Toshiba TG01

The dimensions of the TG01 pretty much speak for themselves; at 70 x 130 x 9.9mm, it is certainly slim, but it's sitting on the border of being a too large. With a 4.1-inch display, there's no doubting the real estate on-screen, but it is a real pocket hog. Slip it into your jeans and you can't forget it's there. It will probably feel more at home in a suit jacket pocket.

The screen punches out a high-resolution too at 800 x 480 pixels (WVGA), beating the current rivals from a tech spec point of view. It is a resistive touchscreen, which we'll come to later, and the finish doesn’t lend itself to being used outdoors, as it's very reflective and seems to lack the brightness to cope with sunny conditions.

The screen also features a power saving brightness adjustment, reacting to ambient light in your environment. We found that the result was that the screen was constantly changing, which wasn't too pleasant. The settings will let you make a custom profile which is well worth doing, because you can make things much more comfortable with a little tweaking.

The design of the device is minimalistic. The front features the screen and two touch buttons – back and home – with a central touch bar which you can sweep upwards to draw out another navigator, featuring the Windows button and ok.

The right-hand side of the TG01 sees the camera shortcut button and a Micro-USB connection under a flap, which unfortunately handles everything: charging, syncing, headphones, as there are no other connections. The left-hand side gives you the power button and volume, although the volume is inconveniently placed to adjust during a call for both left- and right-handers.

The black model that we reviewed has a tactile matte finish to it. It feels secure enough, but thanks to the size, the back feels a little cheap as you are abundantly aware that you are holding a large piece of plastic. Tap it and you get a sort of hollow noise despite the slim dimensions, so it doesn't really wow. A 3.2-megapixel camera sits on the back, with video capture at a max resolution of 640 x 480.

Shoe-horned into the frame of the TG01 is Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset, packing a 1GHz processor, which means on paper it has more processing power at it's disposal than any current rivals.

In reality that straining, snarling, beast of a processor seems to have been muzzled and sedated with Windows Mobile 6.1. A cumbersome operating system by modern standards, the available power doesn’t come rushing through. It might be faster than other Windows Mobile devices, but it still feels awkward, and doesn't showcase the TG01's tech specs in the way it should.

But Windows Mobile 6.1 is what it is; for some, it is a necessary evil thanks to workplace requirements. You do get easy integration into Outlook and Microsoft Exchange, but it doesn't deliver the joyous experience you find on Apple's iPhone, HTC's Hero or devices like the Samsung i8910, it’s nearest rival in terms of screen dimensions.

Windows Mobile 6.5 might change that to a certain degree, but from what we've already seen, don't hold your breath.

Many Windows Phones integrate the stylus into the body. The TG01 doesn't accommodate a stylus, but you do get one in the box and it does make it much easier to operate as the touch response is a little sluggish and things are too small and fiddly to really get anywhere without it. The stylus features a lanyard, but the phone has no attachment point for it.

Toshiba have taken the approach of HTC and laid-on their own custom interface, which sits over Windows Mobile. Some credit is due here, but the interface doesn't go nearly far enough to be of any great benefit: essentially it is a collection of shortcuts put into the coloured shutter-style stripes.

You can customise the shortcuts it presents to a certain degree, so long as the applications you want fall into the right options in the customisation area. One thing that surprises is the poor visuals used. The icons are basic, about the same size as those on the LG Arena, but without the gloss. Press on an icon and it jumps out: judging by the looks, it’s the same low-res version enlarged, because they are all pixellated and blocky. The application then loads surprisingly slowly with plenty of colourwheel twirling as you wait.

Sliding your finger left or right across the screen flips the stripes leading to a new set of shortcuts. You can drag up the list of icons to access those further down, again, rather like LG's elastic lists. Some of the shortcuts go into Toshiba's menus to change various settings, but as is often the case, you'll find a great deal of duplication over Windows Mobile's own offerings. Toshiba's Applications menu basically duplicates Windows Mobile's Programs menu, but leaves out some of the "system tools".

As the UK version is an Orange handset they've also thrown themselves into the mix (this won't affect some of our international readers). The Orange effect on this phone seems better controlled than some others: it's not too invasive from an interface point of view, but it does throw-up some irritations.

Orange are determined to route everyone though Orangeworld all the time, presumably to cash in on their paid-for content, so the browser is a pain. We found it constantly throwing-up messages about only being able to access pages from an Orange phone (which the TG01 is). Skip direct to a URL and there is less of a problem.

Orange have added a video player which is rather temperamental, so the TG01 has three "media" applications on arrival, but still has limited file format compatibility. We threw in the normal MPEG4 test file which the Orange player couldn't quite handle, dropping frames, but Core Player did. Windows Media Player Mobile point blank refused. Both working players struggled to pick an appropriate aspect – something that the Samsung i8910 did without a thought.

Of course, you can access Windows Mobile directly through the omnipresent Start button at the top of the menu and we often found that this was the best way of accessing exactly what we wanted – after all if you know Windows Mobile, you know exactly where to find things.

Browsing the Internet you start to realise just what a great screen is on offer here, with images looking really impressive. Load in your own photos or video and the same applies, it's just a real shame that Windows Mobile doesn't deliver such content through an intuitive and easy-to-use interface, although you can download apps to make your device run the way you want it of course.

It's a shame too that the Toshiba overlay doesn't improve your contacts or really pull together your social media offerings like many top-rung handsets how do from the off.

An accelerometer handles aspect shifting, unfortunately blanking out the screen in the process when in Tosh's UI. This does allow you to swing around the keyboard for portrait or landscape entry. The Toshiba keyboard is better than the default, but it doesn't give you pop-up letter indicators so when using a finger you can't see if you've hit the right key instantly.

Small irritants like having to switch to a different screen for numbers or special characters make data entry slower than practical, and doing it with your finger is slow and most likely fraught with errors. In landscape mode the characters are big enough, but the space bar is compressed into a single key space, so is a pain to use. The keys also only offer a single character each – no press and hold for caps or characters, just a long string of letters, i.e., zzzzzzzzzz.

The battery life isn't too good either, with a cited 4 hours of talk time. This is a problem that all touchscreen devices have and the TG01 is no exception so you can't be too far from a charger: it's a charge everyday device.

Drawing on that battery life is a fully-fledged collection of communications: HSDPA, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth. It's all here, which is at least a bonus point. Onboard storage is minimal, but an 8GB microSD card was bundled in the box with this Orange phone and could easily be expanded on. The microSD card slot is under the back, behind the battery, so not really designed to be swapped in and out regularly.

Verdict

Overall the TG01 isn't exactly a match made in heaven. We're yet to see what the impressive 1GHz processor can really do as it feels like the operating system here just puts the brakes on things. Perhaps Windows Mobile 6.5 will change all that – time will tell.

In the meantime you are left with a large device that fails to make good use of the power or the screen size on offer. Toshiba don't have a huge heritage in mobile phones and the TG01 doesn't seem to be the device to change that: it is too large for your average pocket and lacks the consumer sheen that makes a device really desirable.