Garmin ASUS M10

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I’ll be honest with you, the first time I saw Garmin’s Nuvifone G60 with its super smooth Linux based UI, I was tickled pink. But after actually reviewing it, I realized that it really wasn’t much of a mobile handset as it was a GPS device. I’m willing to concede that it was one of their initial designs, being new to the mobile field and all, so it wasn’t perfect, and now they’ve launched the M10 into the Indian market. This is their third model here and I had no preconceived notions about it so here’s what I think after putting it through its paces.

Form Factor
The first impression you’ll have bout the M10 is that it’s a large, slightly heavy but not altogether a bad looking handset. The large 3.5-inch touchscreen (480 x 800 pixel) is unfortunately of the ‘resistive’ nature making the use of a stylus quite mandatory in certain circumstances. This was their first mistake as far as I’m concerned. It has volume/zoom keys on one side and a micro USB port above the cradle docking port on the other side. A 3.5mm handsfree socket is at the top. Even though the M10 comes with 4GB of internal memory, it should have had a hot swap slot for the microSD card which, as a matter of fact, it doesn’t. Other than the volume keys, there are no other tactile buttons.

The bundled handsfree kit is very comfortable to use for long durations and Garmin-ASUS has also included an additional stylus and a very handsome carry case for the device. What I didn’t like was the overly large box it came and that had no car kit or cradle included. Disappointing.

Features and Performance
The M10 runs on a Windows Mobile 6.5.3 Professional edition with negligible amount of customization in terms of the UI. All it offers are options to create shortcuts on multiple desktops just like Apple. It’s finger friendly but only to a small extent. The Qualcomm 7227 600 MHz processor helps runs things quite smoothly and multi-task without a hassle. Aside from the regular WinMob virtual keypads, larger QWERTY option is also available, however I found the layout to be a little too small to use easily with my stubby fingers forcing me to whip out the stylus. In landscape mode it was easier however it was still not as good as many of the other handsets out there. One of the biggest issues I had with was with reception.

It seemed like my iPhone was able to get full strength in the same areas that the M10 showed no more than three bars. This is serious cause for concern. I double checked this with other handsets in other locations as it was quite the same. I could make and take calls with no issues of voice clarity from my end or those on the other side with other handsets, but the M10 didn’t fare as well on a consistent basis.

The handset’s media capabilities are strictly basic. The music player is anything but loud, although in a purely silent environment I did notice that audio quality was not bad at all. Via the speakerphone the decibel level was as obnoxious as the Java mobile handsets, but that’s a good thing as the louder it is the easier it is to hear voice guided directions over the din of Mumbai’s traffic. There’s no radio and the only video player is very unfortunately the native Windows Media player. Surprisingly though, it read all my test files including those in DivX and XviD formats. Audio was still to low to hear clearly though. Under the games option the M10 comes with just the WinMob Solitaire and nothing else. 

There’s plenty to go around in the M10’s connectivity department. It’s a 3G enabled handset and it won’t be too long before that’s usable. For the time being you’ll have to stick to EDGE or GPRS (internet sharing also available via USB or Bluetooth). Wi-Fi (with Wi-Fi Sharing) is also an option if you’re near any hot spots. Bluetooth v2.0 +EDR with support for A2DP of course and USB 2.0 are also connectivity options for data transfer etc. Setting up email is never a problem with WinMob devices with support for Push mail (POP/IMAP) and Exchange services. Microsoft’s preloaded apps like the Marketplace for downloading apps, My Phone for data back up, Windows Live and Messenger, and an RSS reader are all present.

In the Social networking department, the WinMob Facebook app (native) is available but was for some reason painfully slow. It was so much easier going to the mobile website via the new IE browser. A YouTube shortcut to the mobile site is preloaded and Garmin’s GPS supported Ciao app has been provided. It’s a little like Foursquare but not as ‘colorful’ for lack of a better term. A Bing application has also been added and it has a voice search feature like Google so you can locate and find things going on in your vicinity. A link to MSN Money, current Weather application and a Streaming player have also been thrown in.

The handset’s GPS capabilities were by far the biggest asset it has. Not only does it acquire satellites faster than any other handset I’ve tested, including the G60, the applications associated with the feature are extremely handy. Navteq has provided the maps that are quite detailed. There are quick access options to search for anything specific, store co-ordinates for contacts, a travel guide (which is extra) as well as a list if emergency options that will quickly find the closest hospitals, Police stations, Gas stations and even parking areas that are in the vicinity. It’s not hard plotting routes and the Voice guided module really is quite loud and clear.

Misc. Features
WinMob handsets like others, come with very typical mobile apps like a calendar, Task manager, Alarm clock, Notes, calculator etc. An option that backs up all your data and settings to the memory card has been provided. Of course the Windows Mobile Office comes with editors for Excel, Word, PowerPoint apps as well as OneNote support and a separate Adobe PDF reader. The Zip application is also evident.

The 5MP camera supports Geotagging but lacks any other features other than white balance a few effects and exposure adjustment. It’s supposed to be an autofocus camera but no matter how many pictures I took, it was purely click and release. No visible focus seemed to occur. Image quality is not bad at all as mobile cameras in the same range go.

The M10 is loaded with a 1500mAh battery which is dished out an average talk time of a little over five hours. I was able to use the handset for over two days with camera, music, messages, email, calls (when I could make any) and a little GPS thrown in as well. Another asset.

The Bottom Line
The price tag on the M10 is Rs. 19,499 which may not seem like a bad price for a touchscreen handset designed for GPS. While it performs its primary function very well, it does leave a bit to be desired when it comes to call reception, music playback and of course the need to use the stylus more often than you need to.

Published Date: May 21, 2010 04:13 pm | Updated Date: May 21, 2010 04:13 pm