Asus M530w

The thing about QWERTY handhelds is they can be anal to use sometimes especially when the keys are not comfortably spaced apart or they don't provide tactile feedback for prolonged typing. Fortunately, Asus did that right for its first Windows Mobile 6 smart phone--the M530w. Expected to be available in Asia come July, the M530w came after the announcement that some of the company's PDA handhelds will receive free WM6 upgrades. We have a prototype unit with us right now to give you our first impressions of the M530w.

Frankly, most of the QWERTY smart phones are all starting to look alike with the trend toward black casings, except for the Nokia E61 and E61i. But we're not complaining; black rules the night. In hand, the Asus M530w's weight gives it a very solid feel which we like.

The individual keys on the QWERTY keyboard are well-spaced apart so we can actually feel it when we're moving from one button to another. We're nitpicking but we'd have preferred the keys to be a bit larger, like those on the Nokia E61. That said, we didn't have a problem typing a lengthy message on the M530w.

In a nod to BlackBerry devices, the M530w comes also with a thumbwheel for quick scrolling. But unlike the Samsung Ultra Messaging i600 which has the wheel on the right edge, the scroller on the Asus is on the left instead. So that may cause a little inconvenience for right-handed users.

One of the things we like best about this Asus is the center strip of control buttons which are large and easy to press. The volume buttons on the left edge are also well-pronounced so it's easy to adjust the volume with the phone to the ear.

The Asus M530w is the company's first smart phone that runs on the Windows Mobile 6 Standard. So unlike the WM5 Smartphone Edition, it will come with Office Mobile by default and other nifty applications like Live Messenger and Windows Live services.

Not too long ago, we did a take on another WM6 smart phone--the Dopod C730--and it seems the Asus has two ups over the Dopod. The inclusion of a VGA front-facing camera makes it possible for 3G video calls and there's also a 2.5mm audio jack for earphones--both of which were ostensibly missing on the C730.

Other features on the Asus M530w are a 2-megapixel camera with LED flashlight, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth connectivity. The device is powered by a 416MHz processor with 256MB of built-in flash memory and 64MB SDRAM.

There's also 3G, but unfortunately the M530w is missing the faster HSDPA (3.5G) connection which the Samsung Ultra Messaging i600 has.

At the time of writing, six Windows Mobile 6 smart phones have been announced, with two of them--the Dopod C500 and C730--currently available in the market. The other WM6 smart phones are the HP iPaq512 Voice Messenger, Moto Q 8 and Moto Q 9.