For nearly a year we’ve been imploring Toshiba to focus more of its handheld efforts on design and esthetics than simply cutting-edge technology. Well, our pleading seems to have worked. While Toshiba’s e300 and e700 series handhelds were, well, uninspiring, the new Toshiba e405 Pocket PC is almost cool.
The tired old silver casing of the past has been replaced with an attractive graphite blue metallic shell, and the sharp edges have been smoothed out as well. And at just 4.7 ounces and less than half-an-inch thick, it still slips easily into a pocket or purse.
That’s not to say that Toshiba has neglected its commitment to technology. Packed with a capable 300 MHz processor, plenty of RAM (as well as a bonus 32 megabyte Flash ROM disk for backing up your PIM information), a Secure Digital slot for expansion, and a price tag under $300, the Toshiba e405 is a solid performer at a excellent price. It’s only shortcoming is its lack of built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. But with its SDIO Now! capable slot, wireless is just a card away.
The Toshiba e405 Pocket PC has a rectangular metallic shell with nicely curved corners. At 0.4″ or 10 millimeters thick, it’s incredibly thin, and at only 4.7 ounces, it’s lightweight too. But it’s relatively tall (4.9″ or 124 mm) and definitely a tad too wide (3.0″ or 76 mm) for our liking. Still, its overall volume (i.e. height multiplied by width multiplied by depth) is about 10% less than the HP iPAQ h1945.
The front of the e405 consists mainly of its 3.5″ color display, with four silver application launch buttons surrounding a larger rectangular 5-way directional pad below it. To the right of the d-pad and buttons is a monophonic speaker, and to the left is the charging LED, which glows orange when charging and green when fully charged.
On top, you’ll find the stylus (which is an annoyingly stubby telescopic one that constantly sticks in the silo), stereo headphone jack, Secure Digital slot, microphone, and Power button. The card slot accepts both SD and MultiMediaCard (MMC) memory cards and supports SDIO Now!, so it can handle most of the interesting peripheral cards, like GPS and Wi-Fi, that have begun to appear.
On one side, you’ll find the Record button and a Scroll wheel near the top, and a Hold button and infrared port near the bottom. The other side is button-free. Both sides have the plastic side panels found on previous Toshiba handhelds, which make the e405 easy to hold and less apt to slip out of your hand.
The standard synchronization and charging ports are located on the bottom of the unit. The e405 comes with a two-piece charging cable and a separate USB synchronization cable (sorry, no cradle).
Speed. The Toshiba 3405 is powered by Intel’s PXA261 XScale application processor running at 300MHz and runs the Professional Edition of Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC. While not as instantaneous as some of the recent devices with 400MHz processors we’ve tested, the e405 opens applications and large JPEGs quickly.
Memory. The e405 comes with 64 MB of RAM, 16 MB of ROM and 32 MB of NAND memory. In actually, there is only 62.12 MB of RAM, and 10.62 MB of that is allocated to the system. So you’re left with 51.5 MB of RAM. However, then you have the 31.22 MB Flash ROM disk, which shows up in the Storage Card applet.
You can browse the files on either the Flash ROM disk or in RAM with the File Explorer app that comes loaded on the device. There’s also a DataBackup utility that enables you to Backup and Restore your data (all of it or just the PIM data) to either the Flash ROM disk or to a Storage card.
Multimedia. The e405 is capable of playing back digital music files and video clips. It has a standard stereo headphone jack for listening to music (neither headphones or earbuds are included) and a nice color screen for watching videos using Windows Media Player 9, which comes with the device. Videos play smoothly (and in landscape mode, if you wish) and music files (either MP3 or WMV) sound crisp and clear.
Screen. The e405 has a 3.5″ transflective display capable of displaying 65,000 colors. It is a good color display, but not quite up to the standard set by the iPAQ 1900 series. You can adjust the backlight and enable Clear Type if you wish.
The display has some of the typical angle viewing issues found on most LCDs. At certain angles, the colors wash out or become intensified. However, viewed straight on there are no issues.
Communications. The e405 has infrared but does not have built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. However, it has a Secure Digital slot that supports SDIO Now!, so you should be able to pop in one of the new SD Wi-Fi cards and gain access to wireless LANs.
Expansion. The e405 has a single Secure Digital slot that supports SDIO in addition to regular SD and MMC memory cards.
Power. The e405 is powered by a 980 mAH rechargeable lithium ion battery. However, it is not user replaceable.
Applications. As with other lower-priced handhelds, the suite of included software is relatively slim. However, Toshiba has included two unique “smart voice-activated” applications. One application enables you to launch programs with voice commands, while a second application enables text-to-speech. There are also games (Jawbreaker and Solitaire), a calculator, utilities and Microsoft apps (Messenger, Pocket Excel, Pocket Word, and Pocket MSN).
The Toshiba e405 Pocket PC lists for $299. This is a reasonable price for a device with a nice color display, a fast processor and a sizeable amount of memory.
The Toshiba e405 Pocket PC is a redesigned and updated version of the e300 series. It’s a solid handheld at an excellent price, and it can be expanded through its SDIO capable slot. Just don’t expect built-in wireless at that price.