REVIEW: ViewSonic V35 Pocket PC

by Reads (19,212)

On today’s plate for review is the ViewSonic V35 Pocket PC. I’ve been playing with this for some time now and have been able to compare it to the Dell Axim X5, the HP iPAQ 1910, Toshiba e310 and the HP iPaq 5450.  On the whole I believe the ViewSonic V35 is a good device, but it struggles a bit to truly differentiate itself from the pack.  Having said that though, the standout feature is the fact this device holds the distinction of being the lightest and thinnest Pocket PC available on the market while still being powered by a beefy 300 MHz XScale processor.  My goal in this review is to get you acquainted with the V35 and reasons as to why it might be a better fit for your needs than one of the other comparable Pocket PC devices out there.

Pricing:

View our constantly updates price listing for the V35 here, MSRP is $299.99.

 In the box:

First let’s look at what you get when you buy this device, below is a picture of the outside of the box, then a look at the contents of what comes inside the box at the time of purchase:

 ViewSonic V35 300 MHz Pocket PC
 Cradle used to synchronize and charge V35
 Stylus
 Leather Case
 AC Adapter for charging V35
 Users Guide and other product/warranty information
 CD containing software for V35 and desktop software for synching information with desktop PC (ActiveSync 3.5 and Outlook 2000)

Form Factor:

First and foremost this PDA is another one of the lightweights on the block.  The V35 is 4.2 oz of machine, a feather weight and lightest Pocket PC on the market (the iPaq 1910 is 4.3 oz.) packs a mean punch with 300 MHz of XScale processing power for $299 (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price).   The ViewSonic is longer and wider in dimension size than the iPaq 1910 but can actually claim to be thinner. The V35 comes in at 4.8″ x 3.0″ x 0.4″ (length x width x depth) inches while the iPaq 1910 is 4.46″ x 2.75″ x 0.50″.  The fact the ViewSonic is slightly bigger in length and width, having this extra real estate allows its buttons to be larger and easier to push than the iPaq 1910’s small buttons.  However, the V35 isn’t quite as easy to stuff in your pocket as the 1910 is.  Many might think that the larger dimension of the V35 but smaller overall weight is quite a feat in being able to keep weight down correct?  Well, yes and no, the plastic body of the ViewSonic is what makes this thing so light.  The iPaq is mostly plastic too, but it does a much better job of hiding that fact and the case has a sturdier feel due to a harder casing with some metal embedded.  The ViewSonic case just doesn’t do a good job of hiding its plastic existence, this detracts from the look but you must keep in mind your trade off is a lighter weight device.

The stylus and case that come with the ViewSonic are actually quite nice.  The stylus is thick and easy to hold, it is telescopic so that it can be extended to the appropriate length for your hand.  The Toshiba e310 came with a really cheesy fake leather case, the ViewSonic on the other hand comes with a halfway decent case, still not great, but for something that is usually not included with a PDA purchase I’ll take it.

The jog dial on the left side of the ViewSonic V35 is very nice, it scrolls and makes menus easy to move through, push it in as a button action.  The V35 jog dial is much better than the silly jog-dial on the Dell Axim which is more like a lever and ridiculous to push in.

Processor & Memory:

The Viewsonic V35 features a Intel PXA250 300 MHz processor.  This is a step up from the iPaq 1910;  $299 only bought 200 MHz of processor in that case.  The ViewSonic does move faster than the Toshiba e310 I once owned and is slightly faster than the HP iPAQ 1910.  Benchmarks show that even though the V35 has a slower processor than the Dell AXIM X5 it can match or beat the performance in such things as video frames displayed per second.  Of course, if you’re a power user you’ll appreciate the extra processing power, if you just use a PDA as a glorified task planner, then you might consider buying the Palm Zire ($99 bare bone PDA)!

I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention that the ViewSonic V35 once advertised itself as being a 64MB memory PDA but that it only comes with 36.45 MB available for the user to get to.  This has been covered a lot in PDA related forums around the web as ViewSonic did not disclose this fact initially.  It can be a limiting factor for power users but not for general users.  If, for instance, you’re using a Bluetooth SDIO card in your expansion slot and therefore can’t get an SD card in the device, then you’re stuck with just the 36.45 MB you have on the device.  The reason for this memory limitation is the way the OS is run on the V35, the OS must be copied from ROM to RAM before being able to be executed.

Cradle:

The cradle for the ViewSonic is decent, I don’t have any problem getting the device in and out of the cradle, it’s not tight fitting when in there but not loose either.  Overall the cradle is nothing special, simply functional.  Oh, and it doesn’t hold a candle to the Dell Axims really cool looking cradle that enables you to recharge a backup battery at the same time as the Axim charges.

Screen:

ViewSonic is obviously known best for its monitors and superb quality it offers with them.  Therefore it would make sense for the V35 to offer one of the best screens available on a Pocket PC device. The screen on the V35 is definitely nice, the colors are bright, text is sharp, and the screen evenly lit on its 3.5-inch transflective screen that boasts a 240 x 320 resolution with 16 bit color (~65,000 colors).  However, the screen is not as bright and brilliant as the iPaq 1910’s screen (also $299) or as good as the other iPaq series PDAs.  It is slightly better than the Dell Axim’s screen in that the colors appear slightly richer, but the difference is subtle and I wouldn’t make a buying decision based on it.

Software:

It was nice of ViewSonic to load all the basic applications onto the device that I generally use, the HP iPaq 1910 forces you to install Windows Media Player and Microsoft Reader onto the device if you want those applications there.  Here’s a list of a few essential applications the ViewSonic V35 comes with:

 Pocket PC 2002 operating system.
 Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Reader, and Outlook.
 MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC
 Windows Pocket PC Media Player 8.0
 Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition.
 eBackup 2.0 and
 Westtek’s “ClearVue” PowerPoint presentation viewer.

The only non-standard software application on there is ClearVue, other than that it’s slim pickings for any extra software you get outside of the standard Pocket PC 2002 package.  Purchasing any iPaq will get you more functional software than what comes with the V35.

Battery:

The manufacturer claims 10 hours of battery life for normal usage.  Very funny.  ViewSonic originally lied about the memory available (advertised as 64 MB but really only 36MB available to user) and I really question the 10 hour number.  I can’t even get close to this.  4.5 Hours has been my average use before the battery is sucked dry.  The 900mAh rechargeable lithium-ion cell contributes to the unit’s small weight but also to its shorter-than-average period between charges.  The Dell Axim has a 1,440 mAH battery and is removable, allowing for backup batteries, the V35 battery is not removable so once you’re out of battery power you either recharge the device or you’re out of luck.  ZDNet ran some tests playing MP3s on the Axim and V35 with both devices set to 50% brightness and found the Axim lasted 3 times as long on one charge.


Speaker:

Speaking of MP3 playing, being a Pocket PC the ViewSonic of course comes with the ability to listen to your favorite tunes.  The speaker in the lower right of the device is nothing to write home about, the iPaq 1910 was far superior in the external speaker category, but the ViewSonic is actually on par with most other Pocket PC devices.  The Dell Axim and V35 can be called equals as far as audio goes.  Use your headphones for much better sound quality from the V35, but don’t put the V35 in it’s case when trying to do this because the headphone out jack is on the bottom of the device and there’s no hole in the case to poke the jack through  — how annoying.  At least it’s not like the 1910 that requires a proprietary smaller headphone jack (the 1910 comes equipped with stereo headphones because a smaller size jack than normal is used on the device).

Expansion & Accessories:

The V35 has an SDIO slot, this means you can use expansion cards designed to fit in SecureDigital sized memory slots.  Bluetooth SD cards are out and Wi-Fi cards will soon be here.  You will of course need to use SecureDigital memory but that’s a good thing since it’s a very standard and very good memory expansion format.  ViewSonic offers the following accessories for purchase:


 Pocket PC V35 Cradle
 Pocket PC V35 Foldable Keyboard
 Pocket PC V35 Screen Protectors
 Pocket PC V35 Travel Kit (USB Synch Cable & Power Adapter)
 Pocket PC V35 Power Adapter
 Pocket PC V35 Stylus (3 pack)
 Pocket PC V35 Serial Synchronization Cable

All these accessories are available now, not may of the newer devices offer the Serial synch yet, so this is a nice option for some with older PCs.

Conclusion:

The ViewSonic V35 is a good device at a good price.  It’s most attractive feature is that it is the thinnest and lightest PDA on the market and still provides for excellent speed (matching the Dell Axim in benchmarks despite slower processor on paper) good expansion via the SDIO slot and a fantastic price at $299.  I see it as being a compromise between the Axim and iPaq 1910.  If you can’t stand the size of the Axim and don’t like the limited expandability of the iPaq 1910 then go with the ViewSonic V35.  You can get the Toshiba e310 for about the same price as the V35 and it is a similar device, but I’d recommend the V35 over the e310.  The Toshiba e335 is more expensive than the V35 so choose the V35 over that too.  Of course, having said all this you’ve heard me mention a couple of gripes on the V35, such as limited battery life, so please consider whether some of the downfalls of the device are major issues in your book.  Hopefully now I’ve aired out my thoughts you can make at least a better and more informed decision on whether to purchase the V35 or not, and if you do purchase it, enjoy!


 

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