Pros: Price, expandability, design
Cons: Weak IR beam, D-pad is not precise
This is not going to be an in-depth, technical review of the Dell Axim X5, but rather my impressions as a user of this interesting device.
I migrated to the Axim by way of a Palm IIIxe and then a Compaq Ipaq. I found the Palm to be extremely useful, but limited do to its lack of multimedia capabilities. The Ipaq was promising, but I found the design to be somewhat flawed - especially the lack of built-in expansion slots, and the o/s somewhat underdeveloped.
I gave up on the whole PDA scene for a while, somewhat disappointed in the design and so-so functions of the available units - which really did not (in my opinion), justify their increasing prices. I actually went back to using that time-honoured classic combination - a pad and paper!
Last year a friend of mine in New York received as a gift the Dell Axim. I had seen it advertised, and for the money it did not seem like a bad deal. However, I assumed that there had to be a catch. After I got to inspect my friend's PDA up close I was pleasantly surprised - Dell certainly did their homework and put a quality unit on the market.
A year later, and here I am with my very own Axim X5. I admit, I really like gadgets, and I could no longer resist! Granted, Dell just launched the new X3, but having only an SD slot for expansion did not appeal to me.
I bought my Axim from the Dell refurbished site, and I cannot tell, save for the yellow "REFURBISHED" sticker in the battery compartment, that this is a refurb. Thanks to the X3's arrival on the scene the price dropped on the X5 right before I ordered it.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with the Axim. Compared to my Ipaq this is one well thought out unit. Granted, compared to the naked Ipaq and most modern PDA's the Axim is slightly larger, but that does not bother me. Some people complain about this unit's size, but I feel that it actually makes the Axim easier to hold on to.
The SD and CF cards incorporated into the unit are a necessity in my opinion, and I am very happy with their placement and performance. I ordered a 256mb SD card for this unit and use it as the primary location for program installations, thus freeing up the built-in memory for system uses. The CF card slot sees plenty of duty not only with the Dell TrueMobile 1180 WiFi card, but also importing images from my Canon digital camera.
I find the screen to be clear and without defects, and the illumination is more than adequate. I never have the brightness turned up to the maximum, as it is almost too bright for me! Screen-taps are instantly recognised, as is my handwriting. This is probably due to the improved o/s, Windows Mobile 2003.
When I ordered my Axim I opted for the 400MHz CPU. It is responsive and renders even the large image files from my digital camera in an acceptable amount of time. I never use the automatic CPU speed selection utility, as I do not find the battery life suffers too badly with the CPU being run at full speed.
Granted, nothing is perfect in this world, and neither is the Axim. One of the things that I dislike is the mushy, unresponsive D-pad. Some intrepid users over at www.aximusers.com have modified their D-pads with some success, but I have not quite got the courage yet to attempt it! You can push the D-pad down to select items and it works marginally well, but for direction choices it is useless. The system either misinterprets the direction or ignores it completely. But no bother, Dell has included a little jog lever that works quite well. It is quite effective as a page turning button for Microsoft Reader, or a volume selector when listening to MP3's.
The other flaw is the strength of the IR beam. It is supposedly good for up to 4', but I have had trouble synching up with my laptop from a distance of 4''! Sometimes I am able to change the TV from about 5' away with remote software - sometimes I cannot. It is hit or miss I guess.
Everything I need to do, from e-mail, watching videos, listening to MP3's, word processing (I even wrote this review on it, thanks to the Dell foldable keyboard), surfing the 'Net, remote access - I do with nary a problem on the Axim. It has definitely allowed me to replace my laptop as my daily companion. The CPU and memory are more than sufficient to watch videos and listen to mp3s (even more so if you opt for increased capacity via SD and CF cards).
It may be considered bulky by some or long in the tooth by others, but I am very happy and highly recommend the Dell Axim X5.