(Discontinued) Posted by Lisa
Gade, Editor in Chief, Oct. 23, 2003
The V36 represents ViewSonic's second mass market
Pocket PC effort since the V35 came
out late last year (the V37 was not sold retail, rather it was
bundled with a $1,000+ Microsoft software development package).
While the V36 doesn't differentiate itself that much from other
Pocket PCs in many respects, it does add one important feature:
an integrated VGA digital camera. While the Palm
Zire 71 and several Sony Clié Palm
OS PDAs have digicams, this is the first Pocket PC (without a phone)
to offer a digicam. The V36 runs Windows Mobile 2003 on a 300 MHz
XScale processor and lists for $329.
What is Pocket PC 2003, aka Windows Mobile 2003?
Windows Mobile 2003 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 the new OS "Windows Mobile 2003" and
all new PDAs running it are referred to as Pocket PC 2003 devices.
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
and networking changes under the hood.
There are two versions of Pocket PC 2003: Pro
for the more basic Pocket PC models and Premium for higher end
Pocket PCs. The V36 runs the Premium version which means apps like
Terminal Services, MS Reader, Spell Checker for Pocket Word and
the new Pictures app are built into the OS stored in ROM.
Features and Horsepower
The ViewSonic V36 has a built-in VGA digital
camera, a transflective display, an SD slot that supports SDIO,
and standard IR. It runs on an Intel XScale PXA255 processor at
300 MHz, but clocks as fast in our benchmarks as some 400 MHz XScale
Pocket PCs. The unit played back MPEG1 videos using Pocket
MVP at an average of 24 fps with no dropped frames— very
good! It's also great playing intensive games such as Nintendo
emulators, Metalion 2 and Warfare
Inc. The V36 has a control panel that allows you to to set
processor speed to a variety of settings including auto, "superior" and
power saving modes.
The V36 has 32 megs of NAND Flash ROM and 64
megs of RAM. 57.11 megs of RAM are available to the user to run
and store applications. Since it uses NAND Flash ROM, the OS must
be copied into RAM when the unit boots, so you'll see a "Please
Wait 15 Seconds" message followed by a black screen for a
few seconds after soft resetting the V36.
The battery is user replaceable, which means
you can swap a new one in whenever power's running low, or simply
replace a tired battery easily. The V36 comes with a USB sync cable
rather than a cradle.
our Interview with Marc McConnaughey, Senior Vice President
of ViewSonic's Advanced Technology Group!
Design, Buttons and Ergonomics
The ViewSonic is your basic rectangular Pocket PC with
lightly rounded corners, and is on the mid-to-large side for Pocket PCs,
being just a little bit smaller than the HP iPAQ
5555 (see photo, right). The casing is made of plastic, and the front
is silver while the back is black. The camera lens is on the back of
The V36 has the four standard application launcher
buttons on the front which surround a very nice circular 5-way direction
pad that operates smoothly in all directions. The power button is on
the upper left side and the record button (recessed enough to avoid accidental
presses) is just below it. The headphone jack and SD slot are located
on the top edge, as is the IR port. The speaker is located on the lower
right corner of the front face, and the mic is located on the lower left
front side. The soft reset hole is on the back, and you must unscrew
the stylus and use reset pin to reboot the ViewSonic.
Above: comparing the size of the V36
(left) and HP iPAQ 5555.
Screen and Sound
Transflective displays are the best around these days,
but the V36's display isn't as contrasty or color saturated as units
from HP and Dell. Surprising, considering ViewSonic has an excellent
reputation for their CRT and LCD monitors!
The speaker volume is not very loud, and you may notice
occasional speaker popping, especially for the first minute after the
unit is turned on. MP3s sound good when using stereo headphones connected
to the headphone jack. Headset volume is adequate but you won't have
to worry about accidentally deafening yourself as you might with the
amazingly loud iPAQ Pocket PCs. There are no control panel adjustments
for audio output or input.
The V36 has a .3 megapixel VGA digicam capable
of taking still images at 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 in size, and
movies (with audio) at 320 x 240 or 176 x 144 in size. While
VGA CMOS cameras in PDAs and phones don't take glorious pictures,
the ViewSonic is among the best, rivaling top dog Sony. Videos
are jerky but sharp. Like most cameras in this class, it doesn't
have a flash.
To take pictures and movies, you'll use the
pre-installed VSCam application. This app runs in landscape mode
and uses the full screen. It takes a second or two to load, and
then you'll see a large on-screen 280 x 210 pixel viewfinder
and you'll be ready to take pictures. If you plan on using the
camera frequently, you might want to assign one of the 5 application
buttons to VSCam.
The application is very full-featured; and
though the interface isn't very intuitive, once you figure it
out, you'll be shooting pix with ease. VSCam allows you to set
image resolution, set 2x digital zoom, specify the storage folder,
turn on/off the shutter sound, select color saturation from 5
presets, select white balance (auto, Daytime, Nightfall (sic)
and Indoor), select brightness from 6 presets, set flicker control
and even set right or left handed mode (this controls the screen
direction rotation when the app goes into landscape mode).
The preview windows updates quickly as you
move the camera around (or as your subject moves), and you can
either use the on-screen capture button or press the center of
the d-pad to take your picture. Still images tend to have a pink
to purple cast (regardless of white balance setting) which can
be fixed up in Photoshop or other capable image editing applictions.
Like all low end digicams, images taken in bright sunlight wash
out to white and some odd color shifts may occur. Indoor pictures
are reasonably good for this kind of camera, without undue noise
(whitish or colored speakles in the image).
Microsoft Pictures, a part of the Windows Mobile
2003 Premium OS is the default viewer for your photos. If you
wish, you can use any 3rd party image viewer to work with the
standard .JPEG images which are ~45k in size at 640 x 480 resolution.
Movies are recorded as MPEG files, though I received error messages
when I tried to play these files using Pocket MVP on the Pocket
PC and on the desktop using Windows Media Player 9 and QuickTime
Player 6.4. You can play back the most recently shot movie using
VSCam, and that worked fine.
Above, sample photos taken with
the Viewsonc V36 built-in camera. The cat was backlit which most
low cost cameras have trouble exposing properly. The outdoor scene
was shot on a sunny day, and you'll notice the white walls have
a majenta cast..
To see the full size image unedited,
click on the images above.
The ViewSonic V36 has a 930 mA Lithium Ion battery
that's user replaceable (yay!). Battery life when running in Auto
mode has been quite good, even with camera use. Under average use,
you should get 3.5 to 4 hours on a charge. Like other PDAs with
user replaceable batteries, the V36 has a backup battery which
preserves the contents of memory when you swap a new battery in.
The charger plugs directly into the PDA since there is no cradle.
This is a budget Pocket PC, but even so, it has
less bundled software than other budget models. It comes with Westtek's
ClearVue Presentation Viewer and AvantGo! which is free software.
Of course, the V36 comes with all the standard Pocket PC applications
such as Pocket IE, Pocket Outlook, and Pocket versions of Word
and Excel along with various other Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003
apps such as MS Reader, Terminal Services and the Pictures image
viewer application. eBackup is pre-installed in ROM and this will
allow you to backup and restore the contents of the PDA to an SD
Optional WiFi Card and Accessories
Optional accessories for the V36 include a sync/charging
cradle, a serial cable, folding keyboard and the $129 ViewSonic
SD 802.11b WiFi card which we received for review. The card works
with the V36's Windows Mobile 2003 OS and its Zero Configuration
Connection Manager. In addition the driver offers enhanced features
such as a status icon in the system tray that has popup menus which
will tell you the current channel, transmission rate, link quality
and strength, current IP info and the name of the base station
to which the V36 is currently connected. It supports 64 and 128
bit WEP encryption and 802.1X. The driver occasionally caused device
slowdowns when we tried to connect to new access points.
We've run benchmarks using VOBenchmark 3.0 from Virtual
Office Systems. I've compared the iPAQ
1945 and the Toshiba e355,
all of which run Pocket PC 2003 on comparable processors. Note
the SD card speed isn't that good for the ViewSonic, but other
numbers are excellent. Higher numbers are
better (shown in bold).
Test (all are
Pocket PC 2003 models)
ViewSonic V36 (XScale
Auto / Superior (fastest) CPU Setting
Pro: If you've been jealous of Palm Zire 71 and
Sony Clié NX owners' cameras, then rejoice. Besides being
the only Pocket PC with a digicam, it takes very decent pictures
for an integrated VGA CMOS camera. The unit is very fast and won't
make you wish you'd gotten a 400 MHz model. Battery is user replaceable.
Con: The screen isn't as sharp, contrasty and color saturated as
HP iPAQs and others. The unit seems a bit on the large size for
a unit with no wireless radio or CF slot taking up internal space.
Not much bundled 3rd party software.
List price $329.
Includes a USB sync cable, charger, battery, stylus, slip cover,
printed manual, CD ROM and PDF manuals for the V36 (same as printed
manual) and a digital camera manual.
3.5" TFT color LCD, 64,000 colors. Resolution:
240 x 320.
mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
x 3.0 x 0.54 (in). 127x 76.8 x13.8 (mm). Weight Approximately
4.8 ounces (137g).
CMOS .3 megapixel 640 x 480 still camera also capable
of taking movies with audio.
PC 2003 operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office
suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer,
MS Reader, and Outlook. Also Voice Recorder, Windows
Media Player for Pocket PC, Pictures, Terminal Services
as well as handwriting recognition. Westtek Presentation
Viewer and AvantoGo! also included.
in speaker, mic and standard 3.5mm stereo headphone
jack . Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media
Player 9 included.
SD (Secure Digital) slot. Has SDIO support.