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.
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.
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
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
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
+ 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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
x 3" x .6" (not including antenna nub).
Weight: 4.7 oz. (non-wireless model), 4.9 ounces
for wireless models.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player
9 included for your MP3 listening pleasure.
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.