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Toshiba e405 review: Toshiba e405

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MSRP: $299.00

The Good Attractive design; dedicated 32MB of flash memory for data backup; 300MHz processor; 64MB of RAM.

The Bad Only 16MB of ROM; no synchronization cradle.

The Bottom Line Except for its better-looking case, there's little to distinguish the Toshiba e405 from its predecessor.

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7.4 Overall

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The e405 shares the entry-level position in Toshiba's updated Pocket PC line with its twin, the e400. The hardware is identical, but for the same price ($300), the e405 comes bundled with ArcSoft's PhotoBase image-editing software.

Measuring 4.9 by 3.0 by 0.4 inches and weighing 4.6 ounces, the e405 has a standard Pocket PC layout, albeit with some nice design flair. The case comes in an attractive cobalt blue, and the front has a squared-off four-way navigator surrounding the detached Select button. Clustered around the navigation area are four standard Windows shortcut buttons--for your calendar, your task list, your contacts, and home--as well as a small speaker and an indicator light. A jog dial and a voice-recorder control are located on the top-left edge, while a hold button and the IR port are at the bottom. The microphone, the power button, the SDIO expansion slot, and the stylus receptacle are all found along the top edge. There's also a 1/8-inch headphone jack, so you can use your standard Walkman-style headphone.

The bottom edge has a power jack and a docking connector, along with a hard-reset switch hidden behind a rubber cover. Rather than a cradle, the unit is bundled with a bulky AC adapter and a separate USB sync cable. Unfortunately, the e405's rechargeable battery is not removable, so you're left in the lurch if any power problems develop.

The e405 packs a formidable 300MHz Intel XScale PXA261 processor and 64MB of RAM but only 16MB of ROM. To fit the Windows Mobile 2003 operating system into that tight ROM space (most current models have double that amount), Toshiba ditched the Windows Picture application for the RAM-based ArcSoft software instead. In addition to the standard Pocket editions of Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Outlook, and Windows Media Player 9.0, Toshiba has included a voice recorder, a world clock, a text-to-speech app (for reading schedules and other text aloud), and a voice-command app (for hands-free access to certain functions) applications. Unfortunately, the last two were unavailable for testing by press time.

While other Pocket PCs allow the extra ROM space--sometimes as little as 2MB--to be used for data backups, Toshiba has included a fully separate 32MB of nonvolatile flash memory. Using the included backup application, that entire space can be used to store important contact and calendar information, which remains safe even when the battery completely dies.

Like virtually every other handheld we've seen this season, the e405 sports the same high-quality, 65,536-color, 3.5-inch (diagonal), 320x240 transflective backlit screen. As a result, Windows Media videos looked great. Audio quality was equally smooth, but volume levels--while stronger than some other handhelds'--still won't overcome excessive street noise. Those wanting to take full advantage of the e405's multimedia features will want to invest in SD or MMC media.

The rechargeable 980mAh lithium-ion battery yielded average performance. Playing a looping WMV file with the screen at 50 percent brightness, the e405 lasted for 3 hours, 35 minutes. Like other Windows Mobile handhelds, video playback was disabled once battery life hit 14 percent.

In the end, it's hard to find anything too bad to say about this Pocket PC--but there isn't much to rave about either. Except for the additional 32MB flash memory, the snazzier case design, and some nifty voice software, the e405's specifications are almost identical to those of its predecessor, the e355. And while it has a slightly faster processor and a bit more memory, it doesn't do that much to distinguish itself from other entry-level Pocket PCs such as the $229 Dell Axim X3 or the $200 (after rebate) HP iPaq H1935. In short, the e405 is a perfectly acceptable handheld, but it's not an exceptional one for the price.

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