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ASUS MyPal A620 Pocket PC PDA

(Discontinued)

Posted Oct. 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.

Asus MyPalm A620
back of MyPalm A620

 

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 Mobile 2003".

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 ASUS recommends).

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.

 

 

Deals and Shopping

 

 

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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.

size comparison

Size comparisons:
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.

size comparison

 

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.

Battery Life

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 off).

Software Bundle

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.

Benchmarks

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).

Test ASUS A620 with "Advanced Performance Enhancement" turned on.
(turbo/power saving)
HP iPAQ 2215 (XScale, 400 MHz PXA 255) Toshiba e755 (XScale PXA255 processor, 400 MHz, PPC 2002)
CPU Floating Point 12. 69 / 6.32 12.68 12.69
CPU Integer 26.99 / 13.49 26.96 26.96
Graphics Bitmap BitBlt 23.12 / 9.26 78.25 141.94
Graphics Bitmap StretchBlt 19.00 / 9.70 (grow) 182.70 / 84.90(shrink) 76.70 (grow) 28.60 (shrink) 4.93
Graphics Filled Ellipse 4.23 / 2.16 4.68 3.70
Graphics Filled Rectangle 13.69 / 4.37 12.94 11.14
Graphics Filled Round Rect. 3.50 / 1.70 3.82 2.03
GAPI Lines 61.00 / 29.30 N/A at time test was run N/A at time test was run
Memory Allocation 11.28 / 5.62 11.23 13.24
Memory Fill 1.88 / 0.51 1.97 1.69
Memory Move 1.24 / 0.46 1.24 0.47
Text 9.70 / 4.70 (ClearType enabled) 5.20 (ClearType enabled) 6.04

Conclusion

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 simultaneously.

A620 US Price from PROPortable: $339. A620BT (adds built-in Bluetooth): $420.

 

Specs:

Display: transflective 3.5" TFT color LCD, 65,000 colors. Resolution: 240 x 320.

Battery 1300 mAH Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 400 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 oz.

Software: Pocket 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 software.

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

Expansion: 1 CF expansion slot that accepts type I and type II cards. NO SD slot.

 

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