Dell packs Bluetooth, XScale into Axims

The computer maker tries to get a jump on rivals by releasing three handhelds with Intel's speedy XScale mobile processors. It's also debuting Bluetooth in the line.

Dell unveiled on Tuesday three additions to its Axim series of handheld computers, offering Bluetooth connections for the first time and tapping Intel's latest mobile chips.

Two of the new Axim X30 models feature a combination of 802.11b Wi-Fi with Bluetooth wireless, marking the debut of the latter technology in the product line, the computer maker said. The third, entry-level device comes without wireless capabilities.

The handhelds are all powered by Intel's PXA270 processors, making them among the first products to use the XScale mobile chips, which were released in April. The chips, formerly code-named Bulverde, are designed to bring the processing performance of handhelds closer to that of notebooks and to cut back on battery power consumption.

While the entry-level device and the midrange version run on a 312MHz processor, the higher-end model runs a 624MHz processor. Dell said this is the fastest chip clock speed available for a handheld.

All three Axim X30s run Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 SE operating system for pocket computers. They include a built-in Secure Digital input-output slot and a 3.5-inch transflective thin-film transistor (TFT) color display with Quarter Video Graphics Array resolution.

Other hardware makers also plan to release handhelds with Windows Mobile SE 2003 and new Intel processors later this year. With the early release of the Axim Pocket PCs, market analysts feel that Dell may gain an advantage over Hewlett-Packard, which is scheduled to launch its comparable iPaq devices in July.

"The new iPaq models will be sleeker and more eye-catching than the Axim X30. However, the new iPaq models will also carry a slight price premium over the Dell," Sam Bhavnani, a senior analyst at market intelligence firm Current Analysis, noted. "In the interim period, until its new models are ready to go, HP should initiate significant price reductions on its models that go head-to-head with the Axim."

Dell said the nonwireless Axim X30 configuration starts at $199, while the dual-wireless model is available for $249, after a $30 rebate. The other wireless combo device, with the faster chip, is priced at $349. The handhelds are available at Dell's Web site.

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