Dell Axim X51v Pocket PC

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INTRODUCTION

    Many users have axed, I
mean "asked", Dell for an
upgrade to the Axim X50v. Well, now it’s here!
While the most popular Pocket PCs these days include phone functionality,
Dell has decided to aim their PDAs more at business and media/gaming
markets with their powerful Axim line. You can’t blame them though,
who would want to do business with a mobile phone
service provider anyway? At first glance, you
might think this is just an Axim
x50v
with Windows
Mobile 5
installed. Well,
for the most part it is, but read on for some interesting improvements
to this award-winning Pocket PC.

WHAT’S HOT

    The Axim X51v is Dell’s
top-of-the-line Pocket PC. It
includes a 624MHz processor, an Intel 16MB
graphics
accelerator with OpenGL ES and JSR-184 support, and
a 3.7 inch VGA screen.
It’s also got integrated WiFi and
Bluetooth along with an SD card slot and a Compact
Flash card slot. The only thing missing is a GSM/GPRS
phone module. Oh, I almost forgot… the X51v
includes an unprecedented 256MB of ROM!  Since
this uses Windows Mobile 5, all of the applications
and data are stored in ROM along with the operating
system. The 64MB of RAM is only needed for running
applications.



  


The size of the Axim X51v remains the same as the
X50 which means it’s still quite a nice form factor
for something that packs in so much power.


Device (no cover)

Size (inches)

Weight (grams | ounces)

Dell Axim X51v

4.70" x 2.90" x 0.70"

175 | 6.20

4.70" x 2.90" x 0.70"

175 | 6.20
4.70" x
2.90" x 0.70"
167
| 5.90
Dell
Axim X3i
/ X30
4.60" x
3.21" x 0.58"

138
| 4.80

i-mate
JAM
4.18" x
2.31" x 0.68"

150
| 5.30

5.17" x
3.03" x 0.59"
187
| 6.60
4.50" x
2.80" x 0.64"
158
| 5.57
4.48" x
2.75" x 0.53"
120
| 4.23
4.68" x
2.95" x 0.73"
190
| 6.70
4.57" x
2.95" x 0.63"
142
| 5.01
4.71" x
3.01 " x
0.65"
164
| 5.80
5.43" x
3.30" x 0.63"
206
| 7.26

    Click on any of the above links to view our review
of a handheld listed. The Axim X51v
is FIPS-140-2-certified, which means it meets U.S.
government security requirements for IT products.
It’s also the first lead-free product from Dell
meaning it meets the EU Restriction on certain
Hazardous Substances directive.

BOX CONTENTS


(all
images link to higher resolution)

    The Axim X51v box comes
with the same components as the Axim
x50v
. In
addition to the normal software CDs, documentation,
and packaging materials (not shown), here’s what
you get:


The only way to tell the Axim X51v
from the X50v, is the label printed just above the
directional pad.


    The cradle has a non-removable USB
plug on the end that allows you to sync with a
desktop computer. There’s also an area for
recharging a second battery just behind the docking
area for the Axim x51v. In order for both to charge,
you have to plug in the power cords though. It won’t
charge through the USB port. On the plus side the
cradle has some significant heft to it, but you
still can’t remove the x51v without having to hold
the cradle down with another hand.


    You
get an AC adapter that plugs into the cradle,
plus an outlet plug that goes into the AC adapter.
There’s also a big proprietary power adapter that lets you charge the
x51v without the cradle. You still have to carry around this huge
amount of wires though if you’re traveling.


The Axim x51v also comes with a
nice little vinyl slip case.

THE DEVICE

    Let’s take a closer look at the Dell Axim
X51v…


The Axim x51v still looks great in
it clean design. You can see a new Device
locking Today screen item along with the big-icons
in the new Pocket MSN Today screen item.


The Axim x51v maintains the
traditional 4 buttons and directional pad hardware
interface on the front of the device. There are no
new hardware buttons assigned to the softkeys in
Windows Mobile 5. I promptly reassigned these
buttons to function as the Left and Right softkeys,
Start menu, and Ok/Close items.


At the bottom, you’ll see the
proprietary sync/charging port for the Axim x51v.


There’s also a sliding locking
switch for removing the battery cover on the back.


    While the right side is flush and
smooth rubber, on the left side, you see a
lanyard loop hole, a device locking switch, a
wireless radio enable/disable toggling button, and a
voice record button. The wireless and voice recorder
button are re-assignable, however, it’s nice to have
a button to press in order to quickly turn on or
shut off both the Bluetooth and WiFi radios. The
locking switch is turned on by default, which means
after you charge up and turn on your device, it
won’t respond to anything until you unlock it via
this switch.


At the top of the device, you’ll
see an infrared port, SD card slot, and CF slot
along with a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack. On the
other side is the stylus slot.

STACKING UP
     In traditional pocketnow.com fashion, we like to stack
PDAs on top of each other so you can see how their sizes
compare. Here we go…


From bottom to top: Compaq iPAQ
H3970, i-mate Pocket PC Phone (HTC Himalaya), Dell
X51v, and i-mate JAM. The i-mate JAM is obviously
still the smallest Pocket PC, but the Dell Axim X51v
is still significantly smaller than the HTC Himalaya
form factor.


Here’s a top view.


And a bottom view.



Continue
On: Display / Integrated Software
/ Game Demo. . .




Dell Axim X51v Pocket PC


September
20, 2005

Review by:
Adam Z
Lein
,
Senior Editor

Jump
to: PAGE 1 |
PAGE 2  | PAGE 3
 


THE DISPLAY

     The 640×480 pixel VGA screen is the same as the Axim
X50v. Since the X51v seems to be aimed at the gaming and media market,
I decided to compare it to a PSP.


   The Axim’s screen seems to have a little less
contrast than the excellent PSP screen. However it
kept up with the video playback quality very nicely.
The Axim is much much more pocketable than the PSP though. The
real test will be when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is
released for the Axim.



INTEGRATED SOFTWARE

   First of all, the Axim X51v
includes all of the software improvements of Windows
Mobile 5
. Some of the best features of Windows
Mobile 5 are the increased one-handed usability,
persistent storage support, and better low-power
performance.


   ActiveSync is also much improved and you can easily
sync with multiple desktop computers in addition to
one Exchange Server. You can still only sync email
with one thing, but Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks
can sync with both desktops and an Exchange Server.
I don’t have Exchange 2003 SP2 installed with the
new features for Windows Mobile 5, so I wasn’t able
to test the automatic updating features.

Windows Mobile 5 also comes with a new (free)
version of Pocket MSN. MSN Messenger has been
engulfed here along with links to the Hotmail inbox
account and MSN Mobile website.

A simple Data Backup utility is included in ROM.
This is less likely to be necessary now that Windows
Mobile 5 uses persistent storage and none of your
data will disappear if your battery dies.

There’s a Modem Link program that looks like this. I
have no idea what it’s supposed to do. I thought it
might be similar to the "Wireless Modem" application
on most HTC devices that allow you to connect a
laptop to the PDA Phone for internet access, but the
Axim X51v isn’t a PDA Phone.

A "Mirror Mode" Control panel is added.

An alternate program manager application called
"Home" is also included. This is just another way to
organize and access your programs and settings.

You also get a "Switcher Bar" application which is
launched (oddly) from the System Settings tab. It
functions as a basic task switcher.

The Power Control panel has some interesting new
options including a method for changing the
processor speed performance automatically.

The "Power Button" tab gives you options for
re-assigning the function of the Axim’s power
button. I’m not sure if anyone would use this, but
it’s nice to have options.

Here’s the System Information Settings dialog just
in case you didn’t believe me when I said it has
256MB of ROM (we don’t lie!).

Dell’s WiFi utility is pretty simple to use with
enough options for the demanding IT professional.

     Windows Media Player 10.1 is a minor update that
adds Windows Mobile 5 support along with a ratings
capability. One thing they forgot to add was
one-handed user-interface support. There’s no way to
access the on-screen GUI buttons, and there’s no way
to go "back" when trying to navigate the library
(without tapping the screen). Anyway, it’s still
PlaysForSure compatible, meaning you can use DRM
protected content from all of the online music and
video stores except for iTunes. It can also sync
your storage and memory cards with Media Center 2005
and Windows Media Player 10.


     Along with Outlook and Activesync, the CD ROM that
comes with the Axim X51v also includes a bunch of
other 3rd party programs that you can install at
your leisure. It’s hard to tell, but some of them
are full versions while others are only trial
versions. I’ll tell you right now though, there are
two full version 3D games included that will really
show off the graphics capabilities on the Axim X51v.
So make sure you install "Toy Golf" and "Geo Rally
3D."  The other full version programs you can
install are: Dell Axim Self Diagnostic Utility,
Resco Picture Viewer, and Battery Pack Lite.

THE GAMES
     Now let’s take a look at "Toy Golf" and "GeoRally"; the
full games included on the X51v’s CD.

Toy Golf is a very amusing game that simulates
playing miniature golf on desktops or kitchen sinks.
The graphics are great, and the 3 dimensional
movement is very smooth. To view the video of
Toy Golf, click the link below.

Toy
Golf video (WMV 2MB)

     GeoRally 3D is your average racing game. As you
win more races you unlock other tracks and cars.
The graphics are quite smooth, but not as fast or
as detailed as PSP games. On the
other hand, these are probably the best graphics
you’ll see on a Pocket PC. Click the link below
to see the game in action.

GeoRally
video (WMV 2.69MB)


OTHER SOFTWARE
     One potential problem
with moving to a Pocket PC with Windows Mobile 5,
especially in the early stages, many of your older
software programs may not work properly with the new
operating system. There are so many changes in
Windows Mobile 5 that many applications will have to
be updated to support it fully.

The Beta version of Skype 1.5 works okay, sometimes.
Other times it won’t launch at all. Also notice the
lack of soft-key support at the bottom.

If software has issues on Windows Mobile 5, you could
send an error report to Microsoft, as with Windows
XP.

AOL Instant Messenger launches, but there’s no way
to log in. No menus, no pop-up login window…
nothing!

     Most GPS Navigation programs have not yet been
updated to support Windows Mobile 5 and the new user
interface. Most don’t support Windows Mobile 5’s new
automatic GPS Management features either. You’ll
probably have to shut that off just to get a GPS
Navigation program to work. As you can see here
iGuidance has some interface issues, but will still
function okay. If you have the Dell GPS Navigation
system, you will be able to upgrade to their latest
version of the Netropa software when it’s available.






Dell Axim X51v Pocket PC



September 20,
2005

Review by:
Adam Z
Lein
,
Senior Editor

Jump
to: PAGE 1 |
PAGE
2
  |
PAGE 3




BENCHMARKS

   Normally, we’d give you a big
chart of benchmark numbers comparing the X51v with a
variety of other Pocket PCs using Spb Benchmark from

Spb Software House
. However, Spb Benchmark has
not been updated for use with Windows
Mobile 5
,
which includes many changes for increased
performance and battery life. These changes make
comparing Windows Mobile 5 benchmarks to Windows
Mobile 2003SE benchmarks much less accurate. For
that reason, we’ll have to wait until there’s a
benchmarking program that can support Windows Mobile
5 and compare devices only to others with the same
operating system. However, the ActiveSync data
transfer test still works…

The Axim X51v has a huge advantage
in the ActiveSync benchmarks.

BATTERY
    The battery life on the Axim
X50v was one of the things that took some criticism.
Luckily, the new Windows
Mobile 5
operating system
has done a lot for improving battery life,
such as caching support for hard disks.
We
tested the battery on maximum backlight during
video playback and it lasted for a full 3 hours
and 16 minutes, an improvement of 39 minutes over
the X50v,
and just
about enough for a cross-country (USA) flight.

HELP SUPPORT

    I didn’t seem to get much
documentation with this engineering sample, but the
Axim X51v is so easy to use it’s hardly necessary.
Should you have any issues with the Dell Pocket PC,
they offer 24×7 Service and Support with next
business day Advanced Exchange Service and a
CompleteCare Service is also available. So if you
need some help from Dell, all you have to do is axe
’em, I mean "ask them."

BUGS AND WISHES

   
One thing you really have to watch out for
with these new Windows Mobile 5 devices is software
incompatibilities. This isn’t like before where if
you installed something that didn’t jive, you could
just soft reset and remove it. Applications are
installed into ROM nowadays, and if they’re trying
to run on start up when they cause the system to
crash, you’ll probably have to do a "reset to
factory defaults" in order to get you device back
into working order. By the way, with the Axim X51v,
you can hold the power button and reset button down
for a few seconds in order to start the "reset to
factory defaults" process.


 

   
The Dell Axim X51v now uses the Microsoft Bluetooth
stack instead of the Widcomm one. There’s a lot of
contrasting opinions about which is better, and the
Microsoft one is improving quite quickly. However,
in this version you still lack the Bluetooth
networking profile. It’s worth mentioning however
that a Windows Mobile 5 update is planned for later
in the year which will add support for the A2DP
bluetooth profile. That means you’ll be able to use
wireless Bluetooth stereo headphones for audio.

   
I’d like to see more contrast and a wider viewing
angle on the screen. If two people are trying to
watch a movie in landscape orientation mode, they have to be sitting VERY close
together in order to see it properly (in some
situations that might be a good thing.)  Also,
the device does not come with any headphones. If
it’s going to be a more media-centric device, I
should think it would come with some nice headphones
like all the other portable media players do.

   
You’ve still got some old Windows Mobile related
bugs, such as the inability to sync Draft email
messages with IMAP or Exchange servers (or
anything). Sent items in the inbox listing still
show the sender (me) instead of the recipient. Sent
items don’t even get synced properly with Exchange
2003. Only certain messages show up there. Windows Media Player 10.1’s Library is
very difficult to navigate with only the directional
pad. Everything else was updated to support
one-handed usage, I would think Media Player would
be one of the most important applications to get
this feature.

   
It would also be nice if this type of device would
include a built-in hard drive or multi-gigabyte
storage area. Yes, 256Mb is more ROM storage than
any other PDA before, but when are we going to see
some Windows Mobile devices that can hold a media
library collection that rivals the storage
capacities of any iPod, or even the LifeDrive?

PURCHASING

   

The Dell Axim X51v is available directly from the
Dell
website. The device comes in three models and three
prices. Notice that the entry-level model gets a
boost in ROM over the X50 entry-level (which had
64MB ROM). Here’s the run down:

 

Axim X51v

Axim X51 WiFi

Axim X51 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

256MB ROM / 64MB SDRAM

128MB ROM / 64MB SDRAM

128MB ROM / 64MB SDRAM

Wireless

802.11b WiFi & Bluetooth 1.2

802.11b WiFi & Bluetooth 1.2

Bluetooth 1.2

Prices

$499

$399

$299

PROS

  • Beautiful VGA Screen



  • 256

    MB
    Flash ROM



  • Fast processor speed


  • Dual expansion slots


  • Excellent graphics


  • Windows Mobile 5


  • Bluetooth & WiFi
  • Increased
    battery life vs. X50v

  • Beautiful VGA Screen



  • 256

    MB
    Flash ROM



  • Fast processor speed


  • Dual expansion slots


  • Excellent graphics


  • Windows Mobile 5


  • Bluetooth & WiFi
  • Increased
    battery life vs. X50v
  • Beautiful VGA Screen



  • 256

    MB
    Flash ROM



  • Fast processor speed


  • Dual expansion slots


  • Excellent graphics


  • Windows Mobile 5


  • Bluetooth & WiFi
  • Increased
    battery life vs. X50v

CONS

  • Be careful
    when installing older 3rd party programs
  • No phone
    built in
  • No
    Bluetooth Networking Profile
  • Still no hard drive or large
    increase in storage
  • Narrow
    viewing angle (landscape orientation)
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    The Dell Axim X51v is certainly targeting
the type of users looking for a Pocket PC for playing games, watching
movies, and listening to music, while still having premiere business
and connectivity features. The Axim X51v has a huge
amount of ROM area for installing games, music, even
some GPS maps. Then you can put in another 2GB SD card for some more
music, and maybe a 6GB Microdrive for some movies.

    If you’re still
the kind of person that prefers a separate mobile
phone and PDA, then the Dell X51v is top-of-the-line
for you. Although only a modest improvement over
the X50v, the X51 series extends on what makes
its predecessor so popular: value, performance,
and quality, and the X51/v delivers on all three
fronts.


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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!