Over the past year, Dell has earned a reputation for producing some of the best handheld organisers on the market -- first with the high-performance and the recently discontinued Dell Axim X30 series, then with the versatile Dell Axim X50 series. Now, the company has released the new Dell Axim X51 series. Although these Pocket PCs keep the same design as the X50 series, they have plenty of new features. They come with a more robust software bundle and are the first stand-alone PDAs to run the Windows Mobile 5 operating system.
Unfortunately, the X51v suffered from subpar battery life and sluggish performance in our tests. That said, with everyday, casual use, the Axim X51 series -- the high-end Dell Axim X51v (£325), the middle-of-the-road Dell Axim X51 (£278), and the entry-level Dell Axim X51 (£231) -- includes very capable handhelds that should fit the needs of consumers and business users alike.
When it came to the Dell Axim X51v's design, Dell decided to go with the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy. The Axim X51v's styling is nearly identical to the X50's, keeping the sexy black and silver colour scheme and aesthetically pleasing rounded edges. The X51v is just a hair thicker than its predecessor (73 by 119 by 17mm and 181g), but it won't weigh you down. It's also a solidly built device that's comfortable to hold, and we like the rubberised back cover for better gripping.
The star attraction on the Dell Axim X51 is undoubtedly its 94mm (3.7-inch) VGA screen. Thanks to a 640x480-pixel resolution and a 16-bit-colour output, you'll enjoy sharp text and images, and there's continued support for landscape and portrait modes. Below the display are your standard shortcut keys to Calendar, Contacts, Inbox and Home, plus a four-way navigation toggle with a central Select button. Although we criticised the Axim X50 for its diminutive toggle, by now we're used to it, yet we still caution users with bigger fingers. A speaker, a power button and a status LED line the top edge of the PDA's face.
It's easy to access many of the Dell X51v's features with a click of a button. Aside from the aforementioned shortcut keys on the front, there are two buttons on the left spine that activate the voice recorder and wireless connection. There's also a hold button, which is always appreciated, since it prevents any unnecessary battery drain if the device is accidentally turned on. On the top of the Axim X51v, you'll find a 3.5mm jack that accepts Walkman-style headphones, dual CompactFlash and SD expansion slots, and the stylus. The handheld's battery is user-replaceable, and you can change it by unlocking the sliding battery-release lever on the back.