The expansion options are particularly attractive, since the X50 is the first Pocket PC to offer Windows Media Player 10.0 Mobile. Effectively, this means it's a better multimedia experience. Aside from being able to carry your favorite WMA, MP3, and WMV music files on your handheld, you can now view album art as songs are playing. Also, Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10.0 gives you access to audio and video content from subscription services, such as Musicmatch and CinemaNow.
If you like to show off photos and videos, you can do that too with WMP 10.0. But there's more -- to really drive home the fact that this is a multimedia device, the X50v ships with a games bundle that includes Stuntcar Extreme and 3D puzzles such as Enigmo.
Wireless connection comes in the form of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which can be used simultaneously. The X50v ships with a WLAN utility that shows signal strength, encryption options, certificate enrolment for advanced Wi-Fi authentication, and more. Bluetooth opens the doors to communication with other devices, allowing users to do even more with the X50. For instance, paired with Dell's GPS receiver, the X50v can be used as a navigation device, or you can connect to a Bluetooth keyboard, such as the Think Outside Stowaway, for more productivity.
Like the latest crop of PDAs, the X50v comes loaded with Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, which supports Landscape mode -- a boon if you're keen on flashing photos, surfing the Web or working on spreadsheets. As you would expect, Pocket Word, Excel, and Internet Explorer are present, while other applications and utilities include MSN Messenger, a VPN client, a clock, a calculator, File Store and Backup. There's also a companion CD with demo versions of programs such as Cash Organizer 2003, Full Hand Casino and McAfee VirusScan PDA.
From a performance point of view, the Dell Axim X50v was somewhat disappointing, as one of the PDA's best highlights -- the VGA screen -- turned out to be its biggest downfall. That said, we noticed similar hiccups in other VGA models such as the Asus MyPal A730 and the Toshiba e805, and while not ideal as your primary media player or gaming device, the X50v is still a very capable PDA.
This flagship model sports Intel's state-of-the-art PXA270 processor running at 624MHz, currently the fastest chip for Pocket PCs, as well as Intel's 2700G multimedia accelerator. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to see that all this power produced below-average video performance and subsequently affected its overall standing in our tests, scoring about 40 percent lower than the midlevel X50. Even in real-life usage, we experienced a noticeable lag in response time on the X50v when switching between applications.
Playing games on the X50v wasn't ideal. We tried out Stuntcar Extreme and enjoyed the great graphics on the VGA screen, but overall it was a sluggish experience, and the game often froze if another application was running in the background. Also, the small navigation toggle made it difficult to manoeuvre in the game. On a brighter note, when we were viewing Word documents or Web pages or performing other PIM functions, the screen produced sharp, crisp images and was even legible in sunlight.
Like the X50, the X50v's wireless connections worked very well. Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth passed our test without a hitch, as the handheld instantly connected to access points and had great range.
Battery life was so-so. In our drain test, where we repeatedly played a video with the backlight and volume set at high with all wireless features off, the battery lasted almost four hours. By comparison, this was almost an hour longer than the A730, but fell short of the HP iPaq hx4700's mark of 5 hours, 25 minutes. Then again, the hx4700 doesn't have all the multimedia flair of the X50v. As our drain test was designed to zap the battery as fast as possible, you'll get more mileage with normal usage.
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo and Eric Franklin
Edited by William O'Neal
Additional editing by Nick Hide