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Toshiba improves its Pocket PC

With its new Pocket PC series, Toshiba takes a good thing and makes it better, adding a faster processor and a whole lot of memory. Review by Gary Krakow, MSNBC.
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Toshiba’s last Pocket PC was terrific. The e740 was lightweight, a great size, had a nice color screen and came with built-in 802.11b WiFi wireless networking built-in. What more could you ask for? Well, how about a new fast processor and a whole lot of memory inside?

InsertArt(1864894)TOSHIBA’S NEW e755 Pocket PC is a lot more of the same and a lot more at the same time. You only need to go down the list of features to understand what I mean:

The e755 has the same dimensions as its older brother, the e740: 4.9 by 3.1 by 0.6 inches, and it weighs 6.7 ounces. On the outside, there’s a Type 1/Type 2 Compact Flash card expansion slot, a SD expansion slot and an infrared port. There’s a microphone/stereo headphone port as well as a built-in speaker. On the back is a rechargeable, replaceable Lithium-ion battery. Toshiba’s optional large battery is a good idea if you’ll be doing a lot of wireless computing.

What Toshiba engineers put inside is what makes the e755 special. There’s the 3.8-inch TFT color display (240 by 320 pixels, 16-bit) and an ATI graphics controller with 384 KB of internal video memory. The processor is Intel’s XScale PXA255 chip running at 400 MHz. Add to that an industry-leading 96 MB of user memory and another 32 MB of ROM (read-only memory, where the operating system and its programs are stored) and you have one heck of a handheld computer.

The configuration of the memory is unusual as well. The e755 has the 64 MB of RAM (random access memory) that most high-end handhelds will be sporting this season, as well as the 32 MB set aside for a flash-ROM disk. If you tell the e755 to save your important files to this flashROM, the data won’t be erased when your batteries run down. Toshiba says “you can feel at ease that your critical files and applications are safely backed up”. It’s also a lot better than the old-fashioned method of adding a little back-up battery inside. In recent times, there was no backup at all.

The e755 comes with a USB cradle to synchronize with your PC computer (Pocket PCs still don’t come with Macintosh sync software), an AC adapter brick and what Toshiba calls a soft-slip case. The case is faux leather, but it does its job. All the standard Microsoft Pocket PC software is jammed inside as well as IA Presenter, IA Screen Mirror, Adobe Acrobat Reader and ArcSoft PhotoBase.

The built-in WiFi is 802.11b, with 802.1x security. The great new feature is that the Toshiba also comes ready to handle VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) so you can use it as a phone from any available WiFi-enabled areas. Before you write and ask me where, be aware that you need additional hardware and software as well as a VoIP-enabled network.

In addition to the high-capacity battery option there are some other notable add-ons to the Toshiba unit: a foldable keyboard, a cute little battery charger that allows you to zap two batteries at the same time and a cable to attach a USB keyboard. There’s also an expansion pack, a small little device that snaps on to the bottom of the unit, which also allows you to hook your e755 to an external RGB monitor or projector, if you’d prefer to handle presentations from a handheld computer. Sure beats lugging a laptop around.

What more can I say? The e755 worked exactly as promised and is a joy to use. Its light weight and small size make it easy to tote everywhere. Speed is great: Web screens draw quickly on the device. Connecting to WiFi networks is a breeze, the e755 presents you with a list of available networks and then it’s up to you to join. As for battery life, expect a few days use in between charging (figure five to six hours) or only two hours if you’re constantly using the WiFi feature. The large battery should double those times, but it also adds a great deal of size and weight to the total package.

Toshiba’s e755 is highly recommended, but with two cautions. First, it sports a list price of $599, which I consider to be the upper end of what handheld computers should cost. Plus, it’s been more than a year since Microsoft has said anything about updating its Pocket PC operating system with new features. That’s a long, long time in computer time, and it might be giving the competition a chance to catch up. More about that in the near future.