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Toshiba e350 & e355 Pocket PC

(discontinued)

Posted by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief, posted June 24, 2003

Toshiba along with HP, was first to the gate announcing PDAs using the new Pocket PC 2003 (also called Windows Mobile 2003) operating system on June 23rd, 2003. The e355 looks nearly identical to its predecessor the e330 but has a gunmetal finish rather than silver, sports a Pocket PC 2003 sticker on the front and has a transflective display. The e350 and e355 are the same device— the e355 simply adds ArcSoft PhotoBase software for image viewing and editing. Note that the Toshiba e405, introduced in Nov. 2003, replaces the e350.

Toshiba e355 back of Toshiba e355 Pocket PC

 

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", including Pocket PC Phone Edition PDAs with the new OS. What's the difference between Pocket PC 2002 and Pocket PC 2003 PDAs? You won't notice much difference at all. There are numerous bug fixes, improvements in page rendering times for Internet Explorer, a more friendly user interface for setting up network connections, networking changes under the hood, and support for 3rd party applications that are written for the XScale processor. The OS itself still has not been optimized for the newer and faster XScale processor, but now developers can offer enhanced versions of their applications that should run noticeably faster. This means that demanding applications like multimedia players and games will likely offer more features and run faster in the future.

There are two versions of Pocket PC 2003: Pro for the more basic Pocket PC models and Premium for higher end Pocket PCs. To the end user, the differences won't be terribly important except for the absense of MS Reader from the Pro version. Apps like Terminal Services, MS Reader and the new Pictures app are built into the OS stored in ROM in the Premium Edition, while you must install it from the CD into RAM on Pro Edition (or not get it at all). You can download MS Reader for PPC 2003 here.

Features and Horsepower

The Toshiba e355 (that's the model we have, so we'll use that model number) has a transflective display, an SD slot that supports SDIO (but doesn't work with SD WiFi cards), a 300 MHz PXA255 Intel XScale processor, 16 megs of ROM and 64 megs of RAM. The full amount of RAM is available to the user.

The e355 feels zippy in all operations, even playing games, and videos in Pocket Windows Media Player 9 and Pocket TV Enterprise. How fast is this unit? You can check out the benchmark numbers for yourself below.

 

 

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Design, Buttons and Ergonomics

If you're familiar with either of the older Toshiba e310 and e330 models, then the e355 won't hold any surprises since it uses the same casing and design. The finish is gunmetal, which makes the unit look slicker and more classy. The buttons are chromed, and the record button is at the top left, as on previous models. The circular directional pad rotates smoothly in a 360 degree circle and supports diagonals. It doesn't seem to support multiple button presses, however. When playing Hexacto Bounty Hunter Pinball, pressing two buttons simultaneously to activate both flippers, instead only activated the left flipper. While many Palm OS games make use of the PIM buttons to make up for the lack of a D-pad on many models, not as many Pocket PCs rely on them, so this may not be a deal breaker unless one of your favorite games relies on this feature.

The unit is quite slim and light. Though the diminutive iPAQ 1900 series is the smallest Pocket PC, the e355 should easily fit in your pocket, and is still one of the thinner and lighter Pocket PCs on the market. It is noticeably longer than the iPAQ 2200 series, but it is a bit thinner.

The SD slot, IR port, headphone jack and power button are located at the top of the unit, while the record and jog dial buttons are on the unit's left side.

Compatability

Despite the new OS version, most applications ran fine on our e355. It's interesting that when installing a variety of applications, I got a warning on the e355 that the software was written for Pocket PC 2002 and might not work. I did not get this message installing the same applications on the iPAQ 2215 Pocket PC 2003 model, so I imagine it's not an OS warning, but rather Toshiba has added this. What didn't run correctly? Pocket MVP, Thunderhawk, CNETX FlashFormat, and prior versions of MS Money. You can now download Money for Pocket PC 2003, but you'll need to buy or upgrade to MS Money 2004 if you want to sync Money on the Pocket PC to your PC. As for the other apps, I'm sure in the coming month we'll see new versions that do work well on Pocket PC 2003. Some demanding games didn't work properly, including Hexacto Bounty Hunter Pinball (can't press multiple buttons at once and sound drops in and out), Sorcery PDA, Geopod. Interstellar Flames runs fast and flawlessly with particle effects; Bust 'Em runs fine, as does Age of Empires.

The e350 and e355 works with existing e310 and e330 accessories such as cradles and chargers, though 3rd party keyboards may need a driver update.

Screen and Sound

Transflective displays are the best currently available on PDAs, and the e355 has one . It's a 3.5" display, which is the same size as most other budget and mid-range Pocket PCs, and it looks much better than the reflective screen used in the e330. The screen is brighter without looking milky, and colors are richer and more accurate. While not as bright as the iPAQ 2200 series or the Dell Axim X5, it is still a very usable and good quality display.

The speaker volume is adequate, and like other Toshiba Pocket PCs, not very loud . MP3s sound great when using stereo headphones connected to the standard 3.5mm audio jack. You can adjust the left and right headphone balance and set automatic gain control for the built-in mic.

Battery Life

The battery on the e355 is not user replaceable. It's a 1,000 mAh Lithium Ion battery that gave us decent, but not spectacular runtimes. For the average user who uses the PIM apps, Word, Excel, MP3s and occasional games, you'll probably get about 3 hours on a charge. I played games (intensive ones) for one hour straight, and had 50% charge left. When using the unit for standard business and PIM purposes, and MP3 playback for about 1 hour, I got 3 hours per charge.

Software Bundle

This is a budget Pocket PC and you don't get any bundled additional software other than Toshiba's Home application (a launcher) and Backup. Pocket Windows Media Player 9 is included, as are the usual suspects: Pocket versions of Outlook, Word, Excel and Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger and Pocket MSN. MS Money is no longer included and neither the version that ships with Money 2003 nor the version that came wtih Pocket PC 2002 PDAs will install. *Terminal Services, MS Reader and the new MS Pictures applications are not included. The Toshiba e355 runs Pocket PC 2003 Pro Edition and comes with MS Outlook 2002 for the PC and ActiveSync 3.7.

Changes to MS Built-in Applications

1. Pocket Internet Explorer now supports HTML 4.0, xHTML, JScript 5.5 and WAP 2.0. It does render pages better and more quickly, and better still, it requires less memory to run.
2. The Contacts app now supports vCAL and vCARD.
3. Media Player 9 is a great improvement: you'll definitely notice improved framerates and buffering.
4. File Explorer now can connect to network shares (shared folders on Windows machines).
5. You get a new game built into ROM, called Jawbreaker. It's the same as Bubblets.

Benchmarks

We've run benchmarks using VOBenchmark 3.0 from Virtual Office Systems. I've compared the Toshiba e355, iPAQ 2215 and the older Toshiba e335. Higher numbers are better (shown in bold).

Test Toshiba e355 (XScale, 300 MHz PXA 255) HP iPAQ 2215 (XScale, 400 MHz PXA 255) Toshiba e330/ e335
(XScale 300 MHz, PXA 250)
CPU Floating Point 9.49 12.68 9.49
CPU Integer 20.13 26.96 20.11
Graphics Bitmap BitBlt 7.54 (oddly low!) 78.25 56.41
Graphics Bitmap StretchBlt 94.50 (grow) 128.70 (shrink) 76.70 (grow) 28.60 (shrink) 0.30
Graphics Filled Elipse 1.53 4.68 2.14
Graphics Filled Rectangle 2.03 12.94 6.52
Graphics Filled Round Rect. 1.09 3.82 1.32
Memory Allocation 8.44 11.23 9.53
Memory Fill 1.04 1.97 0.95
Memory Move 0.85 1.24 0.36
Text 6.10(ClearType enabled) 5.20 (ClearType enabled) 3.88
(3.80 with ClearType)
SD Storage Cards 256 meg SanDisk card was used 256 meg SanDisk card was used 128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech were used
LRR/LRW 0.48/0.08 0.62/0.08 0.52/ 0.34
LSR/LSW 0.49/0.31 0.61/0.19 0.52/ 0.41
SRR/SRW 186.84 /0.18 238.18 /0.48 18.10/ 0.84
SSR/SSW 11.53/7.25 14.08/9.51 16.65/ 2.05

Conclusion

Pro: A nice update to the successful e335 and one of the first Pocket PC 2003 devices. The transflective display is a welcome improvement and will be a strong selling point with most users. The SD slot supports SDIO, which means you can use Toshiba's Bluetooth SD card with the e355, but not SD WiFi cards due to driver issues. The d-pad is very pleasant to use, and supports diagonal movements for you gamers. It's a fast performer and 64 megs of RAM is generous for a budget Pocket PC. Con: The feature set may not be competitive enough to fight off the upcoming iPAQ 1940. Battery isn't user replaceable. E-Book fans will be disappointed that MS Reader isn't included with this model, but you can download it from Microsoft's web site.

Suggested list price $299

 

Specs:

Display: transflective TFT color LCD, 65,536 colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5", Resolution: 240 x 320, .24mm dot pitch.

Battery 1000 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is NOT user replaceable.

Performance: Intel XScale PXA255 300 MHz processor. 16 MB Flash ROM, 64 MB built-in RAM available to the user.

Size: 4.9" x 3.1" x .4". Weight: 5.3 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder included.

Software: Pocket PC 2003 Pro operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC, Pocket Windows Media Player 9 and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. ActiveSync 3.7 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included. MS Reader is NOT included, but can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/reader/downloads/ppc.asp.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot, supporting SDIO (but not WiFi SD cards and doesn't have SDIO Now! support). 1-USB port (Client Host: optional cable required).

 

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