tasks.

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