Review of the UTStarcom PPC6670


The UTStarcom is a Windows CE Smartphone with a very cool slide-out QWERTY-like keypad. As you know however, I donít test phones for their usability as data devices, but rather as phones. In that regard the PPC6670 turned out to be a big disappointment.

 

This phone is available through Bell Mobility

Last Updated: 06-May-2006

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

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: I brought the 6670 (along with a Samsung SPH-a920 I was testing at the same time) over to Rockwood Mall, which is excellent for testing Bell Mobility phones because the network has poor coverage in there. This was one of the few areas where the phone really shines, as it has excellent RF sensitivity. It was a match for the a920 and it blew the doors off my old ST-7868W.

Over-the-road Performance: This aspect of its performance was also quite good, but it wasnít quite as good as that of the a920. It did a fairly reasonable job of taming the frame errors and if it werenít for the better performance of the Samsung model I might not had thought it was anything but terrific. Sadly the good news ends here, because just about every other core aspect of the phone was either mediocre or disappointing. That was quite a contrast to the a920, which overshadowed the 6670 in my testing.

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

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: The tonal balance of the 6670 is a decidedly tinny, but not harsh. However, harshness usually occurs at high volumes and sadly the 6670 isnít capable of generating very much volume on the native earpiece. Itís also difficult to find the right position for your ear on what is essentially a featureless surface.

With my trusty Samsung earbud plugged into the 2.5mm headset jack at the bottom of the unit I found phone volume to be only a tad louder than with the native earpiece. Volume for other functions, such as output from Windows Media Player, was actually quite good. Itís too bad they couldnít make it loud for phone calls too.

Sound Reproduction: Because the volume was rather low, it was difficult to make any real judgments about the sound reproduction. However, when compared to the Samsung a920 that I was testing at the same time (turned down to match the volume of the 6670) I found the two phones to sound about equal in this respect. There is however more background hiss on the 6670 than on the a920.

Outgoing sound was below average for a CDMA phone. Even when tests were made in a quiet environment, I could still tell from listening to the voicemail messages Iíd left that the call had been made from a CDMA phone, and once there was some background noise present, things just got worse.

In the not-so-crowded food court at Rockwood Mall, where the background was rather minor, the detrimental effects on the audio were stunningly obviously. When tested in a moving car, with and without the windows down, the audio suffered an even greater blow. While this isnít the worst CDMA phone Iíd ever tested in this regard, it is certainly the worst Iíve tested in quite some time. Your callers are going to wonder what they did to deserve such brutal punishment.

Speakerphone: This is one of those disappointing speakerphone implementations thatís really only of value when youíre on hold and donít want to keep the phone plastered to your ear. The volume is very low and the sound is exceptionally tinny. The speaker opening is on the back, and so depending upon what surface you put the phone down on, you can potentially blot out the openings and things get worse than they already are.

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

Support Features

Ringer Volume: The ringer volume on this device is about mid-pack. Itís loud enough to hear in many situations, but it lacks the oomph to be heard in really noisy situations. The phone supports waveform ringtones and the one that sounds like an old-fashioned telephone with a bell in it is really quite good. The recording quality on the sound clip is excellent and the speaker seems capable of reproducing it without distortion.

Keypad Design: I canít really say much about this, since like most Smartphone designs, there IS NO KEYPAD. Phone dialing is done exclusively from a VIRTUAL keypad on the screen. This means that there is NO tactile feel and no way to distinguish one key from another. Youíll be tempted to dial using the stylus, which of course great complicates the process. Since this is true of virtually all Smartphones, the only thing I can say is that the virtual keys themselves could do with being a bit bigger. Those with rather fat fingers might find it difficult to press the screen in exactly the right places. Heaven help you if you try to dial this phone while driving.

Display: The display is designed primarily for data usage, but that means itís large and can display a great amount of data. However, because this is a CE device, the menus that are common to many phones just arenít there. Finding what seems to be obvious options (like changing the backlight screen brightness or ringtones) can be very confusing. From a phone userís point of view, the menu system in this phone is horrible. However, it is standard Windows CE.

The display can be seen in direct sunlight, but not awfully well. The backlight and/or reflectivity of the backing just arenít up to the task when the sun is shining. I found it necessary to look closely at the display or shield it from the bright light with my hand to really read some of the smaller bits of text.

Pressing the phone button at the bottom of the unit brings up the phone application, but it doesnít seem to turn on the backlight, which made making phone calls extremely frustrating.

Conclusions

I found myself really disappointed with this device when used as a phone. Sure the data side of things can be fun, especially because the unit includes 802.11B WiFi capabilities. That means you can bypass the enormously expensive 1X data charges by using your own wireless connection to the Internet. As a phone however, which is after all what I test, the 6700 falls short on virtually every important category except for RF performance. For those users who need a PDA first-and-foremost and a phone as a secondary consideration, perhaps this device is good enough. For those who want a quality phone with PDA capabilities however, I believe they should look elsewhere.

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