Tools Of The Trade: Fujitsu Siemens handheld

In London alone, over 700 wireless "hotspots" provide fast access to the internet for anyone with a suitably equipped handheld computer. And as hotspot numbers grow, putting wireless networking into a machine becomes more than just a gimmick.

In London alone, over 700 wireless "hotspots" provide fast access to the internet for anyone with a suitably equipped handheld computer. And as hotspot numbers grow, putting wireless networking into a machine becomes more than just a gimmick.

Fujitsu Siemens has gone a step further, producing a handheld computer with both wireless networking and Bluetooth, for short-range connections to PCs or mobile phones.

This makes for a device that seems versatile: it can work with wireless networks at home, in the office or at a hotspot, or connect to the internet through a GPRS or 3G phone where no high-speed link is available.

Out of the box, the PocketLOOX 610 follows the design that is standard on handhelds running Microsoft's PocketPC operating system. It feels light but solid and the screen is reasonably clear and bright. Even though networking is built in, the handheld has not scrimped on expansion: it has a secure digital and a CompactFlash card slot.

The basic aspects of the 610 work efficiently, but the wireless functions performed less well in our tests. The 610 was happy searching out the home pages to wireless hotspots, but struggled to bring up the log-in pages; this could be the fault of either the network or the handheld. And, although this is a common problem with PocketPC- systems, connecting to a home wireless network was more fiddly than it should have been.

More troublesome still was that the 610 can't connect to both a wireless network and a Bluetooth device at once. Although this is a minor inconvenience in itself, we found that the 610 struggled on occasion to exchange information with a Bluetooth-equipped mobile phone, and to use the phone as a GPRS modem to go online. Several times, the handheld claimed there was an error with the Bluetooth hardware, or that it was not installed.

This caused problems setting up a connection with a GPRS phone, as the Microsoft PocketPC software did not recognise the 610's Bluetooth hardware. The connection utility supplied by Fujitsu-Siemens had no such problems. But the differences between the two utilities meant it was not possible to follow Vodafone's instructions for setting up a GPRS link, as these were written with Microsoft's regular software in mind.

As it stands, only expert users will be able to justify paying the price premium over a standard handheld.

THE VERDICT

Fujitsu Siemens PocketLOOX 610

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Pros: clean design, good screen, expansion potential.

Cons: wireless connection set-up is too fiddly for many users.

Price: around £450 inc VAT.

Contact: www.pocketloox.com

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