Toshiba e805 / e800 Full Review

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Toshiba e800/e805

The Toshiba e805 / e800 Pocket PC is the latest high-end PDA release from Toshiba.  This PDA is packed with great features.  It’s a highly recommended buy, but only for the right person.  Beginner PDA users need not apply, the e805 is what I’ll call a high-end device for the expert user.

The most innovative and unique feature you’ll find with this PDA is its absolutely amazing 4 inch diagonal VGA (480 x 640) screen. In addition to this  the Toshiba e805 comes with built-in Wi-Fi, dual SD and CF memory expansion, 160MB of user accessible memory (the largest for any Pocket PC on the market), the latest 400MHz Intel XScale PXA263 processor, voice-recognition software, and last but not least an ATI graphics controller with 2 MB of dedicated memory. The only thing that seems to be missing is dual Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.  In Europe you can buy an e800 device with either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but not both, in the U.S. (where Bluetooth is not as popular) you can only buy the Wi-Fi 802.11b device.

In The Box

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

  • Toshiba e805 PDA
  • USB Sync Cradle with cool blue halo around the bottom
  • AC Adapter/Power Cable to plug into cradle or e805 device
  • Start Guide
  • Software CD including ActiveSync and Outlook
  • 1 telescopic stylus (inside e805)
  • 1 lithium ion battery (inside e805)

 

Although the box is the same as previous Toshiba PDAs, the actual PDA design and form factor is not.  The Toshiba e805 bears little resemblance to its predecessor, the Toshiba e755.  The e755 design was getting stale and the case felt fairly cheap.  However, with the e800 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 e805 has a rather high price of $599, we get no free case and no extra-stylus, HP has been making this fairly standard with its high-end PDAs.  That’s okay though, free cases are usually horrible and the stylus with the e800 is so bad you’ll probably not want two, but decide to find a better stylus to use.

Specs

Here’s a rundown of the specs, Here’s a rundown of all the specs on the Toshiba e805, you can always check here for continually updated specs and pricing for the Toshiba e805:

Manufacturer: Toshiba
Model: e800/e805
Description: Attractively designed in a dark blue casing and featuring an easy-to-use user interface, the Toshiba Pocket PC e800/805 is a robust PDA providing 128MB of Storage capacity (with additional 32MB NAND flash memory that will remain intact even if the battery runs down), plus built-in CompactFlash II and Secure Digital expansion slots. Ideal for viewing documents and spreadsheets, the Pocket PC e800/805 features a bright, 4.0″ diagonal (240×320) or (480×640, user switchable**) color display for easy readability both indoors and outdoors.
Released: 10/23/2003
Operating System: Windows Mobile 2003
Dimensions: 5.3″ x 3.0″ x 0.6″
Weight: 6.8 ounces including stylus and battery
Processor: Intel PXA263 processor 400MHz
Wireless: Integrated WiFi (802.11b)
Memory: 128MB SDRAM memory, 32MB CMOS Flash ROM, 32MB NAND Memory
Expansion Slot: Secure Digital (I/O) and CompactFlash
Battery Type: Lithium-Ion 1320 mAh
Audio Out: Stereo headphone jack
Audio In: Microphone
Display: TFT Transreflective Color display
Graphics Card: ATI Graphics Controller w/2MB internal video memory
Viewable Image: 4″ diagonal
Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels
Input Device: 5-way navigation button, 4 application keys, 3 function scroller
Keyboard: Onscreen
Handwriting Recognition: Yes
Digital Camera: No
Software Included: Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Pocket Internet Explorer, Microsoft Reader for Pocket PC, Microsoft Windows Media Player 9 for Pocket PC, File Explorer, MSN Messenger, Microsoft Transcriber, Microsoft Active Sync 3.7, Microsoft Outlook, IA Presenter for ATI, IA Screen Mirror for ATI, World Clock, Toshiba Voice Recorder, Toshiba Text to Speech for Pocket PC, Voice Command, Toshiba ConfigFree Software, and VoIP Software. ArcSoft PhotoBase included with e805.
Other Hardware: USB Cradle, 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

Processor

The Toshiba e805 uses the 400 MHz Intel PXA263 Processor, it’s the latest and greatest PDA XScale processor from Intel.  The PXA263 is Intel’s first stacked processor for PDAs.  This Intel PXA263 processor brings memory and processor chips together for powerful computing and memory capabilities in a single system package.  The Intel PXA263 processor (200, 300 and 400MHz) stacks 32Mbyte of 32bit Intel StrataFlash memory with an Intel XScale technology based processor for for up to 72% space savings over stand-alone products.  Stacking advanced computing and memory capabilities in a “system-in-a-package” design reduces the number of components in a PDA and allows manufacturers like Toshiba to create new and different capabilities and functionality, this can include such things as better ability to execute performance-intensive applications such as MPEG4 video decode, speech and handwriting recognition, and games.  In the case of the Toshiba e805 Toshiba decided to use the processor power to include a text-to-speech and voice-over IP application and the extra space available inside the device went towards adding even more memory on top of the 32MB built into the PXA263 processor, good move Toshiba!

The actual performance I’ve received from the e805 has been very good, but not greatly different to any of the recent 400 MHz XScale devices I’ve used.  The processor can be scaled down to run at 200 or 100 MHz if you wish to save power and help battery life.  Below are some benchmarks for the CPU speed and total device speed*.

The e805 again shows similar performance to the iPaq 2215 in the CPU speed results

The e805 wins the test in total Pocket PC speed

Irrelevant to buying this PDA but an interesting side-note, the PXA263 has a suggested list price of US $42.35 when purchased 10,000 unit quantities.

* all benchmarks are generated using SPB Benchmark from SPB Software House (http://www.spbsoftwarehouse.com/products/benchmark/)

Design

The Toshiba e800 is not a small device and not really very pocketable either.  At 6.8 oz it makes other PDAs I’ve had seem like runts.  The e805 is 5.3″x3.0″x0.6″ (LxWxH) in dimensions.  It’s rather long, not as long as the iPaq 4355 which is the longest PDA on the market, but that has a built-in keyboard so the e805 qualifies as the longest PDA with no built-in keyboard.  It’s thick too, although to be fair it is only the same thickness as the popular Dell Axim X5.  However, with a gorgeous 4″ screen Toshiba is obviously creating a PDA that is easier to view rather than carry, so we can forgive the devices bulkiness and I’ll put that gripe aside.

 

The Toshiba e805 dwarfs the iPaq 4150 in size

The e805 is also quite a bit bigger than the iPaq 2215

HP iPaq 4150 on top, HP iPAQ 2210 in the middle, Toshiba e805 on the bottom

The shape and look of the e805 is in a word fantastic.  Just visit the local electronics store and in their layout of PDAs on display your eyes will be immediately drawn to the e805 due to its eye-catching midnight blue color and brilliant screen.  Even cooler is when you put the Toshiba in its cradle and it lights up the underneath to bathe your desk in neon blue.  Turn off the lights in the room and its instant techno decor for your office.

 

what’s this light?

 

A spaceship maybe?

 

or just the Toshiba e805

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 700 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 e805, a new ‘Hold’ button is a first for any PDA.  Here is a run down and description of all the buttons the e805 provides and images of each side of the PDA that contains buttons:

  1. The 8-way button Directional Pad (D-Pad) which is clicky and receptive to suttle 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

  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. CompactFlash Card Release button on top of the device.
  6. Voice Record Button on the left side of the device.
  7. Jog-dial/rocker on the left side of the device
  8. 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.

  9. Wi-Fi lever on the bottom of the device where you must use the stylus to flip it between on and off
  10. 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.
  11. Battery latch on the back of the device to release the battery

Stylus

The stylus that comes with the Toshiba e805 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 e405 comes with this same stylus.

Microphone and Speaker

First for the good news, 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 e800 sit in its crade 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 microphone is also important for the built-in Voice-Over IP (VOIP) software, allowing users to place phone calls over a high speed wireless LAN, included with the e800.  Toshiba sees this software as a big sell to their corporate customers, for the consumer the value is somewhat limited due to the fact you need both an Internet service provider and a “middleman” VoIP broadband telephony service.

Now for the not so good news, the audio out speaker on the e805 is at best average.  The loudest the speaker goes is just not all that loud.  The front speaker is also slightly tinny in its quality, Bose surround sound it is not.  However, using the headphone jack you’ll find an excellent quality of sound (granted you have a halfway decent set of heaphones) and you have the ability to adjust such things as treble, bass and balance via software built into the e805.

Screen

viewing images on the Toshiba e805 screen is a pleasure, it snowed in New York the weekend of this review so I used the e805 to view some pictures I took

The screen on the Toshiba is obviously, to the consumer at least, the main selling point.  The Toshiba screen is a 16-bit transflective, 4″ diagonal, 65,000 color beauty.  The e805 supports two resolutions, either 240 x 320 QVGA or 480 x 640 VGA — VGA is a first
for any PDA and it allows you to see four times as much real estate on the screen as the standard QVGA mode.  To switch between resolutions on the e805 you have to use a built in resolution switch application.  Upon tapping this program you are prompted with a warning that the device is about to perform a soft reset, confirm this message and the device will reset and when it comes back to the today screen you’re treated with a new VGA screen.  The same process is used to get back to QVGA mode.  In either mode the screen is extremely crisp and bright with no detectable flaws.  With some recent HP devices I’ve been disappointed with yellow hue screens, with the Toshiba e805 the colors are all true no matter what angle you hold the screen.

The iPaq 2210 screen is washed out by the flash but the e805 is strong

There are a few caveats to the screen size and use of VGA mode.  With the 4″ screen in QVGA mode you’ll notice that things often seem a little stretched.  Seems Microsoft didn’t anticipate such a large screen.  In VGA mode the major surprise you’ll get is that you can only use four applications, Toshiba locks you out from using such programs as Internet Explorer, Media Player, Word or Excel.  The only programs accessible in VGA mode are ClearVue Document, Spreadsheet, Presentation, and Image.  These programs allow you to view your Word, Excel, PowerPoint and image files but you cannot edit them.  Therefore your PDA is of an extremely limited functionality in VGA mode, sort of like putting a kid in a room of toys and saying look but don’t touch.  The reason Toshiba blocks you from using most applications in VGA mode is simply because there’s no way to know if a program will work in VGA or not and they don’t want to field customer calls complaining about a certain program looking bad or not working in this mode.  Can’t blame Toshiba for this move.

 Switching from QVGA to VGA

view larger image

 VGA transform complete

view larger image

But wait, I’d be remissed if I didn’t address the fact altruistic programmers of the world have written applications that override the Toshiba lockdown and allows you to work with all programs in VGA mode.  That’s right, you can use IE, Word, Excel, Pocket TV, Email, Warfare and many, many other games and applications in VGA mode.  One such resolution switcher application that’s popular at the moment is ResFix, this program has been written using embedded Visual Basic and therefore requires the embedded Visual Basic runtime files on your e805.  The gentleman that wrote this program goes by the username Deez and is very active on the Brighthand discussion boards, he’s indeed and a miny celebrity of sorts there.  Here’s a link to the support thread for ResFix:

http://discussion.brighthand.com/showthread.php?threadid=94194

Here’s a link to a download for the program: http://home.comcast.net/~swdeveloper/ResFix1.zip

Editing a Word document in VGA mode is so much easier due to the amount of text you can fit on the screen

I used the ResFix application so I could use all the programs I wanted to in VGA mode, it’s a beautiful thing being able to read eBooks or edit Word documents in this resolution…it’s simply more practical because you can see more stuff.  However, there are odd nuances associated with using ResFix or I’m sure any other non-sanctioned Toshiba program for using apps in VGA mode.  For one, you can’t click on the start button in VGA mode, that part of the screen simply becomes a dead area.  For two, it’s darned hard to manipulate scroll bars on the right side of the screen.  Also, if you’re trying to use the on-screen keyboard as input in VGA mode I challenge you to write more than 2 sentences without going bonkers because the letters are too small to get each time with the stylus.  And then I had the issue that my Wi-Fi just kind of stopped working after installing ResFix.  I switched back to QVGA and Wi-Fi was still not working and my Home button was hard coded to act as a drop down of the Start menu (a fix in VGA mode for the fact you can’t tap that part of the screen).  So a hard-reset of the Toshiba e805 entailed.  I’m sure these issues will be addressed by Deez or other freelance programmers as time passes, but at the end of the day if your device is having problems and you tell Toshiba you installed an application that allows you to access programs you shouldn’t in VGA mode, they’ll tell you to hard-reset the device and don’t do that again.  If you’re an expert PDA user and love using VGA mode and don’t mind jumping through a couple of hoops to get things to work right, then I highly recommend using a hack that’s available to force your device to allow this.  However, if you’re a beginner with PDAs and not too handy with technology then the ‘Warning keep away’ sign is up.

The Voice Over IP software and the on-screen keyboard get squished into a 1/4 corner of the screen providing for a bizarre interface when they are used in VGA mode.

Battery

With a 4″ bright screen and Wi-Fi you’d probably have guessed the battery life on the e805 can’t exactly be stellar, and you would have guessed right.  If I have Wi-Fi turned on and the screen at full brightness I’ve been getting somewhere just over 2 hours of constant usage, depending of course on what I’m doing.  The battery included is certainly a powerful one at 1320 mAh, but the Wi-Fi and large screen slurp the power down at a fast rate.  I recommend turning off Wi-Fi if you don’t need it.  You can also scale down the processor to run at 200 MHz or 100 MHz and reduce screen brightness to further aid battery life.  An optional 2640 mAh battery can be purchased and the battery is of course rechargeable and removable so you can solve power problems by purchasing an extra battery.

Memory

The e805 breaks new ground by providing 160MB of built-in memory that is all accessible to the user, most other Pocket PC devices will give around 64MB of built in Storage memory to the user.  This is accomplished via 128MB of RAM + 32MB of non-volatile RAM that comes with the Intel PXA263 processor.  The OS doesn’t take up any space in this memory, it is placed in 32MB of ROM on board the Toshiba e805.  You of course can add further memory to your PDA by using either the SD slot or CF slot for memory cards.  The SD slot is SDIO compatible and the CF slot is Type II so you can use the 2GB and larger type cards on the market.  Memory capacity need never be a problem for a Toshiba e805 owner!

Software

The built-in dashboard/home screen software for the e805 is very handy

The Toshiba e805 comes with Windows Mobile 2003 as the Operating System.  The software included is decent but not as good as other premium device.  The VoIP software and Voice Command software are probably the most standout innovative applications, but then again I haven’t really used these much in my day to day use of the e805 so you might consider them of limited value too.  Here is a rundown of the major applications you’ll get with the e805:

  • Pocket Word
  • Pocket Excel
  • Pocket Internet Explorer
  • Microsoft Reader for Pocket PC
  • Microsoft Windows Media Player 9 for Pocket PC
  • File Explorer
  • MSN Messenger
  • Microsoft Transcriber
  • Microsoft Active Sync 3.7
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • IA Presenter for ATI
  • IA Screen Mirror for ATI
  • World Clock
  • Toshiba Voice Recorder
  • Toshiba Text to Speech for Pocket PC
  • Voice Command
  • Toshiba ConfigFree Software
  • VoIP Software
  • ArcSoft PhotoBase (e805 only)
  • ClearVue Document, Image, Presentation, Worksheet

The Wi-Fi helper software includes a tool to pinpoint nearby hotspots.  The ConfigFree program diagnoses any Wi-Fi problems, whether it be due to the handheld or access point.  You of course still get all the built in wireless manager and internet settings programs built into Windows Mobile 2003.

The wi-fi radar software that Toshiba includes is very nice for viewing available hotspots


With the e805 you get ArcSoft’s PhotoBase image management/photo editing tool, the e800 does not include this.  This is the only difference between the e800 / e805 model designation, otherwise they are exactly the same device.  If you have the e800 and really want this program it’s a $19.99 download from the ArcSoft site: http://www.arcsoft.com/en/products/photobasepocketpc/.  One question I always get when reviewing a high-end HP device is ‘does it have remote control software built-in such as Nevo Remote’.  The answer for the e805 is no.  The built in home screen for the e805 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

The two Wireless Options we have with the e805 are Wi-Fi and infrared (which is ubiquitous among Pocket PC devices).  In Europe the option is available to purchase a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi device, but in the U.S. your only option is to have Wi-Fi.  I had no problems using the integrated Wi-Fi with my Netgear 802.11b wireless access point.  An orange light on top of the device indicates whether the Wi-Fi is enabled or not, you have to make sure the Wi-Fi switch at the bottom of the PDA is set to the on position for the wi-fi receive to even be powered.  Turn wi-fi off if you wish to conserve battery life.


Graphics

The e805 comes with an ATI Graphics Controller that contains 2MB internal video memory.  Having this enables the e805 to display graphics faster and and at a higher visual quality, which is crucial when paired with the beautiful screen the e800 comes with.  Playing games and video on the e800 is a pleasure due to the fast display rate provided by the Graphics Controller.  Viewing MP4 decoded video at 25 frames per second is not a problem for the e805.  The benchmarks below indicate the very fast speed of the e805 graphics performance compared to other devices:

no surprise, the e805 wins in the graphics system test by a longshot due to its graphics chip

Accessories

Here’s a list of the current accessories you can get for the e800:

  • Power/Sync Cable w/CLA
  • 15W AC Adapter
  • USB Cradle (requires optional AC Adapter)
  • Battery Charger (requires optional AC Adapter)
  • Toshiba High Capacity Battery
  • Toshiba Primary Battery
  • USB Host Keyboard Cable
  • Stylus Pen (3-Pack)
  • Screen Overlays
  • Picture View Presentation Pack
  • Earphones

The picture view presentation pack is the coolest and most unique accessory for the e800.  By attaching this expansion pack to the bottom of your device you can output display to a projector or monitor for presentations.  You can also use the USB port on this accessory to plug in a keyboard or numeric pad for easier text entry into your device.

Conclusion

The Toshiba e805 is certainly a great device that advances the functionality of a Pocket PC and teases us with what we might look forward to in the coming year with PDAs.  How great will it be when Pocket PC devices offer fully supported VGA mode in which we don’t have to soft reset or make sacrifices to get from one resolution to the next.  We can do this with desktop or notebook devices.  Or how about the picture viewer expansion pack  acessory for the e805 that allows you to connect a full size keyboard or output to a monitor, we can hope the day comes soon when a PDA ships with this functionality fully integrated.  The 160MB memory size, graphics capabilities, processing power and fantastic screen on the e805 are all superior to any other PDA on the market though.  The size, battery life, speaker and a couple of design features such as the stylus are a bit unfortunate for this device, but no device is perfect.  Once again though, I must reiterate that this is a powerful PDA and that you’ll probably want to have some experience using PDAs to fully utilize its abilities.  I don’t recommend the e805 to a first time buyer, but rather to power users that want to push the limit of what they can do with a PDA and don’t mind carrying a slightly larger style device.

Availability

The Toshiba e805 can be purchased in the U.S. or Europe, for click here for updated U.S. pricing at online retailers.

Tip Jar and Word From the Author

I hope you enjoyed and found this review of the Toshiba e805 informative and helpful.  I’m a freelance writer and programmer based in New York.  If you did find this review helpful and have a $1.00 to spare as a tip or contribution to the “Baxter Fund for Buying More Tech Gadget Junk” it would be greatly appreciated, just click the button below to donate via PayPal.

Thank You!  Thank You!


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