Review of the HTC P4000


The HTC P4000 is a Windows Mobile device (though sadly only Windows Mobile 5, and not the most recent version 6). As usual, my reason for testing the device is NOT to look at its suitability as a mobile computing platform, but rather at the quality of the built-in cellular phone.

 

The HTC P400 is available from Telus

Last Updated: 04-Jul-2007

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

I would like to thank TelecomZombie for lending me the phone for this test.

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: This particular aspect of the phone was perhaps one of its shining features. Howard Chu and I tested the P4000 against his Nokia 6265i over at Square One in Mississauga. We were hard pressed to find any difference in the two phonesí abilities to pull in and hold onto a signal. Both seemed to provide similar levels of signal fade, and both dropped calls at pretty much the same distance into The Hall of Shame.

I previously reviewed the Nokia 6265i last summer and I found it to have excellent RF performance. Any phone thatís been able to match the Nokia has been given the same accolades. The P4000 is no different and that means it stands as one of the most sensitive CDMA phones you can presently buy.

Over-the-road Performance: I wasnít particularly blown away by the performance of this phone while using it on the move. There were countless little holes punched in the audio, though to the phoneís credit those little holes were very clean and they didnít distort the audio in any way (as is often the case with many other CDMA phones Iíve tested). If the little holes donít bother you, the phone does manage to provide fairly predictable performance as you drive around.

To be fair to the P4000, CDMA phones seem to come in two general varieties: those which present frame errors as odd distortions to the sound; and those that simply drop out the audio when frame errors occur. I usually lean toward giving the highest marks to the latter group, as I find micro-holes in the audio far less annoying than actual distortions. What bothered me about the performance of the P4000 however, was the sheer number of these tiny dropouts, even in areas where I hadnít expected them.

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: I found the tonal balance free of most of the annoying harshness that seems endemic to phones grafted onto PDAs, though it lacked any real depth, and subsequently sounded a bit flat. I could easily listen to various types of voices for prolonged periods without any fatigue, but I kept wishing it didnít sound quite so shallow.

Sound Reproduction: The sound reproduction was about average for a CDMA phone, which meant that it was pretty good generally, but some nuances of speech, such as ďsĒ sounds were distorted. The latter is generally a flaw with the EVRC CODEC, but some CDMA phones Iíve tested have actually done a pretty good job of reducing the effect of this.

Earpiece Volume: Here was one area where they could have done much better. While earpiece volume was sufficient when callers were loud to begin with, it became very difficult to hear fainter callers, especially if there was any background noise competing for your attention.

During testing on the move I noticed that the phoneís earpiece volume SEEMED to go up and down a little for no apparent reason. This might have been due to a poorly-implement volume boost feather that we often find on Nokia phones. The effect was annoying to some extent, but since the volume changes were relatively minor, it wasnít all that bad.

Outgoing Audio: The overall quality of the outgoing audio is actually very good. I had Howard Chu call me back-to-back using the P4000 and his Nokia 6265i and it was quite clear that the P4000 sounded better. Unfortunately all this falls apart when there is background noise present around the P4000. Not only does the quality of the audio suffer as a result, but as the noise increases, the likelihood of your voice being cutoff completely goes up as well.

When I performed the standard highway noise test with the P4000, it failed miserably. When I opened the windows on my car I found that my voice would cutout about 75% of the time. When I passed a noisy truck, my voice literally disappeared without a trace and all I heard was a synthesized background noise until Iíd closed the window.

The phone fairs better at the noisy food court at Square One, but only because the audio isnít totally blanked. While still audible, the audio becomes seriously degraded by the background, and that din is surprisingly obvious for a CDMA phone. Most CDMA phones can blank out much of the background din under such conditions.

Speakerphone: Sadly the speaker on the P4000 is very faint and itís only good for use in quiet rooms. The quality of the speaker is also rather tinny, but itís acceptable for most types of voices. The microphone sensitivity is boosted during speakerphone use and the overall outgoing sound quality is excellent. You may not find using the speakerphone particularly enjoyable, but your callers will love it.

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: Ring volume is okay, but it could do with being much louder if you expect to hear it in a noisy environment. Under noisy conditions you will probably have to rely on the vibrator to alert you to incoming calls. Fortunately the vibrator is quite powerful, and so this might be enough to compensate for the ringer volume, so long as you carry the device in close enough proximity to your body to feel it.

I transferred a copy of the super-load ringtone I use in my i880 and it wasnít too shabby, though it was still magnitudes quieter than the same ringtone coming out of my Motorola iDEN phone. I guess the lesson here is, to get the most out of a rather limited resource, itís best to choose your ringtones wisely.

Keypad Design: Except for the SEND and END keys, you have to rely on a virtual keypad to dial numbers. I found the virtual keys were too small and I often dialed the wrong digit. Thatís no so bad if you are entering the original number, as you can always back over mistakes and correct them. However, when I was in voicemail systems, mistakes were much more serious. I had to wait for the error message and then start over. I eventually started using the stylus to dial and perform tests.

It is possible to slide open the sideways-facing QWERTY-style keypad and dial from there, but this is hardly a natural way to use a phone. Even then, the tiny little keypad is fiddly and you must be just as careful dialing it as you are with the virtual keypad on the screen.

Display: As with most PDA-phones, the display looks great indoors, but itís difficult to read in direct sunlight. When lighting isnít an issue, the screen has excellent color clarity and it provides sharp images and very readable text.

Icing on the Cake

Camera: The 2-megapixel camera is not bad, but hardly better than most other 2-megapixel camera-phones. On the plus side it has good lens linearity, surprisingly little digital noise in low lighting conditions, and a positively huge viewfinder. On the downside however, it has trouble keeping the colors true when there are varying light conditions in the shot, and it produces very odd ramping effects on sharp edges. Overall however, youíll be reasonably pleased with the results once you get used to using it.

Conclusions

Iíve rarely been impressed with the quality of the phones that usually get grafted onto PDAs, and while Iím not exactly impressed now, the P4000 is at least a move in the right direction. If they could fix the three primary problems (soft earpiece, shallow tonal balance, and problems with background noise degrading outgoing audio) theyíd actually have a fairly decent phone. Taken as a whole therefore, the P4000 is only average when it comes to the phone function, but thatís MUCH BETTER than most other PDA Iíve tested (especially from Telus).

Home