After the launch of the Dopod 838 Pro in Asia earlier this year, the handheld company has finally brought the model to the Australian market. Touted as the first Windows Mobile PDA-phone with HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access) and 3G, the new QWERTY-enabled handheld sports many enhancements over its 838 predecessor (not available in Australia) including a high-resolution 2-megapixel CMOS sensor and faster 400MHz Samsung processor. It is expected to be available on retail shelves by the end of September, but local pricing details are currently unavailable.
The Dopod 838 Pro runs Windows Mobile 5.0, which means you can access and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents, browse the Web using Internet Explorer, and even play music and video on the mini Windows Media Player. Windows Mobile 5.0 also gives you the ability to use MSN Messenger and Hotmail, check your personal e-mail via Direct Push Technology and Exchange 2003 SP2, and even access your calendar, contacts, tasks and inbox over the air. The 838 Pro is all about communication, and features HSDPA, quadband GSM support, 3G (UMTS), EDGE, infrared, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so you won't be lacking in ways to keep in touch.
Although the 838 Pro bears some resemblance to the 838, it is powered by a 400MHz Samsung stacked CPU with 128MB ROM and 64MB SDRAM. This is a significant improvement on the 838, which only has a TI OMAP 850 195MHz processor. This makes accessing applications faster and means that unlike some previous Dopod models, this device can handle Skype without any problem.
Navigating through the phone is made easier and faster by the 838 Pro's scroll wheel on the left side of the handset. There's also a cleverly hidden QWERTY keypad that slides out from underneath the 838 Pro. When in use, it automatically puts the screen into landscape mode and lights up if it's dark. The 838 Pro's screen measures 45mm wide by 60mm tall, which is large enough to view Web pages and documents without needing to squint.
The screen is good to take photos with, and fortunately the 838 Pro comes with a 2-megapixel camera that can be put in landscape and macro mode. There's also a 0.3-megapixel (VGA) camera at the front of the device so you can make video calls. We like the OK button on the left-hand side that takes you straight back to the home page, and the easy-to-access microSD card slot.
Finally, we're impressed with the battery life that lasted for the quoted 200 hours on standby and around 4 hours of talk time. This is without using the Wi-Fi adapter, however, which would decrease battery life significantly.
Our main problem with Windows Mobile devices is that they are less straightforward to use than other mobile phones. If you're not used to Windows Mobile then buying this device as your first mobile phone would not be advisable. Making calls with the 838 Pro on the Windows Mobile interface can be testing at times too, as you have to use the touch screen or slide-out QWERTY keypad to dial numbers.
The 838 Pro isn't small, either. Measuring 58 by 112 by 22mm, it may have difficulty fitting into your pocket and, if you can make it fit, the 180g is likely to weigh down your suit jacket pocket or pair of jeans.
The addition of a 2-megapixel camera may also prove to be a disadvantage for business use, given that some companies don't allow camera-phones in their buildings. Another problem some people might find with the 838 Pro is that most digital cameras use SD cards and not microSD ones, so you won't be able to view your photos on the device until you've transferred them over to your computer.
The 838 Pro is one of Dopod's best devices to date. With its slide-out QWERTY keypad, HSDPA capabilities and a plethora of other connectivity options, it is definitely a Windows Mobile device to be reckoned with. It's rather chunky though, and we'd like to see smaller Wi-Fi-enabled devices in the future.