Toshiba isn't exactly a a prolific phone maker. So measured is its output we like to imagine it retreats to a backroom to work on new Porteges with the intensity of a watchmaker, while Samsung and LG blare out the new soundtracks for their new 'hero' handsets outside.
But now it’s finally come up with a phone that deserves the same red carpet treatment as the touch-screen top guns. The TG01 has a 4.1in touch-sensitive display – noticeably larger than the Samsung i8901HD’s 3.7in number – and is powered by a nippy 1Ghz Snapdragon processor. These are, without doubt, A-list credentials.
Of course, there is a pay-off for accommodating a 4.1in display: the TG01 is big. Not bulky, but abnormally wide and long.
Its slimline 9.9mm profile tries but fails to create an illusion of being pocket-friendly. Still, it is solidly built with a fetching streamlined tapered design and tactile soft paint finish.
Shed the skin
Unlike HTC’s TouchFLO arrangement, the TG01’s Venetian blind designed homescreen interface is only skin deep.
It lets you handily customise the seven rotating strips with up to 10 context specific shortcuts but elsewhere the underpinning medieval Windows Mobile 6.1 platform makes the TG01 clunky to use. We’re promised Windows Mobile 6.5 updates that were unavailable at the time of testing.
Giving the finger
Tosh’s decision to fit a resistive touchscreen, instead of capacitive technology, is the TG01’s undoing. The display is frequently unresponsive to your taps and swipes with the underlying WinMo interface very finger-unfriendly.
You’ll be grabbing for the bundled standalone stylus to successfully select those incredibly titchy icons but it’s hardly convenient. Using the TG01 is a frustrating all-round experience.
After using the efficient Opera Mobile web browser on HTC’s WinMo handsets, Internet Explorer 6 feels second best.
That said, it actually proved surprisingly usable, loading pages briskly. The front touch-sensitive zoom bar was, however, sluggish and doesn’t prowl in enough to accurately select fiddly weblinks. Toshiba’s alternative onscreen multi-function pad to direct the mouse cursor doesn’t enhance usability either.
It’s what’s inside that counts
The TG01 is the first handset to run off Qualcomm’s QSD8250 1GHz processor chip, so on paper makes it the fastest phone on the planet. But does it make a difference to overall performance?
Well, apps do appear to open without any lag and switching between simultaneous running programs is smooth enough. Elsewhere, the normally sluggish IE6 browser does have a spring in its step when rendering web pages but resorts back to its lethargic best when using the Flash player. Otherwise general performance is not noticeably faster than, say, the iPhone 3GS. If you hammer the TG01, you’ll be recharging daily too.
The WVGA-quality 4.1in display is the biggest we’ve seen on a phone and prime real estate for watching movies, TV programmes and music videos.
Despite its strong reputation as a slick universal media player, the embedded DivX supporting CorePlayer Mobile didn’t seem to recognise our content stored on the bundled 8GB microSD card so we turned to the Windows Media Player for viewing. Not ideal, but full screen playback of MPEG-4 music videos downloaded from iTunes was razor sharp and very smooth.
This aside, Toshiba needs to take lessons from HTC’s TouchFLO interface on out how to successfully modernise the WinMo interface to make it user-friendly. The big screen Touch HD is a far superior multimedia phone and although only 0.3in smaller, sports an identical display resolution.