Xircom handheld improved by touch-screen but limited by PCMCIA card.
With a touch-sensitive display, new Web clipping capabilities and four times the RAM of the device it replaces, Xircom Inc.s Rex 6000 MicroPDA represents a significant advance for the Rex product line and is a viable competitor in the low-end handheld device market.
However, although the Rex 6000s PCMCIA card form factor makes the device extremely portable, it limits the unit to basic PIM (personal information manager) functions. Users who demand Internet connectivity, multimedia features or peripheral expansion in a handheld computer should look elsewhere. In addition, the Rex 6000 is compatible only with Windows 2000 and Windows 98.
In any case, eWeek Labs found that, for basic PIM tasks, the small size (1.4 ounces and dimensions of 3.4 by 2.1 by 0.2 inches) and new touch-screen input options of the Rex 6000 made the device difficult to beat.
The Rex 6000, which shipped last month, sells for $149quite a bit less than the $230 that its predecessor, the Rex Pro, cost. At this price, the new model can compete with Palm Inc.s m100 and Handspring Inc.s Visor Solo. All three devices have 2MB of RAM.
Xircom has boosted the Rex 6000s display resolution to 240 by 120 pixels, compared with the 160-by-90-pixel resolution of the Rex Pro. This improved display enables the Rex 6000 to render text much more clearly, making it dramatically easier to use.
The touch-sensitive display allowed Xircom to add an on-screen keyboard for text entry. The keyboard operates much like those found on Palm OS and Pocket PC devices.
Take Me to the Web
In addition to the PIM functions found in previous Rex models, the Rex 6000 includes a Web clipping application similar to AvantGo Inc.s mobile Internet application.
We could log on to www.rex.net and select an assortment of Web channels on topics youd expectnews, stock quotes, sports, horoscopes. But unlike AvantGos application, the rex.net Web clipping service does not let users create their own channels, making this feature less useful than it could be.
The rex.net site is also supposed to provide additional applications for the Rex 6000. At the time of our review, however, there were no additional applications available for download.
The Rex 6000 ships with a version of Pumatech Inc.s Intellisync software to manage installation and synchronization. Out of the box, the Rex 6000 can synchronize with Microsoft Corp.s Outlook 97, 98 and 2000 contact management software, as well as with an Intellisync mobile desktop product that ships with the device.
As with previous Rex handhelds, users are able to synchronize the device through a notebook PC Card slot or a cradle for desktop computers. New to the Rex 6000, however, is the option of a USB (Universal Serial Bus) cradle, which speeds synchronization times considerably compared with the serial port cradles of previous models. The USB cradle is sold separately for $50 or is available bundled with the Rex 6000 for $190.
The Rex 6000 is powered by two replaceable lithium-ion batteries, and Xircom claims that their life expectancy is six months.
Xircom, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., can be contacted at (805) 376-9300 or www.xircom.com.