Dell Axim X30 Review and Comparison

Well, I’m now officially on my third PDA and, like many others, I’ve converted from Palm OS to the Pocket PC realm. I have been very happy with Palm OS, but there are some features on the Pocket PC that I couldn’t pass up. In this review, I’ll take a look at those features and also look at the physical differences of the Dell Axim X30 compared to the Handspring Visor and Palm m500.

I started out back in 2000 with a Handspring Visor Deluxe. At the time, I think I paid about $250. It was great because it had the “expansion” slot, which I never actually used. Well, I guess I can’t say I never used it. I was part of a comptition team that created a FRS module for it. But anyway, a good PDA.

Next, in 2003, I got a Palm m500. Not much of an upgrade, but it did have a faster processor and a MUCH slimmer design. I also paid considerably less: $80 refurbished from the Palm Store. The best thing about this is one is its size. Even when I had it in a slim aluminium case, I would hardly notice it in my pocket.

Now, I’ve moved up to the Dell Axim X30. So far, this has turned out to be a fantastic product.

Size Comparison
My initial fear with the Pocket PC was that I would be reverting back to the days of the big bulky Visor; however I decided I was willing to sacrifice size for the increased performance. After I actually got it, I found out I was wrong. To illustrate this, I took some photos of my PDAs side-by-side. The first shot is an overhead view of all three. As you can see, the X30 is about the same height as the visor (with the antenna) and about the same width of the m500. Now, the thickness is about right in the middle.

Next I compared the size of the X30 and the m500 in their respective aluminum cases. I bought a metal case for the X30 because I didn’t care for the “leather” case that came with it. It had a belt clip built into it and it’s not removable. I didn’t like how the belt clip took up unnecessary extra space. The metal case also comes with a belt clip, but it’s removable. The case for the X30 is much more compact than the m500 case, so in the end, the X30 is actually narrower and only marginally thicker than the m500. The only think lacking with the X30 case is a double-hinged lid. With my m500 I could open the case and flip the lid and fold it around the back. This obviously adds bulk to the case too, and I have not yet found an X30 case that has this ability.

All PDAs Overhead View    X30 and m500 In Case Overhead View

nAll PDAs Profile View    X30 and m500 In Case Profile View
Click image to open larger view in a new window.

Converting Palm Data to the Pocket PC
Obviously, one of my first tasks was to convert all my data from my Palm Desktop to Outlook. This was a low point in the whole experience when it finally sunk in that I have now been relegated to using Outlook to manage my data. However, I would never convert to using Outlook for e-mail. I prefer to choose to stay free of viruses and malware, so I use Thunderbird. With my rant aside, there are a few ways to do this.

  1. Use a third party app, mostly commercial, to convert the data
  2. Export the data from Palm Desktop using CSV files
  3. Reinstall Palm Desktop with the Outlook connector

I opted for choice #3. The only stumbling block here is that you will likely need to dig out the CD that came with your Palm. It will include the Outlook connector. If you’re like me you might have updated your Palm Desktop software since the original install, however, the download versions do not have the Outlook connector. So in this case you need to:

  1. Sync your Palm
  2. Downgrade your Desktop to the original version on your CD
  3. Move any old data on your PC so it can’t find it. There are compatibility issues between some versions of Palm Desktop
  4. Sync your Palm
  5. Install Palm Des
    ktop with Outlook Connector
  6. Sync your Palm
  7. Uninstall Palm Desktop (Optional?)
  8. Install ActiveSync (get latest version from Microsoft)
  9. Check field mappings
  10. Sync your Pocket PC

Really make sure you have all the field mappings correctly setup with the Outlook connector before performing the last step. The first time I tried this, I lost all of my categories for my contacts and notes. There is a setting in there to preserve these that is not on by default. This may vary depending on what Outlook connector came with your Palm.

Other Accessories

Cradle
Make sure to take note if the X30 comes with the cradle or just a hotsync cable. When I bought my X30, I got the 624MHz version, which comes with the cradle, where the 312MHz does not. Be sure to include this in your cost consideration. I was going to get the 312MHz version and add on the cradle, but when I discovered that the 624MHz version came with it, that was enough to “push” me into getting the faster one. I’ve found that it’s really worth having the cradle. It has an extra slot for charging a second battery. I think it is also a lot easier on the seemingly fragile connector. Over time, I think that using the cradle will increase the life of the connector.

Belkin 3-in-1 Travel Kit
I also added this option from DELL, although you can get the s
ame thing
or similar cheaper from Amazon, which gives you a hotsync cable and plugs for charging on an AC outlet or 12V car outlet. You can, of course, charge via USB also. I infrequently use this cable at home when I need to. I have the cradle at work, and that is mainly when I charge it. I am leery about using the hotsync cable a lot because it’s not as easy to pug and unplug and I think it can be rough on the Pocket PC connector (as I mentioned above.)

Second Battery
I ended up buying this extra battery from Amazon. From what I’ve read, the Pocket PCs can drain batteries, especially if you’re using wifi. I haven’t been in dire need of it yet, but it’s nice to have. There are also some extended life batteries out there, but if you get a case, make sure the extended battery will fit first!

Screen Overlays
In my opinion, these are a must! Some people don’t like them, but I would rather replace a thin piece of plastic then end up with a scratched up screen. They do reduce visibility, and it’s really hard to get them on there without some bubbles, but I still think they’re OK. I got the Belkin 12 pack, again from Amazon, for $10 which is only slightly cheaper than Dell, but add shipping and it may be more.

Additional Memory
With my X30, I got a 1GB SD memory card fro
m Dell. I really wanted to be able to load it up with MP3s and pictures or whatever. I wanted to get the biggest card I could so that I wouldn’t be swapping it out all the time.

Service Plan
Dell also offers a “CompleteCare Accidental Damage Service” on top of the standard 1 year warranty. This provides advance replacement for the first year if anything happens to it (unless it is lost or stolen.) I figured during the first year, it is the most costly to replace it, so I added this service on for another $30. I figure, if I don’t get it, I’ll break it, if I do then I will. I think it’s aMurphy’s Law thing.

Summary
So, in the end, I’m really glad I made the upgrade. One of the biggest factors for me in going with the Pocket PC over something like the Palm Tungsten was the integrated WiFi. Yes, I know the Tungsten C has it built in, but it also has that annoying keyboard built in, eating up your screen. I think over time, I’ll be able to do more with the Pocket PC than the Palm.

I also picked the Axim over an iPAQ, mainly because I got a better deal for what I wanted. Plus, I like the Axim styling better and it has a little bit better user interface with the scroll dial on the left side.

I really didn’t want to get into a big review on mobile OS comparison. There are enough sites out there that do that already. However, I do have some suggestions on applications you may want to download that make up for some of the shortcomings I have found in the WM2003 OS. You can read about those over here.

Feel free to post questions in the comments too. I’d be happy to try and answer them.

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One Response to Dell Axim X30 Review and Comparison

  1. Lior Halperin says:

    Hi,
    I am using the axim x30 pocket PC. When I synchronize me desktop PC with this pockect PC, all meetings updated in the pcket pc from the desktop PC are synchronized hour less (for example instead of 12:00 in the desktop PC, in the pocket pc its saved as 11:00).
    more information : my desk top pc is timezone (jerusalem + 2) and automatically adjust for day light savings is marked.
    I found option in the microsoft synchronization software to not synchronize the watch in the pocket pc. This indeed stopped the watch from being one hour less. But still the calander meetings are one hour less !
    Please Help !

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