This thing is fast – really fast. Except for those areas where it is slower than its predecessor. Sound confusing? Well it didn’t make sense to me either until I did a bit of research. VGA devices, up until Windows Mobile 5.0 had been traditionally slower than comparable non-VGA devices. This has something to do with having more pixels to handle on the screen.
WM5 is supposed to bring VGA performance into line with non-VGA devices. Other reviews I have read noted that screen redraws are quicker and icons and menus load better as well.
I did notice that programs like Pocket Word (Now called Word Mobile) and the Excel counterpart actually seemed to take a little longer to load on the new Axim x51v than on my older machine. I am told that WM5's move to flash memory as the storage medium could be the reason. Flash memory is slower than pure RAM and the Axim must take a program from Flash and put it into RAM before it loads – possibly accounting for a perceived slower load time. Once loaded, every program I tested was incredibly fast running.
Where this unit really shines is with 3D programs like the included Stunt Racer and Enigmo Games. I also tested a new version of Virtual Pool Mobile that took advantage of the 3D acceleration and the graphics and gameplay were simply the best I have ever seen on any handheld – period.
Dell supplied me with a copy of Futuremark's SPmark '04 mobile benchmark tool.
SPmark is a full OpenGL ES 3D benchmark, capable of giving Axim a full video diagnosis. I tested both the “High Quality” and -- "Low quality" settings. There was a slight, very slight stuttering on the “High” setting but…wow…this is very impressive. The quality was “lower” as you would expect on the “low” setting but the image was very smooth. The results were an impressive 26 fps on the low setting and 8.9 fps on the high setting. Not bad at all. The 2700G Video card also allows you to play DVD quality video at full speed without taxing the main processor. Last but not least, the 2700G also provides output to an external display via an optional VGA adapter cable. This means that you can hook the X51v up to an external monitor or VGA-equipped television to show pictures, play games, type, watch video, or surf the web.
The Axim x51v comes with Integrated Bluetooth 1.2 and 802.11b Wi-Fi. Bluetooth 1.2 is news here since earlier PDA’s had version 1.1. Very few peripherals take advantage of the newer 1.2 version – but with the newer peripherals (like Bluetooth GPS units) there is supposed to be a speed and security advantage.
Pairing devices with Bluetooth in Windows Mobile 5.0 is very straightforward and pretty intuitive. Simply search for Bluetooth devices, enter pass keys if necessary and you are ready to go.
The Axim x51v comes with 802.11b Wi-Fi and, again, it worked flawlessly. The Axim immediately located my home network and I was on line surfing the Web in minutes. Wi-Fi was fast – really fast on the x51v. Web pages loaded faster than on my Notebook. To test video performance and Wi-Fi speed, I went to the windows media home page and viewed movie trailers and short films. They loaded without hesitation and looked great on the VGA screen. Dell also includes a two week trial for SmartVideo – a program and web site with great video content including live TV. Again, it worked flawlessly on the x51v.
I seemed to average about four hours of continued use before needing to recharge. Dell claims that the x51v has about 15% more battery life than the x50v and that is because Flash ROM takes less power. However, my battery life was not consistent. There were times when I would leave the unit off at night fully charged and in the morning I had 60% or less battery life. With wireless running, my battery life dwindled significantly. When battery life reached 20%, I could no longer connect via Wi-Fi. The battery issues seem to be WM5 related and not a fault of the Axim.