Review posted by Lisa
Gade, Editor in Chief, Oct. 17th, 2003
When Samsung announced the NEXiO S160 in the
Spring of this year, I, like many hardcore PDA and gadget freaks,
was elated. Finally, a Windows CE platform device with superb resolution,
landscape orientation and an optional keyboard, all running one
of Microsoft's latest mobile device operating systems. But sadly
at the last minute Samsung decided not to market the NEXiO in the
US, and this all-English, FCC-approved device instead was released
for the Hong Kong market. Thankfully, the US importer Dynamism,
known for their selection of cool computers, handhelds and phones
not normally available in the US, decided to carry the NEXiO. The
only catch is the very steep price: $1,250 US, plus $60 for the
a vendor familiar to many PDA fans, also resells the Dynamism-imported
The NEXiO features a 5" transflective color
display, 800 x 480 resolution, an optional plug n' play keyboard,
5 way d-pad and a 400 MHz processor running on Windows CE .NET
4.1. It comes with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery, sync/charging
cradle, charger, USB cable, VGA cable, leather flip cover and a
small plastic slug that fits into the CF slot and can act as a
stand for the NEXiO. The keyboard is optional, but highly recommended.
NEXiO stands for "NEXt generation internet Office" according
to the well-written Samsung English manual.
The NEXiO S160 in hand, with keyboard.
NEXiO in the included cradle with keyboard,
included stereo headset + mic combo, and plastic slug that
acts as a portable stand.
What's Windows CE .NET?
If you followed the details on the latest Pocket
PC release, Windows Mobile 2003 (aka Pocket PC 2003), then you'll
know that Microsoft re-architected the underlying operating system.
Previous Pocket PCs and the now pretty much dead Handheld PC 2000
platform ran on the Windows CE 3.0 core. Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket
PCs and the NEXiO run on Windows CE .NET, and .NET is Microsoft's
big initiative these days. Windows Mobile 2003 is based on .NET
4.2, while the NEXiO runs .NET 4.1, a minor version difference.
While Pocket PCs run a user interface layer on top of .NET that
makes them better suited for their smaller screen size, quick PIM
access and handwriting recognition systems, the NEXiO runs full-blown
Windows CE .NET since it has a large screen and keyboard.
In fact, the NEXiO interface looks just like
Windows XP! While Pocket PCs have a resemblance to their big Windows
cousins, most folks looking at a NEXiO would swear it was a Windows
XP machine. You'll see the familiar Start Menu, desktop with trash
can, My Computer and My Documents folders, XP program icons and
even the XP Zero Configuration networking setup. It has Settings
(mostly the same items as XP), Programs, Documents, Run (yes, you
can run most but not all DOS commands on the NEXiO) and Network
and Dialup Connections items on the Start Menu.
The NEXiO can run programs that were made for
Windows CE .NET 4.x, and many (if not most) HPC applications, along
with a few Pocket PC apps. See the software section below for a
listing of popular and useful programs that work with the NEXiO.
Ergonomics and Design
The NEXiO looks like a highly miniaturized notebook
PC, and it's the first handheld I've found that could actually
be a notebook replacement. It's larger than other PDAs, but at
8.8 ounces is only 1 ounce heavier than the flagship iPAQ
5555. If you wear a jacket or cargo pants, it is pocketable.
You can use the unit in tablet mode like a regular
non-clamshell PDA, or you can snap on the optional keyboard and
use it like a laptop. The keyboard acts as a screen cover when
the unit is closed. If you do use the keyboard, you can prop up
the S160 using the plastic slug (insert) that stows in the CF slot.
It snaps into a hole on the back of the NEXio and holds it in notebook
computer position. The included USB cradle also does double-duty
as a stand for the NEXiO (see photo).
The NEXiO has a 5 way directional pad and three quick
launch buttons on the left side. The buttons are re-assignable, and turn
the backlight on/off (press and hold for several seconds to completely
turn off the display when listening to music and etc.), launch the NEXio
Launcher screen and voice recorder. The mic is located above the d-pad,
and the speaker sits below the quick launch buttons. The CF slot is located
on the right side and there are 3 LEDs just above the LCD which indicate
power, WiFi on/off and alerts/reminders.
Top view of NEXiO closed, with keyboard acting
as a screen cover in clamshell mode.
Bottom of NEXiO S160.
The cradle, with plastic block removed, revealing
extended battery charger. The two holes in the rear are stylus
wells. The charger and sync cable plug in the rear.
The power button is on the left side, and just below
it there's a hold switch (to prevent accidentally turning the unit on
in transit), the headphone jack and charger port. The reset button is
located on the bottom, and while I haven't needed it more than once in
the past two weeks, it does reboot very quickly.
You can charge, sync and output to VGA using the cradle
or by plugging the cables directly into the NEXiO.
Horsepower and Features
The Samsung NEXiO S160 has an Intel XScale PXA250 processor
running at 400 MHz. The same processor has been used on several top-of-the-line
Pocket PCs. While the PXA255 is the most recent version of that processor,
sporting a faster memory bus, the NEXiO absolutely screams on its PXA250.
The unit feels much faster than high-end Pocket PCs, and that probably
is because it doesn't have to run legacy code to support older Pocket
PC apps and doesn't have the additional Windows Mobile layer running
on top of .NET.
The NEXiO has 128 megs of RAM, with 87 megs available
to the user. Like all Pocket PCs, that memory is divided between the
OS (like RAM in your PC) and storage space (like your PC's hard drive).
The NEXiO runs the same applet as Pocket PCs which allows you to adjust
the balance between these two using a slider, and generally allocating
30 to 35 megs to the OS (called Program Memory by the Pocket PC) is plenty.
The NEXiO has 64 megs of NAND Flash ROM, of which 32
megs are available to the user. Since this is a Flash ROM storage area,
anything stored there will survive a hard reset (erasure), making it
ideal for backups or storing important apps and data.
The NEXiO has one type II CF slot supporting type I
and type II CF cards. It does not have an SD slot.
Screen and Audio
The NEXiO has a razor-sharp 5" color transflective
LCD capable of displaying 64,000 colors. Transflective displays are the
best commonly available display technology for PDAs and it's a rare find
to get one on a large-screen device. The NEC
MobilePro 900 Handheld PC in comparison, still uses old display technology
that can't compare for sharpness, brightness and color saturation with
transflective displays. The resolution is a fixed 800 x 480 and the display
doesn't rotate to portrait orientation. How do they squeeze all those
pixels into a 5" display? Desktop CRT monitors run at 72dpi (dots
per inch), while the NEXiO runs at 190 dpi. The unit comes with a VGA
cable that allows you to output to a monitor and give PowerPoint presentations
at 800 x 600 resolution.
What's it like to use the display? While it's not as
bright and color saturated as the iPAQ 5555 which has the best transflective
display on the market, it is very sharp, has good color saturation and
is bright enough for any environment. My eyes aren't the best, and I
don't suffer eyestrain using the NEXiO for an hour or two at a time.
My eyes did tire using the Sharp Zaurus
C760, which also has a lovely display, and I think the 5" LCD
The sound volume is quite loud, and speaker is front-firing,
located on the lower left of the unit. The built-in mic, located at the
top left corner of the unit is a 3 hole design and is of surprisingly
good quality. Recorded voice notes sound loud and clear, and audio quality
for voice conversations using the included MS Messenger application are
excellent. The NEXiO has a 2.5'' combo stereo headset and mic jack (3
ring), and a stereo ear bud headset with integrated mic similar to a
stereo version of a mobile phone headset is included (see image above).
Fortunately, the ear buds are good quality and MP3s sounded great. I
tried using the Radio Shack stereo 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter (Radio Shack
part # 274-373) with my favorite set of headphones. That will work if
you don't insert the adapter all the way into the NEXiO (due to the order
of the 3 rings used in the NEXiO's jack). There are other companies that
do make adapters that will allow you to use standard 3.5mm headsets with
3 ring jacks.
WiFi and Networking
The NEXiO S160 has built-in WiFi 802.11b wireless
networking which offers good range and compatibility. I took it
with me to the Microsoft Mobius 2003 event and it worked with airport,
hotel and open WiFi on the Microsoft campus. You can turn the wireless
on and off using an icon in the system tray, which also displays
connection status and signal strength. The NEXiO, like other recent
.NET devices, uses the same Zero Configuration networking as Windows
XP. If you've used XP to setup network connections, you'll be at
home here. It supports 64 and 128 bit encryption, ad hoc and infrastructure
connections, IEEE 802.1X authentication and access point discovery.
If you have an NE2000 compatible wired Ethernet
card like the Socket Communications LPE card, then your NEXiO will
be able to join wired networks (no drivers necessary). Simply insert
the card, and go to Network and Dialup Connections on the Start
Menu to setup your connection. Again, this looks and acts just
like Windows XP.
While Bluetooth didn't make it into Windows XP,
it did make it into CE .NET 4.1which came out after XP. There's
a Bluetooth control panel icon and system driver that works with
MS certified Bluetooth CF cards (so far this means only the AnyCom
card). Using the AnyCom card, you can connect to a Bluetooth
enabled mobile phone for Internet access, print to a Bluetooth
enabled printer (printer support is built into CE .NET) and so
The NEXiO comes with a non-user replaceable 1500
mA Lithium Ion battery. That's a decent capacity battery, and the
NEXiO needs it to run that big screen and WiFi. An optional extended
2000 MAh battery is available and looks like a slim slab that clips
onto the bottom of the NEXiO. Battery life depends on your wireless
usage and screen brightness setting. I consistently get about 3
hours per charge with the screen on the middle to one notch below
highest setting with one or two hours of surfing time. The NEXiO
has a power saving mode and I'm not sure what this does since the
unit still runs fast in power saving mode, the screen isn't dimmed
and the runtimes aren't much different. If you need to run continuously
all day on a single charge, do consider the extended battery which
can be charged in the cradle (see photo above). If you use the
NEXiO intermittently through the day, the main battery should be
adequate. The power adapter is an yo-yo device that looks something
like the Apple Powerbook and iBook charger but smaller. You can
plug the adapter into the included syncing cradle, or plug in directly
into the NEXiO.
Optional Keyboard and Handwriting Recognition
Though the keyboard is an optional accessory,
most users do purchase it and it really is a must with this unit.
It's a full QWERTY keyboard with a dedicated number row, Ctrl,
Alt, Start and an Fn key for entering punctuation. The keyboard
is quite large compared to integrated keyboards on units like the Sony
Clié UX50 and Sharp
Zaurus C760, and the keys are reasonably large hard plastic
ones with good spacing. Key travel is minimal, but it took little
time to adjust and I was typing at 40 WPM in the first day of use.
It has quick launch buttons for Calendar, Contacts, and Messenger,
and acts as a screen cover for the NEXiO when closed (similar to
a notebook PC). The keyboard is plug n' play, which means you can
snap it on and off whenever you wish without turning off or rebooting
If you don't care to purchase or use the accessory
keyboard, you can use the NEXiO's handwriting recognition and on-screen
keyboard. If you've used Pocket PCs, you'll find the character
recognizer familiar. It allows you to write characters using natural
print handwriting, and adds quick entry items for common punctuation
and international characters. The character recognizer and keyboard
are resizeable (small and large), and applications can dynamically
bring up the on-screen keyboard. There's also an on-screen keyboard
and an "Internet" keyboard with common items such as "http://", ".com",
.net and etc., along with quick launches for 14 popular sites such
as CNN, ESPN, Google, Handango, Wall Street Journal and more.
The NEXiO S160 comes with Microsoft Office viewers
for Word, Excel, Outlook for email only, PowerPoint and PDFs. Windows
CE .NET 4.x doesn't come with the full suite of Pocket Office apps,
but rather viewers. However, Pocket Word is included, along with
PTab Spreadsheet by Z4Soft and
Samsung's Presentation Viewer for PowerPoint Presentations. You
can output PowerPoint presentations to a monitor or projector using
the included cable at 800 x 600 resolution. Spreadsheet is very
functional, supporting formulas, formatting, workbooks and sheets.
Since CE .NET's Outlook supports email only, Samsung has provided
their own Calendar, To Do (Tasks) and Notes applications which
seamlessly sync to Outlook on the desktop. As a result, the Samsung
ships with ActiveSync and an additional desktop application that
integrates into ActiveSync and handles Calendar, To Do and Notes
syncing. The Notes app supports ink notes as well as text notes,
and the Calendar application offers day, week, month and year views
with To Do's integrated in a side pane for all but month views.
The month view shows which days have appointments with color coding,
and tapping on an appointment icon will show the calendar item
below the main calendar pane. The NEXiO supports audible and LED
alerts for calendar items. Samsung also provides a Today application
which mimics the "Outlook Today" view on desktop Outlook.
ActiveSync 3.6 for the desktop is included but you can use a newer
version if you wish. While Pocket PCs come with Outlook 2000 or
2002 for the desktop, the Nexio doesn't, so you'll need your own
copy of Outlook 2000 or 2002 (many PC users already have Outlook
In addition, you get MS Messenger (it looks just
like the desktop counterpart and even supports voice chats), MS
Media Player, Samsung's MP3 player, Freecell, Solitaire and Casino.
A full-screen version of Zio's popular ZioGolf 2 is bundled with
the NEXiO. The S160 comes with a version of Internet Explorer that's
equivalent to desktop Internet Explorer 5.5. It supports all common
cookies and caching. It's remarkably capable and I haven't found
a site yet that doesn't display correctly, and online banking sites
work as well.
3rd Party Software and CF Card Compatibility
As stated, the NEXio can run Windows CE .NET
applications, many HPC (handheld PC) apps and some Pocket PC apps.
For those programs that need a few old Windows CE 3.0 and Pocket
PC .DLLs, you can download the "fake DLLs" from http://simpad.silentservices.de.
You can also run some Pocket PC applications (but not many) and
you can run Windows Mobile 2003 programs that use the .NET Compact
Framework. The .NET Compact Framework is available from the Yahoo
NEXiO discussion group at groups.yahoo.com/group/NEXiOs/.
What apps install and run? Here's a list of apps I'm using: Adobe
Acrobat Reader for Pocket PC, Ruksun's Scotty
Software's CrunchIt zip program and GetIt FTP program for .NET,
PHM Registry Editor (freeware), Pocket MVP music and video player
(WinCESoft has a Nexio version at wincesoft.de),
Total Commander (free full-featured file manager), WinamPAQ MP3
and OGG player, Conduits Pocket
Artist, and CECam.
Speaking of WinCESoft's CECam,
with this software for the Pretec and FlyCam
1.3 megapixel CF digital cameras you can take digital pictures
using the NEXiO! It's a very full-featured picture taking application
that takes sharp photos. It allows you to select from several image
resolutions, use indoor, outdoor and night settings, rotate the
image for capture, control the flash, set JPEG compression levels,
adjust the banding filter and more. Granted this is the only available
app to drive these digicams, but even so, it'd probably be your
first choice if you had a choice .
The NEXiO and Pocket PC versions of CECam actually take better
pictures and offer more options than the software included with
these digital camera CF cards. You can read our review of the FlyCam here.
Software (NSC) is one of the few developers actively supporting
.NET for retail customers right now, so if you need a full featured
zip program that supports passwording archives and zip, jar,
gzip and tar file formats, or an FTP program with file manager
features, go support them and get these great apps!
CE .NET 4.x has support for NE2000 compatible
wired Ethernet cards, certified Bluetooth cards (right now that
means AnyCom's BT CF card), 56k CF dialup wired modems, and even
some GPS CF cards built-in. You don't need drivers to use these
cards. However, I've yet to find a GPS mapping solution for HPCs
or .NET 4.x, even though the card itself is recognized and models
like the Ambicom GPS do come with a diagnostic app for .NET 4.x
but no mapping software. While I no longer have the Sprint
PCS 2031CF wireless CDMA 2000 card, other users have reported
success getting this card to work.
What can I say— this thing is like heroin:
once you use one, you won't want to stop! This unit is perfection
for power PDA users and those looking for the 9 ounce version of
a laptop! The only problem? The very steep price.
Pro: Excellent transflective 5" 800 x 480 display in landscape orientation.
The built-in WiFi is a winner, getting a strong signal and being easy to setup.
Fast performance beating out Pocket PCs, and plenty of memory. CF slot allows
you to add more memory or networking cards. The keyboard works well, is hot
swappable and acts as a screen protector. Reliable and fast syncing. You don't
have to haul the cradle with you when travelling since you can also plug the
cables directly into the NEXiO. If you've used Windows, you'll have virtually
no learning curve with this device. Can play MP3s and movies. Desktop-like
experience surfing the web. Office and PIM apps are very capable and will do
the job well for most folks. No moving parts and instant-on (no waiting for
it to boot up). Cons: Price! The keyboard should be included. Not as great
a selection of 3rd party software available for Windows CE .NET 4.x.
Dynamism price $1250,
$59 additional for keyboard. Sells for about US
$950 in Hong Kong excluding customs, duty and shipping if
you can find someone reputable who'll ship and support it!
TFT color LCD, 64,000 colors, Screen Size Diag: 5",
Resolution: 800 x 480.
Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.
1500mA. 2000 mA extended battery available for purchase.
XScale PXA 250 400 MHz processor. 64 MB NAND Flash
ROM with 32 megs available for your use, 128 MB built-in
SDRAM (87 megs available).
Size: 6.06" x
3.58" x .52" (154 x 91 x 13mm). Weight:
8.82 ounces (250g). Keyboard ads 2.3 ounces and a
negligible amount of added thickness.
in speaker, mic and combined 2.5mm stereo + mono
mic headphone jack. Voice Recorder, Samsung MP3
player and Windows Pocket Media Player included
for your MP3 pleasure.
CE .NET 4.1 operating system. Microsoft Office Viewers:
Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Image Viewer. Pocket
Office suite including Pocket Word, PTab Spreadsheet
by Z4Soft, Samsung Presentation Viewer, Microsoft
PDF Viewer 2.1, Internet Explorer 5.5, and Pocket
Outlook. Samsung's Tasks, Calendar and Notes app
(supporting ink and typed notes) included. Also,
Terminal Services, MS Messenger, Windows Media Player,
Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition.
3rd party software: Flash Player 5, Jeode Java runtime.
ActiveSync 3.6 for PCs included.
CompactFlash type II slot supporting type I and type
slot, USB docking port, PC sync,VGA-out, Power charging,
keyboard connector, extended battery connector on