eWEEK Labs tested two of the latest business-oriented handheld computers based on Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC mobile operating system—Dell Inc.s Axim x50 and Hewlett-Packard Co.s iPaq hx2700—and we were pleased with the flexibility and connectivity options that each product offers.
Both devices run Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, which offers improved display options, support for WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) security and an invaluable Web browser tweak that finally makes viewing standard-size Web pages on Pocket Internet Explorer a viable proposition.
The $339 Axim x50 began shipping in October, and the $549 iPaq hx2700 began shipping this month. Because they run the same operating system and are physically similar, its the additional applications that Dell and HP bundle with their devices that differentiate these units—particularly the tools for configuring each devices Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios.
We preferred the iPaqs wireless connections manager, which provides a single location from which to manage Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, to the wireless setup tools included with the Axim.
Another thing we preferred about the iPaq was its flip-down display protector, a design that makes it simpler to keep your screen safe without having to tote around a separate sleeve-type case, as with the Axim we tested.
Neither the iPaq nor the Axim sports an interface quite as clean and pleasant to use as that of PalmOne Inc.s Tungsten T5. However, with superior network connectivity options in the form of built-in Bluetooth and 802.11b radios, along with SD (Secure Digital) and CF (CompactFlash) slots for peripheral expansion, the Axim and the iPaq will each serve very well in data collection reference roles, as well as in the desktop PC supplement role that has been the traditional stronghold of handheld computers.
The iPaq is powered by an Intel Corp. 624MHz PXA270 processor and packs 128MB of ROM and 128MB of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM). More than half of the ROM is available for storing files. Data stored in handheld device ROM—as opposed to RAM—will survive in case of a total power loss, which is a common occurrence in handheld devices.
The x50 comes with a slower Intel 520MHz XScale PXA270. However, we didnt notice a performance gap between the two devices. Frankly, although chip speeds in the mobile device world consistently climb, we have yet to see the mobile applications appear that can take advantage of these faster speeds.
The hx2700 measures 4.7 inches tall by 3 inches wide by 0.65 inches thick and weighs 5.8 ounces. The Axim x50 is about the same size and heft, measuring 4.7 inches tall by 2.9 inches wide by 0.7 inches thick and weighing 5.9 ounces.
Both devices share the standard assortment of Pocket PC buttons—four application launcher buttons and a directional control button on the bottom front of each device. However, the Axim also includes a control weve not seen before on any Pocket PC weve tested—a switch for locking the buttons and display, which is great for preventing unintended power-ons.
With both devices, we were able to reassign each button to launch the applications of our choosing. Only on the iPaq, however, could we also assign a secondary function to the buttons, triggered by holding the button down.