PDA, Notebook and Phone Reviews and buyers guide

PDA Phone Notebooks Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Discussion


Dell Axim X5 Basic and Advanced Pocket PCs

Released in 2002
Discontinued and replaced by the Axim X50 in October 2004

Suddenly the Pocket PC marketplace is all about choice! This is great for consumers: we have several brands, price ranges and feature-sets to choose from. Computer giant Dell has jumped in with the reasonably priced Axim X5 line. These units offer features that we used to see only in pricier PDAs. We'll take a look at the Basic and Advanced models, which you can order from Dell's web site. We received the Advanced model for review. Also check out the Dell Axim X3 Pocket PC introduced in the Fall of 2003. As of June 23, 2003, these models are manufactured with the Windows Mobile 2003 OS rather than the Pocket PC 2002 OS.

Dell Axim X5


Horsepower: Basic and Advanced Models

These two models look alike and are the same except for the horsepower. The Basic model has a 300MHz XScale processor, 32 megs of RAM and 32 megs of flash ROM (where the OS is installed). This puts it in competition with the Toshiba e330 and ViewSonic V35. The Advanced has a 400MHz XScale processor, 64 megs of RAM and 48 megs of ROM (same as the iPAQ 3900 series). This competes with the Toshiba e750 and iPAQ 3900 series. Even the 300MHz unit is speedy enough, but if you have the cash, you may want to consider the Advanced model since it has double the RAM and a larger flash ROM area which gives you more versatility in accommodating future OS upgrades. The Advanced model comes with a chrome cradle (that's right!) which has a second slot to charge an additional battery. The Basic model comes with a sync cable rather than a cradle. Note Dell disconitnued the Basic model in December 2003, and only the 400 MHz Advanced model is available.


Transflective screens, currently the best you can get on a PDA, have so far only appeared on high-end units such as the iPAQ 3970, Sony Clié NX70V and just recently on the budget-priced ViewSonic V35. These screens are evenly lit, bright, color-saturated and not milky or foggy looking as are some side-lit displays. The Axim X5 models have a transflective display, despite their budget prices: way to go Dell! The screen is very nice, but not as bright at middle to 3/4 brightness settings compared to the iPAQ 3900 series, and the viewing angle is somewhat more limited compared to the iPAQ and Sony Clié models with transflective displays.





Questions? Comments?
Post them in our Discussion Forum!


Battery, Software and Controls

The Axim X5 ships with a 1440 mAh battery, which is quite a lot of juice for a PDA battery. Run times have been good. The batteries are user-replaceable, which means you can swap in a new battery when on the go, and you won't have to send it back to the factory when the battery gets tired after 2 years of use. An optional 3400 mAh battery will be available, which should at least double run times.

The X5 Advanced has an addition to the standard Pocket PC power control panel applet. You'll see a tab labeled "Processor", and it allows you to specify processor speed to improve battery run times. The settings are Normal (400 MHz), Auto (the default setting, which determines whether the unit needs to run at 400 MHz or can fall back to a slower speed) and PowerSave which forces the unit to ran at 200 MHz at all times (I don't recommend this setting for daily use, because the unit will seem sluggish at times).

Don't expect a software bundle at this price. You'll get the standard Pocket PC 2002 OS and applications: Microsoft Pocket Office (Word, Excel and Pocket Outlook for Pocket PC), Microsoft Outlook for your desktop, Pocket Internet Explorer, Terminal Services, MS Reader and Microsoft MSN Messenger. You do get a full version of IA Presenter, which allows you to run PowerPoint presentations on the X5, and a custom Dell application launcher. There are several demo versions of popular Pocket PC programs on the included CD, but you'll have to buy full versions if you wish to continue using them. In terms of hardware, the Advanced model comes with a USB cradle, while the Basic model comes with a USB cable.

The Axim has a 4 way directional pad, a jog dial and the usual 4 buttons that launch the main built-in applications. It's also got a notification LED and the standard Pocket PC stereo headphone jack. The screen requires a harder touch with the stylus compared to other Pocket PCs, and the D-pad also requires more pressure but you'll adjust.

The Axim has not been good for games that use diagonal movements because the D-pad doesn't respond properly . Age of Empires and Racing Days aren't really playable because you'll run into problems where you won't be able to control your movements and will have to quit out of the game as a last resort. With Siberian Strike you'll get diagonal movements about 1/2 the time, which makes the game less fun. Games like Interstellar Flames, that only use up, down, left and right movements do work correctly. Update: Dell has issued a patch which improves d-pad behavior and also adds support for the action button (center press of d-pad). It has improved game response! You can download this fix from Dell's web site and ftp server (

Size Weight and Appearance

OK, it ain't small, it isn't light and the design is something only its mother could love. But hey, you're getting a lot of features for the money, so if you can forego the ultimate in portability and looks, this could be the PDA for you. To the right, you can see the Toshiba e330, one of the smallest and slimmest Pocket PCs in the middle, and the X5 on the bottom. Clearly the X5 is much thicker, but when viewed from the front, they're not as far apart in size.

Above, comparing the size of the Dell (bottom), Toshiba e330 (middle) and Sony Clie SJ30 (top).


The Axim X5 models have both a CompactFlash type II slot (accepts both type I and type II cards) and an SD card slot. The CF slot allows you to use the IBM Microdrive, CF WiFi, Ethernet and modem cards.

Performance Comparison and Benchmarks

I used VOBenchmark from Virtual Office Systems to test the Axim X5 compared to other current XScale Pocket PCs. I ran the test twice: with Auto power settings and "Normal" power settings. Auto is the default setting, and it sets the processor speed automatically depending on demand put on the machine (it can run at 400MHz and fall back to 200 MHz when no processor intensive tasks are running). Normal sets the machine to always run at 400MHz. Processor speed settings did not affect SD storage card numbers. Note that our Dell has the PXA250 processor and is running Pocket PC 2002. Higher numbers are better (shown in bold). I also ran tests with Pocket MVP (the new name for Pocket DivX), and the Dell performed very well, even on the Auto processor power setting.


Dell Axim X5 Advanced (PPC 2002, XScale PXA250 400 MHz)


Toshiba e755 (PPC 2002, XScale PXA255 processor, 400 MH, ) HP iPAQ 2215 (PPC 2003, XScale PXA255 400 MHz) Toshiba e355 (PPC 2003, XScale PXA 255 300 MHz) ViewSonic V35
(Pocket PC 2002, XScale PXA250 300 MHz) 
CPU Floating Point 6.34 / 12.65 12.69 12.68 9.49 6.34
CPU Integer 13.54 / 26.93 26.96 26.96 20.13 13.30
Graphics Bitmap BitBlt 56.60 / same 141.94 78.25 7.54 (oddly low!) 16.66
Graphics Bitmap StretchBlt 0.30 /same 4.93 76.70 (grow) 28.60 (shrink) 94.50 (grow) 128.70 (shrink) 0.50
Graphics Filled Ellipse 2.03 /same 3.70 4.68 1.53 0.85
Graphics Filled Rectangle 6.40 /6.63 11.14 12.94 2.03 1.02
Graphics Filled Round Rect. 1.41 / 2.00 2.03 3.82 1.09 0.66
Memory Allocation 6.60 / 10.79 13.24 11.23 8.44 6.42
Memory Fill 0.90 / same 1.69 1.97 1.04 0.85
Memory Move 0.38 /same 0.47 1.24 0.85 0.30
Text 3.81 / 4.73 6.04 19.80, 5.20 with ClearType enabled 6.10(ClearType enabled) 2.20
SD Storage Cards 128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech were used 128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech were used 256 meg SanDisk card was used 256 meg SanDisk card was used 128 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech were used
LRR/ LRW 0.38/ 0.14 0.82/0.32 0.62/0.08 0.48/0.08 0.62/ 0.02
LSR/ LSW 0.38/ 0.14 0.82/0.34 0.61/0.19 0.49/0.31 0.61/ 0.02
SRR/ SRW 20.70/ 0.82 22.80/0.84 238.18 /0.48 186.84 /0.18 25.16/ 0.80
SSR/ SSW 17.02/ 1.94 21.59/2.06 14.08/9.51 11.53/7.25 19.16/ 1.00



If you're on a budget but want higher-end features (isn't that all of us?) then this is a great Pocket PC. The transflective screen, two expansion slots and large capacity battery are awesome. If only it were thinner, lighter and more attractive. . . but looks aren't everything .

Suggested list price Axim X5 Basic: $249
Suggested list price Axim X5 Advanced: $349

Pro: Excellent price for what you get. Transflective screens are gorgeous, built-in CF type II and SD card slots make this a versatile and expandable PDA. Con: it's large and heavy compared to other currently available Pocket PCs. The looks aren't stunning.



Display: Transflective TFT color LCD, 65,536 colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5", Resolution: 240 x 320.

Battery 1440 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user-replaceable.

Performance: Basic model: Intel XScale 300MHz, 32MB StrataFlash™ ROM, 32MB built-in RAM. Advanced model: 400MHz XScale processor, 64 megs RAM, 48 megs ROM.

Size: 5.04 x 3.21 x 0.71. Weight: 6.9 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player included.

Software: Pocket PC 2002 operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Reader, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot that does not support SDIO. 1 CompactFlash type II slot.


Back to Home Questions? Comments? Post them in our Discussion Forum!