Brighthand Reviews the Dell Axim X50v

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There are a number of Pocket PCs with VGA screens coming on the market this season. Dell’s is called the Axim X50v, and so far it’s the one I like best.

It has a relatively small form factor but big, big features are packed inside. Besides the VGA display, this model also has a blazing fast processor, tons of Storage space, two different memory card slots, and two different kinds of wireless networking. And, despite all this, it is still affordable.

The Screen

Physically, I have no serious complaints about this model’s 640-by-480-pixel (VGA) display. Text and pictures actually look better on it than they do on my PC’s monitor. It’s bright, and it’s viewable from a wide angle.

However, colors aren’t as strong as they are on the HP iPAQ hx4700, another VGA Pocket PC and the X50v’s chief competitor. I created a comparison picture so you can see what I’m talking about. On the other hand, the backlight on the X50v is a bit brighter. Also, the X50v’s whites are whiter; the iPAQ’s screen has a slight yellow tint to it.

The X50v’s display has an excellent refresh rate. This isn’t surprising, as an Intel 2700G multimedia accelerator backs it up. This was designed by Intel specifically to improve the video capabilities of VGA Pocket PCs.

Dell bundles a couple of games with this model to show off the capabilities of the screen, and they look awesome.

Unfortunately, when Microsoft added VGA support to Windows Mobile Second Edition, it didn’t add “true” VGA support.

A VGA screen has four times as many pixels as a QVGA screen does. This means, for example, that Pocket Internet Explorer on an Axim X50v should be able to display four times as much of a web page as an Axim X30. But it can’t. Instead, the fonts and images look much better on the X50v, but you don’t get to see much more information at any one time.

Happily, there’s a work-around for this. An excellent application called SE_VGA puts the X50v into “true” VGA mode. Still, there are some drawbacks. For one, this hack causes display problems for some applications. Also, you have to soft reset your handheld in order to switch resolutions. This is significant because you aren’t going to want to leave your handheld in “true” VGA mode all the time. It’s handy for some things, but text is so small it starts to give me eyestrain after a while. SE_VGA is great, but I wish “true” VGA was one of the viewing options built into Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Second Edition.

The Looks

I’ll admit, when I saw the first leaked pictures of the X50 series, I wasn’t too impressed. But once I saw the actual device, I changed my mind. This is really the best looking handheld I’ve seen in a long time. It isn’t as great as the iPAQ h1900 series, but it looks very good.

Despite having a VGA screen, the X50v is anything but a brick. It is 4.65 inches tall, 2.85 inches wide, and .6 inches thick (118 mm by 72 mm by 15 mm).

It is much smaller than the iPAQ hx4700, but the X50v also has a smaller screen (3.7 inches vs. 4.0).

With its rounded edges and corners, the X50V fits very comfortably in the hand. It is small enough to ride easily in a pants pocket.

The Performance

The Axim X50v runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition on a 624 MHz Intel PXA270 XScale processor, putting it on par with the fastest handhelds around.

It has 62 MB of RAM available to the user. This is one of the few things I found disappointing about this model. I really hoped it would have 128 MB like Toshiba’s e800.

In addition, it has about 91 MB of internal storage. This is non-volatile, so it won’t be erased if you accidentally let the X50v battery run completely down.

I ran Spb Benchmark on this device to get an idea of how its performance stacks up against other Pocket PCs.

What really surprised me when I did this is the low score the X50v received in graphics performance. It got a 489, less than half the score of the hx4700. Seeing as the X50v has a graphics accelerator, I expected it to easily outperform the hx4700.

For comparison, the iPAQ h4150’s Graphics Index is 3858. The h4150 is a QVGA Pocket PC, so it has a quarter of the pixels of either of the VGA models. But I assumed the X50v’s graphics accelerator would help compensate for this.

At this point, I don’t have an explanation for the X50v’s low graphics score. It certainly doesn’t seem slow when I’m using the device. I’ll talk to the developers at Spb Software House at be sure their benchmarking application is properly judging the performance of this handheld.

The Graphics Index pulls this device’s overall score down. The X50v received an Spb Benchmark Index of 1240, well below the iPAQ hx4700’s score of 1659.

Not surprisingly, the X50v’s CPU Index is very high, 2286. This is roughly equivalent to the score received by another device with a 624 MHz processor, the hx4700.

All in all, I found this device to be very stable. The only problems I had turned out to be the result of third-party applications.

Please keep reading Part II



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