The i-mate Ultimate 6150 Review

i-mate Ultimate 6150

Following in the tsunami-like wake of the Apple iPhone, i-mate has wisely opted to replace its ailing JASJAM smartphone with a new touch screen offering. Enthusiastically dubbed the Ultimate 6150, this latest TFT model is a quad-band GSM 850/900/1800/1900, GPRS and 3.5G HSDPA phone equipped with some (but not all) of the usual bells-and-whistles. While undoubtedly a speedy performer, several key areas -- including the aforementioned touch screen interface -- unfortunately fail to impress.

Beneath its drab faceplate, the Ultimate 6150 sports a surprising amount of grunt. Indeed, this is the only area where the 6150 truly shines, offering one of the fastest, smoothest performances we have seen from a smartphone thus far. Powered by an Intel Bulverde 520MHz processor and NVIDIA GoForce 5500 graphics accelerator, it will run all Windows Mobile 6 applications without a hitch and is equally adept at Web downloads and video playback. For your memory needs, the 6150 comes equipped with 128MB of RAM; expandable by up to 2GB via MicroSD (4GB cards are not currently supported).

One of the main drawcards of the 6150 is its touch screen VGA display, which enjoys a maximum resolution of 640x480 pixels. Intriguingly, a VGA output has also been included, allowing you to connect the device to a secondary display. This not only makes the Ultimate 6150 ideal for your multimedia needs, but should also prove handy for PowerPoint presentations. The only downside (and it's a pretty big one) is the overall size of the screen. At 2.8 inches, it fails to live up to its full potential, with smaller text and 'busy' Web sites proving difficult to read. Furthermore, large-handed individuals are bound to be hampered by the onscreen keyboard and undersized icons; a fact not helped by the miniature five-way thumbstick. This makes entering data a real chore, especially if you're not a huge fan of touch screens to begin with.

Photos taken with the 2-megapixel camera are about what we would expect from a smartphone; adequate but far from sharp or vibrant. Being a 3G handset, the 6150 also includes a front mounted VGA camera for video calls. One feature that left us pleasantly surprised was the video recorder; which produced silky smooth footage that looks great on the 6150's high resolution screen.

All up, the Ultimate 6150 is far from awful, but unfortunately it has already been outclassed by several competing units. For a slightly higher premium, the HTC TyTN II will net you a slide out QWERTY keyboard, a built-in GPS (with included Co-Pilot software), a 3-megapixel camera and a versatile tilting display; all of which are absent from this model.

The i-mate Ultimate 6150 is rated at up to four hours talk time and 300 hours standby time; a fair but not astounding result.

The Ultimate series now sports a sleek black exterior giving the devices a smart business appearance rather than the "gadgety" look of the JasJam. Avoiding the glossy piano black craze we've seen so much of lately, the 6150 is encased in matte black metal, which is no doubt part of why the handset feels heavier than you might expect, but is thankfully fingerprint resistant. Sitting within the classy black frame is an exceptional 2.8-inch VGA display which is bright, sharp and colourful, perfect for reading and watching videos in Windows media player.

Love it or loath it; Windows Mobile 6 is pre-loaded on all of i-mate's latest devices. Putting aside its boring aesthetic there's no doubting the practicality of the WM6 platform, which features a decent suite of business apps; including an editable version of mobile Office -- Word, Excel and PowerPoint -- Internet Explorer and Enterprise for syncing your MS Outlook e-mail and contacts with those from the office. In addition, there is a plethora of WM compatible software to download online to expand the functionality of your PDA.

For the uninitiated, using WM6 is a very similar experience to using any other Windows operating systems. The upside to this is that you're probably familiar with where to find most settings and options starting by selecting the "Start" menu key. The downside is most of these options live in menus three or four selections from the standby screen. So while you might be used to changing a setting with a single click or two using a Nokia or Sony Ericsson, you will have to drill deep into the menu structure using WM6 to perform a similar task, and this can get tedious.

In regards to connectivity, the Ultimate series definitely has all the bases covered. The phones are tri-band UTMS/HSDPA capable as well as being world-roaming quad-band GSM. During our tests we saw excellent Internet data speeds and generally browsing was a breeze. To compliment mobile data access the 6150 also connects to Wi-Fi networks supporting 802.11b/g/e/i protocols. Also, as is standard these days, the Ultimate series can make Bluetooth connections for file transfers, Internet sharing or for connecting to a compatible hands-free phone headset.

The longevity of the battery between charges was well below par during our tests. During very light testing we saw approximately three days of charge, but any greater use -- particularly of connectivity features like Wi-Fi or HSDPA -- and we found ourselves charging the 6150 at the end of each day. On the upside the battery level monitor is far more accurate that the common four-bar level display so you can follow the disappointingly fast depletion of battery level and be on standby with the charger.

In our opinion, touchscreens are still a contentious feature. Many touchscreens make using the devices more difficult and require far more patience and concentration than the use of traditional hard inputs. This said, the touchscreen on the Ultimate 6150 is better than we've seen recently. We found it to be reasonably accurate and responsive, particularly when using the stylus, and even though typing with it feels like collecting baked beans with a toothpick, we managed to get faster as our tests continued, and relied on the backspace button less and less. Of course, this is as much to the credit of our exceptional hand-eye coordination as it is to the 6150's useability.

The truth is it took a little while to get used to using the Ultimate 6150. Being forced to type with the touchscreen was a drag before we mastered it, and WM6, while practical, is just a drag. The saving grace for the Ultimate 6150 was the processing power. If every menu selection had lagged while we drilled down layer by layer we would have thrown the handset in the bin, or better still, out a window. The 6150 might be a big handset by current standards and the battery life verges on dismal, but it packs a punch and definitely out-performs the other WM6 devices we are reviewing at this time, in processing and graphics rendering.


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