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Review of the PDA - Palmax z710
The Taiwanese maker Compal is hardly known worldwide under its own trademarks. Instead all of us are familiar with products by Toshiba (PDA and notebooks) and Motorola (some low-end phones) that are produced on Compal plants on ODM-contracts. The Russian company Rover Computers has also cooperated with Compal (remember Rover P6). Toshiba e400 became one of such products, we think it's a pretty good model. After a break that lasted for several years Compal decided to return to the PDA market with its brand Palmax. Today we'll review Palmax z710, which is a copy of Toshiba e400, but in other shell. Theoretically we could have finished the review here sending our readers to the review of Toshiba e400. However the novelty does have the distinctions: the design, price, kit; so there is something to talk about. In addition we are to dispel two myths relating to the Pocket PC platform. At the end we'll advise you which budget Pocket PC to choose.
The z710 wears a more strict design than Toshiba e400. With strict lines and barely rounded edges it somehow resembles Asus A600. It is nice to touch the silver plastic shell, the material and color of which differ from that in Toshiba e400. It feels metallic, though there is nothing metallic in the shell. The device comfortably fits the palm, and it isn't weighty, even when in the pocket of the shirt. Speaking about the assembly quality it is high, the details fit each other. If you squeeze the handheld, you won't feel a backlash. However it is a little bit slippery in hands.
Some noticeable improvements have touched the joystick and buttons, they became more comfortable in use. The keys are no longer crowded in the middle, they got spaced and have convenient size.
The back panel of Palmax z710 is smooth unlike the ribbed panel in Toshiba e400. That makes the device look stricter. But the thickness grew by a couple of millimeters.
Other features remain the same. No more distinctions, except for the cradle that comes with Palmax z710 and doesn't characterize a budget PDA.
Myth number one - the more RAM the better
An opinion reigns that the more RAM the PDA has the better, that's very often a key criteria to choose a handheld. However it isn't so. I agree that point really matters in case of notebooks and desktop PC, there exists the problem with limited RAM. Quite often 512 MB of RAM may be not enough - loaded with a large quantity of programs installed and launched the PC begins to work slow constantly addressing to the hard drive (the swap file). Thus users afraid to face the problem with insufficient RAM and choose a handheld taking into account the RAM size.
As a matter of fact the situation is as follows. The applications designed for PDA take just several MB of RAM after being launched, even if you start 4-5 programs, anyway the memory won't be fully involved. It's senseless to store media files (music, video, photos) in RAM, there are flash-cards for this purpose. I've never come across the situation when the handheld worked slowly or a heavy game didn't launch because of the low level of RAM.
One can object: more is better than less, what if it comes in handy. This approach suffers three problems:
Myth number two - 400 MHz is far better than 300 MHz
Remember popular words of marketing specialists in the dispute on processors AMD and Intel: "consumers buy not an optimally balanced system, but megahertz and megabytes". Most budget Pocket PC now available on the market carry the Intel PXA 300 MHz processor. Is it worth to pay for another 100 MHz buying a more expensive handheld, if you care about the processor? Here is the answer - "No". Firstly, 300 MHz are more than enough to run most applications and even video at 320x240 pixel resolution, 24 fps with an average bitrate. Secondly, should you need more productivity (video at a high bitrate, game console emulators, 3D games), it's possible to speed up the processor at least to 400 MHz. The fact is processors do not differ physically on the conveyer, as the frequency rate isn't determined. Only following the tests measuring the steady work processors get labeled with "200 MHz", "300 MHz" or "400 MHz". The only danger of the speed up is the hard reset with the loss of the data (and the system might function less stable), nevertheless that's not that risky as in case with desktop PC.
We've sped Intel XScale PXA263 on Palmax z710 with the help of Pocket Hack Master to 472 MHz. Here are the results of our standard video test, which we use for Pocket PC reviews. In the video mode we tested several clips at different intensity (kbps - kilobit per second, DivX 5.03 codec involved). Sound got encoded in mp3 format with 128 kbps bitrate. We applied the criteria of dropped frames while playing, the less the better and tested a fragment from the motion picture Cats and Dogs (the fight scene). What surprised us the most is that the PDA productivity in the standard mode (300 MHz) turned higher than for Toshiba e400.
Как видим, производительность в разогнанном состоянии такая же, как и у самыx мощныx Pocket PC . Приведем так же результаты теста графики игрой PocketQuake с отключенным звуком (звук отключался консольной командой nosound 1, остальные настройки соxранены).
As you see the performance in the sped-up mode is similar to that of the most powerfull Pocket PC. We ran tests of the PocketQuake game in the mute mode (turn the sound off by nosound 1 console command leaving other settings on): If remember new generation processors by Intel (PXA270), we'll notice advantages only on VGA screens. It has little sense to apply them on screens with 320x240 pixel resolution (PXA270 520 MHz or higher).
It turns out that if you choose Pocket PC with 320x240 screen resolution, you'd better not pay much attention to frequency rate and RAM size. It's almost true for Palm OS-driven devices.
The handheld is powered by Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Premium Edition. You can learn more about standard software included reading the related review published on our site. To extra applications belong just two - i.e. DataBackup to run copy data and ezGO - a likeness (that is the very word to describe its poor capabilities) of an application manager.
Palmax z710 has a wide range of rival models in the budget sector, the number of which constantly grows, and the competition gets tougher. They are Rover P1, MiTAC Mio 336, HP iPaq 1930, Toshiba e400, Dell Axim X3 (the junior modification). The filling is almost the same for all these models: 300 MHz processor, 3.5" screen, one slot for extension, the lack of wireless modules. Under such conditions one can choose the model only by the design, comfortable control buttons, price and the assembly quality.
If we mark all cons and pros with pluses and minuses respectively, we'll get the following matrix.
*current retail prices in Moscow
Taking into account the price/quality ratio Palmax z710 seems to be the best budget Pocket PC (high assembly quality, cradle included in the standard kit, scrolling wheel and the common headphones jack). Dell Axim X3 stands out for its low price - $180, unfortunately it's true for the US only. If you charge by design, HP iPaq 1930 is a likely winner despite of its screen (some yellowness if look at it at an angle) and the lack of the scrolling wheel.
Published - 28 August 2005
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