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Dell Axim X50v

Dell Axim X50v
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Axim X50v
(Dell Inc)
Pocket PC Processor: 624MHz Intel PXA 270
Operating system: Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for Pocket PC
ROM: 128MB (91MB available for storage)
Connectivity: Bluetooth and WiFi
Expansion: CompactFlash, Secure Digital
Screen: 3.7in TFT LCD
Battery: 1100mAh lithium ion
Other features: none
Dimensions (w x d x h): 7.36 x 1.77 x 11.93cm
Weight: 175g
Review unit courtesy of Dell Computer Asia Pte Ltd, 1-800-88-0301

WITH 480 x 640pixel (VGA) screens being the current standard for Pocket PC screen resolutions, all the major manufacturers are gearing up for it.

If Hewlett-Packard set the bar for the high-end VGA Pocket PC, then Dell has set the benchmark for the lowest-cost VGA resolution Pocket PC around with the Axim X50v.

Thatís not to say that the X50v is in any way a low-end device. Far from it ... the X50v is almost an exact match feature-for-feature with the HP iPAQ hx4700 Ė same processor, same amount of RAM, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth wireless, and the same screen resolution.

In fact, the X50v has the added advantage of not only being physically smaller but also has a new 2D/3D Intel 2700G graphics chip built-in, with 16MB of RAM dedicated for graphics processing.

Design-wise, the X50v is leaps and bounds ahead of the original Axim handheld. Itís a lotsmaller, and comes with a design reminiscent of the Hewlett-Packard iPAQ h4150 Ė angular on top, but rounded near the bottom, which fits well in the hand.

Instead of the all-silver colour scheme of the h4150, the X50v is black at the back and silver in front, with the black parts coming in a rubber-like finish that gives you a nice grip.

Other good little touches are the buttons on the side: One to enable/disable WiFi, another to record audio, and best of all, a dedicated little slider switch to lock all the buttons if you donít want them accidentally activated when the device is in your pocket.

Iím not too impressed with the location of the wireless button, though Ė on more than one occasion, I found myself accidentally pressing it while using the handheld, turning off the WiFi and knocking out my wireless connection in the process.

I would have preferred the button being located lower down the side, where my fingers arenít always in danger of pressing it when Iím using the device.

Luckily, thereís an easy way to get around this. You can either re-map the button for something else or disable it altogether. I re-mapped the buttons for the more conventional scroll Up/Down actions instead, since the wireless options are already an item on the Today screen and quite easy to access anyway.

Switch on the X50v and youíll be presented with a nice, bright screen. like all VGA Pocket PCs, the fonts are ultrasmooth, especially with ClearType font-smoothing turned on.

The screen on the Dell is slightly smaller than the one on the iPAQ hx4700, measuring 3.7 inches diagonally instead of the larger four-inch diagonal hx4700 screen.

While the detail is certainly there, I have to say that the VGA screen of the Axim X50v is nowhere near as nice in contrast and colour as the one found on the iPAQ hx4700.

Itís really not that the screen is bad (brightness and contrast are about the same as older Pocket PCs) but that the hx4700ís screen is just so good compared with any other Pocket PC out there right now.

To be fair to the X50v, the screen colour balance is actually more neutral than that of the hx4700, which has a slight yellowish colour cast. Once you start doing most Pocket PC functions, you really wonít think the X50v is at all bad.

However, loading up some pictures and comparing the two devices, the HP definitely wins when it comes to displaying a photograph as close to the original as possible.

As usual, I have to put in a last fawning compliment of VGA screens Ė once you live with a handheld with a VGA screen for a week, you will never want to go back to the pixelated old 240 x 320pixel screen.

Itís just too bad the Microsoft made everything look nicer in VGA instead of also providing an option to fit more into, say, an Excel sheet or a webpage in Pocket Internet Explorer.

On paper, the X50v seems like one hot machine when it comes to graphics performance, thanks to the much-touted 16MB Intel 2700G graphics processor.

However, the catch is that to get the full performance benefits of the card, programs have to be specifically written to take advantage of the Intel chip Ė which so far, only a few applications do.

In fact, the downside is that some applications that are not written to specifically take advantage of the chip may actually run a little slower.

For example, running BetaPlayer, currently one of the best video players for the Pocket PC, we initially got much lower scores than on the hx4700 running a high-bitrate extended Matrix trailer.

Running the benchmark option in BetaPlayer, which attempts to run a given video as fast as the machine can handle it, the hx4700 came in with a score of 220%, while the X50v scored only 144%.

A little digging at the BetaPlayer website unearthed an experimental plugin optimised for the Intel 2700G chip in the X50v.

Once installed and enabled, we got a big jump in performance playing the same video Ė the X50v pulled comfortably ahead of the hx4700, attaining a score of 249%.

Unfortunately, we couldnít run our usual SPB Benchmark test on the Dell because it just wouldnít be fair since the application has not been optimised for the X50v either.

However, one area that the X50v clearly loses out to the hx4700 is in battery life.

The X50v uses an 1100mAh lithium ion battery and this translates to a noticeably shorter battery life compared with the hx4700, which by default comes with an 1800mAh battery.

For example, at normal brightness levels and with WiFi off, the X50v lasted only about three to four hours maximum, while the hx4700 lasted a good four to five hours even under heavy use.

One surprise though, is that with WiFi on, the X50vís battery life performed just about on par with the iPAQ hx4700, which is about 3.5 hours of continuous realworld surfing.

This is probably because the Dellís WiFi chip is more power-efficient, or that the HPís WiFi chip consumes more power. Whatever the case, WiFi power consumption is pretty decent on the X50v.

Itís worth noting here that Dell has an option for an extended battery for the X50v with a 2200mAh capacity, which should greatly extend the battery life of the device, though at the expense of adding bulk.

So is the Dell Axim X50v worth the price?

Most definitely. At the current price of RM2,088, the device canít be beat in terms of price and performance.

Plus, unlike the humongous hx4700, this Axim is a pretty reasonable size for a VGA handheld.

Sure, there a couple of drawbacks, like shorter battery life and a screen that isnít in the same class as the hx4700, but at more than RM400 cheaper than a HP, itís a reasonable price to pay, IMHO.

Pros: Good price for the features 16MB Intel chip performs blazingly fast with optimised applications nice size.

Cons: Screen not up to par with other VGA Pocket PCs battery life could be better.

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