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Which Pocket PC 2002 Device is for you?
by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief, revised April 2003

There are quite a few Pocket PC 2002 PDAs on the market these days, so I'll break them down into 2 price categories: the under $400 and over $400 units. For detailed review of a unit, click on its hyperlink.

Under $400
Dell Axim X5 Basic and Advanced, iPAQ 1910 Toshiba e330 and ViewSonic V35.

The Dell Axim X5 models give you a lot of bang for the buck: they have both CF and SD expansion slots and they support SDIO. You'll also get a transflective display, currently the best LCD available for PDAs (its brighter, sharper and more color saturated). The X5 Basic model has a 300 MHz XScale processor which performs quite well, while the X5 Advanced has a 400 MHz XScale processor, which is as fast as the XScale can get. Other 400 MHz XScale Pocket PCs are in the above $400 category. The Basic model has 32 megs of RAM and the Advanced model has 64 megs, and both have user replaceable batteries. With so much being good about this unit, are there any drawbacks? It's larger and heavier than other current Pocket PC models and the range of accessories is limited compared to the high end iPAQs and Toshibas.

The HP iPAQ 1910 has been a hot seller since the day it hit the shelves. It has a beautiful industrial design, is by far the smallest and lightest of Pocket PCs, being close to the size and weight of a Palm m500 series PDA. Like most iPAQ models, it's well made, reliable and syncs consistently. The 1910 has a transflective display, and an SD slot that does not support SDIO (SDIO is necessary if you want to use anything other than memory cards). The 1910 has a 200 MHz XScale processor, which is the slowest of current Pocket PCs, but it performs quite well, despite that— even games run well. Some folks overclock their iPAQ 1910s to 300 MHz using the XScale overclocking utilities published by a few shareware developers. Note that this may reduce the very impressive battery life of the 1910. It has 46 megs of RAM, slightly more than the 32 megs most budget models offer. The battery is user replaceable. This model targets entry level buyers and folks who are tempted to switch from a Palm and desire a small, attractive PDA. Unlike higher end iPAQs, it is not expandable via iPAQ sleeves. It's a great unit if you don't intend to network your PDA or use a GPS (though in the future we may see GPS units that connect to the sync connector at the bottom of the 1910).

The Toshiba e330 was the first budget Pocket PC to hit the market and is the only one to not offer a transflective display. This display will look somewhat milky and less contrasty and colorful compared to transflective models. It has a 300 MHz XScale processor and 64 megs of RAM, which is nice as many budget Pocket PCs only give you 32 megs. It has an SD slot that supports SDIO and works with Toshiba's SD Bluetooth card. The e335 is the same unit, but includes ArcSoft PhotoBase software. The unit does not have a user replaceable battery, and battery life is a bit shorter compared to the competitors. This unit is fairly light and compact, and was quite popular when introduced in the Fall of 2002.

ViewSonic, a company known for quality monitors and LCDs, entered the Pocket PC arena with their V35 in 2002. It's a compact unit with a transflective display. It has a 300 MHz XScale processor and 36 megs of RAM. The V35 has an SD slot that supports SDIO and does not have a user replaceable battery. Battery life is good, and the unit is quite small and light. It's sold well thanks to its size, screen and price.

Conclusion

If you're a power user who doesn't want to spend $500 or more on a PDA, the Dell Axim is a strong contender unless size, weight and looks matter to you. If you want the features of the Axim X5 Advanced in a more attractive and compact package, you'll need to look at the iPAQ 3900 and 5400 series or the Toshiba e750. If you're new to PDAs or just want the smallest, lightest and most attractive Pocket PC available, the HP iPAQ 1910 is hard to beat.

Over $400
HP (branded as Compaq) iPAQ 3900 series, HP iPAQ 5450 and Toshiba e750

The venerable iPAQ line changed the Pocket PC roadmap back when the 3600 series came out in 2000. The 3900 series is the latest of the 3xxx iPAQs and is the most mature and stable of them all. The 3900 series models have the best of the transflective displays (not that any are poor!), 64 megs of RAM and some additional non-volatile Flash storage space (read the complete review for more info). It runs on a 400 MHz XScale processor and performs very well in standard apps, multimedia and gaming. While the battery is not user replaceable, it has excellent runtimes per charge compared to other Pocket PCs. The 3900 series models can use iPAQ sleeves, just as can all 3xxx series iPAQs. These allow you to add sleeves that let you use CF cards, PCMCIA cards, GPS, cameras and more. See our sleeves page for details on the various models. The 3900 series has an SD slot that supports SDIO, but you'll need to purchase a CF sleeve if you want to use CF cards. The 3970 and 3975 models have built-in Bluetooth and a bit more Flash storage area. The iPAQ 3xxx series has more accessories available than any other Pocket PC brand, and iPAQs have been the top Pocket PC sellers overall.

The HP iPAQ 5450 is the most recent iPAQ model and is the first to wear the HP logo since the merger with Compaq. It looks very similar to the 3900 series, and has the same transflective display, processor, memory and built-in Bluetooth as does the 3970/3975. Like the 3900 series, it can use iPAQ sleeves for expansion, and it can use most 3900 accessories. What does the 5450 add to the 3900 package? It includes a user replaceable battery, built-in WiFi 802.11b and a stub antenna for WiFi and a biometric finger print scanner for security. Given the new wireless and security features, and the added driver space they require, the 5450 has been less stable than the 3900 series models.

The Toshiba e750 is the replacement for the popular e740 model. It has a transflective display, which the e740 did not, 96 megs of total RAM available to the user (64 megs RAM and 32 megs of NAND Flash), a user replaceable battery and both an SD and CF slot. It also has built-in WiFi and is the first Pocket PC to use the new XScale PXA255 processor which replaces the PXA250 used in prior Pocket PCs. This stable unit offers a lot of great features for the price and is already selling well after a few weeks on the market.

Conclusion

The iPAQ 3900 series is hard to beat for its quality, maturity and stability. It's got great specs, an excellent display and very good battery life.If you're a power user looking for myriad expansion possibilities, it's hard to beat the iPAQ thanks to all the sleeves and accessories available. If you're hankering to use PCMCIA cards, then the iPAQ is the only way to go, since no other current Pocket PC can use PCMCIA cards. The 5450 is a bit more buggy than the 3900 series, and that's why I don't put it at the top of my list. If you want a user replaceable battery and built-in WiFi, then do check out the 5450 in our detailed reviews.

The Toshiba e750 is also an excellent choice! My job gets hard when there are several models competing for the top spot, but that's a great problem to have. It has top of the line features and has a CF slot which the iPAQ doesn't, unless you add the CF sleeve. It's reliable, and battery runtimes are decent, though not nearly as good as the iPAQ. However, you can swap another battery in if you need longer runtimes. The e750 doesn't have the wealth of accessories and expansion possibilities of the iPAQ, but there are enough goodies out there to make many users happy.

 

 

 

 

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