Toshiba e405 / e400 Full Review

by Reads (58,105)
  • Pros

    • 32MB of backup ROM
    • Good processor performance and multimedia playback
    • Nice style!

  • Cons

    • No removable battery and average battery-life
    • Stylus is hard to use
    • Slightly overpriced for the feature set of the device


The Toshiba e400 /e405 is the latest mid-range PDA release from Toshiba.  This PDA line replaces the e300 line of Toshiba handhelds, and thankfully the refreshing midnight blue redesign of the e405 will make people notice this is no Toshiba device of old.  The only difference we see between the e405 and e400 is the fact that the e405 comes bundled with ArcSoft’s PhotoBase image-editing software while the e400 does not, the hardware is exactly the same for each model.  Though there is nothing overly exciting about the e400, it is a nicely designed light-weight Pocket PC with a couple of standout features, but it faces a great amount of competition with other PDAs in the same price range.

In The Box

Toshiba stuck with the same box design as its PDAs in the past, but it’s of course what’s inside the box that counts.  Contained in the box we get:

  • Toshiba e405 PDA
  • USB Sync Cable (No Cradle is included)
  • AC Adapter/Power Cable to plug into bottom of e405 device
  • Start Guide
  • Software CD including ActiveSync and Outlook
  • 1 telescopic stylus (inside e405)
  • 1 lithium ion battery (inside e405)

The Toshiba e405 (left) and its bigger brother e805 (right) sport the same look

Although the box is the same as previous Toshiba PDAs, the actual PDA design and form factor has changed a lot.  The Toshiba e405 bears little resemblance to its predecessor, the Toshiba e355.  The e355 design was getting stale and the silver colored hard plastic case had a fairly cheap feel.  However, with the e400 Toshiba has made quite a design statement by going with a midnight blue casing made of a rigid hard plastic construction.  Kudos to Toshiba for keeping a professional yet cool look.  Not since the Handspring Visor series have we seen a decent amount of experimentation with unit color design.

The Toshiba e405 has a suggested retail price of $299 but it can currently be found online for around $275.  This price is actually a little bit higher than similar featured PDAs such as the iPaq 1935 that sells for $199, the iPaq 1940 that retails for $275 or the Dell Axim X3 that sells for around $230 (Dell likes to change prices a lot, so it varies on any given day!).  The newness factor of the e405 is likely built-into the price right now, for only $50 more you could buy the Toshiba e755 that has built in Wi-Fi and a 400MHz processor — but is older.

Specs

Here’s a rundown of the specs for the Toshiba e405:

Manufacturer: Toshiba
Model: e400/e405
Overview: More than just a simple data device, the Pocket PC e400 Series features smart hands-free applications including text-to-speech and voice commands to launch applications for greater productivity while on-the-go. Powered by the battery-efficient Intel PXA261 processor with Intel XScale technology at 300MHz, the Toshiba Pocket PC e400 Series provides the performance you need to keep you organized and productive. A built-in SD card slot is also included to store your favorite digital and audio files.
Released: 10/23/2003
Operating System: Windows Mobile 2003
Dimensions: 4.9″ x 3.0″ x 0.4″
Weight: 4.6 ounces with stylus and battery
Processor: Intel PXA261 processor 300MHz
Wireless: Infrared
Memory: 64MB SDRAM main memory, 16MB CMOS Flash ROM program memory, 32MB NAND Flash memory
Expansion Slot: Secure Digital (I/O)
Battery Type: Lithium Ion 980 mAh
Audio Out: Stereo headphone jack, speaker
Audio In: Microphone
Display: TFT trans-reflective color display
Viewable Image: 3.5″ Diagonal
Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels
Input Device: 5-way navigation button, 4 application keys, 3 function scroller, voice record button, power button,
Keyboard: Onscreen
Handwriting Recognition: Yes
Digital Camera: No
Software Included: Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Pocket Internet Explorer, Microsoft Windows Media Player 9 for Pocket PC, File Explorer, Microsoft Active Sync 3.7, Microsoft Outlook , World Clock, Toshiba Voice Recorder, Toshiba Text to Speech for Pocket PC, and Voice Command. ArcSoft PhotoBase included in the e405.
Other Hardware: 15W AC Adapter, 1-Stylus, Soft Slip Case, Quick Start Card and Warranty Card.
Warranty: One year parts labor and battery

You can get the comprehensive PDF spec sheet from Toshiba Here:

Toshiba Full Specs PDF Sheet

Processor

The Toshiba e405 uses the 300 MHz Intel PXA261 Processor, this is part of the XScale family of processors from Intel.  The Intel PXA26X processors are the first Intel processors based on Multiple-Chip Product (MCP) packaging technology.  The Intel PXA261 in particular contains 16 MegaBytes of Intel StrataFlash memory, this is less than the 32 MegaBytes included in the PXA263 processor used by the e405’s bigger brother, the Toshiba e805, but the PXA261 will still give you quick performance at low power and be able to respond to performance intensive tasks such as decoding MPEG4 video in a snappy manner.

The performance I’ve been achieving using the e405 is really quite good, no complaints, playing media files in Windows Pocket Media Player 9.0 provides very smooth playback and switching between and opening applications works as well as any 300MHz device I’ve used. 

Irrelevant to buying this PDA but an interesting side-note, the Intel PXA261 processor has a suggested list price of US $36.10 — just in case you were wondering where some of that $299 total PDA price!

 

Design

The Toshiba e405 is much thinner than my iPaq 2210 (e405 on the bottom)

The Toshiba e400 is a very lightweight and svelt device, it is most definitely a pocketable Pocket PC.  At 4.6 oz it is more than 2 oz. lighter than the high-end Toshiba e805 PDA (which as a 6.8 oz weight).  The Toshiba e405 is still slightly heavier than the tiny iPaq 1900 line though, the iPaq 1940 I reviewed last year weighed in at 4.3 oz and the original iPaq 1910 weighed 4.23 oz.  Dimension wise the e405 measures 4.9 in x 3.0 in x 0.4 in (length x width x depth).  The iPaq 1940 has dimensions of 4.46 in x 2.75 in x .50 in (length x width x depth) so it is definitely more narrow and shorter (about 1/2 inch shorter and 1/4 inch more narrow) but it turns out the e405 is slimmer (1/10 inch slimmer) and so actually has less overall volume than the iPaq 1940.  Just imagine the e405 as an iPaq 1940 that’s been pressed down a bit so its sides squeeze out to make it a little taller and wider but skinnier overall.   Personally I’d like to see the e405 a little shorter in length as that’s the key to keeping it in the pocket easily, but not having a bulge in your pocket because it’s so thin is a nice thing of course.

Even though the e405 (right) is thinner than the iPaq 2210 (on the left), it takes up more surface area

The shape and look of the e405 is great.  It’s basically a scaled down version of the e805, so when you’re in your local electronics store take a look at their layout of PDAs on display and I’m sure your eyes will be immediately drawn to the e405 and e805 due to their eye-catching midnight blue color and nicely lit screens.  I’m a big fan of a professional yet stylish look for technology devices, and I give the e405 a big thumbs-up for achieving this.  While other companies continue to march out the predictable silver colored, subtly curved PDAs Toshiba decided to march to a different beat.  Although the design isn’t as revolutionary as say the Palm Tungsten T3 slider design, it’s nice to have a Pocket PC that’s not run of the mill look. 
 
 
 
HP iPaq 2210 on the left, Toshiba e405 in the middle, Toshib e805 on the right 

 

The available buttons and their layout on the device is good.  Toshiba included quite a few switches and knobs just like they did on their older e300 series.  HP in its recent models has been taking off a lot of the buttons, such as a side jog-dial, to the chagrin of some users.  Toshiba is taking an opposite approach and actually adding functionality via buttons on the Toshiba e405.  The e405 has a jog dial and a new ‘Hold’ button, a first for any PDA, on its left-hand side.  The ‘Hold’ button provides the functionality of shutting off all input to all the keys on the device so that listening to music or audio books without accidentally bumping the power or stop button is easy to do. The plastic jog-dial does a good job, though its action function of pushing the dial in is a little soft and easy to bump which causes the occasional accidental launch in some apps. Here is a run down and description of all the buttons the e405 provides and images of each side of the PDA that contains buttons:

 

Toshiba e405 front view

  1. The 8-way button Directional Pad (D-Pad) on the e405 is clicky and receptive to subtle pressure from the fingers.  I don’t like it as much as my iPaq 2210 D-Pad, if you try to do a 360 motion on it you’ll end up hitting all the shortcut buttons around it.
  2. Enter button in the middle of the D-Pad, this button works fine but I prefer it when this button is just part of the D-Pad in which you can push in anywhere on the D-Pad.
  3. 4 standard short cut buttons surrounding the D-Pad which take you to the following places:  a)  Home (Toshibas customized home-screen which is very cool and gives a nice overview of what’s going on in the device), b)  Calendar, c)  Tasks,  d)  Contacts

    Toshiba e405 top view

  4. Power button on top of the device, it might be a little small for some people but it’s fine for my relatively small fingers.
  5. SecureDigital slot for placing up to 512MB SD expansion memory into.
  6. Microphone audio-in and headphone standard-sized headphone jack also rest on top.

    Toshiba e450 left view

  7. Voice Record Button on the left side of the device.
  8. Jog-dial/rocker on the left side of the device that allows easy scrolling, push in for equivalent of a left-mouse click or enter.
  9. Hold button on the left sice of the device, when set to the on position this prevents any other buttons from working.  This is a pretty neat concept since buttons on PDAs tend to be bumped pretty easily, this feature just makes that problem go away.

    Toshiba e405 bottom view

  10. Power AC adapter input for power and charging battery.
  11. Connection port for accepting USB synch cable input or if you buy an optional cradle this will serve as the connector.
  12. Battery on/off button at the bottom of the device, must use the stylus to push it and it is covered by a rubber flap (performs hard reset).  I actually prefer having a well placed hard reset button.  HP makes you do finger contorting, cryptic button pushes to reset a device.

    Toshiba e405 back view

  13. Soft-reset button on the back of the device (use stylus to push in).

 

Stylus

The stylus that comes with the Toshiba e405 is in a word horrible.  I’m sorry; I just don’t like the telescopic stylus.  It’s hard to place in and out of the stylus silo, it’s too easy to collapse, and when it is collapsed it’s way to easy to drop or lose in a million other ways.

I really dislike the stylus that comes with the Axim X5 that’s sort of flattened and hard to hold, but we have a new winner here for the worst ever.  The Toshiba e805 comes with this same stylus.

Microphone and Speaker

The microphone on this thing is really quite good.  The voice recording software, not your standard built in windows voice recorder, is also very cool.  The reason Toshiba included a good microphone on this device would be to support its voice command software.  Using the Toshiba text-to-speech and voice recognition software you are able to do things such as say “contacts” or “calendar” and voila the specified program opens up.  Pretty cool, if you want to be able to let your e400 sit on your desk while you tell it what to do.  According to Toshiba Digital Products Division director of product marketing Carl Pinto, “Toshiba understands that customers desire a personal lightweight data access device that not only keeps them connected to the corporate network, but also delivers on new technology that increases productivity and ease of use,” so there you have it as to why Toshiba is pioneering in trying to make our lives easier in using voice-command software.

The audio out speaker on the e405 is average.  The loudest the speaker goes is just not all that loud, meaning you won’t hear it outside in rush-hour traffic but if asleep in a hotel the alarm signal should be just loud enough to wake you up.  The front speaker is also slightly tinny in its quality, Bose surround sound it is not.  However, using the standard headphone jack you’ll find an excellent quality of sound (granted that you have a halfway decent set of heaphones) and you have the ability to adjust such things as treble and bass via software built into the e405.  I’m glad that Toshiba didn’t take the HP iPaq 1900 series approach in which HP  put a non-standard sized headphone jack on top.  With the iPaq 1900 series and now the Toshiba e400 series the devices are so thin it’s hard to fit a standard headphone jack in the device, Toshiba solved this problem by creating a sloped bevel at the top of the device to provide enough thickness for a regular 3.5mm headphone jack.

Screen

The e805 (far right) puts the e405 (center) and iPaq 2210 (far left) to shame with its huge bright screen, but it costs twice as much!  The e405 screen can still hold its own with brightness and includes a nice auto-adjust backlight.

The screen on the Toshiba e405 is very standard for a Pocket PC:  3.5″ diagonal, 65,000 color TFT display with a resolution of 240 x 320 (QVGA).  The screen is well backlit so eBooks are easy to read and working in low-light situations is not a problem.  I like the fact that the device automatically adjusts the screen brightness based on the amount of light in a room.  HP took out the auto screen brightness functionality from their PDAs a while ago, I’m not sure why as it seems to me Toshiba is doing the right thing here for conserving battery life if a user doesn’t need a full backlight in a well-lit room and it does the work for the user when lighting changes.  There is one slight problem I have with the screen though, when viewed at an angle you’ll see what seem like ‘interference lines’, it’s a little like what you get when a computer monitor has a slow refresh rate.  The e805 does not suffer from this problem, its screen is perfect.  However, on the e405 from time to time I notice this sort of jumpy line effect as background noise.  This issue is not as annoying as the problem I had with my iPaq 1945 in which the screen had a strong yellow hue when viewed from angles.  Overall the e405 screen is good.

Battery

The Toshiba e405 comes equipped with a 980 mAh battery, this is bigger than its competitor the iPaq 1940 that comes with a 900 mAh battery.  The battery charges from zero to full-charge in 4 hours when plugged in to an AC outlet.  The actual battery life is on average with other Pocket PC devices, but not a stand-out. I played a looping WMV file (a preview of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King to be specific!) with the screen at half brightness and the e405 reached 14% charge (all Windows Mobile devices stop media playback at this low amount of charge) and shut down the file play at 3 hours, 32 minutes. The Dell Axim X5 is a champ on battery life and can go for 5 hours and beyond with this same test, but the iPaq 1940 gave me 3 hours and 41 minutes in a similar test so really the e405 and 1940 can be said to be equals on battery life.  The big problem with the e405 battery is that when you’re out of charge and there’s no wall socket around to plug into, it’s goodnight because the battery is not replaceable.  This means no backup battery and no extended life-battery is available.  The iPaq 1940 and almost every other Pocket PC being released on the market today is coming equipped with the ability to swap batteries, the decision to avoid this functionality on the Toshiba e400 is unfortunate and limiting.

Memory

The e405 gives a standard 64MB of RAM, but only 16MB of ROM.  Most Pocket PC devices on the market have 32MB of ROM available.  Toshiba had to ditch the Windows Picture application from the Windows Mobile 2003 OS in order to fit the OS into the 16MB space and then put the ArcSoft image editing application into the RAM area to accomodate for this.  The 64MB of RAM in the device turns out to be in actual fact 62.12MB of which 10.62MB is taken up by system programs already, so that puts you at 51.5MB of space to save yout own files and programs in RAM.   But then Toshiba kindly provides 31.22 MB of nonvolatile flash memory space.  What does nonvolatile flash memory mean?  Basically it’s like an internal memory area that will keep what you store on it even if the battery loses power, it functions the same as an SD card (which is defined as being nonvolatile flash memory).  So the nice thing about this extra 32MB of space that Toshiba provides is that you can backup your system and important files to this area and rest assured it will be stored there in a permanent manner — not like the RAM storage area in which all memory is lost if power becomes non-existent.  If you crave more storage space you can purchase an SecureDigital Memory card that currently provide capacities of up to 512MB and slot it in the top of the e400.  A large storage capacity SD card is a great place to place large multimedia files — you really don’t want to place those things in RAM.

Software

The built in Home dashboard software provides a nice overview of the device for the e405

The Toshiba e405 comes with Windows Mobile 2003 as the Operating System.  If you have a Pocket PC 2002 device and are wondering what the difference is with the most recent Windows Mobile 2003 OS, take a look at this bargainPDA.com article:

http://www.bargainpda.com/default.asp?newsID=1458

The software included is standard, here’s a quick rundown of the main applications:

  • Pocket Word
  • Pocket Excel
  • Pocket Internet Explorer
  • Microsoft Windows Media Player 9 for Pocket PC
  • File Explorer
  • Microsoft Active Sync 3.7
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • World Clock
  • Toshiba Voice Recorder
  • Toshiba Text to Speech for Pocket PC
  • Voice Command

So basically you can edit and create Word and Excel docs, play media files, record audio, keep a calendar, manage contacts, synch and read email from your desktop PC and view web pages in IE if you find a means to connect to the internet (note, there’s no built-in wireless communication for this device outside of infrared beaming, which does not suffice for accessing the internet).

With the e405 you get ArcSoft’s PhotoBase image management/photo editing tool, the e400 does not include this.  This is the only difference between the e400 / e405 model designation, otherwise they are exactly the same device.  If you have the e400 and really want this program it’s a $19.99 download from the ArcSoft site: http://www.arcsoft.com/en/products/photobasepocketpc/ .

I should mention the built in home screen Toshiba includes for the e405 is really cool, it makes it very obvious how much battery power you have and what applications are currently in use. Good job Toshiba for providing a more useful dashboard than the usual Today Screen that most Microsoft devices default to.

Wireless

Well, this section is brief because the only wireless you get with the Toshiba e405 is the infrared port on the top left hand side.  This allows you to beam information to your desktop if it has an IR port or you can send/receive data from other PDA devices.  The HP iPaq 1940 has Bluetooth built-in, a very nice feature, I wish Toshiba had given us this in the e405.

Accessories

Here’s a list of the current accessories you can get for the e400 from Toshiba:

  • Power Sync Cable w/CLA 15W AC Adapter
  • USB Cradle (requires optional AC Adapter)
  • USB Host Keyboard Cable
  • Stylus Pen (3-pack)
  • Screen Overlays
  • Earphones
  • Toshiba Case
  • SD Memory Cards

You can of course investigate the market for SD based accessories.  The Toshiba e400 is SDIO Now! compliant, a silly term which means you can buy an SD Wi-Fi card, cameras, and various other fun expansion accessories so you’re certainly not limited to the built-in features of the e400, there is room to grow.

Conclusion

The Toshiba e405 is a good device, but certainly nothing exceptional from what’s already out on the market.  There’s not too much to complain about with the e405, I think the price needs to come down a bit to make the price/feature ratio in line with competitors, but the nice design, 32MB of backup memory and thin form factor of this PDA might make you want to jump for this device over competitors such as the iPaq 1940 or Dell Axim X3.

Pros

  • 32MB of backup ROM
  • Good processor performance and multimedia playback
  • Nice style!

 

Cons

  • No removable battery and average battery-life
  • Stylus is hard to use
  • Slightly overpriced for the feature set of the device

 

The Toshiba e405 can be purchased in the U.S. or Europe, click here for updated U.S. pricing at online retailers.


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