(Discontinued) Posted Nov. 5, 2003 by by Lisa
Gade, Editor in Chief
Check out the Axim
X30 introduced May 18, 2004 which replaces the X3!
When Dell rolled out their Axim
X5 Pocket PC model last year it made big waves in the Pocket
PC community because it offered a lot of bang for the buck. The
price you paid was having to lug around a relatively large and
bulky Pocket PC. Now Dell has an answer for those who wish to
have a more svelte Pocket PC with a great feature set: the Axim
X3 line. However, unlike the X5, the X3 doesn't have a CF slot.
The X3 comes in three models: the Basic, Advanced
and X3i which is the same as the Advanced model but adds WiFi 802.11b
wireless networking. All feature replaceable batteries, an SD slot,
fast processors and transflective displays. We received the X3i
for review, and all comments are based on that model.
The X3 Model Lineup
All three models look the same with the exception
of the X3i which has a WiFi antenna nub on the top right corner.
The Basic and Advanced models vary in processor speed and amount
of memory. The X3 is a small to mid-sized Pocket PC, being larger
than the incredibly small iPAQ 1945,
but appreciably smaller than the Dell Axim X5 and HP
iPAQ 5555 models. All models have Intel XScale PXA263 processors
and Intel StrataFlash ROM (both faster and more expensive than
the NAND Flash ROM found in recent low priced Pocket PCs).
The Basic lists for a modest $229, and has 300
MHz XScale processor, 32 megs of RAM and 32 megs of ROM. The Basic
model comes with a USB sync cable (you can purchase a cradle separately).The
$329 Advanced model has a 400 MHz XScale processor, 64 megs of
RAM and 64 megs of ROM. The $379 Axim X3i adds WiFi to the Advanced
model configuration. The Advanced and X3i come with a chrome finish
weighted USB sync cradle that can also charge a spare battery.
In all other respects, these units are identical to each other.
Please note that these prices may change.
Design and Ergonomics
Though it lacks the pronounced curves and styling
of some iPAQs and resides in the rectangular Pocket PC camp, the
X3 is a handsome device that fits comfortably in the hand thanks
to its rounded edges. The casing is made of plastic, and both the
front and back faces have a silver finish, while the sides are
black plastic. It won't weigh you down terribly at 6 ounces and
is reasonably pocketable.
The X3 has the usual four application buttons
surrounding the center directional pad. The 5-way directional pad
is a small oval, which doesn't make it the best for gaming. Rather
than placing the voice recorder button on the upper side of the
unit, Dell has placed it on the lower front face where it's less
prone to accidental activation when you pull the unit out of a
case or pocket.
On the X3i model, the button directly opposing
the record button activates and deactivates the built-in WiFi radio.
The SD slot is located on top, as are the IR window and WiFi antenna
(X3i model). The headphone jack is located on the upper left side
just above the scroll wheel, while the speaker is located on the
back. The X3i's black translucent antenna houses a blue LED that
flashes when WiFi is activated. This is not to be confused with
the blue LED used on other brand PDAs that indicates Bluetooth
activity: the X3 models do not have Bluetooth.
All X3 models have an Intel XScale PXA263 processor.
The Advanced and X3i models run at 400 MHz, while the Basic runs at 300
MHz. The PXA263 processor is one of the newest XScale PDA processors,
and our X3i proved speedy in all operations, including playing intensive
games and watching videos. The X3 Basic should be reasonably fast as
well thanks to the XScale processor and clock speed. The 400 MHz models
have a control panel applet (under Power) that allows you to set the
clock speed of the PDA. Settings are Maximum Performance, Normal, PowerSave
and Auto. Auto ran at very close to Maximum Performance when running
benchmarks— which means the processor really does step up for demanding
applications. When set to Auto, the applet tells you the current clock
speed: if the unit isn't doing anything it says "200 MHz" and
when playing MP3s in the background using Pocket
MVP it says "400 MHz".
All Dell Axims to date use Intel StrataFlash memory,
which is the same kind of memory that has traditionally been used in
older Pocket PCs and in current high end Pocket PCs. It costs a bit more
than NAND flash memory and runs faster. Since NAND is slower, the OS
has to be copied into RAM to ensure that the handheld runs quickly. This
uses up RAM on the device, which means less is available for your use.
With traditional flash ROM such as StrataFlash this isn't necessary because
it's fast enough. The flash ROM area is where the OS is installed, and
any unused space is available as non-volatile (it won't be erased even
after a hard reset) storage. An example of another Pocket PC that doesn't
use NAND is the iPAQ 5555.
The X3 Basic has 32 megs of RAM and 32 megs of ROM.
The Advanced and X3i models have 64 megs of RAM and 64 megs of ROM, 32
of which are available as "Built-in Storage". All models have
an SD slot supporting SDIO cards such as Socket Communications SD WiFi
card and SanDisk's SD WiFi card.
Screen, Sound, and Gaming
The X3 line has a 3.5" transflective LCD that
has excellent color saturation and contrast with no color bias. While
not as bright as high end iPAQ models, it should be more than bright
enough for most people. The Dell has 6 brightness settings ranging from
off to full brightness.
The sound volume is decent but not terribly loud (PDAs
with rear-firing speakers aren't generally the loudest). Sound quality
is good through the built-in speaker, and great through headphones. The
headphone jack is a standard stereo 3.5mm one, and like all Windows Mobile
2003 Pocket PCs, the Dell comes with Windows Media Player 9 for Pocket
The X3's mic is located just above the LCD and captures
good audio. There is no control panel to adjust bass or treble settings.
A mic applet allows you to set the gain for recordings.
The X3 comes with a user replaceable 950 mAh
Lithium Ion battery. That's not terribly large, especially for
the 400MHz and WiFi equipped models. You can get an optional
1800 mA extended battery which, as you'd guess, doubles run times.
The extended battery is fitted in place of the standard battery,
and creates a hump (see photos above). On our X3i using the Auto
processor setting with the WiFi turned off while playing intensive
games such as Anthelion and Hexacto
Tennis Addict, the standard battery lasted about 2.25 hours.
Using WiFi to surf the web continuously for an hour consumed
40% of the charge. For everyday use such as occasionally accessing
calendar, contacts and editing Word documents, the standard battery
proved adequate with 70% charge left at the end of the day. If
you plan on using WiFi, playing intensive games or watching videos,
do consider the extended battery or a spare standard battery.
Only the Axim X3i model has integrated WiFi
802.11b wireless networking. This model has a translucent black
antenna housing on the upper right corner, and when WiFi is turned
on, a blue LED flashes. Since blue LEDs are usually used to indicate
Bluetooth connections on PDAs, I'm sure some folks will be confused.
To turn on the wireless radio, you'll press the small button
on the right front face that opposes the voice recorder button.
When WiFi is turned on, you can use the Windows
Mobile 2003 Connection Manager to seek out and connect to WiFi
access points. Once the radio is turned on, the Dell adds a system
tray icon that shows you the signal strength and has a popup
menu that allows you to:
- Turn the radio off and on
-Edit Profiles (which takes you to the Windows Mobile Connection Manager "Configure
Wireless Networks" screen)
-WLAN Status (info on current channel, transfer rate, base station name and
MAC address, IP address and IP address renew and Ping). This applet also offers
a site survey function and under Advanced settings lets you set the power saving
mode for the radio and specify long, short or auto preambles.
-Site survey, which takes you to the Site Survey tab in the WLAN Status applet
-Advanced, which takes you to the Advanced tab in the WLAN Status applet.
Since many WiFi drivers under Windows Mobile
2003 don't offer any additional features and leave everything
to the very basic Pocket PC Connection Manager, it's very useful
to have these tools which many of us took for granted when using
WiFi cards under the Pocket PC 2002 OS. Good going, Dell! Range
was good, though not as strong as the stellar HP
iPAQ 5555. WiFi behaved reliably for us when connecting to
a variety of access points with and without WEP encryption.
the Dell Axim X3i with the extended battery.
THe Axim X3 comes with the usual suite of Windows
Mobile 2003 programs but very little 3rd party software. Pocket
PC 2003 Professional includes Pocket versions of Word, Excel, Internet
Explorer and Outlook, as well as Windows Media Player 9 for Pocket
PC, Microsoft Reader, MSN Messenger, Terminal Services Client and
MS Pictures image viewer. The Dell CD includes a large number of
demo titles, and full versions of Resco's excellent Picture Viewer
and IA Presenter for PowerPoint files. The unit also comes with
Dell's own backup application which can back up the entire device
or just selected PIM data to internal storage or an SD memory card.
For you Java users, there is a version of Insignia's Java Jeode
Runtime available for $49.95.
We've run benchmarks using VOBenchmark 3 from Virtual
Office Systems. I've compared the iPAQ
2215, iPAQ 5555 , and our Dell
Axim X3i. All tests were run with units fresh out of the box
with no other software added, and the storage cards were 60%
full with data and applications. All units run Windows Mobile
2003 on 400 MHz Intel XScale PXA263 or PXA255 processors. Higher
numbers are better (shown in bold).
Once again, Dell is offering a full-featured
unit for a reasonable price. All three models are excellent units,
and they're slimmer and lighter than the original Dell Axim X5
model. Pro: fast processors, a good amount of flash ROM storage
available on Advanced and X3i models in addition to RAM, very nice
display that's bright, sharp and doesn't show any color bias. Supports
SDIO for networking cards. The cradle (optional on some models)
is solidly built and has a slot for charging a spare standard or
extended battery. Battery is user replaceable. Cons: Battery life
with the standard battery is mediocre. The small oval d-pad doesn't
work well for gaming. You need to use the included small (don't
lose it!) adapter for the charger cable if not using the cradle
to charge the unit.
List price: from $229 to $349
TFT color LCD, 65,536 colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5",
Resolution: 240 x 320.
mA Lithium rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
1800 mA extended battery available for purchase.
XScale PXA263 400 MHz processor. 32 megs of RAM and
32 megs ROM on Basic model, 64 megs of RAM and 64
megs of ROM on Advanced and X3i models.
x 3" x .6" (not including antenna nub).
Weight: 5 oz.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player
9 included for your MP3 listening pleasure.
PC 2003 Professional operating system (aka Windows
Mobile 2003). Microsoft Pocket Office suite including
Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Outlook.
Also, Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for
Pocket PC, MS Reader and Voice Recorder as well as
handwriting recognition. 3rd party software: Resco
Picture Viewer and IA Presenter. ActiveSync 3.7 and
Outlook 2002 for PCs included.