The X50v offers both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which means you can access the Internet in whatever way is most convenient to you at the time.
I have a Wi-Fi network in my house, and I love the freedom it gives me. I have a fast connection to the Internet wherever I go, from my home office to the back deck.
One of the things I liked about a previous Dell handheld, the Axim X30, was its excellent Wi-Fi range. This was the result of its large external antenna. The X50v leaves this off. While this may improve the looks of the device, it cuts about 10 percent off the new model’s Wi-Fi range. Still, it’s comparable to other Pocket PCs without large antenna.
As nice as Wi-Fi is, it doesn’t help me much when I’m out of the house. I can’t be eternally searching for a free Wi-Fi HotSpot. That’s why I have a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone and a wireless service contract with unlimited data. Because both the X50v and my phone have Bluetooth, I can use the phone as the handheld’s wireless modem. This lets me check my email, or even update Brighthand, when I’m away from the house.
But Bluetooth is good for much more than this. I have a range of peripherals that connect to a handheld through Bluetooth, and they all worked just fine with the X50v. This includes a keyboard, mouse, headset, and GPS receiver.
Or you can use both types of wireless networking at the same time. I wrote much of this review by accessing the Web via Wi-Fi while typing on a Bluetooth keyboard. The X50v has Bluetooth 1.2, a new version of this wireless standard that has been designed to reduce interference between it, Wi-Fi, and other wireless networking technologies.
Memory Card Slots
This gives us maximum flexibility in both Storage and peripherals. You could, for example, have a CompactFlash GPS card in one slot, while storing all the maps on an SD card.
On the other hand, if you want massive amounts of storage, CompactFlash cards are the way to go. You can get a 4 GB Microdrive for as little as $220.
In one of my favorite moments with the X50v, I dug out my old Socket Ethernet card and plugged it into the CompactFlash slot on this handheld. Without having to install any drivers, it was connected to my network in just a couple of seconds.
The X50v isn’t the sort of device that a lot of people get as their first handheld. That’s why I’m going to assume that most people interested in it are already familiar with the standard software bundled with every Pocket PC. Still, I’ll give a quick overview.
MS Office The X50v comes with Pocket Office, allowing you to view and edit Microsoft Word and Excel files. But be careful about these; they don’t support all the formatting the full desktop versions do and will remove from the file any formatting element they don’t support.
PIM One of the major uses for handhelds is to keep track of people’s calendars and address lists. The applications that come with every Pocket PC handle this sort of information very well. Also, they can be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook on your home or office PC so you don’t have to maintain several separate lists.
If you don’t have a copy of Outlook, don’t worry. The X50v comes with Outlook 2002.
Multimedia I’ve already mentioned this device’s awesome screen. So you can play video on the X50v, it comes with the brand new Windows Media Player 10 for Mobile. This includes Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10, which means you can use subscription services — like CinemaNow, MusicMatch, and MLB.com — and play the video and audio on your X50v.
This handheld has an internal speaker which offers good performance. Thankfully, unlike the X30, the X50v’s speaker is on the front.
Nevertheless, you’ll probably want to get yourself a pair of headphones to listen to music. There’s a standard-sized headphone jack on the top of this model.
The buttons on the X50v are fairly standard. There are four beneath the screen that are intended to launch frequently used applications.
Also on the front is a directional pad, usually just called a D-pad. This is handy for games and also for navigating around the user interface if you don’t want to get the stylus out.
Unlike previous Axim models, the X50v lacks a jog dial on the left side. However, it does have a pair of buttons where a jog dial would normally be. By default, these buttons are set to turn on and off wireless networking and the voice recorder, but you could easily re-program them to be Up and Down.
Also on the left side is a switch that deactivates all the other buttons and the touchscreen. This lets you carry the device around without having to worry about accidentally turning it on.
The X50v comes with an 1100 mAh swappable battery, considerably smaller than the one in the hx4700.
To help you manage your battery life, the X50v gives you a good number of settings you can change, from the brightness of the backlight to the speed of the processor.
With the backlight on half power (which I find quite viewable) and the processor at the full 624 MHz, the X50v’s battery lasted me slightly less than 3 hours. This isn’t very good, as the hx4700 can go for almost 6 hours with similar settings.
By throttling the processor back to just 208 MHz and the backlight to its dimmest setting, this figure jumps up to over 4 hours. Not great, but definitely better.
With the processor running that slow, standard applications like word processors and PIM aps worked fine, but don’t think you’ll be playing any games. Still, it’s a good way to extend your battery life if you’re going on a short trip and don’t want to bother to bring along the power cable.
To come up with the figures, I used the Axim X50v as my primary handheld for most of a week. I kept track of my schedule, did a good bit of Web surfing, checked my email, read an ebook, that sort of thing. This wasn’t some kind of torture test where I kept the device on until it died. I don’t think the figures obtained that way are very realistic.
If the regular battery turns out to not be enough for you, Dell is offering additional regular batteries, or you can get a 2200 mAh one. Sorry, Dell didn’t loan me one of these, so I didn’t have a chance to test it.
The X50v comes with an adapter that allows you to plug the power cable for the cradle directly into the handheld. This means you don’t have to lug the whole cradle along with you on a business trip in order to recharge your device.
The stylus is so thin it can be painful to use for a long time. Sadly, styli this thin are becoming all too common.
The X50v will come with a case, but my demo unit didn’t. I can only assume the X50v’s will be similar to the case that came with the Axim X3/X30 models.
If there’s one thing Dell does well, it’s give you a lot of bang for your buck. The X50v is $499, a whopping $150 less than the iPAQ hx4700.
Still, as I mentioned before, the X50v has a smaller screen than the hx4700, and the iPAQ has some additional features, like a trackpad, flipcover, and larger battery. You’ll have to decide for yourself if the added features justify the hx4700’s much greater cost.
Whichever model you decide on, anyone thinking about a VGA Pocket PC must seriously consider the X50v. It’s a solid device and an excellent value.