Smartphone users are typically divided into two groups: one favoring full QWERTY keyboards sans touchscreen input as seen in the Dopod C730 and the other with preference for a fully interactive touchscreen minus a QWERTY keyboard like the HTC 3600i. More often than not, smartphones with QWERTY keyboards are more welcomed due to its ease of usage for text input, and this might be what we have with the ASUS M530w, the company's debut smartphone that's powered by Windows Mobile 6.0 Standard.
The main focus of the ASUS M530w, as evident in its design, is to be a slim and lightweight smartphone that offers what a smartphone is expected to deliver: a whole range of office and mobile applications for productivity and communication convenience. Though the bulk of it is made out of plastic materials, the 135g ASUS M530w manages to feel hefty in a quality way and is slim enough to feel handy even.
Being a smartphone without a touchscreen for input, the ASUS M530w naturally has a fully integrated QWERTY keyboard and a multidirectional navigation control pad for scrolling through the interface of the Windows Mobile 6.0 Standard operating system. We enjoyed the solid tactile feedback from the buttons and were able to type out messages rather quickly using both hands. Of course, if you are just beginning to migrate from touchscreen to keyboard, a learning curve will be inevitable.
Basic navigation keys such as the five-way directional keypad with dedicated Back and Home buttons are well placed and outlined for a quick and intuitive navigational experience while the 2.4 inch TFT that's capable of 65,000 colors is pleasant to look at. For right-handed users, the placement of the jog-dial on the top left side of the phone may be not be the most ideal ergonomically speaking, but it did not make it difficult for us to scroll through web pages and documents.
Not forgetting that the ASUS M530w is a business-centric device, we were pleased to find our review unit to arrive with applications such as the Bluetooth Presenter and World Card Mobile. The latter lets you to take snapshots of name cards and save them directly to your contacts list with the help of the built-in 2.0 megapixel camera and scanning software. The performance was slightly above average as it only managed to successfully register three out of five namecards that we threw at it in quick succession. A more leisurely scanning pace is therefore recommended. Common office files are supported by the preloaded ClearVue Document Viewer, but it only lets you read Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF formats. Editing is not supported at all.
Despite having no editing function, the ASUS M530w will still be welcomed by workaholics who are practically married to their Inbox. Mail servers supported by the ASUS M530w include POP3, IMAP4, Microsoft Exchange and more importantly, Blackberry 4.0, thereby giving corporate users even more freedom to check their messages at nearly anywhere they may be. All these are made possible by its 802.11g/b wireless connectivity for e-mails and web surfing on the go, to top it off with 3G video phone functionality.
Not surprisingly, battery consumption was on the high side with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth activated; it didn't take more than a day for the battery to be completely depleted in our test. With moderate use of wireless connectivity however, the ASUS M530w managed to return a more respectable battery life of nearly two days. Daily charging is recommended if you're a heavy user.
Three words aptly sum up what the ASUS M530w represents: Light, slim and intuitive. Yet for all the goodness it is capable of bringing to the table, the most glaring disadvantage of the ASUS M530w is its short battery life. It would be a more appealing business smartphone if the battery is able to hold out for half a day more or so. For those of you who are interested in getting a stable smartphone with QWERTY input, the ASUS M530w is going for a price tag of S$828 (~USD$553). It's a really handy smartphone to have around if you don't mind its rather short battery life.