The HTC Advantage X7501 is a hybrid mobile phone and PDA device whose great display doesn't make up for an awkward phone and poor keyboard.

The HTC Advantage X7501 is a smart phone trapped inside a tiny laptop's body. It has the inner workings of a handset-with features such as 3G, Wi-Fi, and Windows Mobile 6.0 - and the shell of an ultramobile PC. In theory, it should be a good formula. But in practice, it falls short. Visit PC Advisor's Mobile Advisor website for reviews of the latest mobile phones, smartphones and PDAs.

As a PDA alone, the HTC Advantage X7501 works well and offers an impressive list of specs: built-in GPS, 8GB hard drive, miniSD card slot, 3Mp camera, TV-out connector, and Bluetooth support. Its most attention-grabbing feature - the large 5in, 640-by-480-pixel touchscreen - made watching video clips and viewing documents easy on the eyes. Via the included Microsoft Office suite, we opened simple PowerPoint slides and PDFs, and created and edited Word files and Excel spreadsheets without a hitch. For the latest IT business news and reviews, visit PC Advisor's Business Advisor website.

Managing emails with the HTC Advantage X7501 is simple, too. We logged in to a Hotmail account out of the box - no complicated setup required. We also set up our personal email account (the HTC Advantage X7501 supports POP3, IMAP, and corporate email) and synced our Outlook contacts and calendar in a few steps. The device felt fast enough on most tasks.

The HTC Advantage X7501's web browsing speed was fine, thanks in part to fast data connections via Wi-Fi or 3G HSDPA or UMTS networks, but the navigational experience was far from ideal. In most cases, viewing a single web page required scrolling, which is too bad, given the X7501's large screen. The unit's mobile browsers - IE and Opera - are designed for smaller screens and are not optimised for this larger display.

The major drawback with the HTC Advantage X7501 is the keyboard. Don't expect to apply your 100-word-per-minute typing skills - or even your 50-word-per-minute BlackBerry thumb-typing skills - on this device. The thin, detachable qwerty keyboard looks impressive at first, with flat, square-shape keys. Alas, the keys are too flat.

For the HTC Advantage X7501's keys to register, we had to press hard on each key, using our index fingers. The small size of the keyboard creates tight spacing between keys and makes it easy to nudge the wrong one. If you press a key on the top row by accident, as I did (the phone Send key, say, or the shortcut key for IE), you could place a call or launch the web browser while typing a sentence.

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The phone part of the HTC Advantage X7501 seems like an afterthought. On the plus side, it's an unlocked, quad-band GSM phone so you can use a SIM card with a service plan from AT&T, T-Mobile, or most other GSM carriers in either the U.S. or overseas without a contract. On the minus side, it doesn't work like a typical mobile phone - it simply isn't designed like a handset with an earpiece. To carry on a conversation, you have to use the speakerphone, the included earbuds (or your own; it has a 3.5-mm headphone jack), or an optional Bluetooth headset.

Even with a headset, it's still awkward to carry the main unit around with you. At 133x98x16mm, it doesn't exactly slip into a shirt pocket. It's also fairly heavy at 0.36kg.

Our calling experience was fine: the speakerphone was loud enough on both ends, but the folks we talked to sometimes complained about an echo. Talk-time battery life was very good, though: the HTC Advantage X7501 lasted more than seven hours in our lab tests. Visit PC Advisor's Mobile Advisor website for reviews of the latest mobile phones, smartphones and PDAs.

HTC Advantage X7501: Specs

  • 133x98x16mm
  • 359g
  • laptop style phone/PDA, with internal antenna
  • HSDPA/UMTS 850/1900 MHz / GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • UMTS, HSDPA, GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi
  • Li-Ion, 2200 mAh
  • up to 5.5 hours talk time
  • up to 300 hours standby
  • 3Mp camera with autofocus and flash light
  • video recorder
  • Bluetooth
  • miniSD (Hot swap and SDHC compatible)
  • SMS, MMS, Email, Instant Messaging
  • Java
  • WAP 2.0, xHTML, HTML
  • Handsfree Speaker
  • Voice-Activated Dialing
  • MP3 ringtones
  • 5in TFT, 640x480 pixels, 256K colours
  • organiser
  • synchronisation software
  • 133x98x16mm
  • 359g
  • laptop style phone/PDA, with internal antenna
  • HSDPA/UMTS 850/1900 MHz / GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • UMTS, HSDPA, GPRS, EDGE, Wi-Fi
  • Li-Ion, 2200 mAh
  • up to 5.5 hours talk time
  • up to 300 hours standby
  • 3Mp camera with autofocus and flash light
  • video recorder
  • Bluetooth
  • miniSD (Hot swap and SDHC compatible)
  • SMS, MMS, Email, Instant Messaging
  • Java
  • WAP 2.0, xHTML, HTML
  • Handsfree Speaker
  • Voice-Activated Dialing
  • MP3 ringtones
  • 5in TFT, 640x480 pixels, 256K colours
  • organiser
  • synchronisation software

OUR VERDICT

All things considered, the HTC Advantage X7501 is a full-featured PDA with an awkward phone and a poorly designed keyboard. Sure, you get a choice of wireless carriers to use and no obligation to a contract, but this also means that you don't get the benefit of a subsidised price. At around £550, the HTC Advantage X7501 costs more than many other PDA phones - indeed, as much as some basic notebook PCs, and more than some basic desktops with a monitor. What a disadvantage.

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