Planet Computers Astro Slide 5G review: A keyboard-equipped


Astro Slide 5G: A 6.39-inch AMOLED slides again to disclose a QWERTY keyboard. The machine runs on MediaTek’s Dimensity 800 chipset with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of inner storage (expandable through MicroSD card).


Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The Psion Series 5 is without doubt one of the icons of handheld computing. Indeed, for some individuals it’s the icon. Clamshell in type, with a fantastically usable mini-keyboard, working from AA batteries, with a bespoke Symbian working system and detachable storage, it was approach forward of its time. The Series 5 launched in 1997, the Series 5mx in 1999. Neither mannequin provided mobile or Wi-Fi connectivity.

There have been varied makes an attempt to resurrect the Series 5 for the smartphone period, with UK-based Planet Computers carrying the torch in recent times. Its 2018 Gemini and 2020 Cosmo Communicator each share the Series 5’s clamshell type issue.

The new Astro Slide 5G does issues somewhat in another way. It nonetheless provides a laptop-like expertise, however makes use of a sliding slightly than a clamshell mechanism to boost the display from the QWERTY keyboard. With Android 11, bespoke apps, 5G help and a core of mainstay smartphone options, will the $889/£711/€855 Astro Slide spark a revival of the keyboard-equipped handset? 

Like

  • Excellent bodily keyboard
  • AMOLED display
  • Two USB-C ports
  • Good bespoke apps

Don’t Like

  • Bulky and heavy
  • Slightly convoluted open/shut system
  • Gorilla Glass 3 display safety
  • Slow battery charging

The Astro Slide 5G has a daily handset footprint of 172.4mm by 76.5mm, nevertheless it’s a chunky 18.7mm thick and weighs a hefty 325g. It’s clearly made from two separate sections, with a deep blue base and a black high. This development undoubtedly explains why the specs make no point out of an IP rating for mud and water resistance. 

The two sections share the ports and connectors between them. One of the bottom’s lengthy edges has a pair of speaker grilles, a quantity rocker and a configurable button supporting long-press, short-press and double-press actions. One of the bottom’s quick edges has a 3.5mm headphone jack, and there is a USB-C port at every finish. 

astro-slide-front-side-on.jpg

Top: speaker grilles, quantity rocker and user-configurable button on the underside lengthy edge. Above: USB-C port and three.5mm headphone jack on the underside quick edge (there is a second USB-C port on the different finish).


Images: Planet Computers

Both USB-C ports can be utilized for charging, OTG and video out. However solely charging is native: for the opposite capabilities you may want both a USB-C to HDMI converter (Planet’s converter prices $42/£33.32/€40.95), or a extra expansive hub (Planet’s hub prices $47/£37.49/€45.95 and provides two USB 3.0 ports, RJ-45 Ethernet and a passthrough USB-C port). 

Putting USB-C and headphone connectors on the underside part makes good sense. That approach, when the display is tilted up for keyboard use, the connectors sit flat on a desk slightly than being elevated in mid-air, as they might if positioned on the display part. That higher part homes the SIM slot and energy button on one lengthy edge, the latter incorporating a fingerprint reader.  

Meanwhile on the underside there is a single 48MP digicam that is flush to the backplate slightly than sitting in a protruding lozenge. The presence of simply the one rear digicam is a transparent indication that images will not be the Astro Slide 5G’s robust swimsuit. 

Planet’s final outing, the Cosmo Communicator, handled the necessity to current alerts and different data on the surface of the machine by embedding a small show within the clamshell system’s lid. This time across the slide-and-tilt display mechanism means the display is completely seen, as on a regular cellphone. This means the display will not be protected by being contained in the clam: it is designated as ‘scratch resistant’ and is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, a way behind the modern Gorilla Glass Victus

The 6.39-inch AMOLED display provides FHD+ decision (2,340 x 1,080 pixels, 403ppi). I discovered the decision wonderful, detecting no points with pictures, video or textual content. What does rankle a bit, although, is the scale of the bezels on the quick edges. I measured these at 8mm to the sting of the display plate itself and a full 12mm to the sting of the machine. In nowadays of minimal-bezel units that is very noticeable. The bezels do present loads of room for the selfie digicam to take a seat exterior the display space slightly than being embedded inside it. 

astro-slide-hinge.jpg

Opening and shutting the Astro Slide takes observe, however the connection between the 2 sections may be very safe.


Images: Planet Computers  

Accessing the keyboard requires two separate actions, and there’s a particular artwork to it. First, the display and keyboard sections should be pushed aside. This is achieved by holding the Astro Slide 5G’s left and proper edges in each arms and gently pushing with the thumbs. Most of the movement is easy, however there’s somewhat resistance in the direction of the top, as a result of this additionally pushes a pair of hinges happy with the bottom part. If you are holding an excessive amount of of the bottom, your fingers will forestall the hinges from pushing out. 

The second motion is to push the display upwards from its again edge in order that it tilts at an angle and involves relaxation within the two hinges, laptop computer type. Once you’ve got performed this a few instances, the mixture of fingers and thumbs for the push and tilt motions turns into intuitive, quick and fluid. But at that time four-fifths by means of the push motion, simply earlier than the hinges deploy, the higher and decrease sections really feel like they’re about to half firm — though they’re, the truth is, very safe. 

I discovered closing all the way down to be extra of a two-stage course of, even after doing it many instances. Releasing the hinges after which sliding the 2 sections collectively required a change of hand place, and I by no means did discover a constantly fast and cozy methodology. 

Using the touch-screen in laptop computer mode generally is a little irritating, as prods and sweeps virtually wherever besides a couple of centimetre from the be a part of to the bottom trigger the machine to lurch backwards should you’re not cautious. It was wonderful as soon as I’d developed a light-touch method, however some customers may discover {that a} problem. 

The backlit keyboard is the Astro Slide 5G’s raison d’être. With massive, bodily keys that emit a particular ‘clack’ when pressed, it’s a good homage to the keyboard on the unique Psion Series 5. As on that machine, there are various shortcut key mixtures, and it will take a little bit of time to study them and benefit from them. I discovered typing snug, and with somewhat retraining of the unfold of my fingers, was nearly capable of touch-type.  

However, regardless that my arms are comparatively small, I needed to decelerate to kind precisely. Speed was someplace between what I obtain on my common keyboard and what I get out of a typical smartphone’s on-screen keyboard. The hand place is such that I might not wish to depend on this keyboard for prolonged intervals, and in any case the display is much too small for severe productiveness. But it was extraordinarily helpful for random slices of time once I did not have my laptop computer handy, permitting me to tough out concepts and draft sections of textual content for later modifying. These are duties that I discover awkward utilizing a cellphone’s on-screen keyboard, they usually have been a lot simpler to realize right here.  

The Astro Slide 5G runs on the MediaTek Dimensity 800 chipset with 8GB of RAM. This is not a modern SoC, and the benchmarks I recorded bear that out. Geekbench 5 returned common CPU scores of 501 (single core) and 2215 (multi core). The final two handsets I reviewed with scores round this mark have been the Poco X4 Pro, which runs on a Snapdragon 695 (693 and 2044), and the OnePlus Nord CE 2, working on a MediaTek Dimensity 900 (719 and 2143). Flagship-class smartphones are currently scoring round 1000 (single core) and 3500 (multi core). 

There is 128GB of inner storage, of which 11GB was used out of the field, leaving 117GB free. The SIM slot accommodates a MicroSD card in addition to two SIMs, so you possibly can add exterior storage if wanted. The handset additionally helps an eSIM. 

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The App Bar on the base of the house display is summoned through a Planet key subsequent to the house bar. You can populate it with the apps of your alternative.


Images: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet  

The Astro Slide 5G runs on Android 11, so it is barely behind the instances, however that is compensated for by a bespoke software program suite that pays homage to the apps that got here with Psion’s Symbian/EPOC working system. There is a calendar which can choose up content material from Google or Microsoft Exchange, a wonderful notes app, and an electronic mail app (though you may also use Gmail).  

A small App Bar, which pops up on the backside of the display once you hit the Planet key to the left of the house bar, provides these functions alongside different key app shortcuts. It’s simple to configure what seems right here, and naturally you additionally get the standard Android app-management companies. There’s additionally a unified search system, OneSearch, that can look each on-line and on-device for matches to go looking phrases. 

There are simply two cameras. The selfie digicam shoots 13MP pictures, whereas, as famous earlier, there’s only a single rear digicam — a 48MP unit based mostly on a Sony sensor. Point-and-shoot images have been acceptable, however the digicam software program is convoluted. 

For instance, to entry settings for the self-timer, a scene mode (of which there are various), white stability, picture measurement and different issues, requires hitting an on-screen icon after which the instrument icon, slightly than merely having a professional mode or settings button accessible when you’re framing a picture. Moreover, switching HDR on disables entry to a number of settings. These accessibility points could also be fastened in a software program replace. Let’s hope so.  

The 4000mAh battery stored the Astro Slide 5G going for 15 hours and 53 minutes underneath the PCMark for Android Work 3.0 battery life check. That’s fairly good going, and within the higher quadrant of outcomes I obtain underneath that check. However, enjoying a YouTube video for 3 hours from a full cost drained 27% from the battery, which extrapolates to only over 11 hours. 

I all the time let display brightness set routinely for these battery life assessments, and for some cause the display needed to be at 100% throughout video playback, which may properly be the explanation for the upper battery drain. Brightness may simply have gone down by a couple of third. Maybe that is one other concern {that a} software program repair may rectify.

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Chart: ZDNet

Wired charging through the bundled adapter was sluggish. Starting with the battery at 17% it took quarter-hour to succeed in 32%, half-hour to get to 46%, 45 minutes to get to 58%, an hour to get to 69%, 75 minutes to succeed in 79% and after 90 minutes the battery was at 84%. If you want a cellphone that’ll recharge shortly as you are on the point of exit, you may must look elsewhere. The Astro Slide 5G additionally helps 10W wi-fi (Qi) charging. 

Conclusions

astro-slide-in-hand-side.jpg

Astro Slide 5G: 18.7mm thick and 325g.


Image: Sandra Vogel / ZDNet

The Astro Slide 5G is cumbersome and heavy for a smartphone due to its signature bodily keyboard, whose slide-and-tilt entry mechanism is somewhat awkward to familiarize yourself with. However, Planet Computers’ companion apps are compelling, and harking back to the inspiration for this handset — the late-Nineties Psion Series 5. 

While the Astro Slide 5G would not have a lot direct competitors, there are rival setups, together with Bluetooth keyboards for telephones and any variety of pill/keyboard combos. The latter are greater and heavier to hold, however higher suited to longer bouts of typing.

With the Astro Slide, Planet Computers has efficiently up to date the Psion Series 5 idea for the 5G period. If you want a cellphone with a bodily keyboard it’s going to serve you properly, nevertheless it’s unlikely to bother the mainstream.


Planet Computers Astro Slide specs

Dimensions

172.4mm x 76.5mm x 18.7mm

Form issue

External display slider with full mechanical keyboard

Keyboard layouts

24

Backlit keyboard

sure

Weight

325g

Display

6.39-inch AMOLED multi-touch

Display decision

2340 x 1080 (403ppi)

Screen safety

Gorilla Glass 3

IP ranking (mud & water resistance)

no

Chipset

MediaTek Dimensity 800

RAM

8GB

Storage

128GB

MicroSD card slot

sure

OS

Android 11 (multi-boot with Linux TBA)

SIMs

2x Nano SIM, eSIM

Networks

5G, 4G LTE, 3G, 2G GSM

5G NR bands

1, 3, 28, 38, 41, 77, 78, 79

4G LTE bands (normal version)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66, 71 / TDD 34, 38, 39, 40, 41

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)

Bluetooth

5.1

GPS

sure

NFC

sure

Sensors

accelerometer, compass, gentle sensor, gyroscope, magneto-sensor, fingerprint reader (on energy button)

Rear digicam

48MP

Front digicam

13MP

Ports

2x USB-C

Buttons

user-programmable sensible button, quantity rocker, energy (with built-in fingerprint reader)

Speakers

stereo 

Microphones

ANC supported 

3.5mm headphone jack

sure 

Battery

4,000mAh 

Fast charging

30W

Wireless charging

10W (Qi) 

Price

$889 / £711 / €855 


Alternatives to contemplate

With the demise of BlackBerry telephones, handsets with bodily keyboards are skinny on the bottom. Unihertz provides the BlackBerry-like Titan and Titan Pocket, whereas Linux followers might be within the upcoming F(x)tec Pro1 X.

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