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October 12, 2008

Zinc II -- A deluxe smartphone worthy of your consideration

Zinc II is the latest MWg device to be released in the U.S. market following the Atom Life earlier this year. With is flush face touch screen, black rubberized finish, and an economy of buttons on the front, it is a pleasure to hold and to behold.

Its major features include a horizontal slide-out keyboard, build-in GPS, a 2.0 Mpx camera, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth 2.0 with unlocked UMTS Tri-band, and GSM Quad-band phone functionality. It measures 109.5 x 59 x 18 mm weighs 159g, and has a 250 x 320 resolution 2.8 inch QVGA touch screen. Sporting a 500 Mhz Samsung processor, it only has 64 MB RAM and 256 MB ROM with a Micro SD memory slot. The battery size is respectable at 1530 mAh

Loaded with software, it allows productivity right out of the box. Pre-installed software includes Microsoft Outlook, Windows Live, Internet Explorer, Media Player 10, ActiveSync, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, GPS Viewer, MMS client, Wireless Manager, Photo Editor, Streaming Player, Voice Recorder, MWg Quick Menu, and AutoConfig.

The box it comes in should win a design award for its quality that hints of the product it contains. Besides the Zinc II, you will discover a battery, AC adapter, stereo headset, mini USB cable, stylus, getting started CD, and printed manual, but, unfortunately, no cradle and no case. Have cradles suddenly gone out of style?

On the front of the device there is a five way navigation button ring flanked only by start and stop phone buttons. On the left side is a lanyard opening, two volume control buttons and a button for launching the MWG Quick Menu application. Hold it in, and it invokes the recorder function. This button is programmable.

On the right side is the power button, a reset hole, and the camera button. At the bottom right, the telescoping stylus silo resides. A mini USB port is located on the bottom along with a mic hole.

There is a removable battery cover on the back, a camera lens with self-portrait mirror and speaker grill.

Feature commentary

While the 500 Mhz engine is not the brawniest processor out there, it is certainly respectable. However, I was surprised at the paucity of RAM and would have expected twice as much on such a deluxe device. I must say that it showed too when I loaded up with a ton of applications for the 2008 software judging.

How I appreciate the built-in GPS. It works great with Google Maps and Windows Live Search. I was amused at the MWg supplied GPS viewer with its non-U.S. standard units and no way to change them. It also vetted well with CoPilot Live.

Another great feature is the Quick Menu invoked by a button on the left side that instantly displays a matrix with Window Media, Pictures & Videos, Camera, and Games. I’m not certain why MWg selected these four menus, and it is strange that you cannot change them to your own preferences. However, if you swipe the finger-friendly screen from left to right, it will pull up another set of applications including Messaging, Internet Explorer, Connectivity, Calendar, File Manager, Notes, Calendar, and Settings. Again, you are stuck with these and cannot change them. Swipe from right to left again, and you are rewarded with a blank matrix of 15 cells that your are free to fill with your favorite applications. It would be nice if it were possible to configure folders here containing a set of favorites, but alas, no can do.

If you swipe from left to right, you are presented with a blank matrix of 15 cells for filling with your favorite contacts. At the top are three icons for family, friends, and business contacts. Tap any one to bring up another blank screen with 15 empty cells to fill as you please.

Even though it is not as customizable as one may wish, Quick Menu is a nice feature that somewhat rivals applications such as Mobile Shell. In any case it is a graphically-pleasing, finger-friendly approach to accessing your favorites conveniently.

To my dismay, I discovered that the earphones, while convenient for talking on the phone hands free and listening to recordings, plug into the mini USB port. This is a major concern because you cannot charge the device and listen at the same time or navigate with GPS or connect to external speakers. What possesses manufacturers to present consumers with such a lame configuration? Please give us a standard 3.5 mm jack in the next iteration.

The keyboard slides out smoothly, and the screen instantly switches from portrait to landscape orientation. The keyboard smoothly snaps into position securely and doesn’t wobble around, which I appreciate. The QWERTY layout keyboard is flat and quite attractive in its presentation with backlit squares around each key when you depress them. There are two softkeys at the top, a Fn key as well as Start, OK, backspace, Shift/Caps, and Enter buttons. Two lights indicate caps and Fn operations.

As attractive as it may be, I found the keyboard difficult because of the lack of key definition and tactile feedback. Having to use the function key for so many characters and punctuation marks is annoying and the combination of keys to produce characters slows down inputting. I suppose that like learning to play any new instrument it takes practice. But, when I pick up a guitar, I expect the strings to be in the normal place to produce chords.

You will pay more for this keyboard feature, so be certain that you like it before you buy it. Personally, I think it could be improved with more key definition and a more user friendly layout.

I was also surprised at the camera being downgraded from 3.0 Mpx to 2.0 Mpx and there not being a flash compared to the WMg Atom Life release earlier this year. To me, this is a step backward for which I see no reason.


MWg seems to be struggling to institute support for the U.S. market, but it is still in its infancy and needs improvement. There is no phone number to call for technical support, and I had a difficult time getting an email response. The MWg Auto Configuration application does not even have a setup for the U.S., but I understand that one will soon be available. The GPS utility lacks proper U.S. units. I am under the impression that MWg has not quite got all its ducks in line for entering the U.S. market, but these are all easily remedied, and management is keenly aware of solving the problems as soon as possible.


The Zinc II is indeed a deluxe instrument worthy of your consideration, for it has a robust set of desirable features that integrate to make this a powerful and productive machine. In today’s market, the price of $599 seems reasonable considering its attributes.

On the needs for improvement side, I think it could use more RAM, a better keyboard, and a more powerful camera with flash. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief at the choice of audio output jacks. Oh well, it’s a good thing it has Bluetooth.

Please visit the WMg Website at www.mwg.com to see the complete line of products. You can purchase the Zinc II from www.expansys.com.

Posted by conradb212 at October 12, 2008 03:53 PM