Released in 2002 Discontinued and replaced by the Axim
X50 in October 2004
Suddenly the Pocket PC marketplace is all about
choice! This is great for consumers: we have several brands, price
ranges and feature-sets to choose from. Computer giant Dell has
jumped in with the reasonably priced Axim X5 line. These units
offer features that we used to see only in pricier PDAs. We'll
take a look at the Basic and Advanced models, which you can order
from Dell's web site. We received the Advanced model for review.
Also check out the Dell Axim X3 Pocket
PC introduced in the Fall of 2003. As of
June 23, 2003, these models are manufactured with the Windows Mobile
2003 OS rather than the Pocket PC 2002 OS.
Horsepower: Basic and Advanced Models
These two models look alike and are the same
except for the horsepower. The Basic model has a 300MHz XScale
processor, 32 megs of RAM and 32 megs of flash ROM (where the OS
is installed). This puts it in competition with the Toshiba
e330 and ViewSonic V35. The
Advanced has a 400MHz XScale processor, 64 megs of RAM and 48 megs
of ROM (same as the iPAQ 3900 series). This competes with the Toshiba
e750 and iPAQ 3900 series. Even
the 300MHz unit is speedy enough, but if you have the cash, you
may want to consider the Advanced model since it has double the
RAM and a larger flash ROM area which gives you more versatility
in accommodating future OS upgrades. The Advanced model comes with
a chrome cradle (that's right!) which has a second slot to charge
an additional battery. The Basic model comes with a sync cable
rather than a cradle. Note Dell disconitnued the Basic model in
December 2003, and only the 400 MHz Advanced model is available.
Transflective screens, currently the best you
can get on a PDA, have so far only appeared on high-end units such
as the iPAQ 3970, Sony
Clié NX70V and just recently on the budget-priced ViewSonic
V35. These screens are evenly lit, bright, color-saturated
and not milky or foggy looking as are some side-lit displays. The
Axim X5 models have a transflective display, despite their budget
prices: way to go Dell! The screen is very nice, but not as bright
at middle to 3/4 brightness settings compared to the iPAQ 3900
series, and the viewing angle is somewhat more limited compared
to the iPAQ and Sony Clié models with transflective displays.
The Axim X5 ships with a 1440 mAh battery, which is
quite a lot of juice for a PDA battery. Run times have been good. The
batteries are user-replaceable, which means you can swap in a new battery
when on the go, and you won't have to send it back to the factory when
the battery gets tired after 2 years of use. An optional 3400 mAh battery
will be available, which should at least double run times.
The X5 Advanced has an addition to the standard Pocket
PC power control panel applet. You'll see a tab labeled "Processor",
and it allows you to specify processor speed to improve battery run times.
The settings are Normal (400 MHz), Auto (the default setting, which determines
whether the unit needs to run at 400 MHz or can fall back to a slower
speed) and PowerSave which forces the unit to ran at 200 MHz at all times
(I don't recommend this setting for daily use, because the unit will
seem sluggish at times).
Don't expect a software bundle at this price. You'll
get the standard Pocket PC 2002 OS and applications: Microsoft Pocket
Office (Word, Excel and Pocket Outlook for Pocket PC), Microsoft Outlook
for your desktop, Pocket Internet Explorer, Terminal Services, MS Reader
and Microsoft MSN Messenger. You do get a full version of IA Presenter,
which allows you to run PowerPoint presentations on the X5, and a custom
Dell application launcher. There are several demo versions of popular
Pocket PC programs on the included CD, but you'll have to buy full versions
if you wish to continue using them. In terms of hardware, the Advanced
model comes with a USB cradle, while the Basic model comes with a USB
The Axim has a 4 way directional pad, a jog
dial and the usual 4 buttons that launch the main built-in applications.
It's also got a notification LED and the standard Pocket PC stereo
headphone jack. The screen requires a harder touch with the stylus
compared to other Pocket PCs, and the D-pad also requires more
pressure but you'll adjust.
The Axim has not been good for games that use
diagonal movements because the D-pad doesn't respond properly . Age
of Empires and Racing Days aren't
really playable because you'll run into problems where you won't
be able to control your movements and will have to quit out of
the game as a last resort. With Siberian
Strike you'll get diagonal movements about 1/2 the time, which
makes the game less fun. Games like Interstellar
Flames, that only use up, down, left and right movements do
work correctly. Update: Dell has issued
a patch which improves d-pad behavior and also adds support for
the action button (center press of d-pad). It has improved game
response! You can download this fix from Dell's web site and ftp
Size Weight and Appearance
OK, it ain't small, it isn't light and the design
is something only its mother could love. But hey, you're getting
a lot of features for the money, so if you can forego the ultimate
in portability and looks, this could be the PDA for you. To the
right, you can see the Toshiba e330,
one of the smallest and slimmest Pocket PCs in the middle, and
the X5 on the bottom. Clearly the X5 is much thicker, but when
viewed from the front, they're not as far apart in size.
Above, comparing the size of the Dell (bottom), Toshiba e330 (middle) and Sony
Clie SJ30 (top).
The Axim X5 models have both a CompactFlash type
II slot (accepts both type I and type II cards) and an SD card
slot. The CF slot allows you to use the IBM Microdrive, CF WiFi,
Ethernet and modem cards.
Performance Comparison and Benchmarks
I used VOBenchmark from Virtual
Office Systems to test the Axim X5 compared to other current
XScale Pocket PCs. I ran the test twice: with Auto power settings
and "Normal" power settings. Auto is the default setting,
and it sets the processor speed automatically depending on demand
put on the machine (it can run at 400MHz and fall back to 200
MHz when no processor intensive tasks are running). Normal sets
the machine to always run at 400MHz. Processor speed settings
did not affect SD storage card numbers. Note that our Dell has
the PXA250 processor and is running Pocket PC 2002. Higher
numbers are better (shown in bold). I also ran tests with
Pocket MVP (the new name for Pocket DivX), and the Dell performed
very well, even on the Auto processor power setting.
V35 (Pocket PC 2002, XScale
PXA250 300 MHz)
6.34 / 12.65
13.54 / 26.93
56.60 / same
7.54 (oddly low!)
76.70 (grow) 28.60 (shrink)
94.50 (grow) 128.70 (shrink)
1.41 / 2.00
6.60 / 10.79
0.90 / same
3.81 / 4.73
19.80, 5.20 with ClearType enabled
128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech were used
128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech
256 meg SanDisk card was used
256 meg SanDisk card was used
128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech were used
If you're on a budget but want higher-end features
(isn't that all of us?) then this is a great Pocket PC. The transflective
screen, two expansion slots and large capacity battery are awesome.
If only it were thinner, lighter and more attractive. . . but looks
aren't everything .
price Axim X5 Basic: $249
Suggested list price Axim X5 Advanced: $349
Excellent price for what you get. Transflective screens are gorgeous,
built-in CF type II and SD card slots make this a versatile and
expandable PDA. Con: it's large and heavy compared to other currently
available Pocket PCs. The looks aren't stunning.
TFT color LCD, 65,536 colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5",
Resolution: 240 x 320.
mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user-replaceable.
in speaker, mic and stereo headphone jack. Voice
Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player included.
PC 2002 operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office
suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer,
Reader, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN
Instant Messenger for Pocket PC and Voice Recorder
as well as handwriting recognition.
SD (Secure Digital) slot that does not support SDIO.
1 CompactFlash type II slot.