With that familiar, chunky styling, comparisons between the new ASUS M930 smartphone and the Nokia E90 Communicator are inevitable. But as you'll find out shortly, the M930 is anything but a clone.
Disregarding the physical similarities, we looked at the M930 as it is. Weighing in at 158g with battery, the M930 sports a standard 12-key numeric keypad, with the usual suspects including a Call and End button, Home and Back button, two soft keys for dedicated shortcuts and a five-way navigation pad. Unfortunately, the power button is located at the top left corner of the display screen, which we found slightly inaccessible when switching profiles. There is a decent 2.0-inch 65K TFT screen and the device runs on Windows Mobile 6 Standard, which equates to a non-touch screen interface.
Our reactions were mixed upon flipping the M930 open. We were greeted with a blank internal 2.6-inch screen for around two seconds before the switch was made from external to internal display. This lag issue happened similarly when we closed the lid back and switched from the internal to external. Additionally, even with the generous 2.6-inch internal screen, the sides were not fully utilized by the interface. The full length QWERTY keyboard suffers from a problem plagued by many QWERTY keypad mobile devices, i.e. a lack of space between keys. ASUS even squeezed two soft keys and the standard five-way navigation pad at the right end of the keyboard. Even though we kind of liked the internal QWERTY keyboard for heavy text input, users would likely end up using the numeric keypad.
With nothing particularly outstanding on the M930, we found little to praise and conversely, nothing to fault the M930. As a HSDPA Windows Mobile device, the M930 is just as well connected as most other such devices with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0, though we would have loved GPS too. Unfortunately, the M930 is bundled with only 64MB RAM and it definitely showed in the performance tests, with slow speeds seen on multiple applications. Nonetheless, its Texas Instrument OMAP 2431 450MHz processor is sufficiently strong on performance to compensate, with no discernible lag during video playback when we tested with a 20fps video file.
The features on the M930 seems perfunctory, like the lackluster performance with the integrated 2.0-megapixel camera. Similar to the E90 Communicator, the secondary camera for video telephony is found on the top right profile of the internal screen. Documentation editing is a no-go for the M930, with just the standard ClearVue Document Viewer that supports Microsoft Word and Powerpoint perusal purposes only.
Battery life is rated at a minimum of 150 hours on standby, with up to 5 hours for 2G cellular functionality. On a mixture of phone calls and text messaging with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth thrown into the fray, we managed to get the M930 running for up to almost two days, which places it at an average level of performance.
While the M930 failed to dazzle in the looks or features department, its primary purpose as a mobile office device was well met, and with the upcoming upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.1 available for download in June from ASUS' support website, there's perhaps more to be seen with the M930. With a wide range of connectivity options that includes HSDPA, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0, coupled with a dual input method via its numeric and QWERTY keypads, the M930 fulfills the expected features for a smartphone dutifully and furthermore, is made all the more attractive by its S$898 recommended retail price tag.