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Dell Axim X50 review: Dell Axim X50

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The Good Large VGA screen; great graphics; included gaming bundle; Windows Media Player 10.0 Mobile; fast processor and ample memory; integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; sleek design; user-replaceable battery.

The Bad Heavy; small navigation toggle; lackluster software bundle; so-so battery life and video performance.

The Bottom Line The Dell Axim X50v is filled to the brim with PIM and entertainment features; unfortunately, it suffers from subpar performance.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 6

Review Sections

Intro

Today, PDAs are no longer one-trick ponies. They can organize data, connect to the Web, play music and videos, and more. And now, Dell has unleashed its newest talent: the Axim X50v. Like HP's iPaq rx3715 Mobile Media Companion, the X50v aims to blend digital entertainment with productivity for a PDA that does it all. This star's massive features list includes a VGA screen, a dedicated graphics engine, wireless connectivity, and Windows Media Player 10.0 Mobile. And similar to the Palm-OS based gaming handheld, the Tapwave Zodiac2, the X50v comes with a games bundle to satisfy the player in you. As the flagship model of the X50 series, the X50v costs $499, but if you don't need all the bells and whistles, check out the midlevel model or the entry-level X50. With the Axim X50v, Dell introduces a kinder and gentler design to its PDAs. We weren't big fans of the Axim X30's squarish edges, which gave it a drab and utilitarian look, so we welcome the X50's smoother, rounded edges and attractive silver and black casing. At 0.6 by 4.7 by 2.9 inches and 6.2 ounces, the X50v is slightly bigger and heavier than the X30 and certainly the HP iPaq rx3715. As a trade-off, though, the X50v is solidly built, and the rubberized sides make for a comfortable and solid grip.

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Looking good: The X50v sports a sharp VGA screen.

The X50v's 3.7-inch VGA screen is a sight to behold. Like the Asus MyPal A730, it has a larger viewing area than most PDAs and boasts four times the resolution of a QVGA screen at 480x640 pixels for sharper graphics and text--a nice touch since Dell touts this as a multimedia handheld. The four shortcut keys (Calendar, Contacts, Inbox, and Home) and the navigation toggle reside just below and, compared to the X30's, are quite diminutive. While this wasn't much of an issue with the shortcut keys, the smaller toggle proved trickier to navigate, especially for those with bigger digits, and we often pressed the center Select button by mistake.

The left side of the PDA gives you access to a host of goodies. There's a lanyard hook, a lock switch, a wireless on/off button, and a voice-record button. The one-touch access to wireless connectivity is a particularly nice convenience since you don't have to fish through the Settings menu to turn on Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The top of the device houses a 3.5mm headphone/headset jack that accepts Walkman-style 'phones and supports VoIP and voice-recognition apps; the stylus holder; and dual CompactFlash and SD expansion slots, while there's a standard sync/cradle connector on the bottom of the device. Give the X50v a twirl, and on the back, you'll find a battery-lock switch that enables the user to swap out the 1,100mAh battery; a Reset button; and two rubber grips to prevent your handheld from slipping.

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Wireless connectivity and voice-recording functionality are only a click away on the X50v.

There aren't too many extras in the box, but you get a desktop sync cradle, a travel charger, and a protective case. As mentioned earlier, the X50v has a user-replaceable battery, so if you're a road warrior, you might want to invest in Dell's 2,200mAh extended cell for $99.

A check under the Dell Axim X50v's hood shows a well-equipped and powerful handheld. There's an Intel 624MHz XScale PXA270 processor that, like any chip in this family, features SpeedStep and Wireless MMX technology to optimize battery life. However, the X50v doesn't stop there. Complementing the handheld's VGA screen is a dedicated Intel 2700G graphics engine with 16MB of video memory for better video playback and an improved gaming experience (see Performance). Road warriors can take advantage of the graphics processor to give presentations on the go with Dell's Presentation Kit, which includes a VGA cable to hook to the projector and Westtek's ClearVue Suite for $79. Memory is ample, with 128MB of flash ROM and 64MB of SDRAM (139MB of which are user accessible). If that's not enough, the dual CompactFlash and SD expansion slots should do the trick.

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The X50v comes with a games bundle, but the small toggle takes away from the overall experience.

The expansion options are particularly attractive since the X50 is the first Pocket PC to offer Windows Media Player 10.0 Mobile. What does this mean for you? In short, it's a better multimedia experience. Aside from being able to carry your favorite WMA, MP3, and WMV music files on your handheld, you can now view album art as songs are playing. Also, Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10.0 gives you access to audio and video content from subscription services, such as Musicmatch and CinemaNow. Do you like to show off photos and videos? You can do that too with WMP 10.0. But wait, there's more--to really drive home the fact that this is a multimedia device, the X50v ships with a games bundle that includes Stuntcar Extreme and 3D puzzles such as Enigmo.

Wireless connection comes in the form of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which can be used simultaneously. The X50v ships with a WLAN utility that shows signal strength, encryption options, certificate enrollment for advanced Wi-Fi authentication, and more. Bluetooth opens the doors to communication with other devices, allowing users to do even more with the X50. For instance, paired with Dell's GPS receiver ($249) the X50v can be used as a navigation device, or you can connect to a Bluetooth keyboard, such as the Think Outside Stowaway, for more productivity.

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Windows Mobile 2003 SE lets you do the old switcheroo and view apps in Landscape mode.

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