T-Mobile MDA Compact II Graphite review

The MDA Compact II looks identical to the i-mate JAM 128MB Charcoal on the outside, but inside they’re very different. Take a look at the memory allocations for each device – the JAM has more RAM than ROM (128MB to 64MB), while it’s the opposite with the MDA Compact II.

T-Mobile MDA Compact II Graphite review

Microsoft Windows Mobile 5 is the reason. The JAM runs Windows Mobile 2003 SE, which stores user data and programs in RAM and benefits from a generous amount; the MDA Compact II uses Mobile 5, which holds everything in flash ROM and only uses RAM for program execution. Non-volatile flash ROM is nothing new, though, and it’s taken Pocket PCs a long time to catch up. But it’s still a significant step forward for the platform.

The down side is the performance hit, since ROM is slower than RAM, and this was most noticeable on the MDA Compact II doing anything for the first time after a reset, or loading large application files. The JAM is a little perkier, and its synchronisation a bit quicker.

If you synchronise and back up every day (and therefore recharge via USB), you might be happier with the faster JAM. Currently, T-Mobile is the only supplier with a Mobile 5 version, so anyone wanting SIM-free should opt for the JAM. For everyone else, Mobile 5 is the way forward.

Aside from memory and the OS, the primary differences are the 195MHz OMAP850 processor in the Compact II and a pink colour option. There are also a few minor changes to the camera, including scaling to a maximum image size of 1,600 x 1,280.

File handling turned out better overall than the JAM, due to the inclusion of PowerPoint Mobile and ClearVue PDF. However, like the Mobile 5-powered i-mate Jasjar, it couldn’t open all our test Word files.

The MDA Compact II feels solid for what is actually the second-lightest device in the group (it’s 6g heavier than the BlackBerry 7290). Due to its narrowness, it also feels comfortable as a phone, and often showed an extra bar in the signal strength meter than the JAM in marginal reception areas.

But since it lacks a hardware keyboard, this design isn’t suited to those who want to write anything much longer than a note or short email, or make small changes to a document.

Compared to the JAM, the Compact II is noticeably slower, and you’ll often see the ‘busy’ wheel spinning when opening documents. But if you need a tiny PDA phone with the security of ROM storage (and PowerPoint Mobile), this is a solid choice.

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