Asus P527

The Asus P527 

I reviewed the Asus M530W smartphone (here) about a month ago. It was a decently-priced BlackBerry-esque phone; today I'm testing its cousin, the P527. The two models are similar in functionality, with the major difference being that while the M530W has a QWERTY keyboard, the P527 supports touchscreen input. Another key feature of the P527 is GPS support. Here's a detailed look at what the phone has on offer and whether you might want it. 


The Bundle 
Asus P527 PDA Phone 
Soft cover 
USB Data Cable 
Battery Charger 
1 GB microSD card with SD card adapter 
Stereo headset with microphone 
User Manual and Software CD 


The package includes a car kit, which consists of a handset holder that can be affixed to any surface due to its suction-pressure mechanism. There's also a car charger. 


The Spec-sheet 


I think it's odd that 3G support (which the M530W had) has been removed in the P527. It won't matter right now in India, of course. 


The Asus P527 has a candy-bar form. The phone's structure reminds me of the Sony Ericsson M600i. The front face is polished metal; the phone has "Professional" written all over it. It will certainly appeal more to the business segment than the youth. 

The phone is a bit larger than most "regular" models, but it is comfortable to hold. 


The weight is pretty decent for a PDA phone - perhaps not as sleek and portable as the HTC Touch, though. 

The touchscreen occupies more than half the front face. It's decently-sized for a PDA phone, and it's pretty clear and bright. 


The numeric keypad is surrounded by eight shortcut buttons, a 5-way joystick, and the navigation buttons. The call-accept and call-end keys are at the sides of the navigation buttons. The buttons are evenly-spaced and offer good tactility. The joystick isn't very accurate, though; I did perform accidental clicks from time to time. The earpiece grille has a multi-color LED which indicates Bluetooth, network, and low battery status. 

To the left is a 3-way jog-dial with an OK button next to it. Like with the M530W, I found it odd that the jog-dial is placed on the left instead of on the right (a typical placement for a BlackBerry). It's not all that bad, but I'd have loved it to be on the other side. 

At the bottom is the 2.5mm headphone jack and a standard miniUSB connector. 

To the right, you'll find the microSD card slot for easy hot-swapping of cards. Next is the camera shutter button, the Reset hole, and the Hold switch (which is more convenient than locking the keypad using key combinations). 


The slot for the stylus is at the bottom right. The camera sensor and the speaker grille are on top of the battery cover at the back. 


Construction and Usability 

The overall build quality of the P527 is good. The phone feels sturdy and there are no signs of creaking from any of the sides. 

Asus has been reasonably successful at making one-handed use of this phone convenient, thanks to the combination of the numeric keypad, the two modes of navigation provided (joystick and jog-dial), and their customized interface over the Windows OS (more on this later). 


The stylus input works well, too. You can enter text either via tapping on the on-screen keyboard or via the handwriting recognizer. Characters are recognized fairly well. I found that using the phone with the stylus was way faster and easier than using it one-handedly.

The Main User Interface 

The P527 runs the latest Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional operating system. The Home screen displays the Time/Date as well as alerts like Appointments, unread messages status, Bluetooth / Wi-Fi / network status, tasks, and more. 

Other than that, Asus has incorporated a couple of customizations. The Asus Status icon when tapped shows information like screen brightness, battery level, free RAM and memory, and more. There's an icon next to it which instantly switches the orientation of the display. 


Secondly, for convenient one-handed operation, there's the "Asus Launcher." It has an interface similar to that of standard phone menus. It lets you conveniently access the applications using the joystick. 

Internet Explorer Mobile isn't the best browser for mobile devices - for instance, there's no tabbed browsing - but it's workable enough. The OS also has the Windows Live application, which incorporates Windows Live Messenger among other tools. 

Two games -- Solitaire and Bubble Breaker -- are pre-installed. 


A tool called NewsStation lets you subscribe to RSS feeds. Other applications include Remote Desktop Management, Voice Commander, and a business card recognition software called WorldCard Mobile. The Voice Commander easily recognizes typical voice commands, and you get the option to train it for your voice. The WorldCard Mobile software is fairly accurate. 

Finally, the P527 also has mobile versions of Microsoft Office components. You can view and edit Word and Excel files, and view PowerPoint presentations. Windows Mobile also brings in PIM tools so you can keep your professional life organized. 


The interface works decently fast when memory is free. Once you open a few applications, it lags a bit. I believe this is due to the slow processor as well as too little RAM for the latest generation of Windows Mobile. 

The User Interface: Multimedia 

Multimedia is handled by the latest iteration of Windows Media Player for Mobile. Songs are categorized by Artist, Album, and Genre. There are no equalization functions. The FM radio application allows you to store six preset stations. 


The User Interface: GPS-related Software 

The P527 has a SiRF Star III GPS chipset on board. It's odd that the earlier version (P526) had navigation software, with it being removed on this one. Navigation is, of course, the core application one would want when a phone has GPS. But being a Windows Mobile Device, it is compatible with third-party navigation software - which you'll need to purchase. 

But making use of the GPS module are two small applications. The first is called "Travelog"; it locks on to the GPS signal, then gives your exact location on earth (down to the sixth decimal point). It also has a real-time compass. 


The main function of the Travelog is that it starts recording your movement and gives you a pathway of the journey you've completed. You can add new points of interests, name locations, and more. It even gives you the speed at which you've been traveling. In addition, it records the total distance traveled and the duration of the journey. 

Now this data is saved in the KMZ file format, which is compatible with Google Earth. So after recording, you can open this file on your computer using Google Earth and it will depict your journey over a real-time satellite image. It's sort of like a post-travel report for future reference. 


Performance: Connectivity 

When we tested the unit, network reception was above average, and call quality was good. Volume through the speaker-phone was adequate. No complaints about the Wi-Fi performance either. As with all GPS modules, they cannot be used in enclosed structures. The phone had a hard time latching on to the signal in a moving train most of the time, but it worked fine in the open. 

Performance: Multimedia Being a business phone, the P527 (not surprisingly) isn't very strong in this department. Audio quality is average; you could use it for some casual listening, but don't expect too much from it. 

The videos played with a lag. This is primarily due to the low-power processor. Data transfer rates are average - over its USB 1.1 interface, it managed to transfer 100 MB of files in a little over 3 minutes. I'd rather use a card reader if I have to frequently swap data. 

Performance: Camera 

The 2-megapixel auto-focus camera on the P527 has macro mode, 2.5x digital zoom, and burst mode, among other features. The photo-assist light - present on the M530W - doesn't figure on this model. 

The quality of the pictures from the camera is pretty much what you'd expect from a standard 2 megapixel sensor. 


Macro mode works well -- take a look: 


Videos are recorded in the low QCIF resolution (352 x 288). The videos are laggy and grainy. 

Performance: Battery The battery life of this PDA-phone is above average. The phone lasted a day and a half with a fair amount of phone use and average use of multimedia and GPS. 

And so... 

The street price for the Asus P527 is Rs. 17,900; it comes with a one-year warranty, and there's a 6-month warranty on the battery. An Indian company called SatGuide sells Maps for a price ranging from Rs. 2,000 for a one-city map to Rs. 5,000 for maps of eight cities. So the P527 with a 1-city map would cost you around Rs. 20,000. 

Comparing it to other models in its price range, we have the HTC P3300, which sells for around 20K, and it has navigation software included. But the P3300 is a purely touch-based device; no numeric keypad and navigation buttons on that one. 

Then we have the HTC Touch, which sells for about 17,000 bucks. It is the sleekest of the three models, but does not have GPS. 

For the price, the Asus P527 is a decent option. It's a good business phone overall, one that's got the basics right - but is just not powerful enough if you want to install a lot of applications, multi-task a lot, and such.