November 11 2003
Dell is the direct PC king whose latest PDA range has been eagerly awaited by PDA enthusiasts. Like the X5 range Dell has ramped up a single range of three models built around similar chassis and a mix and match of specifications.

The X3 is the first of the newest breed, aiming for a more squared off design than the X5 series. The Wireless variant sits at the top of the range, costing £279 including VAT and Delivery. Once again Intel's X-Scale technology is powering the guts of the PDA, but it's the newer PXA263 model rather than the PXA255s in the HP iPAQs. This move to the latest chip is bolstered by 32Mb of Intel StarFlash! ROM for file storage out of the total 64, although the processor speed remains the same at 400MHz.

Battery power on the machine's most aggressive settings was as impressive as the HPs- One whole night and morning detached from its cradle after full charging- a 12 hour period- powering up from standby reported a 2% power drain on the X3s's 950mAH battery. However the Wireless LAN connectivity and any wish for music or gaming means getting another battery (the 1800mAH extra battery is only £46 inc vat).

One feature retained by Dell but dropped by HP is the Sony Minidisc-style jog shuttle wheel with push button selection, which makes navigation a breeze once windows are open. Some people will of course just stick to the stylus and it's a matter of taste, but it's a good move to let people make up their own minds.

The supplied cradle is solidly built and in a nod to the modding and Imac crowds, topped in Silver and displays the Dell logo in neon blue when charging. There's also a rear-mounted slot for charging that second battery independently of the PDA. This slot sports its own LED.

Being a PocketPC machine the ubiquitous Microsoft ActiveSync 3.7 was bundled for Synching, along with Outlook 2002. Operationally there were no problems although just like when Microsoft desktop OS change over, drivers will need to be updated to Windows Mobile/PPC 2003 if you have any existing devices to use with this PDA. The full range of accessories are at the Dell website including an extension to the one- year, next-business-day replacement warranty.

Verdict

It's a good machine with a price and specification that competes with HP's iPAQ 2210 but this must be balanced out by the fact that the sole supplier can charge what it likes. It also depends on which wireless network standard is in your office- if it's Bluetooth, the Axim X3 wireless will fulfil offline and synchronised PDA functions.