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Razor Zayo A600 Pocket PC review: Razor Zayo A600 Pocket PC

Razor Zayo A600 Pocket PC

Roger Hibbert
5 min read
Remember those Razor scooters that took the country by storm a couple of years back? Well, after dabbling in Big Wheels and pogo sticks, the scooter manufacturer has teamed up with Asus and Zayo Technologies to develop a slick and zippy Pocket PC, the $550 (list) Razor Zayo A600. With a 65,000-color screen, 64MB of RAM, and a 400MHz XScale processor, the slim, lightweight Zayo gives the competition a run for its money, but it does have a few drawbacks. Once the Zayo A600 is out of the box, the first thing that you'll notice about it is the compact, silvery styling and nice, slim design. The unit measures 4.9 by 2.9 by 0.5 inches and weighs only 4.9 ounces, which puts it in the same weight class as the Toshiba e310. Even though the Zayo A600 is a bit smaller than the Toshiba, it still has room for a 3.5-inch, color display and a Secure Digital (SD) slot on top of the unit.
Cards are used to suggest scale.No playing cards actually come with the unit.

Another thing that'll catch your eye are the blue lights that flash behind the hot keys when you press a button or touch the directional keypad below the screen. A cheap thrill, sure, but several tech elitists around the office were nevertheless impressed by such gimmickry. Not to be left out of the fun, the cradle also has its own blue light that illuminates when the Zayo is inserted and powered on.
In the way of buttons, ports, and controls, the device has everything that you'd expect to find in a Pocket PC. An infrared port, a stylus, and a microphone accompany the aforementioned SD slot on top of the Zayo; a power switch, a jog dial, a record button, and a reset button live in the thumb zone on the PDA's left side. The only aspect found here not common to all Pocket PCs is the DC-power input on the Zayo's bottom, which allows you to recharge the device sans cradle.

Power, record, and scroll: things to do with your thumb.No cradle? It's no problem to power up the Zayo on the road.

Decked out like the Fonz in a faux-leather jacket.
The cradle is a mixed bag; while we liked its rubber feet and the simplicity of its mini-USB connector, it holds the handheld too tightly. Not only is it hard to insert and remove the Zayo, it's easy to mistakenly hit the power switch, the jog dial, or the record button while you're wrangling with the device.
The preproduction Zayo A600 test unit that we looked at didn't have a case, but shipping models will come with a leatherette protective jacket.
The Zayo's computing muscle is provided by Intel's PXA-250 XScale processor. A step up from the previous StrongARM chips, the XScale can run at 400MHz yet uses less power than its 206MHz predecessor. The Zayo also has 32MB of ROM and 64MB of RAM onboard for storage and add-on applications.

There's a slot for SD media but not for CompactFlash cards.
Like other slim Pocket PCs, the Zayo A600 has a headphone jack for listening to MP3s. And although we were somewhat disappointed with this PDA's lack of a CompactFlash slot, such an addition would have certainly made the Zayo bulkier.
In terms of software, the Razor Zayo comes with the basics but little else. You get the standard Pocket PC 2002 package, which includes Outlook 2002, Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger, and Microsoft Reader, and Pocket versions of Word and Excel. While the extra applications that typically come bundled with Pocket PCs are mostly limited versions or demos, it's nice to have them to test the capabilities of your new gadget; we were disappointed that Razor failed to include them.
The software features that set the Razor Zayo A600 apart from its competitors revolve around the Asus motherboard at the heart of the unit. The Asus settings in the control panel offer some advanced features not found in other PDAs. The Mode setting lets you optimize the processor's performance; you can toggle between Turbo and Power-Saving modes or configure the unit to switch automatically. With the AGC setting, you can adjust the microphone's sensitivity and gain levels. Asus also provides a rudimentary backup program for stowing your vital data on external storage, such as an SD card.

The Turbo mode kicks the processor into overdrive.You can crank up the mike if you like.

The Zayo's fast processor allows for high frame rates.
Razor bills the Zayo as a compact handheld that's also speedy. The number-crunching virtuosity of the XScale processor is meant to let the unit handle programs and processor-intensive video playback with aplomb. Using PocketTV, we watched a number of videos and discovered no noticeable lag in either the frame rate or the audio. To test the processor's Turbo mode, we viewed an MPEG encoded at a high frame rate and came away impressed with the results. Though it varied throughout the video, we observed frame rates ranging from 48 to 61 frames per second (fps). In Standard mode, the unit maxed out at about 34fps.
The A600's battery life is average. While the product literature rates the battery life as up to 12 hours, that figure is probably calculated with the backlight off and without running applications. Our real-world tests showed that battery to have a lesser lifespan. Listening to MP3s with the screen at medium brightness, we got 3 hours, 2 minutes of life out of the A600's cell.

The unit's display gets a tad dark at the top.
The Zayo A600's screen also has limitations, although its specs are in line with those of other Pocket PCs. The A600 sports a reflective, 240x320-pixel TFT display that can exhibit 65,000 colors at 16 bits; however, viewing that screen is a different story. The backlight, positioned at the bottom of the screen, barely lights the very top. Move the unit ever so slightly from the perpendicular, and the top darkens significantly. Compared side by side to the Toshiba Pocket PC e740's screen, the Zayo's is just as sharp, but it's slightly dimmer overall and displays colors that are a bit less vibrant.

Razor Zayo A600 Pocket PC

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8