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Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC Review
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Screen, Sound and Multimedia

The X30 uses the same 3.5" transflective LCD as the X3. It has excellent color saturation and contrast with no color bias. While not as bright as high end iPAQ models, it's still very bright and has 100 nits brightness. The Dell has 8 brightness settings ranging from off to full brightness. You can use the control panel applet to set brightness, or press and hold the jog dial while pressing the d-pad up or down to change brightness.

Since the X30 family runs Windows Mobile 2003 SE, you'll be able to use the Screen control panel applet to change orientation from portrait to landscape. This change happens on the fly, and doesn't require a soft reset. You can set the unit to run in either right or left handed landscape mode.

Below: screen shots in landscape mode.

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screen shot

 

While the OS and built-in applications have been enchanced to support landscape display, don't expect third party applications to work correctly in landscape orientation until developers release WM2003 SE versions. When you install an application that hasn't been updated for SE, you'll see a warning on your Pocket PC that the app might not display correctly. Nonetheless, existing apps work fine in portrait mode, with the exception of a few games since Microsoft changed the display code when adding support for landscape orientation and other resolutions. I've tried a few popular apps in landscape mode, and below you'll find the results.

+ Pocket MVP will run, but videos run off the screen in landscape mode. Since the app can natively switch to landscape mode when run from a portrait orientation device setting, you're not losing much beyond the inconvenience of switching the device to portrait mode before running MVP.

+ Pocket TV Enterprise shows a message each time it runs telling OEMs (the manufacturer of the PDA) that their device doesn't implement the Escape Code GETRAWFRAMEBUFFER, and goes on to describe this is critically important for high performance games and video apps. After the third window on this topic, it says that Pocket TV will continue with reduced performance using GDI. The folks at Pocket TV had commented on these issues a few months back on various discussion forums. That said, it runs quite well in both portrait and landscape modes, likely thanks to the fast processors on these devices.

+ Resco Explorer 5 runs fine. Resco Picture Viewer and screen capture apps also work fine.

+ Adobe Acrobat Reader for Pocket PC works fine, though you won't see a whole lot of text on screen in landscape mode unless you have a VGA display. I find it easier to read PDFs in portrait mode.

+ NetFront 3.1 works well as long as you turn off the Location toolbar which is huge (take up 1/3rd of the display) in VGA mode.

+ Cirond's Pocket WiNc works fine.

We'll cover games below!

 

 

 

 

Questions? Comments?
Post them in our Discussion Forum!

 

 

 

Oddly, the volume control slider in the Sounds and Notifications control panel applet has disappeared on the X30s! Instead you'll set the volume by tapping on the speaker icon next to the clock on the top menubar. The sound volume is decent but not terribly loud and the units have rear-firing speakers. Dell claims to have improved sound quality over the X3 line, but I can't tell much of a difference, nor did I find the X3 lacking. Sound quality is good through the built-in speaker, and great through headphones. The headphone jack is a standard stereo 3.5mm one, the Dell comes with Windows Media Player 9.01 for Pocket PC.

The X30'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. You can indeed use both Hands Free and Headset profile Bluetooth headsets with the wireless models, and we'll talk about that more in the Bluetooth section of this review.

Gaming

Many current games work on the X30 under WM2003 SE, but a few do break due to the graphics changes made by Microsoft. Look to these game developers for updated versions of your favorite games to support the new OS. Though you can change screen orientation, this will not affect current games: they will run in whatever orientation they were designed to run in. Games set the display orientation themselves and can only run in display modes for which they have resources (graphics and code). A few portrait mode games left our unit in portrait mode when we exited even though it had been set to landscape. Here are a few games we tested:

+ Anthelion controls don't work.

+ That addictive RTS game, Age of Empires, works fine.

+ Bust Em 2 paddle moves slower than on other Pocket PCs and eventually crashes.

+ Hexacto Bounty Hunter Pinball works well, though a tad slower compared to some of the non- Second Edition models such as the iPAQ 2215.

+ Metalion 2, a game which challenges most Pocket PCs and can run a bit jerkily, is super smooth and too fast when running in max speed/624 MHz mode on the 624 MHz Axim. Even the 312 MHz X30 runs the game a bit too fast! You'll probably want to slow the processor down to Power Save mode using the Battery control panel applet.

+ Galactic Assault runs well and at playable speeds on both models.

+ MorphGear runs well. If the unit is set to landscape mode, MorphGear will switch to portrait. The 312MHz X30 got 30 fps, while the 624MHz model got 57 fps playing Asteroids.

+ PocketQuake runs fine. In portrait mode, the 312MHz model got 14.2 fps, while the 624MHz model got 25.3 fps!

If there are other games you'd like us to try, post a message in our X30 discussion on our forums.

Battery Life

All X30s come with a user replaceable 950 mAh Lithium Ion battery. That's not terribly large, and 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 photo on page 1). If you purchase one of the wireless models and intend to make use of those features, do consider a spare battery. On our 312 MHz X30 using the Auto processor setting with WiFi and Bluetooth turned off while playing intensive games and watching videos, the standard battery lasted about 2.35 hours. Using WiFi to surf the web continuously for an hour consumed 40% of the charge (same as the X3 400 MHz model). As you'd expect, the 624 MHz turns in shorter runtimes when running on Auto and Max power settings. You'll definitely want an extended battery for the 624 MHz model if you use wireless much, play intensive games or watch videos. 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 on the 312 MHz model and 60% on the 624 MHz model.

WiFi

The two wireless X30 models have integrated WiFi 802.11b wireless networking. These models have a translucent black antenna housing on the upper right corner, and when WiFi is turned on, a green LED flashes. To turn on both wireless radios, 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.

The Dell WLAN utility remains unchanged from the X3i model (why mess with a good thing?). 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. Range was good and about the same as the X3i. Though not as strong as the leader of the pack, the HP iPAQ 5555, it certainly has acceptable range. WiFi behaved reliably for us when connecting to a variety of access points with and without WEP encryption. WM2003 SE adds support for WPA and 802.x so you'll be able to use the X30 in environments that require those security measures. The X30 also has a certificate enroller and an embedded version of Funk Odyssey Client 2.0 which supports Cisco LEAP and EAP types PEAP, MD5, TLS and TTLS.

Bluetooth

If you've used iPAQ Pocket PCs made in the last year, you'll be familiar with the Dell's Bluetooth wireless PAN (personal area networking) technology which is identical. The Dell has a Class 2 4Dbm radio. The wireless X30 models use the well-known Widcomm Bluetooth stack, and I've always found that to be one of the better Bluetooth implementations. The interface is wizard based, and it walks you through connecting to a variety of devices, from your ActiveSync partner (if you have a USB Bluetooth adapter installed on your PC), to headsets. It's about as intuitive and friendly as Bluetooth gets . The Bluetooth software is made by Widcomm and is version 1.5.0. I ActiveSync-ed wirelessly, connected to Belkin and Red-M Bluetooth access points for Internet access and, transferred files to other Bluetooth enabled Pocket PCs. I also paired with a Sony Ericsson P800 and used that phone as a wireless modem for the X30. Since there are limited number of phones listed in the Bluetooth setup, I chose the Sony Ericsson T68i which worked fine, though pairing failed on the first attempt with both X30s, and worked the second time. We tested the X30s with the Jabra Freespeak 250 and Logitech Bluetooth headsets and were impressed by sound quality and volume. The iPAQ 5555 is the only other Pocket PC that offers a Bluetooth headset (but not hands free) profile, so it's a nice touch in the much more affordable Dells.

Software Bundle

The Axim X30 comes with the usual suite of Windows Mobile 2003 programs but very little 3rd party software. Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition 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, including a demo of Griffin Total Remote so you can try out that consumer IR. We were able to use the X30s and Griffin up to 10 feet away from our AV gear. Also included is the full version of Resco's excellent Picture Viewer.The unit comes with Dell's own backup application in ROM which can back up the entire device or just selected PIM data to internal storage or an SD memory card.

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Conclusion

Pro: Great prices! Fast processors (exceptionally in the case of the 624 MHz model), the new WM2003 SE operating system with support for landscape display, a good amount of flash ROM storage available on the wireless 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. You get both Bluetooth and WiFi on the wireless models, and support for Cisco LEAP. All models have consumer IR (great for using the PDA as an AV remote). Cons: Battery life with the standard battery is mediocre. 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. Not all games will run correctly due to Microsoft's changes to the OS, but hopefully updated versions of games will come out shortly.

List price: $199/$249/ $349

 

Specs:

Display: transflective TFT color LCD, 65,536 colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5", Resolution: 240 x 320.

Battery: 950 mA Lithium rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1800 mA extended battery available for purchase.

Performance: Intel XScale PXA270 processor. Basic and mid-level models are 312 MHz, while the top of the line model has a 624 MHz processor. 32 megs of RAM and 32 megs ROM on basic model. 64 megs of RAM and 64 megs of ROM with 30 megs of ROM available to the user on the wireless models.

Size: 4.6' x 3" x .6" (not including antenna nub). Weight: 4.7 oz. (non-wireless model), 4.9 ounces for wireless models.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 9 included for your MP3 listening pleasure.

Software: Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, VPN Client, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC, MS Reader, Jawbreaker, Solitaire and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. 3rd party software: Resco Picture Viewer and IA Presenter. ActiveSync 3.7.1 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot supporting SDIO. Consumer grade IR.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b wireless networking and Class 2 Bluetooth (Widcomm stack and drivers) on the two wireless models. The basic model has no wireless.

 

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