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 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.
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.
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.