When Microsoft released its Windows Mobile, or Pocket PC 2003, operating system, Toshiba updated its e330 line with the e350 and the e355. Beyond the new OS, the e355 has a brighter, better transflective screen; Intel's tweaked 300MHz PXA255 processor; and ArcSoft PhotoBase software. But the new handheld does have its drawbacks: it has only 16MB of ROM compared with the e330's 32MB, and the Pictures application, which ships with other Windows Mobile devices, is absent. Unlike the e355, the e350 doesn't have PhotoBase to make up for the missing program, so the step-up model is a better deal.
The most-notable difference between the e355 and earlier Toshibas is that the new case is charcoal gray rather than silver. The size is the same at 4.9 by 3.1 by 0.4 inches, and the weight increased by only 0.1 ounce to 5.2 ounces. Below the screen remain the typical program buttons; the five-way directional pad; and the small, internal speaker, which is still a bit weak, but now you can boost it a little using the Advanced Sounds control panel.
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|Except for being gray rather than silver, the e355 looks just like the e310 and e330 Toshibas.|
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|Flat as a pancake: The e355's depth is a very slim 0.4 inches.|
On the other hand, the 3.5-inch display is new. The e355, like the, moved up from the old screen to a transflective one, which is much brighter, more evenly lit, and capable of producing 65,536 colors at the standard Pocket PC resolution of 320x240 pixels.
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|The cradle is heavy and bulky, but you can charge the e355 without it.|
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|The leatherette jacket protects the screen.|
Like the e310, the e355 syncs with your PC via a sturdy cradle. It's great for home use, but the base is a bit too heavy to lug comfortably; you can purchase an optional USB power/syncing cable for less than $20. If you want to simply recharge during travel, all you need is the AC adapter, which plugs directly into the bottom of the unit.
While the different screen is immediately noticeable, some subtle changes are equally significant. The 300MHz Intel XScale processor is the PXA255, which is slightly speedier than the e330's PXA250. The amount of RAM is the same at 64MB, but surprisingly, the e355 has only 16MB of ROM--not much room for the OS or data backup. You can--and should--add storage space via the Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard (SD/MMC) slot on top of the device.
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|The e355's somewhat weak and tinny speaker sits just below the function buttons.|
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|You can add extra storage space via SD/MMC media, a must for backing up files and data.|
The e355 also uses the latest Pocket PC OS, Windows Mobile. It includes all the staples, such as Word, Excel, Outlook, and Internet Explorer, plus two new apps: Windows Media Player 9.0 and a game called Jawbreaker. But the aforementioned ROM shortage forced Toshiba to leave out a couple of the usual preinstalled programs, the most notable of which is Windows Mobile's Pictures application.
Because the e355 also comes with ArcSoft PhotoBase, the Pictures omission is not a problem. PhotoBase, much like the Microsoft app, lets you view and manipulate images on your handheld. However, we would've preferred Pictures, whose installation is one step shorter. The e350 doesn't have PhotoBase, so if you buy that model, you'll get no image viewer/editor at all.
The main software CD includes Outlook 2002 and ActiveSync 3.7, but aside from those, you get little more than a handful of Microsoft applications, a link to AvantGo, and Adobe Acrobat for Pocket PC.
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The e355 moved to the great-looking transflective screen of the pricier e750 series.
Music didn't seem loud enough until we'd cranked up the volume in the Sound and Advanced Sound control panels. Then our tunes were loud enough to hear in any environment, but they lacked a bit of the richness we've heard from other handhelds, such as the Garmin.
There's a lot to like about the e355's 320x240-pixel, 65,536-color screen. It's transflective, so it's bright and crisp in all lighting situations. The e330's display was sidelit, but the e355's is backlit for a more-even appearance.
Battery life was also pretty good, considering the unit's smallish 1,000mAh lithium-ion cell. For our test, we played a video loop with the brightness at 66.6 percent. We usually choose 50 percent, but that setting is unavailable. Even so, the e355 ran the movie for 3 hours, 51 minutes. While that time is not astounding, you can make the battery last longer by decreasing the brightness or shutting off the backlight completely, as you would while listening to MP3 files.