Unlike some manufactures who release a large number of devices in a
variety of forms, Dell tends to stick to one design and offer it with
various internal components. After their first entry into the
market with the Axim X5, Dell has decided to make some changes in the
Axim X3. Additionally, instead of just introducing a basic and
advanced version of the device, Dell has also decided to add a wireless
model to the line up. This review specifically takes a look at the
Axim X3i, the version of the device with wireless embedded.
The Dell Axim X3i includes relatively standard
specifications. It is based around an Intel XScale running at 400
MHz. Both the RAM and ROM of device are 64 MB, but allows for
expansion via the Secure Digital slot. The devices SD slot is an
SDIO slot, so Bluetooth and WiFi SDIO cards can be used with
the X3i. The screen is a standard 16-bit color screen, displaying
Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC. The wireless module is a
standard 802.11b unit with the antenna sticking out of the top of the
device. Even though the device has wireless, its battery is the
same size as the other editions of the X3, 950 mAh.
The style of this device is simple. It is
slightly rounded, but still square. It is an ultra-thin size, only
slightly thicker than the width of the stylus. Unlike most
devices, the back of the device is not flat. Where the battery is,
the back is slightly raised. The back is also slightly raised near
the jog unit and headphone jack due to their size and placement on the
device. Overall I am a fan of the style of the device. I
like the size and the general feel of it. It isn't so small that
it is hard to use but it isn't so big that I can't just put it in my
Dell did something a little different with the buttons.
All the buttons are on the face of the device. The record button
is a smaller more difficult to press button on the far left and is
mirrored on the right side of the device by a button specifically for
controlling the embedded wireless. The middle four buttons are
nice sized and easy to press, and as usual are completely customizable
by Windows Mobile. The directional pad is interesting.
Instead of being round, it is an oval. Again it is small and in
some ways hard to control. I like it better than the Axim X5
directional pad specifically because the action button is a separate
button in the middle. On the side of the device is the scroll up,
scroll down control. I actually found that with device I used it
quite a bit while I was on the internet. The scroll toggle has an
action button built in too when you press into the device. This
makes IE navigation almost one handed. The soft rest button is on
the back next to the battery compartment. The power button is
right at the top of the screen and is similar in feel to the four
buttons for application launching. The power button is much better
than the Axim X5 in size and "press-ability." It also contains a
light to show if the device is charging (amber) or fully charged
This is the second device I have had with embedded
wireless. Since my first device with wireless, I decided that
embedded wireless was a good idea for how I use my device. I like
to connect to a lot of different networks and don't like to have to worry
about wireless cards. At first, the Axim X3i seem strong
wirelessly like other
devices. While the antenna protrudes, it gets a strong signal.
Also it has a blue light built it which shows the wireless activity.
Having the light in the antenna is nice because you can usually tell if
it is having problems connecting (because the light flashes about once a
second) or connected (a variety of flashes every second). At this point, I thought the wireless
module was great on this device like on others I have tired, but I have
had some problems. The biggest problem is if the device locks
while the wireless is on, it usually takes at least two soft resets to
get the device back in a state where the wireless can be turned on.
Another is just connecting to network. Often times the internal
unit had troubles negotiating with the network or jumping between
different networks. I also used a SanDisk SDIO WiFi card with device and had a lot better experience than
the embedded unit.
Also included is the standard IrDA port which is
located on the top of the device. Seriously, I didn't even try the
port. With a USB sync cradle and WiFi, I don't really see IrDA as
being a major need though it is nice for easy connection to other
devices like cell phones.
Some people are disappointed to find the device only
has a Secure Digital slot. But remember, it is SDIO. For
most users, having SDIO will be as good as a CF slot because you will
only use memory and maybe Bluetooth. Since the device already has
WiFi, you aren't going to use the expansion slot for that (unless you
are crazy like me) and in the future there like will be other types of
SDIO cards. The slot is on the top of the device which makes for
Screen and Battery
As you should be able to tell from the pictures, the
screen is extremely vibrant. It is one of the strongest screens I
have seen. I have been using the Axim X3 with its brightness set
near the lowest setting. This helps to conserve battery life,
which can sometimes be a little scarce. The wireless module uses a
lot of battery life. There is about a work days worth of general
use when the wireless module is on and the screen is at a moderate
brightness. There is a little less than a work days worth of use
if there is an SDIO card in use as well. I found that I really had
to plug the device in everyday if I used it for more than about 30
The first thing I thought when I saw this cradle was,
"this is huge." I wouldn't really say it is big, I would say huge.
I think this is probably the biggest cradle I have seen. The Axim
X5 cradle was much more stylized than this one. While it does have
an extra battery charger built in, I have seen other cradles that have
integrated the whole system much better. The USB cable is built
in, and the AC adapter can be removed as needed. The front of the
cradle will light up with the Dell logo to show charging. The
bottom of the device only includes a sync connection for connecting to
the cradle. In order to just use the AC adapter, you need to use
the included AC to sync adapter.
Also included on the device is a headphone jack on the
side of the device. For some reason it is a little hard to get a
standard 1/8" headphone connector in there, but it is meant to go in
there. I like it on the side, though it is bad if your headphones
cord connects on the right size of the headphones. In any case, it
is nice the cable doesn't have to drape over the device. The
microphone for the device is on the front face near the power button.
I am not sure if it is better have it here versus on the top, though I
would imagine for a more directional recording it would have been better
for it to be on the top. The units speaker is on the back of the
device...which I don't think I have to explain why is a bad idea.
Also included in the device package is a nice simple case with a belt
clip which I have been using with the device for the last couple weeks.
The Dell Axim X3i has some pros over its predecessor,
but also some drawbacks. My favorite thing about the device is its
style and size. Also I really like the screen quality. My
least favorite thing is the wireless module which I didn't like as much
as an SDIO card. Also I really don't like how the speaker is on
the back because the audio goes the wrong way (the person in front of me
hears it better than me...or my hand hears it better). In any
case, the Axim X3i is a good device and is relatively inexpensive.
I would recommend the device, though I would just want to make sure the
purchaser knows some of the drawbacks.
Dave's Score - 8.0
This means, this product is a very good product,
though has some features which could be improved. This product embodies
quality in its design and application, and is something I would use
though I think there are still areas for improvement. Weigh
the pros and cons before purchasing, but in my opinion this device is a
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