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Dell Axim X51v 624Mhz

I have always had a thing for Pocket PC. Positioned as it is somewhere between a Nintendo DS and a laptop there is a lot here to like. Long time MHW readers may recall our first Pocket PC review of a Dell Axim X5 a number of years back which is still one of the most read reviews on the site so obviously I am not alone in my affections. The refurbished Dell Axim X51v (graciously provided us by Geeks) which we are looking at today--with its Intel XScale PXA270 "Bulverde" 624 MHZ CPU, 3.7" 480 x 640 VGA LCD, and its 16 MB Intel 2700G 3D graphics accelerator--is on paper perhaps the current pinnacle of Pocket PC development.

Axim Front     Axim Back

Specs/Features:

Processor

Intel XScale PXA270 624MHz

Memory

RAM: 64MB SDRAM
ROM: 256MB Intel StrataFlash ROM

Operating System

Windows Mobile 5

Display

TFT Color 16-bit, Touch Sensitive, Transflective LCD
3.7 inches
480 x 640 Resolution at 65,536 colors (VGA)

Expansion Slots

1 Secure Digital/Memory Card Slot (3.3v)
1 CompactFlash Type II Card Slot (3.3v)

Ports and Connectors

Infrared Standard v1.2 (115 kbps)
Cradle/Synchronization connector 36-pin connector
Audio stereo headphone with mono microphone supported connector

Dimensions

Length 119 mm (4.69 inches)
Width 73.0 mm (2.87 inches)
Height 16.9 mm (0.67 inches)
Weight 175 grams (6.2 oz)

Audio

Audio controller WM8750L sound chip
Stereo conversion 16-bit stereo; 8.0-, 11.025-, 22.05-, and 44.1-KHz sample rate
Record full duplex record and playback
Integrated Microphone and Speaker
Headphone stereo connector

Wireless Connectivity

Integrated WiFi 802.11b and Bluetooth 1.2

Power Supply

AC Adapter
Battery Type 1100-mAh Lithium-Ion Removable, Rechargeable (standard)
2200-mAh Lithium-Ion Removable, Rechargeable (optional)

First Thoughts

While slightly smaller and lighter than the earlier X5 the layout of the X51v is quite similar. The D-pad and surrounding application buttons, though smaller, are still on the bottom while most of the other controls such as WiFi, and voice recorder are still on the left. One major area in which the X51v layout differs from the X5 is that the SD card slot has been moved to the top of the unit with the CF card slot. No longer is the SD card slot under your thumb and constantly in your way.

As mentioned earlier the Dell Axim X51v is refurbished. That means that inside the standard OEM white stickered cardboard box you will find a stylus pen, battery cover, USB Sync cable, power adapter, and new battery, but you will not find an owner's manual or the Dell companion CD. These are not insurmountable obstacles, since the manual is available from Dell in .PDF format. You do, however, miss out on the Dell companion CD, which as far as I know is not available for download from Dell and contains some extra bonus Pocket PC software.

Active Sync, which you will also have to download from Microsoft because of the lack of the Dell companion CD, noted above is much improved here over the last time I used it. The interface is not near as clunky as I recall and the transfer speed is much better, making loading applications on your Windows Mobile device from your desktop much less of a hassle. Even though the credit here goes to Microsoft and not Dell for improving Active Sync in version 4.x, it nonetheless makes the synching, and loading of programs to the Axim much less of a hassle.

Looking around the internet the 4 hours and 15 minutes (power savings mode set to auto) battery life I got with my X51v at what I would consider to be normal usage (Microsoft Reader, MP3s listening, watching a few short video clips, as well as some light gaming) seems to actually be on the high end of what others are getting with their Axim X51v. This is a far cry from the up to 8 hours I was regularly getting with the X5. There is an optional 2200-mAh Lithium-Ion battery available if you need more juice. Though I don't own one, from the looks of it, the battery appears to be over-sized and wouldn't sit flush. I would probably choose a second standard battery for extra power myself. As for recharging it took 2 hours and 4 minutes to charge my X51v using the USB Sync cable. This was with a nearly discharged battery reading 4% remaining.

Compared to the X5 the X51v battery life is a little underwhelming. I understand that a bigger screen and a much faster processor means less battery life, and I being a Geek am even fine with that up to a point. But why the heck would Dell trade the standard 1440-mAh Lithium-Ion battery found in the X5 for the standard 1100-mAh Lithium-Ion battery found in the X51v? You up the power specs for the new unit and then you actually reduce the mAh rating of the Lithium-Ion battery. Dell, why-ever would you do such a thing?

Axim Battery Compartment     Axim Battery

Even though the X51v comes with much more memory than the X5 (64MB RAM 256MB ROM vs. 32MB RAM 32MB ROM) you will likely want some additional storage, be it in the form of a SD or CF card. I chose a 5GB Seagate CF card for mine (also supplied by Geeks). Well, being an OEM model the X51v doesn't seem to support it. No problem, I thought, I will just use the 2GB Kingston SD card from an earlier review I still have. Well, the X51v had problems with this card as well. Unlike the 5GB Seagate CF which the X51v didn't recognize the 2GB Kingston was recognized and would read the card just fine. It wouldn't, however, write to the Kingston card. Getting frustrated by now I went out and bought a 2GB SanDisk SD card. This card fortunately worked as expected.

Like the X5, multimedia capabilities of the X51v are once again somewhat limited by the tiny size of the speaker, sound is serviceable but tinny. If you want to listen to anything above half way do yourself a favor and invest in a set of decent headphones. Music of all sort played with no hitch including VBR and 320k MP3s, all of which played fine for me even while multi-tasking. Video playback was greatly improved from the X5 with the combination of a slightly larger screen, VGA resolution, and faster processor. Short PPC optimized video clips played fine with WMP. For more heavy duty lifting as well as MP4 playback I suggest you check out the free The Core Pocket Media Player (TCPMP v0.72RC1) which does a bang up job.

Since I don't have a wireless network in the MHW labs (all right, they are actually my living room) I couldn't test any of the normal wireless capabilities (802.11b & Bluetooth) of the Axim X51v. What I do have, though, is another Axim, the X5 that looking back it seems I have referenced 500 times or so in this review. Anyway what I can say is that the Beam (Infrared connection) of the Axim works just fine although it seems painfully slow. Next time I will have to find a way to test some of the Axim's other networking capabilities.

Pocket PC Software

I really don't have a lot new here to say. If you read our earlier X5 review do yourself a favor and skip this part because little has changed. Pocket PC software seems to still be in a holding pattern; while there are a lot of good free programs out there, good luck with finding many reasonably priced games. Most of the few polished games that I could find are still way too expensive. Want a few examples? How about the now ancient Myst which weighs in at twenty bucks, or AOE Gold which is now over six years old, but still costs thirty bucks. Finally I would love to play Quake Mobile since it takes advantage of the Intel 2700G 3D graphics accelerator in the X51v, but that game along with its expansion packs will set you back forty bucks (20 for the game itself and 10 for each expansion).

Benchmarks

I ran these numbers several times as something seemed amiss with the File System benchmarks. After further digging, though, it seems that the X51v is running Windows Mobile 5, while the X5 is running Windows Mobile 2. Why this is important is that the X5 is running the File System benchmarks using RAM while the X51v is using ROM. While ROM is slower than RAM there is at least one major benefit of ROM: it is non-volatile storage. This means when the battery runs down you don't lose your data. As for the other numbers, with the CPU & Graphic portions the X51v does much better and the results are essentially what you would expect to see.

Axim Graph

Overclocking

I struggled with whether to include the over-clocking results here. First, unlike the sluggish underpowered X5 (300Mhz) reviewed earlier the X51v is fast in its stock configuration. Second, just like my AMD X2 6400+ there doesn't seem to be much over-clocking headroom with the 624Mhz Intel XScale PXA270 CPU. In the end I decided if I left the information out the readers would have been curious about it, so here goes. There were only two over-clocked preset speeds available for the X51v with the very good Pocket Hack Master (the same over-clocking program used to over-clock the X5) 663Mhz and 728Mhz. 663Mhz worked fine, while the 728Mhz setting would cause a hard lock that I had to do a soft reset to clear. When running at 663Mhz the X51v benchmarks went up as follows: 7% CPU, 4% Graphics, 2% File System, and 5% for the single Game benchmark. While I might have gained a few more Mhz by establishing and testing various manual speed over-clocking combinations between 663Mhz and 728Mhz, it didn't seem worth the effort. None of these results are what you would consider earth shattering and I am not sure this level of extra performance justifies the additional battery drain.

Conclusion:

At this point Dell is no longer making the Axim, so users looking for lots of manufacturer hand holding are not likely to receive that here. If you are a do-it-yourself type of guy, though, most all the support you should need is available on the internet. If you do some searching, you'll even find a ROM upgrade. While I was frustrated by the Axim X51v's seeming lack of widespread memory card support, the only possible real deal breaker I can see here is the X51v's less than stellar battery performance. If I was to frequently travel with the X51v I would definitely get a second battery. The last factor here is, naturally, price. The Axim X51v sold for 500+ dollars new so IMO being able to get one factory refurbished for less than 200 bucks is to me a no-brainer.

Pros:

  • Very good level of performance
  • Actual VGA not QVGA graphics
  • Good looking 3.7" screen
  • Both CF & SD memory slots well placed
  • Low price (refurbished unit)

Cons:

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Questionable memory card compatibility
  • Mediocre sound

I would like to thank Geeks for providing us with the refurbished Dell Axim X51v for review. While this items is out of stock at the moment Geeks have a restock alert system. They also have the refurbished Dell Axim X51 in stock last time I checked.

Geeks

Added: July 7th 2008
Reviewer: JimAdkins
Score: 8  
Related Link: Dell
Hits: 7319
Language: english

  

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