New Tricks For Tungsten, Axim

If you're going to shell out around $800 for a handheld that isn't also a phone or a camera, you expect more than a plain-vanilla PDA. Both PalmOne's Tungsten T5 and Dell's Axim X50v deliver that something extra - but they do so in notably different ways.

The biggest selling point of the $749 Tungsten T5: it has 256MB of memory - almost four times as much space as its predecessor (the Tungsten T3) had, and the most we've seen on a PDA to date. Sure, you can always add storage by using the T5's SD slot; but you might need that for something else, such as an optional $199 SD Wi-Fi card. If you're after Wi-Fi, buy the card together with the T5 because as a bundle they retail for just $799.

Interestingly, the T5's memory is non-volatile: even if it loses its charge, you won't lose any of your data. And 160MB of it is held in an internal flash drive. Plug the handheld in to any computer with plug-and-play support for a USB thumb drive, and you can access your stored files. The T5's desktop software also supports HotSync-less file transfers for the internal drive, but you can add apps only by using HotSync.

The T5 forsakes the collapsible chassis that distinguished previous Tungstens, but it retains its predecessor's handsome, oversize (320x480) display. As a result, the T5 is a bit taller - though not dramatically so (4.8in versus 4.3in for the collapsed T3). Powered by Intel's 416MHz Bulverde XScale CPU, the T5 is a snappy performer. But our preproduction unit's battery life was adequate for only a day or so of intensive use, even without going online (we wish that PalmOne would add a removable rechargeable battery). This is the first Tungsten that doesn't ship with a cradle. Instead, you get a USB cable with a HotSync button. But the T5 should appeal to people who would like to use their PDA for storing lots of files.

If multimedia - especially video and games - matters to you, try Dell's Axim X50v Pocket PC: Not only does it pack Intel's most powerful CPU for handhelds, the 624MHz Bulverde, but it's one of the first mainstream PDAs with a dedicated graphics processor (the Intel 2700 with 16MB of graphics memory). It's also the first PDA to include version 10 of Windows Media Player Mobile, which permits playback of content from subscription services that support Microsoft's Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10 technology.

The X50v has 64MB of RAM and 128MB of flash ROM; you can add more storage via the SD Card and CompactFlash slots. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in. Battery life depends on whether you use the power-draining multimedia and wireless features. If you do, consider carrying a spare battery: the X50v's batteries are removable and rechargeable; the USB charging cradle has a slot for an extra standard ($14.30) or double-strength ($60.50) battery. About the same size as the T5, but slightly heavier, the Axim X50v is sharp-looking in the style of HP's smaller iPaqs.

I played a racing game on a shipping X50v and was impressed by the smooth performance on the 3.7in 640x480 (full-VGA) screen. The handheld gets warm, however, and the Pocket PC won't replace anybody's Game Boy. Still, the X50v delivers excellent Pocket PC performance, expansion, and connectivity in a sleek, $849 (including delivery) package, reinforcing Dell's reputation for delivering the most PDA bang for the buck.

The Dell's impressive update should delight any power Pocket PC user. The Tungsten T5, will appeal to people who want a Palm-based business handheld that can double as a portable storage device.

Dell Axim X50v
PRICE: $849; VENDOR: Dell; PHONE: 13 3355; URL: www.dell.com.au PalmOne Tungsten T5
PRICE: $749; VENDOR: PalmOne; PHONE: 1800 350 535; URL: www.palmone.com/au

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