Review- i-Mate Ultimate 8150

Our last few days weren’t only filled with the LG Chocolate 3, we also had some hands on time with i-Mate’s Ultimate 8150 (no relation to all the Apple iProducts). On paper this phone looks to be insane, but in our tests- it was most of the time anything but. One word to describe this phone would be- Eh. Read on for all the info and the full review.

Features:

  • Small, sturdy design– This thing is built very well, and when you hold it- it feels like your holding a phone that is worth something, and not just a big piece of plastic. It’s small size means that it should fit well in most pockets. We did though have some problems with the battery cover, as it was loose and not fully fitting the phone.
  • 2.6 inch VGA Touchscreen– Ok, this is without question one of the best parts of the device. This screen is absolutely awesome, and one of the best I’ve seen on a Windows Mobile phone. Everything is crystal clear, and when I put it next to my dad’s AT&T Tilt- this thing killed it.
  • Windows Mobile 6– Windows Mobile worked very quickly on this phone, and it does have some really nice features in it such as easy ability to add programs (see Opera Mobile in next bullet). It also comes with Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook for doing work on the go (for those of you out there that are business folk), as well as Pocket Internet Explorer for browsing the web.

  • Built in WiFi– For those of you like me who don’t pay for the internet on your phone, this is nice to have because anywhere you have WiFi, you have the internet (and usually for free or much cheaper than your carrier charges you). Also, when you put the WiFi with the new Opera Mobile 9.5 (currently in testing or “Beta”), you have an iPhone like browser (zooming in and out are just double taps on the screen) that also gives you the “full internet” in your pocket.

The Opera Mobile 9.5 Beta on the i-Mate.

  • Mp3 Player using Windows Media Player– This worked pretty well, and is easy to sync with your computer’s Windows Media Player (that is if you got a Windows PC). The speaker quality though was not the best- it was loud for music, but the sound didn’t come off as clear.
  • FM Radio– This is very nice to have, and you can even record the radio you’re listening to. You will though need to plug in the included headset in order to use it.
  • 2.0 megapixel camera with Flash and Video, and VGA (below megapixel quality) camera on the Front for Video Calling– These cameras worked ok, wouldn’t take either of them over the Chocolate 3’s, and they for sure are NOT a replacement for a regular camera. I don’t think the Video Calling feature works in the US (I tried, nothing), but the front camera does take pictures and videos on its own. It also is something cool to show off to people:)
  • US and Europe 3G support– Europe usually gets their 3G support with these “Unlocked” phones, but US 3G support is a nice (and much needed) plus. The US 3G only works with AT&T, so T-Mobile users are out of luck there (though T-Mobile needs to first get a full 3G network, in places other than big cities like New York).
  • Ability to connect to a TV or Computer screen– i-Mate includes the cable for this, and it worked pretty well. This feature lets you do most of your tasks (calling, texting and e-mail, browsing web using Internet Explorer) on the phone off of a bigger screen. Just a note- not all programs work with this such as the Opera Mobile Beta
  • Good Call Quality– Calls sounded fine on both ends, though the speaker sound was low even when it was on the highest setting.

Now here is where we get to the bad part.

Drawbacks:

  • Delay when “waking the phone up from sleep”– You know when you don’t use your phone for a minute or so it goes into a “sleep mode” that shuts off the screen, but when you want to use it, you just touch it and it “wakes up” in a second? Well, unfortunately, this phone is not like that. There is a good few second delay when you press the power button (it’s the only button that wakes it up), and frankly, having to do that constantly was just annoying.
  • FM Radio is very buggy– We mentioned the FM radio and its pluses in the “Features” part, but there are a lot of problems with it as well. For one, its recording feature causes A LOT of Error messages when you try to play back a recording– also very annoying. It also only plays in Mono sound, and not Stereo (sound is not as nice and loud as it would be in Stereo).
  • Keyboard isn’t easy to use– Big problem. For a phone like this, the keyboard should be simple and easy to press and use. The keyboard on this phone is stiff (hard to push), and the onscreen keyboard is small, and will require you to constantly go and take out the included stylus. This is very annoying, especially for those of you who are constantly texting.

The i-Mate’s Keyboard’s (on screen and regular). Click on Pic for a bigger version.

  • Calls ONLY work in the US on 3G– Uh Oh, this is definitely not good. I used my AT&T SIM card to test this phone, and while call quality was fine, the fact that I could only use it on 3G was a big problem for a few reasons: 1. 3G on AT&T is not as easy to find as EDGE (the older 2.5G service) or AT&T’s older networks– Lucky for me, my town has 3G basically everywhere so I didn’t face this problem to often (and i-Mate did put in a very good antenna to find networks). 2. 3G KILLS your battery– This is one of the big problems with the iPhone 3G and other 3G phones, and that is because as of right now the 3G parts required need a lot of battery power. 3. T-Mobile doesn’t have a compatible 3G network (or really any for that matter)-This means any of you on T-Mobile will most likely be out of luck (though I didn’t test a T-Mobile SIM card with the phone).

Side note: You can set the phone to pick up only 3G networks (which I did, but you still have all these problems), and texting did work on the older AT&T networks.

  • Price is $600– I know that it is “unlocked” and can be used with any carrier, but for this phone- that doesn’t even fully work in the US- this is a big problem.

Our Verdict: Based on my tests with the i-Mate Ultimate 8150, I would Not Recommend this phone.

It has a lot of pluses like the screen, and the easy ability to add software thanks to Windows Mobile, but in the end, the drawbacks like the calling only on 3G, as well as the price make this a very tough choice to recommend. Your money will be better spent going for a different, cheaper phone like the T-Mobile Wing or AT&T Tilt (though a rumored upgrade is expected to both so you may wanna wait until at least the fall), or even go out a get an iPhone 3G for $600 (8 GB version- not subsidized by AT&T) and add your own plan that is cheaper than $70 a month (though you first got to find an iPhone 3G :), can’t believe that it still is sold out EVERYWHERE).  Regardless, I would definitely stay away from buying this phone.

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Posted on July 28, 2008, in Cell Phones, First Look/Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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