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NEC MobilePro 250E

The MobilePro 250E is an upgrade of an earlier model, and is the least expensive of the Pocket PCs in this group. It needs to be evaluated with this fact in mind – it can’t possibly offer all the added extras that the top end machines can offer and still come in at such a low price. So the evaluation principles for this machine really do have to centre on value for money.

The core specifications are evidence of the budget nature of this Pocket PC. There is only 36MB of RAM available, but NEC has boosted this with an additional 36MB of Flash ROM which you can use to store either applications or data, bringing the total up to a respectable 72MB. Thinking of the flash ROM as system memory means you may not consider using it as backup storage, but whatever you set aside to this space will survive battery drainage. To help keep your data intact, NEC’s eBackup utility can automatically drop a backup to Flash ROM when battery power gets below 5%. It will also send backups to storage cards, and there is an SD card slot to accommodate cards.

This being a relatively low cost Pocket PC there are few extras. The lack of wireless connectivity is notable, though if you don’t need it there’s no reason you should want a device with it built in and choosing one without it may be a good way of saving funds. Bundled software is a bit thin on the ground, with eBackup supplemented by eMenu, an icon based alternative to the Today screen, rounding off the offerings on ROM out of the box.

The hardware is very small and light, and in fact this is the lightest of all the PDAs in our group, and it feels like an absolute featherweight in the hand, pocket or bag. There is one downside to the hardware design though, and that’s the lozenge shaped navigation pad which we found a little too large to use comfortably, and which lacks the ‘select’ feature that’s normally present when you press a navigation button. To select an item you need to resort to a screen tap or, our preferred option, forget the navigation button altogether and use the jog wheel on the left side of the casing.

NEC has compromised on processor power going for a 300MHz version of Intel’s PXA 255 instead of the faster 400MHz version. This is a fair way to save production costs as the speed difference between the two shouldn’t bother most users.

Battery life was pretty respectable though not outstanding. NEC reckons you should get about eight hours life from a full charge. Our MP3 looping eeked out three hours 13 minutes in total, and the device decided it didn’t have the oomph to carry on playing MP3s after 2 hours 30 minutes of this time. While this life isn’t disastrously low, it is worth noting that the battery is not removable, so you can’t slap in a new battery when the power drains completely.


Verdict

So does this machine represent value for money? Broadly speaking, the answer is yes. Our main issue with it is the lack of RAM. You may well find the 32MB available, which needs to be shared between your own installed applications and data and running applications, becomes a bit of a squeeze. If you want to save the Flash ROM area for backup and very important data, this could prove a problem.

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