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i-mate Jam Pocket PC Phone Edition review
Posted on 21-Feb-2005 20:05 by Darryl Burling | Tags Filed under: Reviews


The i-mate Jam (also known as MDA Mini) is the smallest Pocket PC Phone Edition available on the market today. The first time you pickup the Jam you are impressed by how tiny it is. It fits so snugly in your hand that you could (almost) be forgiven for thinking that it is just a mobile phone.

Physical features and buttons
The Jam has a very nice brushed metal finish that feels solid and looks nice. There is lots of surface around the screen which initially in pictures looks silly, but in real life gives the device an elegant look, free from clutter.

This clear space means of course that there is a distinct shortage of buttons on the device. However, comparing the device to the older HP iPAQ models - the number of buttons is still better. You have a Pick Up and Hang Up button, as well as calendar and contacts. On the side you have the notes button and the camera button as well as a volume control. On the other side next to the stylus is the power button.


Nice round shape, elegant look


Comparing with a HP iPAQ h4150

I found the button layout mostly good, although I often found myself hitting the camera button as I turned the device on or off which is annoying - although you would get used to it fairly quickly.


Button layout

Looking at the device you can see that it is quite thick. However, I found that this did not detract from the small feel of the device. If you compare the thickness of the Jam to other devices, it is about the same depth as a i-mate PDA2k or the old HP iPAQ range, but slightly thicker than the HP iPAQ h1900 range or the HP iPAQ h4150. The depth of the device actually adds to the slid feel of the device in your hand, and given it is no worse than any other Phone edition device, I wonít be deducting points for this.

The stylus is poked into the side and is almost invisible at a glance. Given the size of the device the manufacturers had to either go for a telescopic stylus or just settle for a short stylus. Fortunately (in my opinion) they chose to go with a short stylus. However, given the contour of the device that the stylus fits in, there is quite a large piece of plastic at the top of the stylus which I found to get in the way occasionally. With considerable use, I expect this would become painful and I would consider purchasing an after market stylus to replace it. Mind you your hands may be better suited to the stylus mine.

Screen
Because of its size the Jam has a smaller screen than other Pocket PC phone edition devices on the market. In fact if you compare them, the Jam has a screen that is around 1 centimetre shorter, thus where most devices have a 3.5 inch screen - the screen on the Jam is 2.5 inches. On the screen - I was surprised to see that the screen actually was really nice. Due to the size of the screen the pixels are closer which gives a nice clear image. Comparing the colours on the screen to the incredibly vivid colours on the iPAQ hx4700, I was surprised to see that the screen on the Jam more than held its own. In fact, the colours were more vivid on the Jam than they were on the hx4700 - and that is saying something!

Using the screen takes some getting used to. Even when you first start the device and calibrate the screen, you feel like you need to be more precise than with other devices.


Comparing size and screen with Harrier CDMA EV-DO (lefT) and HP iPAQ hx4700 (right)

Wireless, cards and cameras
The Jam has GSM/GPRS (900/1800/1900 MHz) and Bluetooth, but no Wireless LAN (WiFi) which may be a problem to some people. In addition the Jam has the Microsoft Bluetooth stack rather than the Widcomm stack. The Widcomm stack would have been a better choice in my opinion as it supports more profiles and therefore gives a wider range of options for the device.

On top of the device youíll find the SD Card slot. This slot does support SDIO, so youíll be able to add a WiFi card this way should you decide you need it.

On the back of the device is the 1.3 megapixel camera. The benchmark for 1.3 M cameras on Pocket PCs is the HP iPAQ rx3715 which takes superb photos for its class. Unfortunately, the camera on the Jam is not in the same class as the HP iPAQ rx3715. While the image quality is obviously better than 0.3 megapixel camera, the lens is appalling and yields images only slightly better than the i-mate Smartphone2.


Button layout


Picture taken with built-in camera (click for larger image)

Specifications
The i-mate Jam has an Intel PXA 272 processor running at 416MHz. During my testing I found it to perform solidly - it seemed very snappy and responsive. However, if you look at the results of the SPB Benchmark tests, the device is certainly not the fastest device ever created.


Performance comparison (click in the chart to access our Performance Centre, with other Pocket PC reviews and more charts)

My biggest complaint with the Jam is the 64 Mb of RAM. With all that you can do with these devices these days, this is a little on the light side. The device does have 7 MB of storage memory that can be used for storing files or even for installing applications. This memory is a great place for installing applications, and it is surprising how far a small amount of memory can go to saving main memory.

Summary
When looking at a device like the Jam youíve got to ask yourself, what is it that makes this device special or unique when consumers are spoilt for choice? In the case of the Jam itís obvious - the size of this device makes it a killer phone for the average user who wants a smarter phone than normal, but does not wan the bulk of a full Pocket PC.

If you are a power user of these devices, you will probably find that the memory constraints are an issue for you. You may also find that the screen is simply too small for heavy use - particularly for reading ebooks and other screen intensive applications.

This device is ideal for someone who uses a Pocket PC often, but who is not a power user, or for a new Pocket PC user. In fact if you are a new Pocket PC user or looking for a first device and are put off by the size, this will probably almost be the ideal device for you.

Pros
  • Size - the smallest Pocket PC around
  • Great screen
  • Windows Media Player Mobile 10

    Cons
  • Power button vs Camera button placement
  • Stylus is a little small and pokey
  • Terrible camera






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