image: Axim X5
Dell's Axim X5 Pocket PC comes in a $199 and a $299 version - the main difference being the amount of memory inside.
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msnbc.com

If someone made an automobile that did everything really well, handled beautifully, accelerated quickly, looked great and cost less than half of what similar vehicles sell for, do you think consumers might be interested? Dell Computer thinks so. Not with cars though, but with Pocket PCs. Dell’s new Axim X5 is a terrific Pocket PC and prices start at under $200.

InsertArt(1726729)OK. SO IT’S NOT the smallest or lightest Pocket PC around but in every other way it’s a big winner. There are a bunch of new, smaller and lighter devices on the way, but they’re supposed to sell for more than the X5.

Actually there are two Dell Axims — there’s one with a 400 MHz X-scale processor, 64 MB of SDRAM (random access memory) and 48 MB of ROM (read-only memory); and one with a 300 MHz X-scale chip, 32 MB of SDRAM and 32 MB of ROM.

The 400 MHz Axim comes with a shiny USB docking cradle which lights up a blue ‘Dell’ when you’re charging. The 300 MHz device comes with a USB cable. The 400 MHz X5 sells for $299 after a $50 rebate and the 300 MHz sells for $199 after the rebate.

Both X2s share a lot in common. They’re both 5.0 x 3.2. x 0.7 inches and weigh 6.9 ounces with the standard battery. They both run Microsoft’s Pocket PC 2002 operating system, both come with a terrific 16-bit, TFT, touch-sensitive, trans-reflective screen (240 by 320 pixels), both have a Type II Compact Flash slot as well as a MMC card slot, both have a removable, rechargeable lithium-ion battery (1440 mAh standard, 3400mAh optional), a 120V/240V AC/mains power supply, a button type backup battery and they come with a rubberized pouch for protecting and carrying your investment. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

The X5 is a great Pocket PC. It is capable of doing all the things that modern day Pocket PCs can do. It has all the software, hardware and bells and whistles that every other Pocket PC on the market has, except for some sort of built-in wireless networking. More about that in a minute.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play with the X5 for a few weeks now. It has done everything I need it to do - up to and including being the only computer I took with me on my recent trip to London. It’s a lot smaller and lighter than any laptop I could have taken and it allowed me to surf the Web plus access, read and answer my MSNBC.com e-mail in my hotel room via my trusty Compact Flash modem. Then again, any other Pocket PC could have done the same thing. But, overall the X5 worked really well especially for a $199 Pocket PC.

One quick mention about one little piece of software that Dell has included with the Axim. The switcher bar is great! Once you turn it on there are three little icons placed at the top of your screen. One allows you to easily exit programs running in the background — another lets you control screen brightness and the third lets you easily monitor the current charge on your batteries. Other Pocket PCs may include one of two of features. The Axim has it all.

So, is the X5 worth it? In one word, absolutely! This is a full-fledged, full featured Pocket PC selling at bargain prices. Yes, the X5 is on the large side of PDAs — but on the other hand, when you compare it to other Pocket PCs it’s not all that much larger, if at all. If you look at it another way the price per pound factor is amazing.

But the most important feature of the X5 is what it means for all PDAs. I think it’s difficult to rationalize buying a $500, $600 or even $700 Pocket PC when you can get an equal device for $200-300. In some cases, when you factor in the X5’s built-in expansion slots versus others’ add-on sleeves — the Dell an out-and-out steal.

And for those of you who feel the addition of built-in 802.11b or Bluetooth makes other manufacturer’s Pocket PCs more desirable please tell me why someone’s $500/650 model is hundreds of dollars better than a $199/299 X5 with a $100 802.11b or Bluetooth Compact Flash card. I’d rather pocket the savings.

On every count the X5 is the clear winner. Expect to see other Pocket PC manufacturers’ new smaller, less-expensive devices in the near future. I also expect to see a drop in the prices they’re charging for their current PDAs. But, if you’re looking for a full-featured PDA right now, you can’t do much better than the $199 Axim X5.

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