Xircom REX 6000 MicroPDA

by Reads (7,746)

We’ve got desktop computers, laptop computers, handheld computers and PDAs. Now, thanks to Xircom, we’ve got micro PDAs as well.

The REX 6000 MicroPDA (prices start at $149) truly redefines the word "pocketable". One-fourth the size of a Palm V, the REX is still capable of handling all of the standard PIM functions, synchronizing with Outlook and accessing information from the Web.

You may recall that the original REX, released a few years back, had one major shortcoming: you couldn’t enter data directly into it. Since then Xircom purchased the REX from Franklin electronic publishers and set about adding a touch screen, as well as improving the user interface. The result is the new REX 6000 MicroPDA and after using it for a couple of weeks I’m surprisingly impressed by this wafer-thin PDA.

So let’s take a look at what’s inside the box and then explore the Xircom REX 6000, outside and inside, and see just what this unique PDA has to offer.

What’s in the box?

Here’s what you get with the Xircom REX 6000:

  • REX 6000
  • USB or serial synchronization cradle and cable
  • Leather flipcase with notepad and stylus
  • Jewel case protector
  • Installation CD
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Accessory catalog

On the outside

At first glance it’s difficult to believe that the REX 6000 is a fully functioning PDA. It’s so small that it’s hard to take seriously. It measures only 3.375" wide by 2.125" high by 0.15" thick and weighs barely more than an ounce. If it weren’t for the green Touchscreen staring back at you you could easily mistake it as a Type II PC Card, which it is. But, trust me, it’s also a PDA.

As I said, it’s the REX’s screen that’s the dead giveaway. It’s a 9-line LCD that measures 2 1/8" x 1 1/4" and is 240 pixels by 120 pixels. There are seven silkscreened icons at the bottom of the screen which launch the calendar, contacts, tasks, memos, web content, calculator and world time apps with a tap of the tiny stylus that comes with the device. It’s a remarkably crisp display both indoors and outdoors, however, it’s not backlit so don’t expect much in low-light conditions.

Xircom’s REX 6000 in its USB synchronization cradle

There are five chiclet-style hardware buttons to the right of the display, several of which have dual functions. The top one, the home button, is the on/off button and also returns you to the menu. The next button is the back and escape button and the middle button is the select button. The next two buttons are the up/left and down/right buttons. They’re all easy to activate with the press of a thumb.

The purple, black and silver USB synchronization cradle (there’s an optional serial cradle available) contains a synchronization button and a syncing light on the front. A nice touch is the four non-slip pads on the bottom of the cradle. The REX slides in and out of the cradle easily, or you can insert the REX into your PCMCIA slot.

One of the best selling points of the REX 6000 is its battery life. Would you believe six months of normal use? It’s true, thanks to two Lithium 3-volt CR2016 batteries that slip into the side of the device. One thing the REX doesn’t have is ports, so any expansion will likely have to involve its PCMCIA connector.

The leather carrying case holds the REX 6000, the stylus, and a small notepad. There’s also a clear jewel case protector which holds the REX while still providing accessibility to the buttons, and it fits nicely in the leather case.

On the inside

Under the hood, the REX 6000 has 2MB of non-volatile flash memory. So you won’t lose your data if your battery runs out, and you also can upgrade the operating system and apps in the future.

On the software side, the REX runs its own proprietary operating system and uses Intellisync software to synchronize with either Microsoft Outlook or Intellisync Desktop on your desktop or laptop computer. It requires Windows 98 or 2000 running on a desktop or laptop computer with a USB port or a Type II PC Card slot.

If you use software other than Outlook, don’t worry. Software to support syncing with Schedule+, Lotus Organizer, Lotus Notes and ACT! will be available by summer.

The REX 6000 also comes with several built-in applications including:

  • world clock
  • calendar with alarms
  • contacts
  • tasks
  • memos
  • calculator

Data entry is via the REX’s on-screen keyboard. The keyboard takes up 90% of the screen when you invoke it, leaving you a single line for entry. But it’s certainly usable for entering a new contact’s name and phone number or an appointment into your calendar.

The REX 6000 bonus

The unexpected extra with the REX 6000 is something called rex.net. Rex.net is the official destination for REX users, a place where you can get product information, services, technical support and Internet content to downloaded onto your REX 6000 for offline viewing, including news, sports, weather (up to three cities), and stocks (up to 10 ticker symbols). You can choose the content you want to take with you on your REX 6000, and it will download automatically every time you synchronize. And it’s all free.

Our road test

So how does the REX 6000 fare in day-to-day usage? Great. There’s the obvious benefits of a wafer-thin PIM device, but it’s the rex.net service that pushes it over the edge. I use rex.net everyday to download news, weather for Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, movie listings for local theaters, and sports scores. It’s easier and quicker to access than most PDAs I’ve used, and certainly simpler than a WAP-enabled cell phone.

You may have heard that Xircom recently halted sales of the REX 6000 when it discovered some problems synchronizing the device through the PC Card slot, but it should be shipping again later this month. Xircom’s one year limited warranty guarantees your REX 6000 to be free from manufacturing defects, so if you bought one before problem was discovered you can rest assured. So far I haven’t noticed any problems with the device, although I’ve been syncing primarily with the USB cradle.

The bottom line is that the REX 6000 MicroPDA is an outstanding device that’s reasonably priced, slips easily into your pocket, and works like a charm.



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