With its Pocket PC e740, Toshiba becomes the first handheld maker to deliver a device with Intel's XScale processor as well as built-in Wi-Fi (802.11b) connectivity. (The European version of the e740 has integrated Bluetooth instead.) This device is packed with all sorts of other good features, including replaceable batteries and an ATI graphics chip. But despite its 400MHz processor, the e740 doesn't perform significantly faster than previous Pocket PCs.
When initially released, the e740 made a splash as the first handheld with integrated Wi-Fi, as well as all-around decent design features. Since that time, however, there have been great advances in screen technology, making the e740's display look second-rate, so we have dropped its features and performance ratings by a point. The e740 is still a great buy, but if you want the latest technology, look to its siblings, the e750 and the e755.
|The e740 stacks up against the deck.||Surprisingly thin considering the feature set.|
Below the 3.5-inch color LCD are the typical application buttons and the directional pad. In the lower-right corner, you'll find the device's built-in speaker; it doesn't exactly play loud, so you'll definitely want to use headphones to listen to music.
Along the top edge, there's a headphone jack, a CompactFlash Type II slot, an SD card slot, and a stylus silo. We came to dislike the small, spring-loaded button that ejects the CompactFlash card. It works just fine to pop out the card, but when you want to reset it so that it's flush with the top, you have to use the stylus to press it in.
Our biggest gripe with the e740's design, however, is the latch for the replaceable lithium-ion battery. We inadvertently opened this latch three times during our initial testing, which erased all the data on the device. To fix this problem, we had to secure the battery latch with a piece of tape.
|The top edge of the e740 hosts both a CompactFlash and an SD slot.||The battery latch is sometimes tricky.|
On a more positive note, Toshiba offers a larger $130 battery pack for those who need more uptime between charges. In a nod to business users, The comapny also sells a $100 expansion pack that attaches to the bottom of the device and provides a host interface for adding USB devices such as keyboards, plus a VGA output for giving PowerPoint presentations on an external monitor or a projector. IA Presenter PowerPoint-viewing software is also included on the CD that accompanies the e740.
To protect the handheld, Toshiba provides a leather slipcover. It does the job, although we sometimes hit the record button on the left side when pulling the PDA out of the cover--a minor annoyance.
The e740 comes with the same heavy USB cradle as the Pocket PC e310. Thanks to the cradle's heft, it's easy to drop in the handheld and pluck it out. Toshiba designed the cradle to accommodate the e740 with the optional extended battery attached. To recharge, there's a standard AC adapter. You can plug it directly into the e740, too, so you can leave the cradle behind when you go on trips.
|Slip into my sleeping bag.||This cradle won't rock-a-bye, baby.|
The e740 has two storage-card slots.
For storing MP3s, video files, or giant databases, you'll want to take advantage of the dual expansion slots. You can add two cards for gigabytes of storage, and you can access data from both.
In our previous reviews of PDAs with two expansion slots, we've recommended using the SD slot for storage and the CompactFlash slot for a Wi-Fi (802.11b) card. But Wi-Fi capability is already built into the e740, a first among Pocket PCs that we've seen.
To provide better graphics performance, this handheld uses the ATI Imageon 100 graphics chip. Graphics coprocessors have been used on handhelds before--Sony's CLIE line, for example--but this is first time that we've seen the feature advertised like graphics cards in PCs. Check the Performance section or our review for more on this chip.
|Use the Home application to turn off unused programs and speed up your system.||View your favorite PowerPoint slides in IA Presenter.|
While there are lots of hardware features, the software package is mostly the standard fare. The device runs Pocket PC 2002, which comes with many built-in applications, including Pocket versions of Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and MSN Messenger, as well as a backup utility. You also get Toshiba's Home application, which makes it easier to turn off programs that are running in the background.
To try and woo potential customers into buying the VGA-adapter accessory, Toshiba also includes the ATI Presentation Pack. It includes a very nice little app, IA Presenter, for giving PowerPoint slide shows on your handheld. If you want to present what's on your Pocket PC's screen, you can use IA Mirror. Paired with the VGA adapter, you could give a PowerPoint presentation without a laptop. We're a little disappointed to report that the speed difference is not immediately apparent to the user. It took only a moment longer to load the Lemonade Inc. game on Toshiba's e310 than it did on the e740. And there was no noticeable quality difference between the two handhelds when watching videos on Windows Media Player or PocketTV. We did find that we had to soft reset our review unit more frequently than with other Pocket PCs.
The Wi-Fi configuration screen.
The built-in Wi-Fi connectivity worked quite well, matching PC Card adapters in terms of range, and Toshiba's included setup utility is reasonably straightforward. However, the Connections setup menu that's built into Pocket PC 2002 is baffling. Getting everything configured correctly and keeping it working as you move between wireless networks requires more than a rudimentary knowledge of Wi-Fi and Pocket PC along with a healthy dose of patience. But being able to check e-mail, chat online, and grab data off the Internet is handy.
Full-blown Web browsing is still very slow. It takes a long time for pages to load, and the Pocket Internet Explorer doesn't do a great job of reformatting sites designed for full-sized monitors. You'll need to steer clear of Java-heavy sites or those that require pop-up windows. However, the few Web sites that we found that were specially designed for Pocket PCs work well.
The e740's standard battery lasted for just shy of 7 hours with the backlight set to medium and the 802.11b radio turned off. We got only 4.5 hours playing MP3 music under the same conditions and just 2 hours with the Wi-Fi capability activated. That said, we're not too disappointed in the battery life; it's certainly usable, but you'll need to exercise extreme caution when you turn on the Wi-Fi radio. If you run the batteries down all the way, you'll lose every bit of data on the device's RAM.
The e740's screen photographed indoors with the sidelight on.