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Toshiba e805 Pocket PC 2003 with VGA Display

(Discontinued, the e830 replaces it in Europe, Canada and Asia)

—Review by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief, posted Dec. 9th, 2003

Note: the Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition for US owners is now available from Toshiba here.

Toshiba's had an epiphany this fall, and the budget-minded e405 and high end e805 models are the proof. Once know for bland styling and missing out on the SDIO bandwagon; both these new models overcome that with their sleek new styling and SDIO Now! support.

The Toshiba e805 is simply an awesome device, thanks in part to a kind developer who released a free application which allows all apps to run in VGA mode. The e805 is the most innovative Pocket PC since the iPAQ 3600, thanks primarily to its superb 4" VGA display, and secondly its very functional voice command and text to speech software. The e805 can run in standard Pocket PC QVGA (quarter VGA) resolution at 240 x 320 pixels or in VGA mode at 480 x 640 pixels. The catch is that as shipped, only the Westtek ClearVue Suite runs in VGA mode. 3rd party apps designed to work in VGA such as the NetFront 3.1 web browser will also work. As mentioned, an add-in application from a developer will allow all apps to run in VGA, and that's when this unit really shines.

To top it off, the e805 has integrated WiFi (US models, overseas folks get Bluetooth or WiFi), 160 megs total memory, SD and CF expansion slots, a fast ATI graphics controller with 2 megs of video RAM and a very stylish design. While not perfect (what PDA is perfect?), this is a fine unit for power users. What's the difference between the e800 and e805? The e805 includes ArcSoft PhotoBase image viewing software, while the e800 does not .

Toshiba e805 Pocket PC

On screen, a VGA today theme from PocketPCParidise.com

Toshiba e805 back

 

Design and Ergonomics

The e805 is finished in a midnight blue color, with a shiny black plastic inset above the display and brushed aluminum side grips. The case has stylish curves and feels good in hand. Build quality is good, with no creaks or misaligned parts. The telescoping metal and plastic stylus lives in a silo on the upper right corner of the PDA, and is not the Toshiba's strongest point: it's small and doesn't always stay extended. It has a fairly narrow tip, and that's because you need a smaller tip to improve accuracy when the unit is in VGA mode (other units with high pixel density displays such as the Sony Clié UX50 and Samung NEXiO S160 also come with small-tipped styli). As with the Toshiba e405, the power button on the top left edge is the smallest I've seen on a PDA. This is a large Pocket PC, and that's the price you'll pay for the 4" display (the largest available on a Pocket PC) and good sized user-replaceable battery.

There are two LEDs. One is located to the left of the d-pad and that can glow either amber or green and indicates charging status and alarm notifications. The small LED at the top glows amber when WiFi is turned on. The recessed 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 below the jog dial. 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. The soft reset hole is located on the right side, and the headphone jack and SD slot are on the top edge. The WiFi switch is located on the bottom (you can also use software to turn WiFi on/off), and thankfully Toshiba has put a rubber cover over the hard reset switch so users will no longer accidentally erase their PDA when intending to slide the WiFi switch as with the Toshiba e750.

size comparison

Above: Size comparison. Left to right: Toshiba e805, iPAQ 4355 and the Dell Axim X3i

 

 

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Toshiba came up with a new d-pad and application button design for the e405 and e805. The large, square-ish 5-way center d-pad is surrounded tightly by the standard 4 application buttons, making for a larger rectangle. 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. There's an option to change the d-pad from 4-way mode (not counting the center press which brings it up to 5-way) to 8 way mode, thus supporting diagonal movement.

The e805 comes with a USB sync cradle that has a weighted round base and a clear back support for the PDA. You can swap the plastic back support between two different slots on the cradle, depending on whether you're placing the e805 in there with the standard or extended battery attached to the PDA. The bottom edge of the base has a clear plastic ring that lights electric blue when the Toshiba is in the cradle— pretty cool! Though it's a high end Pocket PC, the e805 doesn't come with a case or a spare stylus.

Since the e805's VGA display makes it the perfect companion for writing on the road, you'll be happy to know that the new ThinkOutside Stowaway Wireless IR keyboard works perfectly with the Toshiba.

Horsepower and Features

The e805 has an Intel XScale PXA263 processor running at 400 MHz, and 400 MHz is the top speed for current Pocket PCs. It performed well in all tasks, including game playing and video playback. In QVGA mode, it performed exceptionally well for video playback, and was quite good in VGA mode. If you so desire, you can leave the processor speed at 400 MHz, or use the power control panel applet to set the speed down to 200 or 100 MHz to extend battery life.

It has 128 megs of RAM, and 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 32 meg flash ROM area.

The Toshiba runs Pocket PC 2003 Premium Edition, which is the full featured version of the OS (compared to PPC 2003 Professional Edition). This means MS Reader, Terminal Services and Microsoft's new Images program are pre-installed in ROM.

For expansion, you've got the IR port, an SD slot supporting SDIO and a CF slot that works with type I and II cards. That's quite a range of expansion possibilities, and the CF slot allows you to use commonly available networking, modem and GPS cards as well as MicroDrives. While older Toshiba's had SD slots that didn't play nicely with SD networking cards, the e805 which supports SDIO and SDIO Now! and is compatible with SD networking cards.

The e805 has USB host capability, which means you can plug in USB peripherals such as mice, keyboards and some mass storage devices. To do this, you'll need to purchase Toshiba's $20 adapater cable which plugs into the sync port on the bottom of the PDA; or get Toshiba's Presentation Pack which clips onto the bottom of the PDA and provides both USB and VGA ports.

Screen, Sound, and Gaming

The Toshiba's 4" transflective display is its biggest selling point. Ironically, this is the best PDA for both those with poor and excellent eyesight. Because it has the largest Pocket PC screen on the market, everything is large and easy to read in standard QVGA resolution, making it a great choice for those with old or tired eyes. If you have good eyesight, you'll fall in love with VGA mode, which shows you 4 times as much as you'd see on a QVGA display. The display is exceptionally sharp with a high dot pitch to support 480 x 640 resolution in a 4" diagonal area. it's also very bright, color saturated and sharp. It shows no discernable color bias and is a pleasure to use when viewing photos. It has 10 brightness gradations 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 most of the time). I like bright displays and rarely run my PDAs a low illumination settings, and I never felt a need to run the Toshiba above 2/3rds brightness. I purchased my unit from a local retailer (it wasn't an intentionally perfect review unit) and it had no bad pixels.

Because the e805 uses an ATI graphics accelerator chip with a whopping 2 megs of video RAM (most other Pocket PCs have 384k), the unit far exceeds other Pocket PCs in graphics benchmarks when running in QVGA mode. Even running in VGA mode using the freeware resolution fix application, the e805 benchmarked about as well as the Dell Axim X3i in most graphics tests. As you can guess, this is great PDA for watching videos.

So how exactly does VGA mode work on the e805? Out of the box, the Toshiba comes with a resolution switching application that allows you to switch back and forth between QVGA and VGA modes and requires a soft reset (reboot). When the unit is in VGA mode, it runs Toshiba's launcher that only has icons for the Westtek ClearVue Suite. These are MS Office viewer apps and an image viewer. The hardware buttons will not launch any other apps, and the Start Menu is disabled. Suddenly a remarkable PDA that's so ahead of its time has become less remarkable. Toshiba likely locked other apps out of VGA mode to avoid support calls from folks who weren't happy with the way apps that weren't made specifically for VGA worked. 3rd party developers can develop VGA apps if they wish, as Access Systems did with their must-have version of NetFront 3.1 made for the Toshiba e805.

So why am I glowing about VGA mode? Because a kind and talented soul who goes by the screen name "deez" has developed a small, free application that unlocks the e805 and allows it to run completely in VGA. That application is available here: http://home.comcast.net/~swdeveloper/ResFix1.zip . It requires the free eVB (Visual Basic runtime) for Windows Mobile 2003 available from Microsoft. Deez continues to improve on his application, and another developer is working on an additional solution as well. Deez's application can switch between QVGA and VGA modes (also requiring a soft reset), and unlocks the buttons so you can use them to launch the applications of your desire. Do not use Toshiba's resolution switcher after you've installed Deez's application, or it will disable Deez's app and the hardware buttons, necessitating a hard reset. For now, the one drawback is that the upper left corner of the screen is still disabled, so you'll need to press the Home button to open and use the Start Menu, or use another program such as WisBar Advance that allows you to tap on the menu bar to bring up the Start Menu. In addition, another talented and kind-hearted developer has released a free fix that replaces a display DLL and removes the "dead zone" area on the Start Menu so you can access it with the stylus. The "UnDead Hack" is available at http://aibohack.com/pda/undead.htm. Deez released version 2 of ResFix at the end of Dec. 2003, which costs $10, and adds support for landscape in QVGA and VGA modes (version 1 is still free, and doesn't offer landscape mode). Another app called MyVGA is free and offers a host of features such a VGA mode, landscape support and more. You can downoad it from www.pocketpctools.com. So if you're a power user and don't mind these sacrifices/accomodations, then this may be the model for you. Even if you're not a power user willing to use these workarounds, but are an avid digital photographer who wants to use a PDA to preview camera images on CF or SD cards, this could be the PDA for you. Previewing digicam images using the e805 and Westtek's VGA-native image viewer is a wonderful experience.

How do apps run in VGA? Most all of the built-in apps run full screen (Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Inbox and IE). Windows Mobile 2004, due in the Summer or Fall of 2004 is slated to support VGA as well as landscape mode, and it's obvious that Microsoft has been building early support into the Windows Mobile 2003 OS, given how well these apps scale. Warfare Inc., which seems to support every available resolution (it even runs full screen on large screen HPCs) runs in full screen, and you can even rotate the game to landscape if you like. Many other 3rd party apps, such as Pocket TV, Pocket WiNC, MorphGear (depending on the game ROM) and Resco's apps run full screen. If an app doesn't run full screen, it will use only the upper left quarter of the display and still run correctly (it will literally only use a quarter VGA area). Games not designed for VGA should best be run in QVGA mode. These are the only apps I've found that may crash in VGA mode, not to mention it's no fun playing on 1/4 of the screen. I can't wait until developers release VGA versions of their games, though this may not happen on a large scale until the release of Windows Mobile 2004.

The sound volume is OK, and Toshiba still hasn't decided to improve much on their famously quiet and tinny speaker. I could hear alarms, movies and MP3s in quiet environments, but not in noisy environments. What a shame since we'd all like to hear that nifty text to speech in a variety of environments. Of course if you're listening to MP3s, you'll want to use headphones that connect to the standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack. With a decent set of headphones, music will sound great. Like all Pocket PCs, the e805 has a voice recorder, and Toshiba has included their own recording app which is more full-featured than the standard one built into the Notes application. Sound recording quality is better than other Pocket PCs, and I assume that Toshiba used a better mic to ensure that voice command works well. The e805 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 e805 performed well playing intensive games including NES emulators. Other than the slight button lag which can mess up your timing in some games, gamers should enjoy this unit.

Battery Life

The e805 comes with a 1320 mAh Lithium Ion battery that is user replaceable (you can swap a fresh battery in, as you can with a mobile phone). That's a decent sized battery and the e805 needs it to drive the large display and WiFi. If you need more power, Toshiba sells an optional 2640 mA extended battery, and like all extended Pocket PC batteries, it will increase the thickness of the PDA. How have battery run times been with the standard battery? I was pleased with my unit, which outran my power hungry HP iPAQ 5555. I had the unit set to 2/3 brightness, speaker volume set to max with WiFi set to auto power saving mode. In a mix of PIM usage, eBook reading, light work in Pocket Word and Pocket Excel, video watching and gaming with WiFi off, I've been getting 4 hours. Gaming and watching movies will decrease your run times, while eBook reading and PIM usage has much less impact on run times. With WiFi on, I was able to get an average of 2.75 hours when surfing the Net.

Voice Command and Text to Speech

Now this is pretty neat, and not only that, it's useful! The e805 and its little brother the e405 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 e805 proved nearly 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.

 

Below are images of the Toshiba e805 with the extended battery. It increases the thickness of the unit, but the battery has rounded corners that make it feel comfortable to hold. The battery has a matte black plastic finish.

Toshiba e805 extended battery

 

Toshiba e800 extended battery

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".

WiFi

If you've used the older Toshiba e750, you'll be at home with Toshiba's suite of wireless networking software applications. While some WiFi cards and Pocket PCs with integrated WiFi rely solely on Windows Mobile 2003's Connection Manager to setup and monitor WiFi connections, Toshiba provides several additional tools. Under Settings you'll find the Wireless LAN Manager, which provides you with link information (current SSID, channel, Tx Rate, IP address, subnet mask and gateway address); allows you to set power savings (auto, enable,disable), set whether the radio will turn off after a specified period of inactivity; allows you to turn on Toshiba's wireless indicator which lives on the menu bar, and manually set the channel, Tx Rate, preamble (long, short or auto) and more. There's also an icon labeled Wireless Networks, which takes you to the available WiFi networks listing in the Windows Mobile Connection Manager. Toshiba's ConfigFree tools are located in the Programs group, and are comprised of the following applications: Profile Settings, which allows you to save several profiles (i.e.: home, work and Starbucks); Search for Wireless LAN, an access point/hot spot locator that displays access points in range in a concentric circle (there's a PDA icon in the center, and the closer an access is to the center, the stronger its signal); Connectivity Doctor, which helps you troubleshoot connection problems; and finally the ConfigFree Launcher application itself.

How is signal strength? It's adequate for most settings and is middle of the pack in terms of range. While it doesn't beat out the iPAQ 5555 and 4150 for range, it should be more than strong enough for home, work and commercial locations such as Starbucks and McDonalds.

Software Bundle

The Toshiba e805 comes with a decent software bundle. You'll get a healthy dose of Toshiba's own applications such as Voice Command and Text to Speech, 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 a 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. Lastly, you'll get Toshiba's IP Phone application, which requires a separate subscription service. 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, Terminal Services, MS Reader and Pocket MSN. The 3rd party software bundle is comprised of IA Presenter for ATI, IA Screen Mirror for ATI and the Westtek ClearVue Suite which runs in VGA out of the box. The Westtek apps allow you to view but not edit MS Office documents and images. The e805, but not e800, 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 three 400 MHz Pocket PCs with built-in WiFi: the Dell Axim X3i , iPAQ 5555 and the Toshiba e805. The test was run in standard QVGA mode on the Toshiba. 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 Dell Axim X3i (auto/maximum) iPAQ 5555 (PPC 2003, 400 XScale PXA255) Toshiba e805 (PPC 2003, XScale PXA263 400 MHz on 400 MHz setting)
CPU Floating Point 12.66 / 12.68 12.66 12.69
CPU Integer 25.83 / 25.86 25.82 26.94
Graphics Bitmap BitBlt 7.67 / 10.06 39.76 204.24
Graphics Bitmap StretchBlt 17.00 (grow) 14.40 (shrink) /
17.70 (grow) 14.80 (shrink)
73.50 (grow), 29.90 (shrink) 190.00 (grow), 2.10 (shrink)
Graphics Filled Ellipse 1.57 / 1.66 4.96 5.00
Graphics Filled Rectangle 2.01 / 2.62 9.41 30.81
Graphics Filled Round Rect. 1.38 / 1.51 3.78 3.71
GAPI Lines 19.40 / 22.80 N/A 277.80
Memory Allocation 11.33 / 11.34 11.31 11.24
Memory Fill 1.04 / 1.93 1.99 2.02
Memory Move 0.86 / 1.21 1.34 1.27
Text 7.00 with ClearType disabled 21.00 with ClearType disabled 28.70 with ClearType disabled
SD Storage Cards 256 meg SanDisk card was used 256 meg SanDisk card was used 256 meg SanDisk card was used
LRR/LRW 0.46-0.12 / 0.52-0.12 0.68/0.08 0.66/0.12
LSR/LSW 0.45-0.30 / 0.52-0.30 1.19/0.32 0.66/0.28
SRR/SRW 199.44 -0.18 / 265.60-1.44 303.44/0.18 167.42 /1.58
SSR/SSW 10.44-7.56 / 11.51-7.95 24.53/7.20 14.12/8.04

Conclusion

Wow! Look Mom, a VGA Pocket PC with WiFi. And I can talk to it too. . .

Pro: Top of the list: that amazing VGA display, which also looks wonderful (though a little stretched thanks to the large screen size) in QVGA. Very good performance, excellent display and extremely fast graphics, lots of memory. Very stylish, and comfortable in hand. Voice and speech applications work very well and are quite useful. Supports SDIO cards and has a CF type I/II slot for even greater expandability. Good capacity battery and decent battery life that beats out my iPAQ 5555. Cons: If you want to run everything in VGA mode, you'll need to get Deez's free application and remember to not use Toshiba's resolution switcher. You'll also want to get the UnDead Hack so that you can access the Start Menu with the stylus in VGA mode. To switch between resolutions, you must soft reset (reboot) the Toshiba. Application buttons aren't an action gamer's dream, thanks to some milliseconds of button lag. The unit is not small, being on par with the iPAQ 5555 and iPAQ 4350 in weight and size, but that's the price you pay for a 4" display and decent size battery.

Suggested list price $599
The e800 and e805 are the same unit. The e805 is more commonly found in retail markets and includes ArcSoft PhotoBase image viewing software. A USB cradle, charger, and software CD and manuals are included. The charger is not the same as that used on older Toshiba Pocket PC models (it's 3 amp rather than 2 amp, though it uses the same connector).

 

Specs:

Display: transflective TFT color LCD, 64K colors, Screen Size Diag: 4", Resolution: 240 x 320 in QVGA mode and 480 x 640 in VGA mode.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1320mA. Optional 2640 mA battery available for separate purchase.

Performance: Intel XScale PXA263 400 MHz processor. 128 megs RAM, 32 MB CMOS Flash ROM (where the OS is installed), 32 megs NAND Flash memory (non-volatile) for your use.

Size: 5.3 x 3.00 x .60 in. Weight: 6.8 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack (4 ring, so can be used with combined mic/headset units). Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 9 included for your MP3 pleasure.

Software: Pocket PC 2003 Premium 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, Terminal Services, MS Reader, Pocket MSN, Solitaire and Jawbreaker. Toshiba value added software: Voice Command, Text to Speech, Backup, Toshiba IP Phone (requires service subscription), Toshiba ConfigFree WiFi configuration tools and World Clock. 3rd party Software: IA Presenter for ATI, IA Screen Mirror for ATI and Westtek ClearVue Office Suite. ArcSoft's PhotoBase image viewing software included with the e805. ActiveSync 3.7 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot, supporting SDIO and SDIO Now!.1CF type I/II slot. IR port.

Networking: WiFi 802.11b on US models, Bluetooth instead of WiFi available in Europe.

 

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