PXA255 Chip Appearing in Current Handhelds

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During the last few months, Intel made a significant change in the XScale processors that appear in many handhelds: it switched from making the PXA250 to the PXA255. This new processor offers significant performance improvements over the old one.

Last month, Intel stopped supplying handheld manufacturers with the PXA250. And some companies are making new models that are advertised to use the PXA255, like the Toshiba e750. However, many people are wondering if models currently in production will also be made with the new chip.

At appears that at least some companies are quietly making the switch, without making any kind of announcement about it.

Numerous people in the Brighthand Forums have reported that recently purchased Dell AXIM X5 handhelds are using the PXA250 C1, which was the original name for the PXA255. Benchmarks confirm that these are faster than older X5 units.

In addition, Hewlett Packard recently released an updated version of its ActiveSync Backup File Restoration Utility for the iPAQ h5400 series that seems to show that it is switching processors. As the page says, “This utility allows the user to restore an ActiveSync backup file on an iPAQ h5400 with an ActiveSync backup that was made from a unit with a different processor revision.” Assumably, this is to deal with a situation where a user has backed up their h5450 that had the unit damaged or destroyed. Either it has been repaired with the new chip or replaced with a new h5450 with the PXA255. Without this update, the user will get the following error message, “The restore could not be completed successfully because the selected backup was created from a different type of model.”

HP did not respond to questions about this issue.

As has already been mentioned, Intel is no longer supplying manufacturers with the PXA250 chip. However, this doesn’t mean that every handheld being produced now has the new processor. Manufacturers knew this change was coming for months and may have stockpiled PXA250 chips.

So How Do I Get One?

Possibly manufacturers are keeping quiet about this change because they don’t want to be deluged by current users of their handhelds demanding a free upgrade to the new chip. They might also face difficulties selling current stocks of handhelds that use the PXA250.

This means that people looking to buy a handheld with the new processor are faced with a daunting task. Obviously, one option is to get one of the new models that definitely use the PXA255, like the Toshiba e750 or e350. Unfortunately, for older models there is no way to know whether the handheld has the chip without examining the actual handheld, something that is difficult in the store and impossible over the Web.

Another option is to switch out the processors in current handhelds for the new one. Pocket PC Techs is working on this now.

More about the PXA255

The PXA255 runs at the same speeds the PXA250 did, 200 MHz, 300 MHz, and 400 MHz. However, the PXA255 has a faster system bus — 200 Mhz vs. 100 Mhz — so it can retrieve data from memory and send images to the screen twice as fast. And it does this while consuming less power. The 400 MHz version uses 30% less power when running applications and 60% less in idle mode, according to Intel.

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