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Dell Axim X3i

The Dell Axim X3 comes in three versions. The ‘i’ in the name of our review model indicates that we have the one with built in 802.11b networking. The other two versions are wireless-free, and have different base specifications.

Both our review unit, and the less expensive, middle of the range £232 model are powered by Intel’s PXA 263 processor running at 400MHz, and have 64MB of DRAM and 64MB of ROM. All three have a 3.5in screen, while the docking cradles on our review unit and the £232 model both have a slot which can accommodate both a spare battery and a higher capacity battery. The latter adds a little overall size to the Axim X3 and is designed to deliver longer than the standard life.

The lower cost Axim X3, priced at £173, runs on a 300MHz processor, has 32MB of RAM memory, and 32MB of ROM and offers a sync cable instead of a cradle. We note all three new models in our review of the top end machine to illustrate how aggressive Dell is being in the PDA market, cramming in features at very low prices.

The Axim X3i is a real step forward in design terms from the original Axim. Where it was bulky this is small and light, its WiFi antenna adding a little height but its overall dimensions very competitive indeed with the rest of our group. The single SD card slot is standard fare for Pocket PCs, and there is 33MB of flash ROM to which you can save crucial data if you need it to survive battery drainage.

For some strange reason Dell has opted for a flat profile, very light stylus. The stylus isn’t normally something we’d comment on, but in this case it is so poor it’s pretty much useless.

Wireless is the key feature of the Axim X3i, and Dell’s WLAN connection utility is a breeze to use. A small activator button on the far right edge of the casing starts or stops the radio and connects or disconnects from your network. Dell’s WLAN software allows you to perform more advanced functions if they are required.

For symmetry’s sake, a second button on the left edge of the casing activates the Windows Mobile 2003 Voice Notes application. These two buttons extend the normal set of application shortcuts and navigation keys, and do not look out of place.

Dell is a bit mean with additional software, the on-ROM offerings extending to a backup utility, task switcher bar and that wireless LAN utility. Just the bare necessities really.

Any PDA offering wireless networking needs to provide battery life that allows its use. We always test battery life with wireless networking features switched off, though, so we can compare like with like across different devices. In this case looping MP3s and with the screen set to always on and at half its maximum brightness level we got 6 hours and 12 minutes of life, with sound playback stopping after 3 hours 33 minutes. These are respectable benchmarks, but the option of a spare battery and longer life cells will make those looking for full business day usage happy.

Verdict

For an outlay of £279 you’d expect a middle of the road kind of PDA, but to find a Windows Mobile device running 802.11b with flash ROM at your disposal is quite a treat. Dell offers a Spartan software bundle, and there’s no Bluetooth, but nonetheless for the LAN user this Pocket PC is definitely an option to consider.

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