The ViewSonic V35 is the first Pocket PC from a company well known for its monitors. It offers a beautiful color screen, a 300 MHz processor, and 41 MB of memory. All this comes in a slim and lightweight form factor.
On the Outside
The first thing you notice about the V35, even before you turn it on, is how small and light it is. The design isn’t as slick looking as, say, the HP iPAQ h1910 but at 4.8 by 3.0 by .5 inches and a mere 4.2 ounces you can easily carry the V35 with you just about everywhere.
I know some people aren’t fond of plastic casings, but sometimes compromises have to be made for weight and especially price. You aren’t going to find very many handhelds as inexpensive as the V35 with a metal casing.
Screen The second thing you’ll notice is how good the screen looks once you activate the V35. I guess this is to be expected from a company that makes computer monitors. The screen is very bright, colors are strong, and the white background is almost pure white.
It is the Pocket PC standard 240 by 320 pixels. The screen is 3.5 inches when measured diagonally.
This is a transflective screen, which means it looks very good indoors but not as good outdoors. It is still usable outside, though.
Buttons On the front of the V35 are buttons for launching Notes, Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks, which will probably be your four most frequently used applications. Of course, you can reprogram these to open any app you want.
In the middle of these is a Directional Pad, usually shortened to D-pad. A typical use for this is games. This is a 4-way D-pad, not a 5-way. So you can use it to move up, down, left, and right, but you can’t push in on it.
That would be an irritating limitation if the V35 didn’t also offer a jog wheel on its left side. This allows you to scroll through a list then, by pushing in on the jog wheel, open whatever it is you’ve selected. Of course, you could pull out the stylus and just tap on the screen to do the same thing but the jog wheel allows you to use your V35 with one hand. This is very useful if, for example, you have your phone in the other.
SD/MMC Slot On the top is a slot that allows the V35 to use SD and MMC removable memory cards for storing extra files and programs. One of these isn’t required, but it’s nice to have if you outgrow your handheld’s main memory.
The good news about this slot is it supports SDIO, which means that non-memory peripherals that plug into the SD slot can be used with it. The bad news is I haven’t been able to find any that the V35 can actually use. There are only a few of these on the market to begin with and none of these have drivers for the V35.
This is too bad as I was hoping to be able to do wireless networking with the Toshiba Bluetooth card. I have my fingers crossed that there will be V35 drivers for one of the Wi-Fi SD cards expected this summer.
On the Inside
This V35 runs Pocket PC 2002 Premium Edition. Most PPC models use the Premium Edition, but not all. For example, the iPAQ h1910 doesn’t. This means that, among other improvements, the V35 includes a spell checker.
It uses a 300 MHz Intel XScale processor. This isn’t the fastest one available, but not the slowest either. I found the V35 to be quite responsive. Applications load quickly and games run fine.
Technically the V35 has 64 MB of RAM but a good chunk of this is reserved for the operating system. This means users have access to 36.5 MB of memory for storing apps and files. As Pocket PCs go this isn’t a huge amount, though probably adequate for any but power users. If you fill it up, you can invest in one of those removable memory cards I mentioned earlier.
In addition, the V35 has an additional 5.2 MB of Storage in Flash ROM. This appears in the File Explorer as “My Flash Disk”. Any files stored in here will survive a hard reset so it’s a great place to store important files.
Multimedia The V35 comes with Windows Media Player for Pocket PC, which allows it to play MP3 files and video in the Windows Media format. I’ve already pointed out how great the screen is so I’ll go straight to audio.
The internal speaker is pretty good, though I doubt audiophiles will listen to any music through it. There is no question of it being loud enough for alarms. If anything it is too loud. I turned the system events sound effects off because they were deafening me, even at the lowest setting. An alarm going off at maximum volume seems sufficient to get just about anyone’s attention, even if the V35 is in your pocket. Still, I do wish it came with some better choices for alarm sounds. The standard ones are very polite. An alarm that is going to wake me up needs to be irritating, if not obnoxious.
For those of you who would like to listen to music in stereo, the V35 has a 3.5 mm port to plug in a set of headphones. However, it doesn’t actually come with these. You’ll need to buy them for yourself. These are readily available at electronics stores. Heck, you can probably find a cheap pair at your nearest drug store. I think these ought to be standard equipment but I can see the advantage of allowing users to pick their own. For example, bundled headphone are usually pretty low quality. Anyone wanting really good sound was going to buy an expensive, high quality pair anyway.
Like all Pocket PC models, the V35 has a built-in voice recorder. This is handy for making short notes to yourself when you don’t have both hands free. The microphone is on the front of device, near the lower left.
Battery Life Despite its bright screen, the V35 has what I consider pretty good battery life. It passes what I call the “don’t have to think about it” test. This means that the battery lasts long enough that I have never had to worry about it. I just ocassionaly put it in the cradle as part of regular use and that has been enough that I’ve never run out of power when I need it. And this is after using the V35 as my primary handheld for a couple of weeks. In short, don’t worry about constantly running out of power. It isn’t going to be a problem.
To stretch your battery life, the V35 allows you to set your processor speed. Unlike some apps for doing this, you can’t change the speed to a specific megahertz. Instead, you can choose high performance, low performance, or auto. Low performance increases battery life and is good enough for most apps. If you are doing multimedia or fast games you need high performance.
This isn’t going to be a complete review of all the applications that are part of Pocket PC 2002. However, I’m sure some of the people who are reading this are considering buying a V35 as their first handheld so I’ll go over some of what it can do.
The two biggest uses for handhelds are as an address book and calendar. Of course, the V35 comes with very good applications to handle these jobs. In addition, these can be synchronized with Outlook on your PC so you don’t have to maintain two separate lists.
The Inbox can retrieve and send email. Again, this can be synchronized with Outlook. I do a lot of email reading and writing on handhelds and this is where that spell checker I mentioned earlier comes in very handy. Of course, Inbox supports attachments. Most of these can be opened with apps that come on this handheld.
The V35 comes with Pocket Word and Pocket Excel, which can open and modify files from their desktop equivalents. These apps are probably best described as “acceptable.” These don’t support all the features the desktop ones do and they have the bad habit of whacking out things they don’t support. For example, say someone wants you to look over a Word document and emails it to you. When you open it in Pocket Word, any images embedded in it won’t appear. If you find an error in the document, make a change, and then email it back, when the document arrives it won’t have the embedded images any more. Still, it is nice to be able to read the files you get as attachments, even if modifying them sometimes causes problems.
It comes with Microsoft Reader, which allows you to read ebooks. Though I have to warn you that ClearType looks horrible on the V35. Text is very fuzzy.
The V35’s stylus is mostly metal, with a plastic tip and top. It isn’t a typical stylus because it telescopes. When it is put inside the handheld it is compressed, then expands to its full length when you take it out. This doesn’t take any additional work on the user’s part and allows the V35 to be that much smaller.
This model suffers from a lack that far too many handhelds share: it doesn’t have a flip cover. Instead, it comes with a particularly cheap plastic pouch that isn’t quite big enough. This is one of the few flaws in an otherwise very good handheld.
I’m happy to say that that the V35 comes with a cradle, unlike some cheaper models. I hope you won’t think I’m being nit-picky when I point out that this is absolutely the biggest cradle I’ve ever seen. It’s huge. If you are someone who likes to bring your cradle with you when you travel, better bring a big bag.
I think many people are working under a misconception. Dell sells the Axim X5 Basic for an amazing price, usually around $200 or a bit more, depending on what rebates or specials are available this week. To some, that means any handheld that costs more than the X5 Basic is a bad deal. I don’t agree with this at all.
The V35 costs $300. For the extra money, you get a handheld that is noticeably smaller and lighter than the X5. This is important if you are going to carry it with you everywhere. You also get a bit more memory and a really excellent screen. On the other hand, you get only one expansion slot.
And I think it is as least as good a deal as the HP iPAQ h1910. The V35 gives you a faster processor and a cradle for the same cost. And the two are almost the same size, with the h1910 coming out just a bit ahead.
With all this in mind, I think the V35 is worth $300. Plus, a quick check of PriceGrabber.com turned up a few places selling it for not much more than $250.