Toshiba G450 mobile phone review

4 out of 5
£160

For

HSDPA mobile broadband, size, WellPhone XP application simple to use

Against

Not really a phone, cost

Toshiba are not known for their mobile phones, and at first glance, the G450 appears to demonstrate why. A succinct quote comes to mind: "What are you?", although the reply here isn’t "I’m Batman". The question is still valid so we take a closer look to find out what it is.

Out of the box you expect to find a mobile phone but the form factor sends you into a spin. Looking like a bloated USB stick (98 x 36 x 16mm), there are three round sections on the front, the top is a screen, the other two divide your normal number pad buttons between them: 1-6 on the top, 7-0, * and # on the bottom. On the left- and right-hand sides of the device you’ll find two rocker keys which are your calling buttons, volume, as well as navigation for the menus.

The screen is a 96 x 39 pixel OLED display, which basically gives you a few lines of information: across the top is the standard phone status information and then a couple of lines for navigation of menus, messages and so on. As far as mobile phones go, this is probably the smallest screen around offering the least functionality.

The arrangement of buttons across the two circles on the face of the device takes some getting used to but is not impossible to use – and with T9 support, you can happily bash out a few quick text messages. The volume control doubles up as a shortcut key, accessing your address book or opens a new text message, which saves diving into the menu which is tricky to navigate at best.

But the G450 is not really a phone, and the indicator of that is written down the side: Qualcomm 3G CDMA. Your first instinct is that the screen is too small to access the Internet on the go, and then the penny drops. It’s not a phone, it’s a mobile internet dongle, with a phone built-in. Ah ha!

Connect it to your computer and the onboard WellPhone XT installs. WellPhone is not the cleanest of software packages, but is a fairly powerful tool. Connect your G450 via USB and you have a range of functions available. First is the standard mobile internet option, it will simply dial-up and away you go.

We tried the G450 with two SIM cards, firstly straight out of our mobile phone on Orange, and secondly a SIM harvested from a 3 USB mobile broadband dongle, both worked fine, as you'd expect. The consideration here is the connection with your operator and how much you’ll have to pay depending on how you use the device.

There are also a number of contact and message management tools in WellPhone, which are similar in appearance to Outlook, so it is simple to navigate. It finds your Outlook contact automatically, meaning you can throw them straight into the G450’s memory. You can also manage the contacts on your SIM card. In addition you can write SMS messages to send via your phone, as well as read new messages and browse sent items and so on, just like an email system.

The G450 makes much more sense in this context as things suddenly start working when connected to your PC. The WellPhone XT application also provides shortcuts to your default email and browser, so you can punch the button and the phone will connect to the Internet whilst your application launches, so you are ready to do whatever it was you wanted.

You can use your G450 as an MP3 player and a standard USB data stick. Simply drag and drop the files from your PC.

Connection to the G450 is via the Mini-USB on the bottom of the device and the supplied headphones have to connect through there; they are not very good from an audio point of view, but they double up as the handsfree headset as well.

Verdict

Overall the Toshiba G450 is an interesting concept, but one that is likely to have limited appeal. As a mobile broadband dongle it needs to use a cable to connect rather than having a plug built-in, plus you pay a fair whack for the device – more than you would a dongle from an operator. That said, if you can get yourself a SIM that will give you the data requirements you need without ongoing contract costs, then a balance could be struck.

As a phone, it lacks many of the basic features you’d expect – no camera, a tiny screen, no Bluetooth – but connected to a PC it becomes a lot more manageable (but not unique as many mobile phone suites offer the same functions). But if you only ever use your phone for making calls, and need an HSDPA modem, then this may just fit the bill without have to carry two devices.

As Aristotle was reported to have said "There was never a genius without a tincture of madness", and somewhere flitting between the two is the Toshiba G450.