Dell has been offering great PDA’s for a whilem and the new Axim X50 series is no different. The X50 comes in several different configurations. The best one is the X50v because it has the fastest processor, the most memory and a VGA screen which is slightly larger then the other screens. The other X50 models don’t have VGA screens or the fastest processor. With this array of products you are sure to find one that fits in your budget and has the features that you need. In this review we will be looking at the X50v.
- Microsoft® Windows® Mobile 2003 Second Edition with Windows Media Player 10 Mobile
- Intel® XScale™ Processor at 624MHz
- Integrated CompactFlash® ROM and Secure Digital / SDIO Now! / MMC Memory Card Slots (3.3v)
- Integrated Bluetooth™ Wireless Technology, Integrated 802.11b Wireless Technology
- 3.7″ VGA screen with 480×640 resolution
- Intel® 2700G multimedia accelerator with 16MB video memory
One of the most confusing parts of setting up the Axim X30 was the initial charge. There was a lot of confusion about how you charge the internal backup battery. The instructions that Dell provided were short and not very descriptive. In the end they didn’t need to be long but they should have explained what was going on. The Axim X50v eliminates this confusion by no longer requiring that you manually turn on the Axim during the first charge. Instead, when you first put in the battery it is suppose to come on by itself. This starts the internal batteries charging and when you place it on the cradle it will continue the charging and also charge the main battery. Dell recommends that you leave the Axim on the cradle for about 8 hours. This is to guarantee that all batteries are fully charged. You will notice that the charging light turns green after about 4 hours but you should leave it on to make sure it gets done properly. It sure would be nice if Dell found a way to send the Axim with fully charged batteries. This would save a lot of frustration from users because they want to use the Axim now and not wait for 8 hours. It would also prevent a lot of ruined batteries and confusion because of bad charges.
The next part of the setup can be done while the batteries are being charged, or you can wait until it is all done. When you turn on the Axim for the first time you are prompted to complete some simple training on usage and to align the screen to your stylus. It is fairly simple, but it would be nice to be able to skip the training since it is the same for all Axims, and unless this is your first Axim you have probably already done it several times. In fact every time you do a hard reboot you will have to do it all over again. By the way, a hard reboot also deletes everything on your Axim except what you have in the built-in storage or on a removable memory card.
Like the X5 before it, the X50 is the more stylish of the available Axims. It has more curves and colors in the case and because it is newer than the X30 it also has a better screen. Rather than the solid silver of the X30, the X50 is mostly black with a silver trim around the front edges. It also has a black rubbery material on the sides for better grip. The back of the X50 is hard plastic. All the different pieces fit together well and it looks good together.
For the Axim X50 Dell removed the antenna that stuck out of the top of the X30. This makes it slightly shorter than the X30 with antenna. Because it has rounded corners and a soft rubbery material on the sides it is really comfortable to hold. The Lights that were in the antenna of the X30 are now located in the top right corner of the X50. It flashes green for WiFi, blue for Bluetooth and alternating for both.
The front of the X50, except for the colors, is laid out just like the X30. The power button is at the top and there is a microphone on the left side. The screen is below that and there are 4 buttons and a directional pad below that. The buttons below the screen are slightly smaller then the X30, people with fat fingers and gamers may have trouble with this, but You will eventually get used to it. The screen on the X50v is slightly larger than the other X50 models, the screen is also VGA with 640 x 480 resolution.
The left side is slightly different than the X30. The X30 has a jog dial and headphone jack. The X50 has neither of these. Instead, it has two buttons. By default the top one is for wireless and the bottom one is for sound recording. There is also a lock switch above those buttons which will lock all buttons and screen taps. The lock is great for when you are watching a movie or listening to music and you don’t want to accidentally push buttons. Above all these buttons is a lanyard loop. Since the X50 does not ship with a lanyard I cannot imagine that many people will actually buy one. Hanging this around a neck or wrist would not be comfortable because of its size.
The right side, just like the X30, is completely bare because this is where the stylus slides into.
The back is fairly plain; However, the X50 does have a redesigned battery compartment. On the X30 you use the Stylus to slide a lock that releases the battery. There was no need for a battery cover because the battery locked right into the Axim andbecause the batteries were a portion of the X30. This was especially nice for the extended batteries because you didn’t have to fight with multiple battery covers for different sized batteries. The X50 changed this by adding a battery cover. There is a small switch that locks the cover in place and it is big enough that you can use your finger to open it. Also the switch must be completely locked before the Axim X50 will turn on. I accidently only switched it half way and the cover locked but the Axim would not turn on. It took me a while but I finally figured it out. This is more conventional like a remote control and cordless phone. But what is one of the first things to break on those devices? The battery cover. I will watch this over time and see if this also fails like so many before it. On the bright side the batteries are smaller and they actually have more capacity. The smallest one is 1100mAh and the largest is 2200mAh. If you purchase a 2200 mAh battery it will come with a seperate battery cover so that it can fit. This is much more of a pain then it may seem. Now you not only have to find a case that will fit the larger battery but you also have to find one that will have a spot for the extra battery cover.
The top also has some changes that should be noted. The top contains the headphone jack on the left side, a CompactFlash, SDIO slot and IR port in the middle and the stylus on the right.
The only change in the bottom is that the connector has changed. Dell says that was necessary because they added an option to display the X50 screen on a regular monitor. You do need a special cable for this function which is part of Dell’s presentation bundle. This can be purchased separately for $79. I didn’t receive one, so I have don’t know how it works.
The Stylus suffered some changes. The X30 has a skinny fish like stylus which in my opinion fit nicely in your hand and was comfortable. The new stylus is more conventional in that it is round and metal with a plastic tip and plastic end. Because it is round and slick metal it is also much harder to grip. I often found that if I did a lot of writing or my hands were a little slippery that it would slip out of my hand. It is also much harder it get this stylus out of its holding place. You may want to leave your finger nails a little longer for the purpose of getting the stylus out. If you are an old Axim user then the fish will be missed, but if you are used to using other PDA’s then this will be like what you are used to.
Last, but certainly not least, the docking cradle has changed considerably. No longer to you get a bright, shiny and in my opinion, gaudy looking cradle. The new cradle is much smaller and cleaner looking. The design is fairly flat and black. In fact it is completely black except for the dell logo, which does not light up, the single led light for the spare battery charge status and the bottom which is silver like the logo. The place for charging the X50 is no longer a slot that you slide it into. Instead it is a small connector, which sticks out a little, that you slide the X50 onto. Because of the change in battery style, a change in the spare battery charger is also required. Now it is a depression that the spare battery rests in. I personally think it looks better than the old cradle and it fits in well with any environment.
Performance is important in any computing device and the Axim X50v is no stranger to performance. The X50v has the same processor that the Axim X30 high has. Like the X30 the X50 has the ability to scale the speed of the processor so you can save battery life. The X50v is also graced with a separate graphics processor to power the 640 x 480 VGA screen. None of the other X50 models have the graphics processor or the VGA screen.
Adjusting the processor speed can help save battery power or make sure you have all the necessary processor power you need for your programs. Under the power settings you have several options that allow you to change the processor speeds. You can choose from Maximum Performance, Normal, Power-Saving and Auto. The Axim X30 does not have the Normal setting. For power users you will want to set you processor to Maximum Performance. This will use up the most battery power, but you will not notice any performance delays and your programs will be given all the speed they need to run. If you set the processor to auto then the processor will slow down when it is not being used and will have to speed up when you start a program or access the device. You will notice that the Axim X50s lowest speed is lower then the X30, the X30 could only go down to 208 MHz and the X50 can go down to 104 MHz. Because of the lower speed and the speed changes you will notice some delays in accessing menus and starting programs when you have it set to auto. It would be really nice if you could specify a minimum speed with the auto setting. This would still save some battery power by letting the processor slow down but allow you to get better performance by letting you choose the minimum speed.
You will notice the scores on some of the graphic speed tests are a little off. It seems that the software I used, SPB benchmarks, is having a little trouble with the graphics processor. Hopefully they will come out with a patch so I can retest and give you some good results. There are some other processor and memory scores on the Axim X50 that are slower than the X30. I cannot explain this but if there is a new version of the testing software and the results change I will update them.
All models of the Axim X50 come with Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. This is the latest and greatest version of the operating system. The Axim X30 also has the same operating system so there is nothing new, except the X50 also has Windows Media Player 10 and other fixes that were released. This version of Windows does support the VGA screen which offers up to 4 times the resolution of previous screens. Unfortunately the operating system does not support the 640 x 480 resolution that the screen does, so every thing looks clearer, but it is all the same size as before. You will notice several quirky things about the operating system, for example if you choose to take Activesync off of the start menu, then when you go to Home on the start menu, Activesync is a broken link. Also you can only have 3 alarms. These kinds of things are not mission critical, but they can be annoying.
The displays on the lower two models of the X50 are just like the X30. The X50v on the other hand offers a VGA screen with resolution of up to 640 x 480. You can definitely see an increase in the resolution because the colors and text are clearer. You cannot take advantage of the 640 x 480 resolution because the operating system does not support it, so you are still stuck at 320 x 240. If you are able to take an uncompressed screen shot, like what I have, you will be able to see the great difference in the resolution.
In order to power this new fancy screen and all the programs that may take advantage of the higher resolution, the X50v uses Intel’s 2700G ‘Marathon’ mobile graphics chip. The 2700G is like a laptop graphics process because all the features are shrunk down to a single chip. The features that are in the chip are 16 MB of video memory, 2D and 3D acceleration, video decoding, and automatic power-saving features.
The Axim X50 ships with all the same programs as the X30 except that the X50v comes with two games that are suppose to show off the graphic abilities of the X50v and graphic processor. Enigmo is a 3D puzzle game, but you only have 2D controls so you can slide around on the screen, but you cannot rotate. Stuntcar Extreme does a much better job displaying the 3D capabilities of the X50v. As its name suggests, it is a racing game where you do jumps and other stunts. It is fun, and offers two modes of viewing while racing. You can race with an outside the car perspective or an inside the car perspective.
All of the X50s have 64MB of SDRAM for loading your own programs and also for programs to run. The higher two models also have 128MB of ROM where the operating system is stored, and you also get about 100MB of that in built-in storage. The extra memory is very nice and helpful for loading programs and stuff. I personally would leave the RAM just for running programs and use the built-in storage for loading your programs. You will notice that graphic intensive programs like Stuntcar Extreme need a lot of memory to run and you may frequently need to close out of other programs to free up enough memory for them to run. Another 32 or 64 MB of RAM would really have helped to alleviate this problem.
Wireless on the X50 is great, just like the X30 before it. Wireless is easy to setup and has great range and speed. I was hoping that X50s would be equipped with 802.11g, but they opted for 802.11b just like the Axim X30. For my network I had to use the Odyssey client to connect, but once I set it up I have not had any problems.
Audio on the X50 is handled by an internal speaker. There is no specific speaker hole for the sound to escape from, instead it seems to emanate from the all the cracks and crevasses. For simple game sounds this is more than adequate. For music and voice recording though, you will probably want to use headphones to get more clarity and block out other sounds that may make it hard to hear. The headphone jack can serve another purpose. It also can take a headset/microphone plug. This could be used by voice command programs and even VOIP (Voice Over IP) communications. The X50s built-in microphone is also great for picking up all sorts of sounds and voices.
Battery life on the X50v is slightly less than the X30, but that could easily be explained by the extra graphics processor and the bigger, brighter and higher resolution screen. I would highly recommend that you buy another battery. The battery tests that I ran were all performed on the 1100 mAh and the 2200 mAh batteries.
|1100 mAh||2200 mAh|
|Max Backlight, Normal Use||2 hours 50 min||4 hours 38 min|
|Max Backlight, Movie||2 hours 12 min||4 hours 26 min|
|Max Backlight, WiFi||2 hours 8 min||4 hours 2 min|
Like all Dell products you can purchase whatever support you would like. The default warranty is 1 year limited warranty, 1 year technical support, 1 year Advance Exchange, but can be increased to 3 year limited warranty, 3 year Advance Exchange with lifetime technical support.
Dell has certainly found a great balance of power usage and performance with Axim. The power requirements have increased, but so has the battery capacity. The X50v is a bit expensive; at $450 it is almost as expensive as a cheap desktop. But you will note that the smaller you go the more expensive the equipment gets. You can of course wait a little while until the price drops, or you can look for coupons or discounts for your purchase. If you really sit down and just think of all the great things you get, you will realize that it is well worth the price. Besides these devices are not cheap to make. I recommend this to anyone looking for a high-end PDA, whether you need it for the graphics capabilities or anything else you will not be disappointed. Make sure you look at the other Axims because you may find that you don’t need all of the features on the X50v or even the X50 and you can save a lot of money by buying an X30 instead.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|