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Toshiba e405 Pocket PC

(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 unhappy.

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.

Toshiba e405 Pocket PC Toshiba e405 back

 

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.

size comparison

Above: Size comparison. Left to right: Toshiba e405, Dell Axim X3i, and iPAQ 4355

 

 

 

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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 of play.

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 ROM area.

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 yourself, however.

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 power).

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 volume individually.

The e405 performed well playing intensive games including NES emulators, Hexacto Bounty Hunter Pinball, SIMCity 2000 and Bust 'Em 2. Other than the application buttons, gamers should enjoy this unit.

Battery Life

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".

Software Bundle

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 to photos.

Benchmarks

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).

Test ViewSonic V36 (XScale 300 MHz)
Auto / Superior (fastest) CPU Setting
HP iPAQ 1945 (Samsung 266 MHz) Toshiba e405 (PPC 2003, XScale PXA261 300 MHz)
CPU Floating Point 12.65 / 12.68 9.33 9.51
CPU Integer 26.88 / 26.95 18.39 20.13
Graphics Bitmap BitBlt 57.81 / 65.54 28.06 15.51
Graphics Bitmap StretchBlt 7.80 (grow) 6.00 (shrink) / 12.60 (grow) 8.90 (shrink) 14.40 (grow) 11.50 (shrink) 14.30 (grow), 11.70 (shrink)
Graphics Filled Ellipse 1.84 / 2.56 2.67 3.16
Graphics Filled Rectangle 8.74 / 10.00 5.99 7.38
Graphics Filled Round Rect. 1.56 / 2.09 2.15 2.36
GAPI Lines 12.40 / 15.70 35.90 38.60
Memory Allocation 8.42 / 11.30 8.56 8.42
Memory Fill 1.06 / 1.98 1.34 1.01
Memory Move 0.92 / 1.25 0.77 0.86
Text 4.00 / 5.90 6.20 with ClearType enabled 6.90 with ClearType Enabled
SD Storage Cards 64 meg SanDisk card was used 64 meg SanDisk card was used 128 meg SanDisk card was used
LRR/LRW 0.82, 0.02 / 0.82, 0.02 1.40/0.30 0.56/0.28
LSR/LSW 0.81, 0.02 / 0.83, 0.02 1.39/0.32 0.55/0.34
SRR/SRW 66.88, 0.80 / 72.14, 0.80 419.26 /0.86 184.06 /0.86
SSR/SSW 18.28, 1.01 / 18.94, 1.01 37.69/2.05 14.17/1.91

Conclusion

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).

Suggested list price $299
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.

 

Specs:

Display: transflective TFT color LCD, 64K colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5", Resolution: 240 x 320.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable. 980mA.

Performance: Intel XScale PXA261 300 MHz processor. 64 megs RAM, 16MB CMOS Flash ROM (where the OS is installed), 32 megs NAND Flash memory (non-volatile).

Size: 4.9 x 3.00 x .40 in. Weight: 4.6 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 9 included for your MP3 pleasure.

Software: Pocket 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.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot, supporting SDIO and SDIO Now!. Works with SD WiFi cards.

Networking: None included.

 

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