Gigabyte's Digital TV GSmart t600 Mobile

Lars plays with the t600 mobile phone from Gigabyte's "GSmart" division. Digital TV is the big highlight here.
| Jul 23, 2007 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 75%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE Communications

Introduction

IntroductionWhen is a smart phone more than a smart phone? That's a good question, but the GSmart t600 definitely has potential to be something more than just a phone. You might wonder why this is and it will all be revealed in due time; but first let's start with a little bit of background information about GSmart, as it might be a company you're more familiar with than you think.GSmart is actually a brand from Gigabyte's mobile phone division, so rather than doing mobile devices under its own brand name like Asus, Gigabyte spun off this business into a separate company. GSmart is actually called Giga-Byte Communications Inc. but all of its smart phones are sold under the GSmart brand. The company was founded in February 2004, so it's not a brand new player in the mobile phone market, but it's only recently made its products available outside of the Taiwanese and Chinese market.Some of its Gigabyte branded products are unlikely to appeal to markets outside of Asia due to branding such as Doraemon, Snoopy, Barbie and Keroro, a couple of these being famous Japanese cartoons. The handsets also look rather odd, but its GSmart devices are an entirely different cup of tea. Although you've been able to buy some of the GSmart phones from specialist importers such as Expansys in the past, Gigabyte is now making a push into several territories around the world and Europe is one of its target markets.
Enough talk about the company, what about the phone? Well, as you can see from the picture above, it's white with a black border around its sides and a fairly square shape which doesn't really stand out at first glance. But one shouldn't judge a book by its covers and the GSmart t600 has quite a few interesting features once you start looking at what it has to offer.First of all, what sets the GSmart t600 apart from every other Windows Mobile powered device so far is its built-in digital TV tuners. That is not a typo, as the GSmart t600 features no less than three different TV tuners as well as two radio tuners. It has hardware support for DVB-T, DVB-H and T-DMB when it comes to TV and T-DMB, and DAB when it comes to radio, but it will also receive DVB-T transmitted radio as well.Sounds too good to be true? Well, it isn't, as it works quite well providing you're in a good reception area, at least as far as DVB-T goes anyway, as this is the only one of the three technologies that works in Taiwan where we tested the handset. It is also the only tuner that Gigabyte provides software for, so the question is what you do when you want to watch a DVB-H or T-DMB program where those are available, but this is more of an issue for Gigabyte and hopefully something that will be sorted out shortly.
The TV application might differ from the one we were supplied with, as during the review process Gigabyte added an English manual on its website with information about software from Cyberlink for the English language version of the GSmart t600, although the software on our review sample was in English and we're not entirely sure why Gigabyte changed the software. The quality of the TV programs were excellent as long as the reception was strong enough, but this was something of a problem unfortunately, as the signal would drop indoors and when you walked around or sat in a car or a bus, so for this reason it's not exactly an ideal commuter's friend. On the upside, the TV viewing application was dead easy to use and didn't cause any problems.
As you can see, the TV programs here in Taiwan which are broadcasted on DVB-T aren't that much fun, unless you're a local or happen to be interested in watching the news that is. There's one issue here which is in relation to the stylus doubling up as the antenna. You might not think that it's a big deal, since you wouldn't be using the touch screen while watching TV. This logic makes sense, especially given you can control the TV viewing application with the keypad; but the problem we had was that the stylus is very poor, though we'll cover that in more detail later on in the review. For now, let's take a closer look on what you're getting in terms of hardware specs.

Hardware Specifications

Hardware SpecificationsGigabyte has done a good job in terms of component choice for the GSmart t600; first of all the CPU is a Marvell PXA270 operating at 520MHz which means plenty of grunt. This might very well be needed to do all the TV processing, as the GSmart t600 features a 480x640 display which measures 2.6-inches and can display 260,000 colours. It really looks stunning and responds quite quickly as well.Add to this 256MB of flash memory, some 139MB of that being available to the user and 64MB of RAM. This is where we encountered a slight glitch with our review sample and hope it's something that will be fixed before the GSmart t600 hits retail. Although a total of 45MB of RAM should be available to the user, there seemed to be some kind of a memory leak, as even after a hard reset only about 21MB of memory was available. This would drop even further to about 13MB after a couple of days usage, even without any applications running.This issue would cause the GSmart t600 to feel quite sluggish when in use. At first we thought this was due to Windows Mobile 6, but because the device worked just fine after a hard reset, we figured the problem had to lie elsewhere. What seemed to slow the device down for certain was to put up the Live Messenger on the home screen, but that's a different problem altogether.
In terms of connectivity the GSmart t600 is quite well specified. It has built in Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR and a mini USB 2.0 port which also doubles up as the charging point. It's also got a microSD card slot and we had no problem using it with a 1GB Sandisk microSD card. Interestingly, the USB port can be changed from ActiveSync mode to SD card reader mode, which turns the GSmart t600 into a memory card reader which will plug in and work with any PC without initiating ActiveSync. Thankfully the phone will charge this way as well, as this has been a problem with older Windows Mobile devices, they wouldn't charge unless they were connected via ActiveSync.
The GSmart t600 is sadly not a 3G device, nor does it support EDGE. It has a quad band GSM radio which works at 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz and also supports GPRS Class 10. It saves the battery life to a degree, and with a 1,300mAh battery there isn't too much juice if you're going to watch a lot of TV on it. A note on the keypad, well, the lack of I should say, as this handset has a touch screen. Gigabyte has only added a five way navigation key with a GSmart logo in the middle, two soft keys, a make and end call button and finally a Windows start button along with an ok button. Pretty basic, but it does the job.
Flip it over and you'll find the now fairly standard 2 Megapixel camera with an LED flash and a self portrait mirror. At least Gigabyte opted for a camera with auto focus, although it's quite slow at focusing and sometimes it doesn't do a very good job at all. The camera isn't the worst we've seen, but it can't compete with a real digital camera, though it's actually better than the one on the LG Prada phone.
As you can see, it has a problem handling too much sunlight and this is with the sun shining from behind, but the parts in the shadow look quite sharp. Indoors performance isn't great when it comes to colour reproduction, as you can see from the picture below. A word of advice if you happen to visit the food court at the Vieshow cinema in Taipei, stay away from the salad dressing at the Indian curry place, as they mix Rhode Island dressing with blueberry yogurt...
Anyhow, the camera does an adequate job and the camera application is actually a lot better than the one we've seen on Windows Mobile 5 devices. You can see what it looks like in action below. It has a lot of settings, but you can bring up a full screen settings menu which makes it easy to adjust the various options.
The GSmart t600 measures 110 x 55.5 x 18.5mm (HxWxD) and it weighs 140g with the battery fitted. This makes it fairly heavy, though with that said it's still smaller than many other touch screen based Windows Mobile devices.The GSmart t600 doesn't use the USB connector for headsets such as the HTC devices, instead it has a dedicated headset connector just above the SD card slot on the right hand side. Both the SD card slot and the headset connector are covered by plastic covers, although the problem is that these are quite large and can't be moved far enough out of the way. It might make the phone look nicer when the headset isn't used, but it will be an extra thing sticking out of your phone and something that can break easily when you plug in the headset.>The stylus slides into the top of the phone and as we mentioned earlier, it has some problems. Because Gigabyte made the stylus double up as the antenna, it extends, but the problem with this is that when you just want to pull it out and use it as a stylus, you end up having to pull out the whole antenna most of the time before you can remove it. Due to the top part of the antenna being very thin, it doesn't seem too far fetched to think that this could easily snap off if you're not careful. The other problem here is the tip of the stylus, it's round rather than pointy. This gives it a very odd feeling when you're using it on the touch screen and makes it difficult to pinpoint what you're trying to tap sometimes. Another problem with the lack of a tip on the stylus is the fact that it can't be inserted into the reset hole on the left hand side, as this is too small to fit the stylus, so you'll have to use something like a paperclip in its place.

Software

SoftwareAlthough we've already covered some of the software aspects of the GSmart t600, Gigabyte has crammed it full of extras, even though Windows Mobile 6 Professional comes with a wide range of handy applications on its own. The TV application is the easiest one to spot, but Gigabyte has also added Spb Catalog and Spb Backup, both of which are quite useful. Gigabyte has also included an audio recording application, an audio mixer application with 3D audio spatializer, a contact blacklist utility and its own Bluetooth utility.
The standby screen is quite busy when you first power on the GSmart t600 and we'd suggest you make it a bit less busy to speed up the phone.
As mentioned earlier, Windows Mobile 6 comes with Live Messenger and it is much easier to use than the version that came with Windows Mobile 5 devices, especially when it comes to chatting with multiple people at once.
The 480x640 screen is great for browsing web pages, although it might not look like it from the TweakTown screen below. You can turn the screen sideways and get 640x480. Although this isn't quite good enough for most modern websites, it's still far superior to the standard 320x240 screens which most smart phones use.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsSo there you have it, the Gigabyte GSmart t600, the first mobile phone with three digital TV tuners built-in. It's not the best Windows Mobile device we've seen, but it does have its charms. It might not be the prettiest of phones either, but it's slightly smaller than most other Windows Mobile devices which sport a touch screen.It has a wide range of applications as standard and it's got quite good specifications, but our review sample suffered from a few niggles which need to be ironed out before retail units are being shipped. Let's hope that Gigabyte changes the stylus around slightly and adds a point to it.
It's also not going to be cheap, the expected retail price here in Taiwan without any subsidy from the network carrier is expected to be around $20,000 NT (or $688 AUD). However this might be different depending on the market where you purchase it and if any network providers offer it at a subsidised price. Had it been a 3G handset it would have most likely had more interest from the various network providers; but as it stands, this handset seems to have ended up in a niche market.Overall, the Gigabyte GSmart t600 isn't a bad device, it's just not competitive enough with other Windows Mobile devices out there, TV tuner or not. However, it shows the potential Gigabyte has and we'd expect to see it improve upon its phones as new models arrive.- ProsGreat screenBuilt-in WiFiBuilt-in digital TV tunersFast CPUPlenty of storage memorymicroSD card slot- ConsMemory leaks in our review sampleSluggish response at timesPoor stylusSome design issuesNot 3GRating - 7.5 out of 10

Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:26 pm CDT

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