By Sascha Segan
March, 2, 2006
Boo. Hiss. Verizon's XV6700 could have been the best PDA/phone on the market today, with a great balance of small size, robust features, and decent call quality. Unfortunately, Verizon's decision to cripple the gadget's Wi-Fi abilities should send power users running to Sprint, which has a better version.
Superficially, the XV6700 looks a lot like Sprint's PPC-6700 [ http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1870470,00.asp ], but more stylish. The PPC-6700's dull silver cover has been replaced by a matte black with silver trim. Like the PPC-6700, this is a boxy device that, at 5.2 by 2.3 by 0.9 inches and 6.5 ounces, just fits into a medium-size hand. Slide the screen to the right to reveal an excellent keyboard of large, square keys. When you slide the keyboard out, the 2.8-inch, 320-by-240 color screen rotates into landscape mode after a second or two of delay. As on the PPC-6700, this keyboard makes the XV6700 a terrific messaging device, as long as you're willing to grip it with both hands.
The XV6700 performs like the PPC-6700 too. With their 416-MHz Intel processors, both 6700s are faster on SPB Benchmark CPU tests than most other Pocket PC phones, and they can show full-screen video at around 24 frames per second. You can sync over music and video onto a miniSD memory card using Windows Media Player 10, and edit Microsoft Office documents (but not PDFs) using the built-in Pocket Office applications. There's still some gumminess in the user interface and applications, but that's common to all Windows Mobile 5 devices.
As a phone, the XV6700 has average reception. The earpiece was loud enough to be heard inside or outside, though voices sometimes had a compressed, slightly robotic quality. The speakerphone was very quiet, just barely acceptable indoors and too quiet to use outside. We bonded the phone with Logitech, Plantronics, and Jabra Bluetooth headsets without a problem. Unfortunately, Verizon does not include voice-dialing software.
Battery life is good but not great. We got 5 hours 23 minutes of PDA usage time and 5 hours of talk time on a charge. The XV6700's camera is flexible, able to save photos in uncompressed BMP or compressed JPEG formats. Our test images were good overall; a little less noisy, but darker than the PPC-6700's shots. Outdoor photos were fine, with some purple haloing around white areas. We were very disappointed by the 1.3-second shutter delay, though, which will deter spur-of-the-moment snapshots. The video mode records 10-frames-per-second, 320-by-240 videos in 3GPP or MPEG4 formats.
Surfing the Web on Verizon's EV-DO network with Microsoft's Pocket Internet Explorer, we got low but acceptable speeds of 457 to 589 Kbps. That's similar to the speeds we've seen on other Pocket PCs.
For e-mail, the XV6700 comes with Microsoft's Pocket Outlook, which connects to POP3/IMAP and Exchange 2003 servers. Push e-mail for Exchange 2003 SP2 customers will come with a software upgrade later this year. You can also run Verizon's free Wireless Sync push solution, which works with POP3/IMAP accounts and uses a desktop redirector to send your Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes e-mail to the phone.
Verizon had to muck this up, though. One of the 6700's strengths is its combination of Wi-Fi and EV-DO cellular networking. On the Sprint PPC-6700, you can turn on both networks, and if both are available the handheld will pick the faster of the two. In addition, you can make and receive phone calls while surfing with Wi-Fi—a trick that's also possible on the T-Mobile SDA [ http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1918655,00.asp ] and MDA [ http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1918695,00.asp ]. But with the Verizon XV6700 you have to turn off the phone to use the Wi-Fi. So, when you're in a hot spot and want to use Wi-Fi, you can't get any phone calls. That's idiotic. We've seen this behavior before, on the Samsung i730 [ http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1860645,00.asp ], but we were lulled into thinking it was caused by technical limitations. Since the Sprint version of the 6700 works fine with both networks on, we know this must have been a business decision on Verizon's part.
To compound the idiocy, there is no modem plan for this device, an omission that's especially inexcusable because Verizon has just announced new modem plans for several of its other EV-DO phones. You can use Sprint's version of the 6700 as a modem for your laptop; why can't Verizon allow you this option?
We were prepared to love the Verizon XV6700. Although it doesn't work as fluidly in one hand as the Palm Treo 700w [ http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,1911100,00.asp ], it's a more powerful device with a better keyboard. But we're very disappointed in Verizon's decision to damage one of the XV6700's greatest strengths, its combination of Wi-Fi and EV-DO. As Sprint's EV-DO network has spread nationwide in the past six months, Sprint's PPC-6700, a superior version of this device, might be a reason to switch carriers.