Pocket LOOX N520 PDA review

4.5 out of 5
£270

For

Looks, size, GPS performance

Against

More memory wouldn’t hurt

You can buy a N520 complete with bundled Navigon Mobile Navigator 5 satnav for £345, which is excellent value if you like that software solution.

However, the four digit postcode entry and far too busy mapping interface mean that we don't. Buying the PDA only version gives you the flexibility to decide on the satnav you use, in this case ALK CoPilot 6 with UK and Europe maps all on a single SD memory card, making installation as simple as inserting said card and clicking on a few option buttons.

The detailed 3D NAVTEQ maps, myriad "points of interest" options, seven digit postcode entry and clear, concise navigation instructions being particular highlights.

But it's when good satnav software meets the perfect hardware that sparks start to fly, and that's exactly the case here.

Talking of which, the N520 is enclosed within a case so slim and light we thought we'd been given a Palm device instead of a PocketPC PDA. At just 116 x 71 x 14mm it won't put a bulge in your pocket, and at just 160g, weight isn't an issue either.

The slate grey with a hint of blue colour scheme is pleasing on the eye, and when you turn it on the blue backlighting of the keys add that finishing touch of class.

The main reason that the N520 has such a smooth and, dare we say it, sexy feel to it is because there's no unsightly GPS antenna sticking out the back or top to spoil the aesthetics. This has been made possible, and here comes the science bit, by the use of the brand spanking new SiRFStar III GPS chipset.

Anyone who has ever used a satnav device will be frightened by the sensitivity of this GPS system, with the device indoors or in your car glovebox don't be surprised to see it locking-on to half a dozen satellites and providing an accurate location reading. Well, not after the first time anyway, you can't help but be surprised once. All of which makes the external antenna connector superfluous really.

But this isn't just a GPS unit, it's also a PDA. Luckily the trade-off between PDA and GPS functionality has been perfectly balanced, in that there really isn't any. The 128Mb of flash memory could be bigger, but as long as you keep your satnav software on a SD card it shouldn't matter. And being "flash" it lives up to the name by hanging onto any data within it even after a total power drain and system shutdown. It takes a lot of using to drain the battery though, in a standard drain test (MP3 music playing with screen forced on) we got 8 hours and 3 minutes from it.

Verdict

With Sony out of the market, Fujitsu Siemens Computing with the Pocket LOOX family provide the only credible competition to the HP iPaq range: and the N520 proves just how credible. Big and bright screen, that stays that way in sunlight because it's trans-reflective, powered by Windows Mobile 5, and complete with a good selection of utility software.

It not only has a USB port for charging and data transfer, but it acts as a USB "host" which means it will let you plug devices into it just as on a desktop PC. There's no Bluetooth, but this isn't a PDA phone so who cares? Not us, especially as it does include Wi-Fi. Not any old Wi-Fi either, but the super fast 802.11g variety. There are plenty of folk lugging laptops around that can't claim the same. Even the faux leather slip case is good looking and functional enough not to need replacing within 3 minutes of seeing it.

It may not be the most powerful PDA money can buy, but we challenge you to find a better one if you want state of the art GPS integration without the usual plastic appendages sticking out.