14, 2003 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief
The ASUS MyPal A620 Pocket PC, made by the same
folks who brought you the Zayo Razor, is a sweet device that's
fast, highly portable and offers a nice feature set for the price.
While ASUS isn't one of the brands you hear much about in the Pocket
PC arena, it is offered by several retailers in the US, including PROPortable,
who sent us this unit for review. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 and
competes with other Pocket PC 2003 devices running Windows Mobile
from HP, Dell and Toshiba. While all Pocket PCs come with an SD
expansion slot, and only a few have a CF slot, the A620 has a type
II CF slot and no SD slot. The MyPal comes with a USB sync cradle,
charger and a ballistic nylon carrying case.
What is Pocket PC 2003, aka Windows Mobile 2003?
Pocket PC2003 is based on Windows CE 4.2, while
prior Pocket PC and Pocket PC 2002 PDAs were based on Windows CE
3.0. Microsoft is calling all new devices based on Pocket PC 2003 "Windows
There are two versions of Pocket PC 2003: Pro
for the more basic Pocket PC models and Premium for higher end
Pocket PCs. The MyPal A620 runs the Premium version. Apps like
Terminal Services, MS Reader, Spell Checker for Pocket Word and
the new Pictures app are built into the OS stored in ROM in the
Premium Edition, but don't come with the Pro version.
Features and Horsepower
The A620 features a 400 MHz PXA 255 Intel XScale
processor, which is the top-of-the-line processor for PDAs. The
unit is quite fast running in Turbo mode and should be up to any
intensive gaming and multimedia tasks you throw at it. The MyPal
offers a good deal of granularity when it comes to setting processor
speed. The ASUS Settings applet allows you to run the device in
Turbo mode (400 MHz), Standard Mode (300 MHz), Power Saving Mode
(200 MHz) and Automatic mode (the device senses processor demand
and sets speed accordingly). Obviously, Turbo mode feels fast,
and Automatic mode feels reasonably responsive in every day tasks.
Power Saving mode is very slow, and you'll only want to use this
setting if you plan to only access PIM apps or need to conserve
battery power. If you're gaming or watching videos, do set it to
Turbo mode. Standard mode is fine for MP3 playback (that's what
Gaming and watching videos in Turbo mode is a
pleasure. The unit is fast, and games such as Warfare
Inc. and SNES emulators like MorphGear ran smoothly. It certainly
equals the speedy iPAQ 2215 and the iPAQ
5555 in terms of game performance.
The unit has 32 megs of NAND
Flash ROM and 64 megs of RAM. 58.7 megs of RAM are available to the
user to run and store applications.
If you've invested in a collection
of CF memory cards, or want to use the many CF accessories on the market
such as WiFi cards, wired Ethernet cards, modems and GPS units, you'll
be happy to hear that the ASUS has a type II CF slot that accepts type
I and type II cards. Unlike other Pocket PCs, it does not have an SD
card slot. Given the much wider range of CF accessories and cheaper
prices for CF memory cards, many will be pleased with this design.
However, if you do want both slots, check out the $399 iPAQ
2215 or the Toshiba e755. When might
you want to have dual slots? If you're using a CF GPS and need storage
space on an SD card to store large maps, or if you're using a WiFi
CF card and are downloading large videos or MP3s from the Internet.
Design, Buttons and Ergonomics
While the ASUS isn't flashy, it has a simple, attractive
and ergonomic design. The front and back are silver with a band of dark
gray plastic that runs around the sides of the device. The corners are
rounded, and the bottom has a gentle curve which makes it very comfy
in the hand. It's a mid-sized Pocket PC, but one of the lightest on the
market at 4.9 ounces. It looks and feels solid and well-made.
The four program buttons are large and easy to press,
while the center 5-way directional pad moves smoothly in all directions,
making this a very gamer-friendly unit. The record button is located
on the top right edge and is too easily accidentally pressed when pulling
the unit out of the case. Fortunately, you can turn off button presses
waking up the unit. In fact, you can turn off some buttons and not others
if you like— a nice touch!
The mic is located just below the record button, and
the speaker is on the lower right front face. You'll notice dimples that
look like speaker grills on both the left and right sides, but the speaker
is located on the right only (all Pocket PCs have stereo headphone jacks
but mono speakers). The IR window is located on the left side of the
unit, a little above center, which may prove problematic with some IR
keyboards that are designed to work with IR ports located near the top
of the PDA.
Top photo, left to right are the iPAQ 5555, ASUS MyPal A620 and iPAQ 1945.
Below: top to bottom are the iPAQ 1945, A620 and iPAQ 5555.
Screen and Sound
The A620 has a Transflective display that measures
3.5" display like the Toshiba e355 and iPAQ
2215, rather than the 3.8" found on the iPAQ
5555 and Toshiba e755. Transflective
screens reflect ambient light to illuminate the screen (for outdoor viewability
and power savings) and have backlighting. The display isn't as bright
as the iPAQs or the Dell Axim X5, but it is quite nice and has good contrast
and color saturation.
The sound volume is not terribly loud, and I did hear
some speaker popping at times. MP3s sound excellent using stereo headphones
connected to the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The ASUS Settings control
panel applet allows you to set the volume, balance, treble and bass settings,
as well as mic sensitivity and AGC vs. manual gain.
The MyPal A620 has a 1300 mA Lithium Ion battery
which is quite large for a Pocket PC (the iPAQ 5555 has a 1250
mA battery and the Toshiba e755 has a 1000 mA battery).Unfortunately,
the MyPal doesn't have a user-replaceable battery, so you won't
be able to swap in a new one in if you're traveling for a day or
two without an opportunity to plug in. Putting the A620 into Power
Saving mode will significantly extend runtimes, but with a serious
performance hit. Unlike the iPAQ 5555 and Toshiba e755, the A620
has a 3.5" rather than 3.8" LCD and so consumes a bit
less power. Given the smaller display size and large battery, you
should be able to get 4 hours of average use per charge (less if
you're gaming, more if you're playing MP3s with the screen turned
The MyPal comes with a good software bundle and
includes full versions of IA Presenter, IA Album, IA Zip, two Jimmy
Software game titles (Zera and Boyan's Crystal), Dung Cleaner and
PocketSwap. There are also 60 free Pocket PC themes for your Today
Screen! In addition, there are several trial titles mostly from
Jimmy Software and IA Style. ASUS has included two backup programs.
ASUS Backup allows you to backup and restore all data or just your
PIM data (contacts, calendar, notes and tasks) to a CF card. SmartKeeper
is a backup application that can automatically backup your entire
PDA if battery power gets low. If the device is running when power
gets low, it will present you with a dialog warning you about the
low battery and offering to backup now. If the device is turned
off, it will simply backup your data unattended. You can also use
SmartKeeper to manually backup the device. SmartKeeper stores backups
on CF cards.
Pocket Windows Media Player 9 is included, as
are the usual suspects: Pocket versions of Outlook, Word, Excel
and Internet Explorer. Since this is a Premium Edition device,
MS Reader, Terminal Services and MS Pictures are included in ROM.
The A620 runs the Windows Mobile 2003 Premium Edition OS and comes
with ActiveSync 3.7 as well as MS Outlook 2002 for the PC.
We've run benchmarks using VOBenchmark 3.0 from Virtual
Office Systems. I've compared the iPAQ
2215 and the Toshiba e755,
all of which have PXA 255 400 MHz XScale processors and CF slots.
Note that our Toshiba runs Pocket PC 2002 and the 2003 version
of the Toshiba processor should benchmark higher. Running the
ASUS in "Automatic Mode yielded performance closer to "Power
Savings" mode. Higher numbers are
better (shown in bold).
ASUS A620 with "Advanced
Performance Enhancement" turned on.
Pro: Fast performance, a nice transflective display,
runs the new Pocket PC 2003 OS. Large capacity battery and a CF
slot in a reasonably small package. The CF slot will allow you
to use inexpensive CF memory cards, and the full range of networking
and CF GPS cards. Con: Battery isn't user-replaceable. Accessory
selection may not be as good as HP iPAQ offerings, no SD slot in
case you need to use added memory and a CF networking or GPS card
A620 US Price
from PROPortable: $339.
A620BT (adds built-in Bluetooth): $420.
3.5" TFT color LCD, 65,000 colors. Resolution:
240 x 320.
mAH Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user
MHz Intel XScale PXA 255 processor. 32 MB ROM, 64
MB built-in RAM (58.7 megs available to user).
Size: 4.9" x
3.0" x 0.52". Weight Approximately 4.9
PC 2003 operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office
suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer,
Reader, and Outlook. Also Voice Recorder, Windows
Media Player for Pocket PC, MS Reader, Pictures,
Terminal Services as well as handwriting recognition.
Two Backup apps, IA Presenter, IA Album, Today Screen
themes and several games included along with trial
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player
CF expansion slot that accepts type I and type II
cards. NO SD slot.