Today, PDAs are no longer one-trick ponies. They can organise data, connect to the Web, play music and videos, and more. Now, Dell has unleashed its newest talent: the Axim X50v. Like HP's iPaq rx3715 Mobile Media Companion, the X50v aims to blend digital entertainment with productivity for a PDA that does it all.
This pocket star's massive features list includes a VGA screen, a dedicated graphics engine, wireless connectivity, and Windows Media Player 10.0 Mobile. And similar to the Palm-OS based gaming handheld, the Tapwave Zodiac2, the X50v comes with a games bundle to satisfy the player in you. As the flagship model of the X50 series, the X50v costs around £250, but if you don't need all the bells and whistles, check out the midlevel model or the entry-level X50.
With the Axim X50v, Dell introduces a kinder and gentler design to its PDAs. We weren't big fans of the Axim X30's squarish edges, which gave it a drab and utilitarian look, so we welcome the X50's smoother, rounded edges and attractive silver and black casing. At 73 by 119 by 17mm and 175g, the X50v is slightly bigger and heavier than the X30 and certainly the HP iPaq rx3715. As a trade-off, though, the X50v is solidly built, and the rubberised sides make for a comfortable and solid grip.
The X50v's 94mm (3.7-inch) VGA screen is a sight to behold. Like the Asus MyPal A730, it has a larger viewing area than most PDAs and boasts four times the resolution of a QVGA screen at 480x640 pixels for sharper graphics and text -- a deft touch, since Dell touts this as a multimedia handheld. The four shortcut keys (Calendar, Contacts, Inbox, and Home) and the navigation toggle reside just below and, compared to the X30's, are quite diminutive. While this wasn't much of an issue with the shortcut keys, the smaller toggle proved trickier to navigate, especially for those with bigger digits, and we often pressed the centre Select button by mistake.
The left side of the PDA gives you access to a host of goodies. There's a lanyard hook, a lock switch, a wireless on/off button and a voice-record button. The one-touch access to wireless connectivity is particularly convenient, since you don't have to fish through the Settings menu to turn on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
The top of the device houses a 3.5mm headphone/headset jack that accepts Walkman-style 'phones and supports VoIP and voice-recognition apps, the stylus holder and dual CompactFlash and SD expansion slots. There's a standard sync/cradle connector on the bottom of the device. Give the X50v a twirl, and on the back you'll find a battery-lock switch that enables the user to swap out the 1,100mAh battery, a Reset button and two rubber grips to prevent your handheld from slipping.
There aren't too many extras in the box, but you get a desktop sync cradle, a travel charger and a protective case. As mentioned earlier, the X50v has a user-replaceable battery, so if you're a road warrior you might want to invest in Dell's 2,200mAh extended cell.
A check under the Dell Axim X50v's hood shows a well-equipped and powerful handheld. There's an Intel 624MHz XScale PXA270 processor that, like any chip in this family, features SpeedStep and Wireless MMX technology to optimise battery life. However, the X50v doesn't stop there. Complementing the handheld's VGA screen is a dedicated Intel 2700G graphics engine with 16MB of video memory for better video playback and an improved gaming experience (see 'Performance').
Frequent travellers can take advantage of the graphics processor to give presentations on the go with Dell's Presentation Kit (not included), which includes a VGA cable to hook to the projector and Westtek's ClearVue Suite. Memory is ample, with 128MB of flash ROM and 64MB of SDRAM (139MB of which are user-accessible). If that's not enough, the dual CompactFlash and SD expansion slots should do the trick.