Handhelds Get a Boost From Windows Mobile 5

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Dell's Axim X51v (upper left) packs more power than the HP iPaq rx1950; it also sports a larger screen. But the iPaq is smaller and slimmer.
Dell's Axim X51v (upper left) packs more power than the HP iPaq rx1950; it also sports a larger screen. But the iPaq is smaller and slimmer.

Whether you prefer your personal digital assistants tiny and svelte, or are willing to add an ounce or two in exchange for increased power and performance, new Wi-Fi--enabled models from Dell and Hewlett-Packard promise to fit the bill. Judging from our tests of preproduction versions of Dell's Axim X51v and HP's iPaq rx1950, these first Pocket PCs based on Windows Mobile 5 substantially deliver on Microsoft's claims that the latest edition of its operating system for handhelds would improve devices' capabilities for both work and play.

The $499 Axim X51v targets the bigger-is-better crowd with such top-of-the-line hardware as a 624-MHz Intel XScale processor, Intel's 2700 handhelds graphics accelerator (including 16MB of memory for better video streaming), 256MB of flash ROM, 64MB of SDRAM, both SD Card and CompactFlash slots, and a full VGA (640 by 480), 3.7-inch display.

The iPaq rx1950, in contrast, takes the "pocket" in Pocket PC seriously: At 4.4 ounces, it weighs nearly 2 ounces less than the Axim, and it's smaller and thinner, too. The device is also $200 cheaper ($299 street), but its hardware specs are far less impressive: a 300-MHz Samsung CPU, 64MB of ROM, 32MB of SDRAM, an SD Card slot, and a 3.5-inch QVGA (240 by 320) display.

The two units have removable, rechargeable lithium ion batteries (the Dell included a recharging cradle with a slot for a spare battery; the HP hooked up via a simple USB cable). Both came with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios that were easy to configure through vendor-provided utilities and Windows Mobile 5's own software. And the two devices performed well with Windows Mobile 5's most notable applications, Word and Excel (see "Microsoft Upgrades Windows for Handhelds").

In fact, Word and Excel documents rendered almost perfectly (one flaw: a couple of small images on a document containing text and graphics dropped out during the conversion). I had no problems using Windows Media 10 Mobile to load and play tunes from the popular Rhapsody subscription service. I don't use Outlook as my calendar and address book, however, so I was dismayed to see a message warning of limited functionality without Outlook; this notice popped up whenever ActiveSync 4 (the latest version of the Windows Mobile desktop software) detected that I had connected one or the other handheld to my PC.

Users seeking a workhorse with lots of storage plus the power to run heavy-duty business apps or games should check out the Axim X51v. People who want to send and receive e-mail, browse the Web, or listen to music on a device sized for a shirt pocket should consider the iPaq rx1950.

Yardena Arar

Dell Axim X51v

Preproduction model, not rated.
Big-time hardware features make this affordable model attractive to power-hungry mobile users.
Street: $499
Current prices (if available)

Hewlett-Packard iPaq rx1950

Preproduction model, not rated.
This skinny, lightweight device is great if you don't demand too much of a connected handheld.
Street: $299
Current prices (if available)

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