i-mate Ultimate 8150 Handheld - First Look

i-mate Ultimate 8150 Handheld - First Look

The Ultimate series of handhelds from i-mate originally consisted of five devices. Only two from the original have been retained while two new ones have been added, making it a total of four devices in this lineup. The 8150 is one of the survivors, and has been given a new color--black, a definite improvement over the off-white shade of the original. Its availability has been announced for this region and we managed to snag a pre-release unit for a hands-on.


The specifications of this device are undeniably impressive. First off, it comes with a VGA display as with all the other handhelds in the Ultimate series. It doesn't feature the fastest processor out there, but doesn't fall far short either with a 520MHz Intel chip.

Memory is not a problem as it comes with a generous 256MB ROM for storage and 128MB RAM for running applications. It also supports microSD cards for expansion if memory's not sufficient.

A lot of buttons are provided on the 8150 for both left- and right-handed use. For example, there are two OK buttons, one found above the numeric keypad and the other on the left side. So there is always an OK key within easy reach no matter which hand is holding the device.

The same applies to the directional pad. Though it is unusually located among the numeric keys, tending to the right side of the keypad, this makes it easier to reach with the right thumb. When holding the device on the left hand, the user can instead use the scroller which is also a selector when depressed.

Aside from the regular mini-USB port for charging and syncing, there is a TV-out connector on the right side of the 8150. This allows output to TV and projectors up to XGA resolution, more than sufficient pixels for video and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. We tried this out on an LCD TV and found it to be incredibly easy to use. Once mirrored on the screen, the 8150's screen goes blank. By moving the stylus on this blank display, you can then control the mouse pointer on the LCD TV--just like how you would use a desktop tablet pointing device from companies like Wacom. This may be good enough for users with simple presentations, allowing them to do without a notebook.


In our short time with the 8150, we felt the keypad is unnecessarily unusual. Keys are shaped thin and wide and the print on them is quite small.

As we first observed when we first saw the 8150 at CommunicAsia 2007, the keypad is unnecessarily unusual. Keys are shaped thin and wide and the print on them is quite small. This drawback is especially pronounced when using the device in the dark as the letters and numbers light up both sides of each key, so you tend to put your fingers on those parts. But to successfully depress a key, you need to exert force on the center, not the side. This means you have to intentionally press the parts where there is no print--something that's unintuitive and will take some getting used to.

With its sub-brand, Ultimate, you'd expect the 8150 to have everything. But one increasingly popular feature is absent, GPS. It's not too much to ask for, as already one product available, the Dopod U1000, has as many features as the 8150 including satellite navigation.


The Ultimate 8150 will be available in Singapore from December, with the rest of the region to follow in a few months after that. The estimated price given by the company is US$895. This feels a bit too expensive, and we hope this estimation is an over-valuation and that the actual retail price will be lower.

The good news is that it will come with a two-year global warranty as well as i-mate's suite of security and support software. This gives it features like data wipe in case of theft and also remote access software which lets technical support staff fix system files on the device over the Internet without the need to bring it in for repair. More on these when we get our hands on a retail unit with all features fully active.