|No extreme makeover here; the X30 retains the same look as the X3.|
|A view from the top reveals the IR port, the expansion slot, and the wireless antenna.|
The screen is a standard 3.5-inch TFT display with 65,536 colors and a 240x320-pixel resolution. Just below it are the five-way navigational keypad and the four traditional shortcut keys to your calendar, your contacts, your in-box, and your home page, all of which are user programmable. As a bonus, you'll find two labeled buttons on the outside of the shortcut keys; one controls the voice-record function, while the other enables and disables Wi-Fi. The latter is particularly handy, as it lets you access the Web with one click rather than having to navigate multiple menus. Turn the device over, and you'll find a speaker and the user-replaceable 950mAh battery. To disengage the cell from the handheld, you have to hold the unlock key while taking out the battery--but at least it's removable.
Lining the X30's left side are a standard headphone jack and a jog wheel that allows you to scroll through menu items and to easily navigate with one hand. These features cause that side to protrude slightly--not a major inconvenience but a bit of an eyesore. The right side houses the flat stylus, which never felt comfortable in our hands; we prefer the traditional round form.
Power play: The desktop cradle includes a slot for a second battery.
Sitting on top of the device are an IR port, an SDIO/MMC expansion slot, and an antenna nub for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The antenna glows green when Wi-Fi is on and blue for Bluetooth, but it adds a bit of bulk to the device. By comparison, many models with the wireless combo, such as the HP iPaq H4150 and the Toshiba e805, have the wireless radio seamlessly built in. Fortunately, Dell throws in a nice, soft protective case (with belt clip) that covers the antenna and allows for easy transport. Other extras in the box include a slick USB synchronization cradle with an extra slot for a second battery, an AC adapter, and a power cord. Arguably, the most noteworthy improvement to the Axim X30 is the next-generation Intel processor. As the flagship of the new Axim line, this model boasts the top-of-the-line 624MHz XScale PXA270 processor. Not only does this mean a faster engine speed, the new chip also features a combination of SpeedStep technology (originally found in Intel's chip for notebooks), which dynamically adjusts power according to the application, and Wireless MMX technology (for multimedia performance), both of which extend battery life (see the Performance section). Even with the energy-saving processor, Dell includes an internal backup battery so that you don't suffer any data loss if it runs out of juice. A high-capacity 1,800mAh battery is also available for $99.
Also onboard is a healthy 64MB of RAM, but with the Axim's ability to play videos and audio files, you'll want to invest in a storage card to hold these memory-intensive files.
Memory is a terrible thing to waste. Carry your files on MMC media.
Improving upon its predecessor, the X30 now includes Bluetooth capabilities so that you can connect to other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a cell phone or a printer. And the Axim lets you use both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi simultaneously, unlike the Asus MyPal A716, which can handle only one wireless function at a time. Thus, for example, you can use Wi-Fi to access your e-mail account, then print a message to a Bluetooth printer. Dell will also offer Bluetooth accessories (a GPS navigation system and a keyboard) for purchase in mid-to-late June, though pricing has not been determined yet.
As noted, connecting to the Web is simple with the X30's single-touch access, and once online, you'll find more useful tools through Dell's WLAN Utility app. It displays signal strength and encryption (if any), and it lets you perform more-sophisticated functions, such as using a site monitor to search and track access points in range and engage in certificate enrollment for advanced Wi-Fi authentication.
The Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition (SE) enhances the experience with its Wi-Fi-protected access feature and landscape-view support, which offers a bigger viewing screen. You'll also find the staple Pocket versions of Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player 9.0, and more. Unfortunately, there isn't much else besides a backup utility, a program launcher, games (Solitaire and Jawbreaker), and trial software, such as McAfee VirusScan PDA and Cash Organizer 2003. We had a lot of expectations for the Dell Axim X30, and we weren't disappointed by its performance. Sporting an Intel PXA270 624MHz processor and Windows Mobile 2003 SE, the X30 was decidedly the fastest Pocket PC we've seen to date. Its test scores were, on average, about 35 percent quicker than those of the Toshiba e805, our current chart topper. With the X30, all applications responded instantly, even when multiple apps were running and the PDA was in PowerSave mode (where the processor runs at only 208MHz).
The X30 also offers striking video performance. Even though the screen doesn't have the highest resolution, it's bright, and video clips and games looked great. Images were crisp, and action shots were only slightly pixelated. The TFT display was also easy to read in sunlight.
The Dell Axim X30's battery life was also impressive. In CNET Labs' drain test, where we let the device repeatedly play a video clip with the wireless radio turned off and the backlight set at High, the battery lasted up to 4 hours, 30 minutes. In our anecdotal test, which replicated normal, real-world use, the battery life was about 14 hours.
The X30's built-in wireless connections, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, also performed well, offering a great range and a strong signal. Web pages loaded quickly, and it took mere seconds for the device to find to a wireless network. The included Wi-Fi utility has loads of connectivity options. Again, unlike other Pocket PCs, the X30 allows you to have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on at the same time, and there were no access problems when both functions were operating.
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.