Dell Axim X50 / X50v Pocket PC

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INTRODUCTION

    Dell entered the Pocket
PC market with a decent product that had a good price
and good expandability, with the Axim X5. Later,
they released a completely new design with an emphasis
on design, functionality, and value with their Axim
X3. Taking another step ahead, Dell’s Axim X30 added
unprecedented performance to the line’s ever-expanding
resume with its 624 Mhz processor. Raising the bar
yet again, the Axim X50 series of Pocket PCs offer
design, expandability, value, performance, functionality,
and a new factor: elegance. Read on…

WHAT’S
HOT

    The Axim X50 series comes
in three flavors. In this review, we’ll be taking a
look at the mid-level X50, which runs at 512 Mhz and
has a 3.5 inch QVGA screen, as well as the X50v which
includes a 624 Mhz processor, an Intel 16 MB graphics
accelerator (yes, you read that right), and a 3.7 inch
VGA screen. And yes, all those features that used to
differentiate Pocket PCs from one another are included,
like integrated WiFi and Bluetooth.

   Size
has become more and more crucial as of late in
the mobile device market. Note how the Axim X50
packs in more than most other Pocket PCs, and gets
away with a smaller footprint.

Device
(no cover)
Size
(inches)
Weight
(grams | ounces)
Dell
Axim X50
4.70" x
2.90" x 0.70"
167
| 5.90
Dell
Axim X50v
4.70" x
2.90" x 0.70"
175
| 6.20
HP
iPAQ hx4700
5.17" x
3.03" x 0.59"
187
| 6.60
HP
iPAQ rx3715
4.50" x
2.80" x 0.64"
158
| 5.57
HP
iPAQ rz1715
4.48" x
2.75" x 0.53"
120
| 4.23
HP
iPAQ h6315
4.68" x
2.95" x 0.73"
190
| 6.70
HP
iPAQ h2215
4.57" x
2.95" x 0.63"
142
| 5.01
HP
iPAQ 1910/1940
4.46" x
2.75" x 0.50"
120
| 4.23
HP
iPAQ h4150
4.47" x
2.78" x 0.50"
132
| 4.60
HP
iPAQ h5450
5.43" x
3.30" x 0.63"
206
| 7.26
Dell
Axim X3i/X30
4.60" x
3.21" x 0.58"
138
| 4.80
Dell
Axim X5
5.00" x
3.20" x 0.71"
196
| 6.90
Toshiba
e740
4.90" x
3.10" x 0.60"
190
| 6.70
Toshiba
e310
4.90" x
3.10" x 0.40"
138
| 4.90

BOX
CONTENTS

    The Axim X50v box contents
are identical to the Axim X50’s. Although it is not
pictured here, production Axim X50s will include a
slip case similar to that available with the X3/X3i/X30
Pocket PCs.

From
left to right: USB cradle, direct power charging
dongle (for charging your device without the cradle),
AC power adaptor, and the Axim X50v.

The
USB docking cradle is extremely professional, gone
is the semi-transparent cradle of old and I’m not
complaining. There is a secondary battery charging
port behind the device interface.

In
the cradle, the Axim X50v has clean lines reminiscent
of the iPAQ 4100 series Pocket PCs. Dell has really
produced a sharp looking Pocket PC that both the
personal and business user alike will enjoy.

The
Axim X50 is virtually indistinguishable from its
counterpart aside from the product number on the
front and the difference in the display.

THE
DEVICE

    Let’s take a closer look
at the Dell Axim X50 and X50v Pocket PCs.

Both
devices have a very substantial feeling, but yet
maintain a thin-profiled elegance.

The
Axim X50 in the cradle, and the X50v by its side.

The
back of each device is home to the fairly 1100
mAh Lithium-Ion user replaceable battery.

The
Axim X50 in hand feels solid and powerful. It’s
hard to explain, but this is not a device that
I feel I would have to baby.

The
Axim X50v in hand allows the VGA screen to shine.

The
bottom of the device houses the wide docking port
(and no, it’s not the same as the X3/X3i/X30’s).

At
this angle, you can see that there is virtually
no difference in physical characteristics between
each Axim.

The
four quick launch application buttons are (from
left to right): Calendar, Contacts, Messaging,
and Dell Home. Nearly as fast as I can pull the
device out of the box, I reassign the Dell Home
application button to Rotate Screen, so I can switch
on the fly to landscape.

The
left side of the Axim (from left to right): loop
hole (for a hand strap?), Button/Screen lock switch,
Wireless toggle, and Voice Record.

The
Button/Screen lock is a new feature introduced
with this series of the Axim, and allows the device
to become completely locked down in whatever state
it is in when switched on. Screen taps as well
as the power and application buttons become disabled.
This is a great feature for those who wish to use
their Pocket PC as a music player and don’t want
any settings inadvertently modified.

The
screen is the only way to distinguish the two devices,
aside from its badging.

The
device houses both a CompactFlash and industry
standard SDIO Now! slot. Words cannot
express how much I dislike dummy cards, I always
worry about losing them. The top of the device
also houses a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack.

Both
Axims flash Blue when Bluetooth is enabled, and
green when connecting to 802.11 Wireless networks.
If both are enabled, the LED flashes Blue, then
green on opposite intervals.

PICTORIALLY
– DELL AXIM X50/X50v AGAINST OTHER SEGMENT DEVICES
   Most of you are probably wondering
how this device measures up when compared to other
Pocket PCs. For the purposes of this review, we matched
the Axim X50 series up against several other Pocket
PCs.

The
Dell lineup. From left to right: Dell Axim X5,
Dell Axim X50v, and Dell Axim X30. Dell has come
a long way from the X5 released just a few years
ago.

The
VGA-screen lineup. From left to right: HP iPAQ
hx4700, Dell Axim X50v, and ASUS MYPAL A730

From
top to bottom: ASUS MYPAL A730, HP iPAQ rx3700,
Dell Axim X50v, Dell Axim X30, Dell Axim X5, and
the HP iPAQ hx4700.

Note
that the Dell Axim X50 maintains an average profile
in terms of thickness.

And
finally from the bottom..
.

 

Continue
On: Display / Integrated Software . . .


THE
DISPLAY

    The display on the X50
is bright and smooth. The VGA screen of the X50v outdoes
any normal QVGA display, however. Although the screen
on the X50v is absolutely dazzling with its high resolution
clarity, the HP iPAQ hx4700’s is still better. The
X50v’s screen does not share the same level of contrast
as the iPAQ’s, but is still excellent nonetheless…


The
following photo was taken in a room that was completely
dark to show the true color of the screen.

Photographs
look crisp and clear on the X50v’s display at VGA
resolution (640X480 pixels).

Here’s
the same photograph on the X50 running at QVGA
resolution (320X240 pixels).

The
Dell Axim X50v also includes an on-board Intel ® 2700G
multimedia accelerator (16MB) which makes 3D gaming
on the device a reality. The video performance
on this device is unparrelleled compared to any
Pocket PC device to date.

INTEGRATED
SOFTWARE

    The Axim X50 and X50v
come standard with Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition
and Windows Media Player 10. From there, Dell has
included two games, Enigmo and Stuntcar Extreme to
take advantage of the integrated graphics card mentioned
earlier.

For
the full screenshot, click on each thumbnail (when
applicable).

   

The
Today screen (from left to right: Axim X50v and
Axim X50).

   

Windows
Media Player 10 offers a similar interface to that
of the desktop version.

   

When
selecting a music file, Album Art is now included
directly from the PC.

A
full music properties screen is now available for
each file. For the first time, Windows Media Player
can now natively play MP3 files on the Pocket PC!
It only took 4 years, not bad.

Windows
Media Player 10 has a strong emphasis on streaming
content directly from Internet and Intranet sites,
so the options have been expanded quite a bit in
this area.

Naturally,
there is full support for on the fly switching
to landscape mode while playing media files.

The
Axim X50v has a control panel applet called "Mirror
Mode" which I would assume would be used with
some sort of VGA monitor output.

Both
Axims include the Odyssey Client which allows for
much more customization when connecting to corporate
WiFi networks.

Network
status can be checked directly from a taskbar icon
in the bottom right corner.

   

Both
of these Axims ship with a slightly newer version
of Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition which now
allows for separate Outgoing Settings when setting
up an e-mail account in Messaging.

Although
this may not seem like a big change, it certainly
further increases the value of the Windows Mobile
platform.

Dell
has also included their backup utility. Although
primitive, it remains effective.

The
first of the two included games on the X50v is
Enigmo.

Enigmo
challenges the mind as a "The Incredible Machine" type
game.

Since
it is very hard to capture 3D accelerated gaming
performance with photos, we have prepared a small
video clip of each game filmed directly off of
the X50v’s screen.

See
the games in action:
Enigmo (click
to play)
Stuntcar
Extreme
(click to play)

The
3D performance of the X50v is unprecedented. I
applaud Dell on not only stepping out on a limb
and raising the bar for video on Pocket PCs, but
for also included two games that actually take
advantage of it.

 

Continue
On: Device Speed / Battery Life / Overall Impression
. . .



DEVICE SPEED

   Continuing the speed tests we have performed with
other Pocket PCs, we’ve updated the speed table to include the results
from the Axim X50 and X50v. All of these benchmark results come from the Pocket
PC application Spb Benchmark from Spb
Software House
.

The Axim X50 scored very well, but the X50v was somewhat below average on the index test.

Even though the X50v and X30 have identical CPUs, the X30 still keeps top position.

Surprisingly, the X50v with its 16MB integrated video card did not score highly on the graphics test.

The Axim X50 series is top notch in terms of file system speed.

The 520 Mhz Axim X50 has the fastest platform speed, beating out even the 624 Mhz devices.

After contemplating these test results, I realized that this device is right on tap to bring some serious competition to high end PCs like the Dell Axim X30. The only thing stopping this device, however, is price.

BATTERY LIFE

    Here are the results of our run it to the ground tests:

Full brightness, normal utilization, automatic performance level (where applicable):

Device

Time until 0% battery

HP iPAQ hx4700 4h 19m
HP iPAQ rx37007h 13m
HP iPAQ rz17003h 13m
HP iPAQ h63006h 42m
Dell Axim X504h 07m
Dell Axim X30 3h 38m
i-mate Phone Edition 3h 53m

Full brightness, normal utilization, high performance level:

Device

Time until 0% battery

Dell Axim X50v2h 37m

The 1100 mAh Lithium-Ion
battery is an improvement from previous Axims like the X30, but still remains a bit anemic. The Axim X50v is clearly designed with the power user in mind, and offers a 624 MHz processor, 3.7" VGA screen, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth wireless, and dual expansion slots. Why was the battery size not increased to compensate for all these features?

An optional 2200 mAh Lithium-Ion battery will be available upon launch of the Axim X50 family, but it will most probably protrude from the device taking away from some of its style and elegance.

PURCHASING

    The Dell Axim X50 and X50v is available from Dell. The device comes in three flavors and three prices. Here’s the run down:

 

Axim X50v

Axim X50 mid-level

Axim X50 entry-level

Intel PXA270 processor

624MHz

520MHz

416MHz

Graphics solution

Intel ® 2700G multimedia accelerator (16MB)

Intel PXA270 processor with WMMX extensions

Intel PXA270 processor with WMMX extensions

Display

3.7-inch VGA

3.5-inch QVGA

3.5-inch QVGA

Memory

128MB StrataFlash ® ROM / 64MB SDRAM

128MB StrataFlash ROM / 64MB SDRAM

64MB StrataFlash ROM / 64MB SDRAM

Wireless

802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 1.2 wireless technology

802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 1.2 wireless technology

Bluetooth wireless technology

Games bundle

Enigmo and Stuntcar Extreme

None

None

Price

$499

$399

$299

PURCHASING

    The Dell Axim X50 and X50v is available from Dell. The device comes in three flavors and three prices. Here’s the run down:

 

Axim X50v

Axim X50 mid-level

Axim X50 entry-level

Intel PXA270 processor

624MHz

520MHz

416MHz

Graphics solution

Intel ® 2700G multimedia accelerator (16MB)

Intel PXA270 processor with WMMX extensions

Intel PXA270 processor with WMMX extensions

Display

3.7-inch VGA

3.5-inch QVGA

3.5-inch QVGA

Memory

128MB StrataFlash ® ROM / 64MB SDRAM

128MB StrataFlash ROM / 64MB SDRAM

64MB StrataFlash ROM / 64MB SDRAM

Wireless

802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 1.2 wireless technology

802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 1.2 wireless technology

Bluetooth wireless technology

Games bundle

Enigmo and Stuntcar Extreme

None

None

Price

$499

$399

$299

PROS


  • Vibrant 3.7 " VGA Screen (X50v)


  • Large 90 MB Flash ROM storage

  • Fast processor speed
  • Dual expansion slots
  • Slim and elegant
  • Great value

CONS


  • Poor battery life (X50v)


  • Very little included software (X50)

OVERALL IMPRESSION

   Overall, this may be the generation of Axims that allow Dell to become a serious market leader in the mobile device market. Dell has managed to squeeze in every feature that one could wish for into a device that still maintains a small, sleek form factor.

The X50 is a perfect dual-slot successor to the X30 Pocket PC, and the Axim X50v gives me serious reason to leave my HP iPAQ hx4700 on the shelf. Besides the fact that the battery life is poor, I find the Axim X50v to be the perfect day to day Pocket PC. When using it, you won’t find yourself wishing you had another feature or better performance, and that’s a really nice thing.

PROS


  • Vibrant 3.7 " VGA Screen (X50v)


  • Large 90 MB Flash ROM storage

  • Fast processor speed
  • Dual expansion slots
  • Slim and elegant
  • Great value

CONS


  • Poor battery life (X50v)


  • Very little included software (X50)

OVERALL IMPRESSION

   Overall, this may be the generation of Axims that allow Dell to become a serious market leader in the mobile device market. Dell has managed to squeeze in every feature that one could wish for into a device that still maintains a small, sleek form factor.

The X50 is a perfect dual-slot successor to the X30 Pocket PC, and the Axim X50v gives me serious reason to leave my HP iPAQ hx4700 on the shelf. Besides the fact that the battery life is poor, I find the Axim X50v to be the perfect day to day Pocket PC. When using it, you won’t find yourself wishing you had another feature or better performance, and that’s a really nice thing.

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About The Author
Derek Snyder