The Toshiba e310 has been around for a few months now, but the recent drop in price and rebate offerings from Amazon made us decide to go back and revisit this PDA and provide a review, we’re astounded by this devices price value, the full review is below!
Toshiba has a knack for jumping into the game a little late with electronic hardware devices, but then when it does jump on the bandwagon it’s usually a graceful entry. They did it with laptop computers, DVD players and, while their first PDA offering with the Genio series was a little off base, the latest e series Pocket PCs are flat out great product entries for a latecomer to the PDA arena. The current Toshiba e series devices on the market are the e740 and e310. The e740 is the more expensive and full featured device, see an earlier review I did of that here . The Toshiba e310 is the more budget oriented device. But don’t think that when I say budget I mean clunky, featureless and sub-par. The Toshiba e310 is quite the opposite actually, for under $300 now you get a light and thin design, rich screen color display, fast processor, mp3 playing abilities, and just an overall well-designed Pocket PC. The market has received this device extremely well due to its small size and versatile expansion capabilities, there aren’t many drawbacks other than a few minor issues that I will cover in this review, but read on to find out if the plusses outweigh the minuses if you are trying to decide whether to purchase the e310.
What you get…
It’s good to know what comes with the purchase of any device, so here’s a quick rundown of that information:
Inside the e310’s box are:
Toshiba e310 Pocket PC with stylus
Cradle with attached USB cord
Two-piece AC Adapter
Black leatherette slipcase
Pocket PC Companion CD, includes Outlook 2000.
Service, support, warranty and registration information
The e310 comes with a slim two-part charger, the USB cradle is straight-forward in design and allows for one-handed removal. The e310 can be charged while in it’s cradle or by just using the charger alone. It’s nice to actually get a PDA with a slipcase included, but as might be expected the case is a little on the cheap looking side. The manuals cover how to use the Toshiba e310 and the included device software (Microsoft Outlook, ActiveSync and Adobe’s Acrobat Reader).
The actual e310 device looks and feels sturdy, I’m a big fan of the simple boxy look of the e310, it is definitely different and stylish in its own unique way (some have said it looks boring, but hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder). The e310 sports fairly common Pocket PC specifications: a 206 MHz Intel StrongARM processor, a 16-bit reflective TFT, 32 MB of RAM and an SDIO capable SD Card expansion slot. Where the e310 excels is in its size, it is a mere 1 cm thick and weighs only 4.9 ounces, that’s the same as a Palm m515. We expect Palm devices to be thin and light, while Pocket PC devices can border upon being bricks.
On the left side of the e310 can be found the voice recording button. Some have complained that the power button is awkward, but my biggest complaint actually resides with the silly placement of this voice recording button. I am constantly bumping it on when I grasp the e310 near it’s top. There’s nothing more annoying than finding your memory is starting to fill with a bogus audio recording started when you slipped the e310 into it’s case the last time and bumped the recording button on. Anyway, other buttons include a jog wheel with a push-action function. This button works great, the grip is good and tactile feedback let’s you know you actually pushed the button. On the bottom of the e310 there’s a battery switch for connecting and disconnecting the main battery of the unit – which is built-in and rechargeable. This makes sure the battery is preserved when you really don’t want to use the device. Also on the bottom is a charger jack and the connector for its USB cradle. On the right side, there’s nothing except for the stylus compartment located at the top. As far as the actual stylus goes, it’s cheap but functional.
On top of the e310 is the headphone jack to the far left, next to it is the SDIO capable SD Card expansion slot, then the Infrared port and the power button. The power button might look difficult to use and some have complained about it, but honestly, I can’t see any problem with it and have no complaints whatsoever.
(top and bottom views respectively displayed below)
Now to the front of the device, where all the action happens of course. The e310 is graced with a bright 16-bit reflective TFT display. For the cost of this device, you couldn’t really ask for a better display. The display is very crisp and clear, I tried enabling ClearType to see just how crisp the screen could get but I was surprised to find the results were far from good, it seemed the crispness was reduced, go figure. Directly below the display is a row of four hardware shortcut buttons, each has a dimple allowing them to be quickly pressed with the stylus. The navipad is centered and just below these buttons and, it works just great and made it easy to distinguish between performing an action press and a direction press. Finally, in the lower right corner you’ll find the speaker for the device. It’s no Bose surround sound let me tell you, you’ll think the Tin Man is singing in any audio you playback, but plug in your headphones to the jack on top and you’ll be graced with excellent audio.
As far as software goes, Toshiba took sort of a minimalist approach, not too much is included, but what’s there is good. The tabbed program manager application included on the device is great. These types of program managers are common with other Pocket PC manufacturers, but Toshiba’s is the best I’ve used. The interface is very attractive and makes it simple to navigate between various areas to get to your different software app. The tabs are customizable and allow for background images and additional tabs. My favorite is having the “Running” tab in place which allows for quick access to all the applications currently running on your Pocket PC.
So if this device is so great, why is it so cheap?
I figure that question might be on your mind, and the answer is simply that Toshiba has cut back in a few areas to bring price down. Lack of additional software is one we already touched upon. The 32 MB of RAM can be limiting and is well below the 64MB that is quite standard in many Pocket PCs on the market. The single SD Card expansion slot is kind of a pain, the e740 allows for SD or CF expansion, but remember if you have a Palm or even other more expensive Pocket PC devices then you will have to deal with this limitation. In general, the e310s aim is to compete with high-end Palm OS devices that offer multimedia functionality, such as the Sony Clie 665, the e310 certainly succeeds in doing this and as far as processing speed goes it outperforms these. On the flip side of that coin, the faster processing means less battery life than an equivalent Palm device. Also, the e310 doesn’t match the removable battery abilities of it’s more expensive brethren, the e740.
Speed-wise, the e310 is has a 206MHz Intel StrongARM processor. The performance of the device is on par with all other devices having this processing power (such as the Compaq 3800 series, HP 560 series), no weird system architecture or skimping on the inside that slows the device down. The e310’s processing speed and 32 MB of RAM really should be sufficient for the entry-level users it’s aimed at.
The Toshiba e310 is a solid device and some of the deals out there now allow you to snatch it for between $200 – $300. I can’t think of another PDA that even comes close to offering more bang for the buck. If you want a device with no-hassle multimedia support and a processor that’s powerful enough to handle almost anything thrown at it, but don’t need flash extras such as dual expansion slots or built in wireless, then this certainly could be the device for you.