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Review of PDA Dell Axim X50v. Part I
Dell started its history on the PDA market with the model Dell Axim X5, which became the bestseller due to the low price and acceptable functionality, even despite of the large size of the device. In many respects this very model made many PDA makers to lower prices. Then there appeared a single-slot wireless solution Dell Axim X3, later on - Dell Axim X30. They also played the role in the pricing, however a less significant one compared with Dell Axim X5.
When Pocket PC with VGA-screens came to the market, the prices for Hi-End Pocket PC soared by $150-200. It seemed that the prices of the past came back. This time again Dell hits prices on Pocket PC making other makers adjust their offers. Currently in the US Dell X50v costs $425, the company constantly carries out promo actions, introduces new rebates. Under certain conditions you can buy it for less than $400. For such sum of money the user gets a highly productive Pocket PC, two extension slots, two wireless adapters and a VGA-screen. Given all these things Dell X50v didn't sacrifice its design and dimensions - it's one of the smallest Pocket PC with a high resolution screen. The lack of the camera is a plus for corporate users. There is the function that is missing in other models - the video accelerator Intel 2700G. Other market players (HP, Fujitsu Siemens, Asus) haven't cut their prices so far, however they have to do so sooner or later. At least Dell X50v "kills" Asus A730, as it offers lower price, comparable dimensions and higher functionality. Eventually the competition and the price cuts that follow the competing process are good for final users and the market on the whole.
We'd say that the company often uses price discrimination in different regions. For example, the wholesale price in Europe might exceed the retail price in the USA. This is the common practice for Dell. Well, Europeans should expect dumping prices as in the USA.
Before the market entrance Dell had been looking long for a contractor, which could make large amount of PDA at ultra low costs. Eventually they found the Taiwanese company Wistron. Later Dell refused Wistron services, Dell X50 are produced by the other company, the Taiwanese HTC. The loss of the key customer made Wistron leave the market for PDA and smartphones, the event was announced this year.
An interesting situation arises, almost all high-end VGA Pocket PCs are produced by HTC: Dell X50v, HP iPaq hx4700, Fujitsu Siemens Pocket LOOX 720. The list doesn't include only Asus A730.
The Dell Axim X50 series consists of 3 models: X50v; X50 520 MHz and x50 416 MHz. The X50 520 MHz has a QVGA screen, a slower processor and a lower price; the x50 416 MHz features still lower price, a still slower processor and the lack of Wi-Fi module. The middle and the junior models belong to the mid price range, they compete with Fujitsu Siemens Pocket LOOX 710, HP iPaq series hx2000. These models can be interesting for those who need wide functionality, but care little about the screen resolution.
The design of the handheld is good looking, the shell is streamline and smooth, with rounded edges and corners, it resembles HP iPaq 4150. The shell combines many colors and materials. The back panel smoothly spilling over into the side ends is made of uneven black plastic, which is pleasant to touch. Due to the material involved and rounded edges the devices fits the hand, it doesn't slide, the assembly quality is high, there is no backlash. The panels above and below the screen are made of glossy black plastic, they become stained with fingerprints, but not very much. The canting of the front panel is smooth silver plastic. In all, the ergonomics is high, it's pleasant to work with the device. Taking into account ergonomics and design we consider Dell X50v the best model by Dell and one of the best Pocket PCs, it has dimensions comparable with Asus A730 (among VGA Pocket PCs only).
We started our tests and noticed at once the first shortcoming. With the joystick and application buttons. They have no delay when pressed like in FS Pocket LOOX 720, but they are too small, so they aren't good while playing arcade games, which involve application buttons. If you place your thumb at the joystick and the other thumb at the button nearby, they will catch each other and interfere, besides you can accidentally push the action button located in the middle of the joystick. However you can get accustomed to it. Naturally I had no problems with the control buttons in ordinary applications.
On the left there are a hole for the wrist strap, a hold slider to block buttons and the touch-screen, a voice recorder button and Wi-Fi button. You can reassign all the buttons, however just for a single action or application, strange, but it's impossible to program several functions for a button.
On the top you find two expansion slots, IrDA port, standard audio jack (with a wire or wireless headset it's possible to use the PDA as the IP-phone). The sound in the headphones turned to be not that loud as in HP iPaq hx4700, subjectively it's a little bit worse, more flat, however you can level it out with some exterior equalizer.
Above the screen a power button is located, it also serves as a battery indicator (constantly glowing orange when the battery is almost drained). To the top right there is a wireless networking indicator. To the left - a microphone (a hole with the microphone icon). The recording quality with the microphone is average, much lower than in FS Pocket LOOX 720, but comparable with Asus A730.
At the bottom there is only a synchronization connector, so you can plug a docking station or a synchronization cable. There are two ways to charge the device: directly or via the docking station, that's become standard. The back panel hides the battery compartment and the reset button.
Some words about the cradle, it's an ordinary one, black color, nothing special. However it has a slot to charge a spare battery.
Note, there is no camera built in the handheld. First of all, it happened, because corporate customers required so, not that the company decided to cut costs. More often integrated cameras become the subject of restricted use for sake of security, so companies should react by releasing modifications without cameras. For example, soon there will appear FS Pocket LOOX 718 - a corporate version of the LOOX 720 that comes without the camera.
New "top" Pocket PC models stand out with 640x480 pixel screens. As it was forecasted handheld computers with such screens become gradually common feature, so they are no longer a surprise. In quality the screen of Dell X50v is comparable with that of Asus A730, the same diagonal (3.68"), the same quantity of backlight levels (9). There is no wonder, both of them are produced by Sharp under CG-Silicon technology. As for viewing angles, color rendering the Dell screen loses to FS Pocket LOOX 720, HP iPaq hx4700. The lowest backlight level is sufficient to work with the handheld in the dark, however it lags behind HP iPaq hx4700 greatly. The screen displays 65K colors.
The handheld carries a Li-Ion 1100 mAh battery onboard. It's far from being the highest capacity. The total battery life according to the tests is the main shortcoming of the model. Under the maximum load (maximum backlight, maximum processor frequency and video playback) the PDA was good for 1 hour 47 minutes. The result turned to be a little bit worse compared with Asus A730. In the reading mode (the second backlight level, minimum processor frequency) Dell X50v lasted for 8 hours 37 minutes. In the MP3-player mode (the screen off, minimum processor frequency, memory card reading) it worked just 6 hours 30 minutes. Well, it's the worst result among VGA Pocket PC, but you can double the off-line work with the extended battery capacious of 2200 mAh.
Published - 21 December 2004
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