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HTC Excalibur S620 / T-Mobile Dash Review

Brushed aluminum finish looks smart

Brushed aluminum finish looks smart

HTC comes up with some great names for its cellphones. Diamond, Kaiser and Wizard have all figured in their recent line-up. The s620Excalibur looks a bit different from King Arthur’s mythical sword, but can it slay the competition in the same way?

What is the HTC s620?

The HTC s620 is sold in the US as the T-Mobile Dash.

Taking the HTC s620 out of the box it’s immediately obvious that this is one device which looks way better in real life than on the web. The Excalibur screams quality with a brushed aluminum and soft-feel black finish encasing a flush fitting screen. It’s light too at 130 grams. The battery cover hides the SIM and Micro SD card slots. Other specs include a 200MHz processor, WiFi b/g, EDGE (no HSPA unfortunately), Windows Mobile and of course the music loving stereo bluetooth.

Keypad has good tactile feedback

Keypad has good tactile feedback

The controls of the HTC s620

The s620’s Blackberry style keyboard has tightly packed raised keys which illuminate blue when the phone’s backlight is on. The keys on these devices are always a matter of taste, personally I find the key on the s620 are okay with plenty of tactile feedback but inferior to HTC’s own TyTN and Kaiser (AT&T Tilt) with their wider and larger keys. The s620 could also do with a couple more assignable keys. There are ones for email, internet and the camera but I’d also like ones to assign to Windows Media Player, the connections manager and the task manager for easy application switching.

Which leads me to the JOGGR slidy-thing on the right side of the screen is a curious surface, which offers up/down controls as well as two assignable buttons. Some carriers choose to disable this control surface, which to be honest I can understand. It’s a great idea but too easy to brush it accidentally which can be annoying. Once I got the hang of the JOGGR it did become useful, but might be too fiddly to win fans during a five minute in-store test drive. I would have preferred a hardware wheel and buttons.

The screen on the HTC s620

Powering up the s620 illuminates the stunning 2.4 inch screen, which is a joy to use indoors and out.

2.4 inch screen is bright and sharp

2.4 inch screen is bright and sharp

Whilst not readable in direct sunlight, it is possible to use this phone outdoors on a bright day. The flush fitting screen gives a paper flat image, but is also very exposed if the cellphone in jiggling about in a pocket next to some keys. There was a protective belt holster in my box, which is a useful screen preserving accessory.

Running apps on the HTC s620

The version I’m using has Ricky Wyatt’s Windows Mobile 6 ROM with a few added extras taking it to 6.1 spec, such as the newer Windows Live client which does a great job of pushing mails to the device for certain web-based non-POP3 email clients. Another sweet tool on the ROM is an over/underclocking tool for the the 200MHz processor, which allows manually forced power saving and power enhancement.  This is a great addition as most usage only needs 150MHz or so, which helps to extend battery life nicely.  Running the s620 at this speed I was able to listen to music over stereo bluetooth and read the newspapers on AvantGo.

Other tasty morsels in this ROM include Opera Mini which works great on the s620 and Resco Explorer which is a good replacement for File Explorer. I also added Google Maps, which renders extremely quickly on the Excalibur compared to my TyTN and scarily pinpointed my location to within one city block.

Excalibur is size zero thin

Excalibur is size zero thin

The HTC s620 as a stereo Bluetooth media player

The sound performance of the s620 is up to HTC’s usual high standards overall. Sound quality from the earpiece and microphone both seem fine, although the speaker was a bit tinny and unlikely to break any cellphone records for bass response. The stereo bluetooth paired to Logitech’s Freepulse easily and sound quality was exceptionally clear, so you can give those wired headphones back to the twentieth century where they belong.  The USB charging port doubles up as a headphone/hands-free port.  Whilst there are adaptors available to let you use wired 3.5mm phones, you’ll probably prefer to stick with the stereo Bluetooth to avoid dangling wires…after all with a micro sd slot to play with, the s620 could store your entire music collection so you might as well look the business while you’re listening.

Battery life of the HTC s620

Battery life was good, and as always was influenced by the amount of wireless connectivity and data usage. Forcing the screen to dim quickly after periods of inactivity also helped. With mixed usage including some WiFi and EDGE data action, voice calls and listening to music over stereo Bluetooth I got just over one day before the Excalibur asked to be returned to the lake for some juice.

Can the Excalibur slay the competition?

The s620 is certainly a strong Windows Mobile cellphone, nay very strong when paired with some useful added software. At 130 grams with EDGE connectivity it competes directly with RIM’s Blackberry Curve, which ends in a tie for me with RIM’s solid messaging experience battling the huge Windows Mobile application development community. If you do go for the Excalibur though, it’s a worthy sword to have in the armory.

Neil Berman

Ricky Wyatt’s Excalibur ROM is available at XDA Developers.  I do not recommend flashing a ROM onto your cellphone.  Flashing a ROM onto your cellphone is done entirely at your own risk, can brick your phone, will most likely invalidate your warranty and might lead to a total freak-out if it goes horribly wrong!!

Thanks to Joan & Alan for this one.


Sep 8, 2008 - Posted by | Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. This a great item for your dash as far as protection and carrying convenience. My only issue is that it frequently came out of the snap on case.I taped in on and have had no problems! good item!

    Comment by Review | Sep 9, 2008 | Reply

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