(Discontinued) Review by Lisa
Gade, Editor in Chief, posted Nov. 29th, 2003
Note: the Windows Mobile 2003 Second
Edition for US owners is now available from Toshiba here.
Toshiba's latest Pocket PCs, the e405 and e805 are
excellent offerings ready in time for holiday shopping season.
Though they've been making Pocket PCs for a few years, their unrounded
silver rectangular units lacked style. And while the e755 was
a very solid unit offering a great deal of features for the price,
problems with its predecessor, the e740 left
some buyers wary. The e300 series had SDIO slots that were not
compatible with SD WiFi cards, leaving some network-hungry buyers
I'm happy to say that Toshiba is firing on all
cylinders with these new units. The e405 has style, a market differentiating
midnight metallic blue casing and an SDIO slot that supports SDIO
as well as BSquare's SDIO Now! standard, making for a
great partnership with both SanDisk's and Socket's SD
WiFi cards. The e405 also comes with Toshiba's own voice command
and text to speech applications, making it the only current Pocket
PC to have these features out of the box. The e405 is their entry
level model offering a good processor, ample RAM and an SD slot.
The e805 is the new high end model, offering more horsepower, CF
and SD slots, plenty of RAM and a VGA-capable display.
Design and Ergonomics
As mentioned, the e405 has a metal casing finished
in a metallic midnight blue color. The unit is extremely slim and
light at 4.6 ounces and .40" thick, though it's length and
width are mid-pack in the Pocket PC world. The sides have inset
hard plastic grips that are lightly textured, and the area above
the screen that wraps around the top of the unit is shiny black
plastic. The telescoping metal and plastic stylus lives in a silo
on the upper right corner of the PDA. The power button on the top
left edge is the smallest I've seen on a PDA.
There's one LED that can glow either amber or
green and indicates charging status and alarm notifications. The
slim record button is located on the upper left side just above
the jog/action dial (press it in to launch a highlighted application,
but have a steady hand). The IR port is located on the lower left
side (not ideal for IR keyboards) and a hold slider switch sits
above the IR button. It's great to have a hold button, a la Sony,
so that accidental button presses don't turn the unit on when in
pocket or purse. There are no buttons or controls on the right
side, and the headphone jack and SD slot are on the top edge.
Toshiba came up with a new d-pad
and application button design for the e405 and e805. The large, square
5-way center d-pad is surrounded tightly by the standard 4 application
buttons, making for a larger square. The d-pad moves easily in all
directions, and though the bottom two application buttons (Tasks and
Calendar) are made of one sheet of metal connected by a thin center
band, they operate independently and simultaneously when needed for
gaming. Oddly, the Home button doesn't do anything if you're simultaneously
pressing the d-pad, which means you won't want to assign the Home button
an important or oft-used function in games that also make heavy use
of the d-pad. There is a slight lag in response when using the d-pad,
but you'll only notice this when playing games that require close timing.
When I played Hexacto's Bounty
Hunter Pinball, the few milliseconds made a difference between
getting good action off of the flippers vs. having the ball roll out
Horsepower and Features
The e405 has an Intel XScale PXA261 processor running
at 300 MHz. This is a decently fast processor, especially for a budget
Pocket PC. It performed well in all tasks, including game playing and
video playback. If you're seriously into NES emulators, you may want
to consider a 400 MHz XScale Pocket PC, but for other games, this one
should be just fine. It has 64 megs of RAM, with 62 megs free, though
the operating system uses about 10 megs. In addition the e405 has 32
megs of non-volatile NAND flash ROM where you can store programs, data
and backups. Flash ROM won't be erased even if you hard reset your Pocket
PC. The operating system itself is stored in a separate 16 meg flash
The Toshiba runs Pocket PC 2003 Professional Edition,
which is the less full featured version of the OS (compared to PPC 2003
Premium Edition). This means MS Reader, Terminal Services and Microsoft's
new Images program are not pre-installed in ROM. You can install MS Reader
For expansion, you've got the oddly placed IR port
and an SD slot supporting SDIO. While e300 series Toshiba's had SD slots
that didn't play nicely with SD networking cards, the e405 which supports
SDIO and SDIO Now! works well with the SanDisk and Socket SD
WiFi cards. Good going, Toshiba!
Video playback was very good using Pocket MVP, and
only dropped about 5 frames per 2,500 played at an average 23.95 fps.
While not quite as good as the top performing HP iPAQ Pocket PCs, it
does make for a very pleasant movie watching experience.
Screen, Sound, and Gaming
The Toshiba's 3.5" transflective display is excellent:
it's quite bright, color saturated and sharp. It shows no discernable
color bias and is a pleasure to use when watching videos or viewing photos.
It has 10 gradations for brightness settings and an option to allow the
unit to automatically set the screen brightness in relation to remaining
battery power (this seems to keep the screen at 50% brightness on battery
The sound volume is OK, and it's a bit louder than
the famously quiet older Toshibas. I could hear alarms in reasonably
quiet environments and movies and MP3s were reasonably loud, though it
can't compare to the HP iPAQs for volume. Of course if you're listening
to MP3s, you'll want to use headphones that connect to the standard 3.5mm
stereo headphone jack rather than the speaker located to the right of
the d-pad. Like all Pocket PCs, the e405 has a voice recorder, and the
e405 includes an Audio control panel applet that allows you to adjust
the microphone EQ for "Short Range Recording", "Normal" and "Conference
Recording". You can also set the headphone volume independent of
the speaker volume and even set the right and left headphone channel
The e405 comes with a 980 mAh Lithium Ion battery that
is not user replaceable. While it's a shame the battery can't easily
be swapped out, the capacity is very good for a Pocket PC running at
300 MHz with a 3.5" screen, and runtimes have been quite good, beating
out its e300 series predecessors hand's down. We got around 3.5 to 4
hours on a charge with brightness set at 66% when not using an SD WiFi
card. WiFi is a power hog, and using the SanDisk SD WiFi card, we got
run times of about 2.75 hours, which is not bad.
Voice Command and Text to Speech
Now this is pretty neat, and not only that, it's
useful! The e405 and its big brother the e805 come with Toshiba's
Voice Command and Text to Speech applications. Simply install these
from the included CDROM and you're on your way to having meaningful
dialogs with your Pocket PC. The Text to Speech application requires
about 5 megs of space and the Voice Command takes under 1 meg.
When you install Voice Command, you'll likely assign it to the
record button. Press this button and the Toshiba beeps to let you
know it's listening and displays an icon on the taskbar. When it
recognizes a command it will play a pleasant sound and do whatever
you'd asked it. If it doesn't hear or understand you it plays a
drum beat sound. I didn't have great expectations for this application
given the weak voice command functionality in first generation
Windows XP Tablet PCs and Microsoft's own $40 Voice Command software
for Pocket PC; however the e405 proved 100% accurate! The Toshiba
had no problems recognizing a range of voices (it doesn't train
to your voice, which is probably a good thing), and even lightly
accented speakers had no trouble getting things done. There are
quite a long list of possible commands, including button emulation
(enter, move up/down/left/right and power off); program launching
(run Today, IE, Calendar, Contacts, Appointments, Inbox, Mail,
Media Player, Home, Backup, Text to Speech); Time and Date (today's
date, what is today, what is the date, what is today's date, read
the date, read today's date, date, what time is it, what is the
time, what is the current time, read the current time, current
time, time); Help (show commands, show help, help); Controlling
volume (volume up, volume down); and several Misc commands such
as Start Menu, OK, cancel, yes, no and escape. There are also commands
to insert text, run up to 10 programs of your choice and many commands
specific to the built-in Pocket PC applications. The large selection
of commands and common ways to issue them should suit most folks.
Other than the customizable program launching for 10 applications,
you can't add further commands.
Text to Speech is actually comprised of 3 applications:
Speech Settings, Text Speech and Mail Speech. As you can guess,
Mail Speech will read your email messages aloud, including sender's
name, subject and other info if you wish. Text Speech will read
text files (not Pocket Word) up to 32k in size. I do wish it could
handle even larger files and Word documents, but it does an excellent
job of reading text files, and it's not that much of a pain to
save files as .txt. Remember that you can use Pocket Word to save
existing Word or RTF files on your Pocket PC as text files so that
they can be read aloud. Speech Settings allows you to set the speed
at which text is read (setting it to higher rates will increase
pitch) and set the tone (or pitch) of the voice. There is a single
male voice, and these settings allow you to set how high or low
pitched his voice sounds. The range for speed and tone is -5 to
+5, and all are very usable. The voice is easy to understand and
does a good job of pronouncing words in various contexts. For example,
the word "lives" is pronounced differently and correctly
in the sentence "He lives here" and "The lives of
the rich and famous".
Since the Toshiba e405 is a budget Pocket PC,
it doesn't come with a significant 3rd party software bundle. However
it does come with a nice selection of Toshiba's own applications.
You get the Voice Command and Text to Speech apps, which are great
value-added applications. Toshiba also provides their Home application,
which is one of the more full-featured OEM launcher screens to
date. It gives you a quick launch pad for applications; shows and
allows you to close running applications; gives you a Today Screen
view of upcoming appointments, tasks and more; and shows you battery
status plus giving icons for quick access to common settings such
as brightness, sound volume and memory status. Toshiba's backup
program allows you to back up the PDA (either everything or just
PIM data) to either internal flash ROM or an SD storage card and
Toshiba also includes their World Clock application, which allows
you to track the time and date in your home city and two others.
With the exception of the voice command and speech applications,
all Toshiba apps are pre-installed in ROM. In addition, you'll
get the standard Windows Mobile 2003 (aka Pocket PC 2003) applications
pre-installed in ROM. These include Pocket versions of Internet
Explorer, Word, Excel, Outlook, MSN Messenger and Pocket MSN. The
e405, but not e400, comes with ArcSoft's PhotoBase software, which
allows you to view images, create photo albums and make minor edits
We've run benchmarks using VOBenchmark 3 from Virtual
Office Systems. I've compared the ViewSonic
V36, iPAQ 1945 to the Toshiba
e405. All tests were run with units fresh out of the box with
no other software added, and the storage cards were 60% full
with data and applications. Higher numbers
are better (shown in bold).
ViewSonic V36 (XScale
Auto / Superior (fastest) CPU Setting
This is a very nice offering from Toshiba for
the low-priced Pocket PC market. It's thin and light, stylish and
is expandable via SD cards.
Pro: Good performance, excellent display, lots
of memory for a budget PDA. Very stylish, light and thin. Voice
and speech applications work very well and are quite useful. Supports
SDIO cards for networking. Good capacity battery. Cons: Doesn't
have a user replaceable battery. Application buttons aren't a gamer's
dream. No built-in networking which makes it less competitive with
the Bluetooth-equipped iPAQ 1945 in the same price range (though
Bluetooth networking still isn't a high demand item in the US).
The e400 and e405 are the same unit. The e405
is more commonly found in retail markets and includes ArcSoft PhotoBase image
viewing software. A USB cable, charger, and software CD and manuals are included.
The charger is the same as that used on older Toshiba Pocket PC models.
TFT color LCD, 64K colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5",
Resolution: 240 x 320.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.
XScale PXA261 300 MHz processor. 64 megs RAM, 16MB
CMOS Flash ROM (where the OS is installed), 32 megs
NAND Flash memory (non-volatile).
x 3.00 x .40 in. Weight: 4.6 oz.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player
9 included for your MP3 pleasure.
PC 2003 Professional operating system (aka Windows
Mobile 2003). Microsoft Pocket Office suite including
Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Outlook.
Also, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC and Voice
Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. Toshiba
value added software: Voice Command, Text to Speech,
Backup and World Clock. ArcSoft's PhotoBase image
viewing software included with the e405. ActiveSync
3.7 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.
SD (Secure Digital) slot, supporting SDIO and SDIO Now!.
Works with SD WiFi cards.