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Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC Running Window Mobile 2003 Second Edition

Posted May 18, 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Here they are, the first Pocket PCs with "Bulverde" PXA270 processors running the new Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition OS. The Axim X30 models look identical to the Dell Axim X3 released in the late Fall of 2003 and in fact shares the same casing. But looks are only skin deep, and the new X30 models make some significant improvements to the popular and affordable X3 line. As you'd expect, the 624 MHz model really screams, but the 312 MHz model beats out many current 400 MHz PXA255 Pocket PCs. The wireless models add Bluetooth, have WiFi, and all are extremely reasonably priced.

Dell Axim X30
Dell Axim X30 back

 

The X30 Model Lineup

The X30 comes in three models and all three look the same with the exception of the two wireless models which have an antenna stub on the top right corner. The basic model has a 312 MHz processor, 32 megs of RAM and no wireless. The middle model has Bluetooth, WiFi, a 312 MHz processor and 64 megs of RAM. The top model has Bluetooth, WiFi, a 624 MHz (that's right!) processor and 64 megs of RAM. The two wireless models have 30 megs of flash ROM available to the user. In all other respects, the units are identical.

All models support SDIO, have Intel XScale PXA270 (Bulverde) processors and Intel StrataFlash ROM (both faster and more expensive than the NAND Flash ROM found in recent low priced Pocket PCs). The basic model lists for a modest $199, while the middle model sells for $249 and the top of the line model costs $349. Amazingly low prices for all models! The basic model and middle models come with a USB sync cable (you can purchase a cradle separately for $20). The 624 MHz model comes with a chrome finish weighted USB sync cradle that can also charge a spare battery (the same cradle used for the Axim X3). Please note that these prices may change.

Design and Ergonomics

The X30 line is identical in appearence and physical outward design to the X3, so our review of design and ergonomics remains unchanged. This means that X3 cases will work on the X30. Though it lacks the pronounced curves and styling of some iPAQs and resides in the rectangular Pocket PC camp, the X30 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 at 4.9 ounces and is quite pocketable.

The X30 has the usual four application buttons surrounding the center directional pad. The 5-way directional pad is a small oval, which is easy to use and works well 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 wireless models, the button directly opposing the record button activates and deactivates the built-in WiFi and Bluetooth radios. Since you may not wish to use both simultaneously, you can use on-screen controls to activate and de-activate each wireless connection type. The SD slot is located on top, as are the consumer grade IR window and WiFi antenna (on wireless models). The headphone jack is located on the upper left side just above the scroll wheel, while the speaker is located on the back. The wireless X30 models' black translucent antenna houses a blue LED that flashes when Bluetooth is activated and green when WiFi is activated. All units have LEDs for alarms and charging status.

Below: the Dell with the extended battery.

side view

Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition

* You can now rotate between portrait and landscape orientation on the fly, and that's the biggest new feature of the updated OS.
* WM2003 SE also adds support for VGA displays, but all of the X30 models retain the standard Pocket PC 320 x 240 QVGA display.
* Because icons and text on VGA displays are smaller, Microsoft has added a new tab to the display control panel which allows you to adjust text size using a slider. Even though the Dells don't have VGA screens, you can still customize the size of the text to suit your eyes.
* The Start Menu now has a list of recently used programs.
* The Clock control panel has been renamed to Clocks and Alarms, and there's a new tab where you can set up to three recurring alarms for one or more days of the week. In addition, there are options to repeat the alarm, display a message and flash the LED.
* Pocket Internet Explorer now offers a new "One Column" web page layout view in addition to the Default Pocket PC and Desktop views. One Column rearranges web page layouts so that no horizontal scrolling is necessary.
* The Connection Manager has support for 802.1x and PEAP/Smart Card/Certificate EAP for WiFi connections.

Below: Pocket IE in landscape, default layout mode.

screen shot

 

 

 

 

 

Questions? Comments?
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Horsepower and Features

All X30 models have an Intel XScale PXA270 "Bulverde" processor, varying only in clock speed. The basic and middle models run at 312 MHz, while the top model runs at an amazing 624 MHz. The PXA270 processor is the newest and fastest XScale PDA processor, and our 312 MHz and 624 MHz blazed along. The X30 312 MHz proved very speedy in all operations, including playing intensive games and watching videos. In fact, some action games were a little too fast with the processor speed set to max. As you might imagine, the 624 MHz model provides blistering performance. The only drawback is that most applications are well optimized for 400 MHz and slower PXA250 processors, so it's hard to find applications that will tax the processor. Not a bad problem to have, of course. All standard Pocket PC apps run quickly and smoothy, with no menu lag or slow downs. The Axims have a control panel applet (under Power) that allows you to set the clock speed of the PDA. Settings are Maximum Performance, 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 "208 MHz" for both 312 and 624 MHz models. When playing MP3s in the background using Pocket MVP it says it's running at the top clock speed (312 or 624 MHz, depending on the model).

All Dell Axims 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 basic, non-wireless X30 has 32 megs of RAM and 32 megs of ROM. The two wireless models have 64 megs of RAM and 64 megs of ROM, 30 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.

Benchmarks

We've run benchmarks using spb Benchmark. I've compared the Dell Axim X5 Advanced , iPAQ 5555 and our Dell Axim X30 312 and 624 MHz models. Our test units were fresh out of the box with no added software except spb Benchmark. Higher numbers are better (shown in green bold). Looking at the numbers for both X30 models, but especially the 624 MHz model, it's hard to not be extremely impressed. As you'd expect, nothing comes close to the 624 MHz model's benchmark figures.

  HP iPAQ h5550 (2003, 400MHz) Dell Axim X5 (2002, 400Mhz PXA250) Dell Axim X30 312Mhz Dell Axim X30 624Mhz
Spb Benchmark index
1112
752
1474
2086
CPU index
1874
912
1673
2474
File system index
1061
855
1050
1452
Graphics index
527
434
3916
5295
Platform index
978
629
1142
1506
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1237
657
1030
1856
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
27.2
15.9
28.6
33.3
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1240
716
1029
1860
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
773
477
705
1157
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
7.32
5.26
9.51
11.4
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
674
376
629
945
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
20.6
112
19.8
26
Internal database read (records/sec)
1435
398
1280
2003
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
51.7
41.8
308
333
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
23
12.3
21.4
40.9
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
54.8
47.1
913
952
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
37.5
22.5
36.1
50.9
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
5.88
4.73
6.73
8.06
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
217
79.7
206
296
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
544
238
592
708
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
259
65.5
230
342
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
609
423
501
918
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
48
38.2
262
313
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.076
0.061
0.059
0.119
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
55.3
54.1
43.2
86.6
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
5.01
3.96
3.88
7.8
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
107
65
115
118

 

Graphs

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Continued: Go To Page 2 of this Review

 

 

Specs:

 

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