We have tested the Qtek 9100 communicator which comes from the HTC Wizard platform. O2 XDA mini S, T-Mobile MDA Vario and i-mate K-JAM are devices from the same platform, this is why this review applies to them too. The Qtek 9100 offers a comfortable sliding keyboard, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as well as the Windows Mobile Ver 5.0 OS - all this at a very attractive price.
excellent hardware keypad
very good display
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
improved office applications
good sound through the earphones
new type of memory card (miniSD)
difficult single-hand control
needs an adapter for common 3.5 mm earphones
Qtek 9100 is one of the products from the HTC Wizard platform. HTC (High Tech Computing) is a Taiwanese manufacturer, while Wizard is the code name of the platform. This labeling makes sense as the mentioned Taiwanese company usually provides its products to mobile operators and other companies, which label them consequently. In other words, one and the same product appears on the market under different company logos and the situation seems to start to spin out of control. Here is the list of some of the brands, under which the HTC products are sold: Qtek, i-mate, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Dopod, Krome
The Qtek label comes closest to the origin for it is a registered label of the Taiwanese manufacturer. If you run into names like MDA Vario, I-mate K-Jam or O2 XDA Mini, you can be sure that they all are nearly identical to Qtek. The differences among them usually rest in the additional software equipment and the contingent minor modifications of the firmware. Just to show you that it is not all so simple, I will only mention the fact that HTC offers its Wizard to its partners in three hardware versions.
Qtek 9100 is a communicator, which basically means a pocket computer with added call application. It is based on the latest version of the Windows Mobile 5.0 OS and features a sliding QWERTY keyboard.
Qtek 9100 is a device meant to be primarily used for work, just like all communicators we already know. Despite the fact that Windows Mobile is able to back various types of excellent games and plenty of multimedia functions and to play both MP3 files and videos, these extras will definitely be the last to be taken in mind by the users, when they consider buying the device. A far more important feature will probably be the Wi-Fi support, the good synchronization options or applications for work with documents and office tools.
Do not look abeam
When closed, Qtek will first remind you of HTC Magician (MDA Compact, Qtek S100, i-mate JAM, . It has nearly the same dimensions - 109 × 58 mm. Almost the entire front area is occupied by a big display and a few buttons. What surprises is the thickness of the device. It has been extended to 24 mm (compared to Magician, which is only 18 mm), due mainly to the keypad, which slides out. It is also slightly heavier - 160 g, but such a weight is quite usual for a communicator. Qtek 9100 fits well in the hand as all its edges are perfectly rounded.
To my opinion, the design is satisfactory. It is also less experimental than the one of the Magician model. For example, I find the grid on the rear side and the ellipses around the camera lens a bit overcombined. Yet, the front side of the phone looks very attractive, even if conservative. HTC has made the covers of plastics, which is a step backwards in comparison to MDA Compact, whose construction was metal. Nevertheless, the construction of the new communicator is solid enough.Keypad: useful and brilliant
Let us now take a closer look at the most innovative part of the device: the sliding keypad. The easiest way to get to the keypad is to turn the communicator counter-clockwise and thumb-push the display upwards. This keypad constitutes 1/3 of the thickness of the device. At the same time the picture on the display will turn too. When opened Qtek resembles the Sidekick device, which is popular mainly in the USA.
There is no spring to help you open the keypad. The display is mounted in two grooves and needs to be pushed up manually. At doing so, you will here a dry friction sound. At the end of the grooves the display is caught by interlocks, whose construction is not very firm. In fact, I do not dare estimate how the keypad sliding mechanism is going to work after a certain period of frequent usage. On all accounts, everything that moves bears potential risks...
The keypad consists of four lines of silver oval keys. The spacer located in the middle of the bottom line occupies an area of two standard keys. In the upper part you will find two additional context keys, which start and control the functions currently displayed in the state bar. People with bigger fingers may find work with these keys a little bit inconvenient as the latter are situated much too close to the display.
Obviously, a keypad with 41 keys, which lacks a separate number line, is not very comfortable for all kinds of operations. Beside the standard shift function for capital letters, you can also use the blue dot function key. By pressing the latter you start to write either characters put on a second place, or numbers. The flag key opens the Start menu; the OK button confirms the current selection. Here you will also find a standard Enter key, a delete key and cursor keys.
The keys are solid, precise and big enough. Although they do not rise too much above the surface, writing with the keypad is definitely more comfortable and faster than writing with the pen. Qtek''s keypad is also significantly better than the one of MDA III. Naturally, it does not allow for using all fingers. You will do best if you type with your thumbs, holding the communicator in both your hands. The distribution of the keys is more or less identical to the one used in common computers. However, as the keys on the communicator are organized in a matrix and certain lines are slightly moved, it will take you some time before you get used to its keyboard.
The keypad lights up when a key is pressed. It goes out after five seconds of non-activity. There are no settings to choose from. The application of the blue lighting is no big success either, as it is difficult to read. Besides, the backlighting is uneven too. Both the keypad and the entire communicator can be locked with a password and thus secured against random key press or unauthorized use. BTW, Windows Mobile 5.0 invites you to set a password right after the first start of the device.
The display features a standard resolution of 240 × 320 pixels and shows 65K colors. Even though this type of communicators are not equipped for work with VGA yet, the display of Qtek is fine enough, because it is relatively small (43 × 58 mm). The display is clear and has good contrast. Unfortunately, the touchpad surface is glossy. Within the settings you will find a 5-steps backlight option. In the first stage the backlighting is fully switched off. What a pity that the backlighting is not separated into two modes - for battery use on one hand, and for external power on the other.
Below the display you will find a big four-way button with a confirming middle part as well as two relatively small functional keys and the two big red and green receiver keys for call control. Above the display there are two additional keys: the left one opens the message applications, the right one starts the internet browser. The button placed on the right side of the device starts both the voice control and the voice recorder applications. The second button opens the camera application. On the left side there is a key for the Comm Manager application.
The four application keys can be assigned different applications from the setup menu. What''s more, the voice recorder key recognizes the difference between a short and a long press.
There are LEDs on both sides of the microphone. The left one uses various colors to indicate ongoing wireless connection through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The second LED lights up when the GSM mode is active, when SMS is received or when the phone is being charged. It also alerts you about reminders.
On the left side you will also find the volume button. Placed on the right side of the device are the infrared port and the hidden reset button. The top part is occupied by the switch-off button and the slot for the miniSD memory card (which is one of the differences as to MDA Compact, which uses SD/MMC card of standard size). A short press on the switch-off button shuts down the display; a press-hold on the same button closes the entire communicator.
The bottom side of the device is reserved for the miniUSB (2.0) connector, used for synchronizing Qtek with a computer, data transferring and charging. The jack connector is small, so be sure to get yourself an adapter if you want to use standard earphones. The back cover is released through a sliding driver. Under the cover you will find a Li-Pol battery with capacity of 1250 mAh. According to the manufacturer''s information, Qtek 9100 has a stand-by of 150-200 hours and 210-300 minutes of phone calls. The device gets charged after approximately 4 hours. As I have not used the communicator as a normal user would do, I do not dare say what the real battery life is. Under the battery is to be found the slot for the SIM card.
The lens of the built-in 1.3 MP camera is mounted on the back side. Next to it there is a tiny mirror and a flash LED; a little bit further you will see the connector for the external antenna. Notice also the tiny grids placed on both sides of the device - they secure the speakers. If I am not mistaken, Qtek 9100 seems to be the first communicator to feature both Windows Mobile OS and stereo speakers. Quite atypically, the pen is hidden in right bottom corner. It is relatively small, even though it draws out. The pen is much too light and not really suitable for work.
Is it slower?
The most discussed part of Qtek 9100 in all internet forums is its microprocessor as HTC has used Texas Instruments OMAP 850, which works at 195 MHz. Even though it is a different processor than the ones used in other PDA/communicators and frequency is not its most important feature, there are certain doubts about its reliability as far as intersection with a sophisticated OS like Windows Mobile 5.0 and a different memory manager is concerned. Some users quote everything they did not manage to run in Qtek 9100, others praise the speed of the communicator.
BTW, I find the speed dilemma quite difficult to solve. Yes, Qtek 9100 is fast enough, but not in all cases. If you play MP3 files in background, the other applications run slow. The change of the direction of the display is not the fastest, either. To sum up, work applications in Qtek 9100 are generally fast enough. Yet, if you mean to use memory-intensive multimedia programs or to browse complicated web sites, the device may not perform at high speed. There are various tweaks including registry modifications, but we do not recommend you to rely too much on them.
Windows Mobile version 5.0 uses a different system to manage memory. It is very similar to the one used in PC. On one hand, Qtek 9100 offers ROM that can be considered a separate drive. Despite the fact that its abbreviation stands for Read Only Memory, you can save data into it. The built in memory in Qtek 9100 has a capacity of 128 MB. The user however gets no more than 47 MB, as the RAM is also used by the OS, the standard programs and the database. As the device allows you to use both the RAM and the memory card (which works in a way identical to the one of the RAM), the risk you may run out of memory is minor. The good news is that everything - from data and programs to settings - is kept saved, even if the battery gets flat. This is basically one of the main advantages of the Windows Mobile 5.0 OS in comparison to its older versions.
The communicator is also equipped with RAM to support running programs as well as temporary data savings. Yet, users are not permitted to use this RAM as storage. It offers 64 MB, some of which get used up immediately after the communicator is started. Hence, the user gets approximately 50 MB, which is sufficient for the support of several sophisticated applications running simultaneously.
New memory management has one negative impact: applications and user data are kept in the memory section, where data are saved even after the battery has run down. As this memory section is slower in comparison to RAM, all applications installed in it get started with certain delay. Fortunately, this drawback does not influence the common use of the communicator too much. What''s more, I expect the majority of users to install their applications on the memory card, which will basically eliminate delay problems.
Single-hand control? It depends...
This is the first time I use a communicator with the 5.0 version of Windows Mobile. I was most curious about the single-hand control, which was said to had been significantly improved. Unfortunately, I got disappointed. If closed and based on the original settings, Qtek 9100 is practically unmanageable without a stylus.
Nevertheless, a minor modification was enough so that things got in a perfect order: I changed the functions that were assigned to the keys above the display. I set the left one to open the Start menu and the right one to confirm settings or close the application. This change was enough to make the single-hand control option in Qtek comparable to the one of Palm Treo. What a pity that Qtek 9100 does not permit customization for the software keys below the display too. If it did, I would not have had to grope above the display every time I wanted to use the Start menu or the OK/Close function. Stylus is not necessary, unless you need to write something.
To my surprise, at certain moments managing Qtek 9100 with opened keypad seemed to be even harder. The OK button at the corner of the application is only possible to reach with the pen, not to mention the fact that the communicator does not offer any key shortcuts for clipboard operations. The graphic environment has undergone insignificant changes. You will see an OK button or a cross symbol in the right corner of the majority of the applications. The cross does not close running applications, just minimizes them. The state bar consists of two application options or functions, manageable through the buttons placed below the display.
If you need to write longer texts, you''d better use the hardware keypad. No matter where you are the display always switches to landscape mode.
The new Windows Mobile OS implements a new version of the Active Sync program, which needs to be installed on a PC. Outwardly, synchronizing seems unchanged. The inside is full of surprises though. I found the synchronizing process somewhat slow, even though the official sources state it is faster than the forerunners. Nevertheless, unlike former OS, inserting my 500 contact names and a few hundreds of additional fields into PDA through Windows Mobile took me significantly longer. Consequent synchronizing of modifications was fast though. Here is a list of the synchronizing applications: phonebook, calendar, task organizer, notes, emails, files in folders, mobile contents strips and multimedia data.
Qtek 9100 does not support 3G networks, in spite of the fact that the HTC manufacturer has already implemented this technology. Data communication in mobile networks is supported by GPRS and EDGE - both of Class 10, but once a connection is established, Qtek 9100 does not show which one of the two options is being used. The setup is very simple. You need to only enter the address of the access point.
Qtek 9100 is delivered together with two CDs. The second one contains one program only: Spb GPRS Monitor. Windows Mobile OS does not offer this function by default. The latter monitors transferred data as well as connection expenses. Once it ha been installed the button that closes the GPRS/EDGE connection disappears. Press and hold the red button instead.
The Wi-Fi support seems to be much more interesting. According to manufacturer''s official specifications it features IEEE 802.11b/g compatibility standards. According to rating and opinions from all over the world, however, there is only one communicator that supports the fastest g and this is i-mate. All other models work at the slower b standard.
Establishing a connection through home access point was effortless, indeed. I had to only enter the WEP key and I appeared online almost immediately. What surprised me, though, was the low sensitivity level of the receiver (according to the indicator of the built-in program). In spite of the fact that I was staying no further than two meters from the transmitter, where the notebook was indicating a full signal, the communicator was displaying a signal between 1/3 and ˝ of its full capacity.
Qtek 9100 can establish connection with a PC or other accessories through Bluetooth as well. All wireless functions are controlled through the Comm Manager application.
Phone calls lack just a bit to perfection
Qtek supports GSM 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz. Calls are managed through an application called Phone, which resembles a common keypad with huge number keys. Qtek has been praised in many reviews because of the high quality of its earphones. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get them plugged in and functioning. When a call is being received, the speaker starts to vibrate, giving out a loud buzz, which can also be heard during conversation. Perhaps it is only this single piece that has such a defect, perhaps not. I have no critical remarks about the built-in handsfree. It is loud, indeed.
Calls are recorded by holding the button on the right side of the device. During the recording process you can also take notes. To do so, simply click on the Note icon and insert a text note into the prepared form, which already includes details such as relevant phone number and name taken directly from the phone book as well as the date and the time of the call. The call records include a full list of all calls and filter options.
The phone alerts are standard. There is a vibration option; MP3 files can be used as ringtones. Qtek 9100 is not equipped with ring profiles. Yet, you can switch to a silent mode with vibration by pressing and holding the button on the upper left corner.
Certain modifications in the phonebook are obvious at first sight as there is a phone number appearing below each contact. Horizontal cursor buttons facilitate the shifts between saved numbers or email views. By pressing one of these buttons you can open an all-details view, make a direct call, send a message or download a web page. Picture synchronization with Outlook is new. Each contact entry can be assigned a separate ringtone.
Each contact can fit in up to 40 different fields, including the name and the phone number of one''s assistant. The database structure is not subject to modification. This does not seem to make any difference though. The communicator offers plenty of saving data options. What''s more, details can also be saved in the form of a note. The latter - unlike the independent Notes application - can only consist of text. Version 5.0 does not attach voice notes to contacts (while former versions did so).
To search the phonebook write characters one by one or click on the icon of the initial letter. The whole process is possible to manage with one hand too. When you press the button the related contacts get displayed. select the one you are interested in and then you can make a call or look at all the details.
In case that you need to make just a simple phone call, it is better to press the green receiver and open the Phone application. Writing with the pen is similar to using a T9 dictionary - the communicator offers related numbers straight away. For some inexplicable reason, the keypad is impossible to use in this particular case.
Work with messages in the new Windows Mobile does not differ a lot from the older versions. It offers one bulk application for everything- from SMS and MMS to emails. Individual branches of the directory tree respond to the individual types of messages. In other words, SMS do not get mixed with emails.
The hardware keypad makes SMS writing really comfortable. The editor counts down written characters. Once you outreach 160 it starts to also display the number of written sub messages. The phone also offers advice of delivery - either general, or related to each separate message. Incoming messages first pop up in a window on the main display for a moment and then back away to the legend line on the active screen. MMS are viewed in a very similar way, but their setup is so complicated that I trailed by. I just did not manage to send a single MMS.
The email client works with POP3 and IMAP4 protocols. Its characteristics have not been changed much. You can create several email accounts. You can download entire messages or limit your selection to their headers only. Automatic downloading is available as well. One of the greatest conveniences Qtek 9100 offers is the usage of various office formats, Word, Excel and PDF documents in particular.Emails synchronize with Outlook too. They are displayed in a separate folder, just like if they were downloaded from the POP3/SMTP server.
Time-organizing functions in Windows Mobile 5.0 have not undergone significant modifications either. There is direct access to the watch and the alarm clock applications from the main display. Both of them work well. You can also set the watch to appear in the bar of each individual program. The communicator has three alarm clocks, including an option for setting the exact days of activity.
The calendar has not undergone any modifications. Events can be displayed in a bulk, day, week, month or year view. The calendar synchronizes perfectly with Outlook, including repetitions, alerts and details on the meeting place as well as text notes. The task manager is even simpler.
I was quite surprised by the synchronization in the notes application, which combines texts, drawings and records, as it managed to even transfer records from the voice recorder. It is possible that the beta version of the MS Office 12 application, which I am currently testing, helps here, but I am not entirely positive.
The voice recorder is easy to access - you need to only press and hold the button situated on the right side of the communicator. The length of the record is limited by the free capacity of the shared memory.
Office and internet
Microsoft has renamed all office applications in its mobile devices. There is no Pocket Office anymore, but Office Mobile. The greatest change is may be the lack of files of the PXL and PXW type. Instead, common formats like DOC or XLS are used. Word and Excel allow editing while Power Point is able to only read files.
Microsoft has improved its pocket Word application. The latter preserves advanced formatting quite successfully, including headers, footers, tables. It even keeps the styles. Work with pictures seems to be the only thing missing for total satisfaction.
Excel mobile handles well spreadsheet files from the PC. A piece of novelty is the graphs. On all accounts, the program is quite useful for viewing of existing sheets and creating new ones.
The internet browser has long called for improvements, but it seems that Microsoft prefers to leave some field for future innovations - Internet Explorer does not support multiple windows. The browser offers a full-screen mode as well as three ways of page formatting. One of them is the option to view pages in a single column without the necessity of horizontal scrolling. You can also save a picture from the web page you are viewing.
Internet: there is a progress indicator in the status bar standard page context menu full-screen mode
Multimedia and music
The camera has a resolution of 1.3 megapixels - 1280 × 1024 pixels. Interpolated size of 1600 × 1280 is also available. The quality it provides is terrible though. The quality of common picture is not brilliant either. Videos are recorded in a format of 176 × 144 pixels. Qtek 9100 shows pictures and plays videos by the help of a simple application called Pictures & Videos.
MP3 files are played through Windows Media application. The sound quality of the stereo speakers is average. Besides, you will have to hold the device right in front of your nose in other to notice the stereo effect. The earphones delivered in the original package improve significantly the sound quality. The communicator goes with a small jack. Be sure you have an adapter if you mean to plug in a pair of common earphones. I do not like the material of the cable either as curves that got once created during the packing process seem to remain forever. On the other hand, the remote control mounted on the cable is excellent.
Beside the communicator, the original package includes the following accessories:
stereophonic earphones with handsfree
horizontal case with a clip to hang on a belt
Marek Lutonský: excellent for work
I am not going to closely link and compare the Qtek 9100 communicator neither with MDA Compact, nor with other pocket computer or communicator models as I consider it to be a brand new device. It is a perfect demonstration of interface between a communicator and Microsoft Outlook. Nor do I have any negative remarks regarding PIM. Even though I would have appreciated the implementation of 3G, I think that the available combination of GPRS and EDGE is quite successful. What''s more, Qtek 9100 offers Wi-Fi as well.
As for the email client and the internet browser, it is clear that we have not still come to a technological level, where we would be able to directly compare one and the same program both in a communicator and a PC. Smaller display and limited control possibilities designate these applications as usable for field-work only. I regard highly both the hardware keypad and the applications for work with office documents.
To sum up, Qtek 9100 is a top-quality communicator offered at a reasonable price. When we first started to evaluate it, longer before we got to know its real price, we wrote that we would be pleasantly surprised if the device hit the market at a price of approximately 570 euro. Well, we are. Qtek 9100 is being currently offered for 555 euro.
As a MDA Compact veteran user I was really longing to grab and test Qtek 9100. It did not disappoint me. Its keypad as well as its WLAN support excuses its extended thickness. The new OS is much better than the one I know from MDA Compact. Nevertheless, I would have appreciated the option for changing the function of the software buttons mounted below the display. I do not like the slot for miniSD memory cards. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to build an opinion of my own regarding the processor speed as it has been short time since I started to use the new communicator. I also look forward to testing Qtek''s durability in order to compare it with the one of MDA Compact, which is pretty good. In spite of my short experience with the new communicator, I do like it and consider its price appropriate.