November 18, 2004
Dell sets the value standard for Pocket PCs -- again -- with this Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled PDA.
Now, before the rest of the industry has caught up, you've released the X50 line. We appreciate the improvements, but we're getting tired of writing, "It's nice, but when it comes to value, it's no Axim," in our other reviews.
With all it had going for it, the X30 seemed hard to improve upon. But Dell has done it with the X50 line, which has a VGA screen in its top model, accelerated graphics performance, and a drastically improved design.
It's the design that you'll notice first. With it's silver-and-black exterior and gently rounded shape, it makes the X30 look like a giant silver brick. Surprisingly, it's the same size as the X30 (4.7 by 2.9 by 0.7 inches), but with rounded edges that make it look much smaller: The X50 fits the hand beautifully.
The X50's design improvements don't end with its shape. The X50 has two thumb-buttons on the side that look like volume controls, but actually turn on Wi-Fi and the voice recorder.
Because these are easy to turn on by mistake (as we can attest; we
accidentally made a voice recording that entirely filled the memory), there's a
lock button just above them that will deactivate all the controls.
Lock & Controls
The Axim's speaker is now on the front instead of the rear, which makes
sense. One huge improvement is that the X50 has two card slots: one for Secure Digital (SD) cards, as before, and a new one
for CompactFlash (CF) cards. This is sure to be useful in many ways, such as
letting users remove the CF card from their camera and pull up pictures
instantly on their handheld.
Display & Video
The top model in the X50 line, the X50v, comes with a VGA (640 x 480 pixel) screen instead of the Pocket PC standard QVGA (240 x 320 pixel) display, and is the first Axim to have one.
Simple math would suggest that a VGA would offer a lot more screen real estate. After all, QVGA means quarter VGA, so a VGA should have four times as much room and four times as many pixels. And that would be true here, except that Microsoft didn't add true VGA support to Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. What you get instead is a much sharper picture and better-looking fonts, but no more room than you had before. If you get a browser that supports VGA, for example, you will be able to view whole Web pages on the Pocket PCs screen. The same goes for other VGA-enabled applications, such as spreadsheets.
Driving the Axim X50v's high-quality screen is an Intel 2700G multimedia accelerator with 16MB video memory, which insures that your videos will be smooth and flicker free. The easiest way to show off the video horsepower, however, is to launch one of the two high-resolution games that come with the X50v, Enigmo and Stuntcar Extreme.
Both games are a blast and have better-looking graphics than you've probably ever seen on a handheld. Enigmo is a logic game in which you stream dripping water into a pot, using a variety of tools to help guide its way. Stuntcar Extreme is a racing game in which you jump your car through rings of fire. The motion was so real, it actually made us a little motion sick.