Dell’s Axim X3i Pocket PC


In my mind, Dell is synonymous with quality, innovation, and superb
tech support. Does the X3i deliver? Read on to find out.


The X3i’s greatest attraction, along with its
400MHz X-Scale processor and 64MB RAM and ROM, is its integrated 802.11b
wireless. Why get a device with integrated wireless instead of buying
a wireless peripheral? The size of the antenna on the X3i is small and
sturdy and doesn’t take away from the general appearance of the device,
as other bulky
wireless add-ons can do

cellpadding=0 border=1 align=center>

face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>Device (no cover)
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>Size (inches)
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>Weight (grams | ounces)
Axim X3i
x 3.21 x 0.58
| 4.8
Axim X5
x 3.2 x 0.7
| 6.9
MyPal A716
x 3.0 x 0.7
| 6.9
iPAQ 5450
x 3.30 x 0.63
| 7.26
iPAQ 2215
x 2.95 x 0.63
| 5.01
iPAQ 1910
x 2.75 x 0.50
| 4.23
x 3.10 x 0.60
| 6.70

Axim X3i weighs in at only 4.8 ounces, which seems to be the lightest
of the group after the small iPAQ 1910. The width of the X3i is also
significantly less than the others, at .58″. The comparison shots
found later in this review illustrate the width well.


Dell maintained essentially the same box components
as it did with the X5 line.

cradle, case, software, adapter, cradle and extended battery are pictured
above. Not pictured is the regular battery.

“pleather” case that comes equipped with the Axim provides
adequate protection.

case comes with what I like to call a “Geek Clip” for those
who’d like to carry their Axim on their pants like a cell phone. The
elastic sides of the case allow for its expansion when the extended
battery is being used.


Check out the Axim X3i.

The styling of the Axim may appeal to the conservative business users,
but in my opinion, the Axim X3i’s square-like figure and simple layout
doesn’t show signs of innovation. Because of its square size, it feels
slightly awkward in the hand initially, as their isn’t an defined area
to grip, but after a few days of usage, it becomes managable. Other
than fit, the X3i feels very sturdy and high-quality…not suprising
from Dell.

Dell used essentially the same cradle for the X3 series as they did
with the X5, which was a great move in my opinion. The cradle has an
interesting mirror-like translucent coating to it, which makes the blue
Dell light come through quite nicely. The Axim X3i slips very smoothly
into the cradle, and “snaps” in by its own weight.

The metal-like stylus is flattened, as you probably can’t tell from
the picture. It has a high-quality feel to it, although can feel a bit
light at times and make more effort necessary to tap on the screen.

Above is a side view of the cradle, revealing its rear bay, used for
charging the spare battery. Both the device and battery fit nicely,
and create the same angle with the horizontal, for those of you are
who are truly into aesthetics.

view of the cradle, showing its mirror-like translucent finish. The
green light indicates a full battery, as opposed to the orange “charging
in progress” light.

without the device or a battery with the dual stylus holders visible.

Speaking of the battery, the above left is of the regular battery included;
the right is of the (also) included extended battery, which increases
battery life considerably. As you could imagine by viewing the image
of the extended battery, it feels a bit unsteady as it protrudes a good
distance from the device. I could feel the extended battery slightly
pivot when wiggled. However, I applaud Dell for including the extended
battery, because with WiFi on, you need the extra juice. In order to
remove the battery, you must slide the battery lock to the right with
your stylus or other pointed device. Note the soft reset button just
under the battery. Also note the location of the speaker in the rear
of the device, which I found provides adequate volume – but as we’ll
find out later, this device isn’t particularly multimedia-oriented.

view from above: the IR port, the SD/MMIC slot, and the WiFi antenna…but
wait, what is this? Is that the Bluetooth logo on that antenna?

Yes! It IS the Bluetooth logo. Why would Dell include this logo
on a WiFi-only device? In my best estimation, I surmise that Dell plans
to add another X3 to their line, one with Bluetooth and WiFi. We’ll
have to wait and see for that.

antenna lights up the same blue hue that is used in the cradle for the
Dell logo, which looks very attractive and modern together. As aforementioned,
the antenna feels very stable, and truly feels a part of the device.
I’d certainly prefer this over an add-on SD or CF WiFi card.

view of the directional pad, along with the other usual Pocket PC buttons.
Notice the flush buttons on either side of the device. The one of the
right brings up the recorder…

the one on the right enables the WiFi radio.

the bulk of the extended battery, and the location of the stylus on
the right side of the device.

The other side of the X3i reveals the headphone jack and the scroll
wheel. The scroll wheel acts essentially as an up/down directional pad.
You can use this to scroll, as well as to select by depressing.

this Review

left to right: i-Mate XDA II Phone Edition, Dell Axim X3i, Dell Axim
X5, and HP iPAQ 4150.

in width and height than the X5, the X3i’s square-like conservative
design is evident in this shot. The antenna on the X3i is very unobtrusive.

bottom to top: i-Mate XDA II Phone Edition, Dell Axim X3i, Dell Axim
X5, and HP iPAQ 4150.

the squareness of the X3i is demonstrated in this comparison shot. The
X3i is quite a bit thinner than the X5.

bottom to top: i-Mate XDA II Phone Edition, Dell Axim X3i, Dell Axim
X5, and HP iPAQ 4150.

X3i looks nice and clean from this angle – very uncluttered.

screen of the X3i seems much brighter and crisper than the X5, even
though both screens have the same specifications.


In connecting to my wireless network, I
can say that I was about 80% successful connecting each time. After
turning the Axim on, it would usually take about 5-15 seconds to connect.
On the few times that it failed to connect, I would need turn off the
wireless function, disable the radio, then enable the radio, and turn
on the wireless function. But during the times where I was successfully
connected the first time around, I found the range to be applaudable,
in comparison to my wireless-equipped laptop. The Axim was able to go
as far as my laptop, even a few feet further.

X3i does very well at finding and connecting to anywhere it detects
a connection. I was able to take the X3i to my local Starbucks and connect
within seconds. The software that is included allows the user to do
a very keen job of connecting to a wireless network effortlessly in
most cases.

above are the connection settings.

The available wireless connections are displayed in this menu. To connect
to one, or to attempt to connect to one, tap a network and click connect.
The networks with the red X indicate a network that has been connected
to previously but are unavailable at this time.

Dell WLAN Utility puts all wireless parameters into one neat utility.
It even has the ability to Ping to see if you have connected to a desired

Because using the WiFi radio uses more battery power, Dell allows the
user to determine the performance of the radio so that it does not compromise
battery life. For further battery tests, check out the “Battery
Life ” section of this review.

The site survey function of the Dell WLAN Utility allows you to asses
the signal strength and other specifics of available wireless networks.
This is very handy when there are several wireless networks to choose
from in a given area.

connected, the two-way arrows are displayed at the top of the screen,
along with the signal strength indicator at the bottom.


The first time you enable wireless connectivity,
a message warns you of reduced battery life with wireless on, but to
what extent does the wireless compromise battery life? To test this,
I left the device on with and without wireless to see how much battery
life is affected, draining the battery down to 25% on a full charge
(using the regular battery.) I set the screen to maximum brightness,
and set the processor setting to Auto.

WiFi on:

Therefore, turning WiFi on decreases the battery life about 25%, which
isn’t unexpected. Using the extended battery would most likely increase
the above times by almost half, so for WiFi users, it’s a good idea
to use it full-time.

The backup battery will allow the device to retain memory for 30 minutes
after the main battery is removed. When the power on button illuminates
orange, the backup battery is being charged; green means it is full.


We’ve consistently been using VOBenchmark from Virtual
Office System
to test all of the devices that we review.

Each number
represents how many times within a given unit of time the specific operation
was able to be performed. Higher numbers are better and are indicated
in bold
. Average of best three recordings taken.


face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”><font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Dell
Axim X3i
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Dell
Axim X5
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”><font
size=2>HP iPAQ h5450
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>HP
iPAQ h2215
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>CPU: Floating Point<font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>CPU: Integer25.85<font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>Graphics: Bitmaps – BitBlt21.13<font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>Graphics: Bitmaps – StretchBlt18.70<font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”><font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”><font


face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>Graphics: Filled – Ellipse | Rectangle
| Rounded Rectangle3.76
| 13.53 | 3.29
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>3.75 | 7.51 | 2.89<font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>2.16 | 6.64 | 1.55

| 12.94 | 3.82

face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>Memory: Allocation<font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>Memory: Fill<font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”


face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
size=2>Memory: Move<font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>1.21<font
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”
face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”

From the above data, it can be inferred that the X3i excels in text
manipulation, which continues my assertion that this particular Dell
handheld line has been targeted towards the business user. The graphic
capabilities seem to be a bit lagging according to the benchmark.

POST REVIEW UPDATE: Dell has posted a ROM
which I found to greatly improve video performance and the
fluidity of my image viewing and tweaking applications. I rerun the
benchmark after updating my VOBenchmark software, and found the ROM
update to greatly boost values of several graphic functions of the benchmarking
software. The X3i screamed even further ahead with text manipulation,
making this again an outstanding choice for the business user, and now,
since the ROM update, a contender with the iPAQ h2215 in graphic capabilities.


As displayed in the images, the X3 series
takes on a very conservative square-like design that may not appeal
to multimedia enthusiast who seeks something with rounded edges or a
new design. This shape also makes it a bit awkward to hold, but as with
anything, it takes a bit of getting used to. Perhaps some flush rubber
grips along the side could have aided in this problem

Although it appears as if more devices are including only SD/MMIC card
slots, it would be nice to see a device such as the X3i, which obviously
has enough room, integrate CF capability as well.

I’d like to see Bluetooth built into this device, especially since the
X3i seems as if it was built for it.
It will be interesting to see if Dell adds Bluetooth to a future X3.


The X3i can be purchased directly from Dell
for $349; they are constantly having promotional offers which lowers
the price a good bit.


  • Sturdy
    feel, well constructed
  • Beautiful
  • Great-looking
    cradle with good functionality
  • Integrated
    WiFi is executed well

  • Included
    extended battery

  • Included
    case provides adequate protection


  • Where’s
    the Bluetooth?

  • Design
    may be a bit too conservative for some

  • Awkward
    to hold
  • Lack
    of CF slot


With the exception of a few picky issues, I’d
certainly say that I am satisfied with Dell’s latest offering. The X3i
is a great choice for the business user who is looking for integrated
wireless in a solid overall package, that they can take from one end
of the office to the other.

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.