Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC Review

Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC

Premise: Stress test the Dell Axim X30 624mhz Pocket PC, a Netgear WGR-101 Wireless Travel Router, an Igo Juice ac/air/car charger, and assorted other gadgets on a two week business trip from New York to San Francisco, Hong Kong, and Shenzhen (China)

  • What software did I need
  • Where could I get wirelessly connected
  • What didn’t work
  • What made life easier
  • What made life harder

Conclusions:

The Igo Juice Power Adapter allowed me to use my Laptop continuously on the 2 12+ hour flights.

The Netgear WGR-101 Router allowed me to have 2 laptops and a pocket PC simultaneously connected (wirelessly) to the hotel’s high-speed network and to use those gadgets outside the room.

The Pocket PC allowed me to get emails, check the news, weather etc without switching on the laptop. It also allowed me to track expenses and keep flight/hotel information together in one place, and kept me occupied with books, music, and games.

See the extended entry below for the full review.

For more info and to order click here

Ordering and Price

I ordered the 624mhz Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC with 802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from Dell on 6/16 and it arrived 2 weeks later. I paid a total of $338 for the Axim X30 and a spare battery and took advantage of 10% off, free shipping, and a $25 off $350 coupon.

Check the ShinyPlastic.com home page for any current coupons or deals on the X30.

At the same time I ordered a 512mb SD (Secure Digital) card from Amazon as I expected I would need more storage spare.

Packaging

The Axim X30 arrived very well packaged, I think it will be very difficult for anything to get damaged in transit.

Included with the 624mhz version of the Pocket PC were a battery, docking station, power adapter, leather carrying case, documentation and software CD containing ActiveSync (pc synchronization software), Microsoft Outlook, and various demo versions of Pocket PC software.

First Impressions

My last Pocket PC (which died on me last year) was an old Compaq iPAQ 3630, by comparison, at first glance the Axim X30 seemed smaller, squarer, and more plastic, I was also surprised by it’s light weight.

Time will tell but so far I think that the Axim X30 fits my hand well, but the headphone socket is in the wrong place, and the stylus seems a bit flimsy and doesn’t lock into place well.

The leather carrying case is going straight in the trash: it feels cheap, and you have to struggle to take the Pocket PC out of the case before you can use it. I think I am going to order a Rhinoskin and/or Vaja case instead.

Charging

I found inserting the battery to be tricky for a few seconds before realizing there was a switch you had to move with the stylus.

Charging was easy, but waiting 8 hours for the battery to charge was hard: I wanted to start using the Pocket PC right away.

Setup

Activesync installed with no problems on my PC and once I plugged in the USB cable I was able to sync the email, calendar and contacts on my Axim X30 with my desktop very easily.

Wireless

There is a switch at the bottom right of the Axim X30 that switches the wireless on and off, hit it once and both 802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are enabled, hit it again and they are disabled.

I found this to be irritating and a waste of battery, I would have preferred a configuration option where I could choose which wireless option(s) that button activated.

With 802.11b switched on the Pocket PC easily found 3 wireless networks including my home network, and once I entered my WEP (encryption) key I was connected. The 802.11b antenna doesn’t seem too good as it could only pick up 3 networks whereas my PC can pick up 10 from the same location.

One thing missing is instructions on how to sync with your PC wirelessly, however I found instructions on Aximsite and was syncing wirelessly in no time.

Software

The software included with the Axim X30 is a bit of a disappointment, you get all the usual stuff, email, calendar, contacts, pocket word, pocket excel, AvantGo, internet explorer etc, but Dell only included trial versions of other software.

First thing I did was to start installing some useful utilities and programs including Spb Pocket Plus (today screen plug in), Vindigo (restaurant reviews), Microsoft Reader (ebooks), ewallet, and Audible (spoken word books), as well as a large selection of ebooks and music (on the SD card). My only frustration so far is that the Audible player starts itself up every time you sync.

Initial Conclusions

The Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC seems like a great Pocket PC so far: really fast and amazing value for money.

I intend using it a lot in the next two weeks on an extended business trip to San Francisco, Hong Kong and China and will be using it on the plane, wirelessly at the airports, and wirelessly at the hotel and pool, maybe even leaving my laptop switched off and using the Axim X30 to post to this site.

Time will tell if the stylus and headphone slot are too much of a hinderence, and I am already wishing I had bought a Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard to use for data entry.

Initial Plus Points

Price
Speed
Weight

Initial Minus Points

Flimsy stylus
Wireless on/off
Headphone socket

Part 1 of the Trip

Preparation:

I prepared my new Axim X30 for my 2 week business trip by installing a load of software:

Spb Pocket Plus: for easy launch of programs and viewing of battery level
Pocketbreeze: for easy viewing of appointments and tasks
Pocketwatch: for knowing what time it is on the east coast, west coast, China, and the UK on one screen
WiFiFoFum: for seeing what wireless access points I could find
Audibleplayer: for listening to audio books
Microsoft reader: for reading ebooks
Vindigo: for finding bars in San Francisco
Skype: for making voice over IP calls to my wife
Rocketelite: for relaxing and playing the most addictive game around
and a few other little games such as a solitaire collection and minesweeper

The only program I couldn’t get working was Skype, It kept hanging on me before I could login.

I then loaded up my 512mb SD card with music and about 50 ebooks from fictionwise, and created a set of html pages with all my flight and hotel information (I know there are programs to do this but I find simple html pages to be a much quicker way to access the information, just set the home page on IE to be my trip information.


In addition to the pocket pc I was loaded down with other gadgets and gizmos:

My new Netgear WGR101 wireless travel router
An Igo Juice travel adapter with plane/car adapters and connectors for my laptop, phone, and my wife’s pocket pc
Canon Powershot S400 camera
Cellphone
Bose Noise Reduction headphones
Sony Z1 laptop

All prepared we jumped in the car and headed off to JFK airport.

The Airport and Flight #1:

We were flying Jetblue which for flight within the US has a number of advantages for me: The Jetblue terminal at JFK has free WiFi connectivity, and the planes have leather seats, about 30 channels of Direct TV, and they serve those cure little blue potato chips.

In the airport the pocket pc did its job: I was able to press the “enable wireless” hardware button and it automatically found and connected to the Jetblue wireless access point (WiFiFoFum showed they had at least 3 APs in the terminal).

I agreed to their terms and conditions and I was online with 30 minutes to surf the web and check for email.

Once on the plane I settled into my middle seat and tried to get comfy for the six hour transcontinental flight. As soon as the seat belt signs went off I started up the Pocket PC and spent most of the flight reading an ebook and playing Rocketelite. About an hour before we were to land the low power warning came up, I could have switched to my 2nd battery but decided to watch some TV instead (Travel Channel had a show reviewing some interesting bars in NY that I will have to go to).

The only pocket pc problem on the plane was when it got a bit bumpy, it made it almost impossible to click with the stylus in the right place.

Hotel 1: San Francisco Hilton

After a 30 minute wait for our checked bags and a quick cab ride over the bay bridge we checked into the hotel and went upstairs to our room with a view.


My wife headed off to the office and I settled down to try to connect up my magic bag of tricks.


The Netgear router is really small: smaller than the Axim X30 but a little thicker. Setting it up was easy: there is a little switch on the side that lets you choose between 1 user, multi-user and configuration: I set it to configuration first, switched on the wireless on my laptop and it found the router immediately and connected without any problems, I then changed the admin password and setup some WEP encryption to keep out casual snoopers.


Next I switched it to multi-user, entered the WEP key into my laptop and pocket pc and they both found the router immediately. On the laptop I agreed to the hotels terms and conditions (and $10/day high-speed internet fee) and was online.


The Pocket PC had a little hiccup where it failed to get an IP address from the router but a quick disable and re-enable of the wireless fixed that.

In the hotel WiFiFoFum picks up five other wireless networks, 3 seems to be other hotel guests and 2 belong to Citi-Net internet.

Overall a successful day using the Axim X30.

Part 1 Summary:
Plus: Free WiFi at JFK Jetblue Terminal
Plus: Netgear WGR101 Router worked perfectly
Plus: WiFi and WiFiFoFum software on X30 works really well
Minus: Difficult to use X30 on a bumpy plane ride
Minus: Skype software not working

Part 2 of the Trip

In San Francisco:

I spent Monday Evening through Thursday Morning in San Francisco, a combination of work and fun.

The WGR101 wireless router worked flawlessly at the hotel and the only problem was duplicate charges on the room bill for high-speed internet (a couple of times when we were ready to leave the hotel for the airport we connected laptops directly as the router was packed and the hotel system charged the daily fee separately for each device connncted to the network. The front desk removed the extra charges without any questions).

During the day I mostly worked out of the hotel room wirelessly with both the Axim X30 and the Vaio laptop.

One useful thing was that my wife was online at her office and I was able to use MSN Messenger to talk to her, I just wish the Pocket PC version of MSN messenger supported “smilies” so I could send her hearts and kisses.

The Axim X30 was also useful when I wasn’t working:

Vindigo gave me directions to bars and restaurants for dinner.
I had to wait 2 hours for the cable car (1 hour at either end), so AvantGo and Microsoft Reader stopped me getting bored.
I planned to go wardriving war-cablecar-ing but the cable car was packed and I had to hang on the side with both hands.
I kept track of business expenses using Pocket Excel (the amounts etc will be transferred to my wife’s corporate commence system later).


The Airport and Flight #2:

For this part of the trip we were flying United from San Francisco (SFO) direct to Hong Kong (HKG) in business class: a 13+ hour long direct flight.

We checked out of the hotel and got a limo to the airport (same price as a Taxi). At the airport check-in went smoothly and we headed to the United International Red Carpet Lounge (this lounge is available to anyone flying United Business (or Economy if they are United Mileage Plus Premier Executive or Star Alliance Gold)).

The lounge is comfortable, large, and clean, but not as nice as a first class International Lounge: you get two drink coupons and there are unlimited snacks and soft drinks available.

There are lots of power outlets in the room so I was able to plug my X30 in and keep busy for the two hours before boarding.

WiFi was available but was a T-Mobile Hotspot ($9.99 for a day or $29.99 monthly subscription). I didn’t connect as I had synced everything, checked the weather forecast, etc at the hotel but WiFiFoFum did pick up 3 hotspots with good signals from the lounge.

We got onto the plane and settled into out comfortable seats on the upper deck of the 747. These are my preferred seats as the upper deck is small and quiet, and you have big storage bins alongside the window seats.

The flight attendants came around with champagne, juice and water, and we departed on time despite 2 people turning up so late they started removing their bags from the plane and were going to leave without them.

This was my first chance to use the Igo Juice power adapter in the plane and I was a little worried as I had read that the seat power sockets on the plane were often broken, this one worked fine and I was able to have my laptop on AC power for the whole flight, watching 4 DVDs and doing some work. For the rest of the flight I ate the meals, drank a lot of water, and slept.

Service on the flight was excellent, with my water glass constantly refilled, and I managed to get 3 hours good sleep which I don’t normally manage in economy seats.

Hotel 2: Conrad Hong Kong

We arrived in Hong Kong expecting the forecasted sunny 90 degree weather but found heavy winds and driving rain. Unknown to us at the time we had landed right in the eye of Typhoon (Tropical Storm) Kompasu which had turned suddenly to the north and had hit Hong Kong with a lot less warning that usual.

We took the high speed train into Hong Kong Central (a bargain at HK$150 (US$20) for 2 people) but found massive lines for Taxis at the station so instead of waiting we schlepped our heavy bags through the MTR (subway) to Admiralty station which connects via an underground passage to Pacific Place, the upscale shopping center that includes our hotel.

We checked into a very nice room on the executive floor with views of the Harbor and the Hills:





(photos taken this morning once the rain had eased off)

The rest of the evening included a drink at the executive lounge, dinner buffet in the hotel, then back to the room for some well-needed sleep.

This morning I woke up refreshed and without a trace of jet-lag! (which surprised me). After breakfast in the executive lounge it was time to see if my luck with hassle-free connectivity would continue.

Luck failed me.

I got no connection with the high speed internet through the WGR101 router so I plugged the laptop directly into the high speed connection. After various restarts, ipconfig releases/renews etc I finally got a connection and the page to pay HK$120 for internet but right after agreeing to pay the connection went down again.

I found that I could get reconnected for 30 seconds to 5 minutes at a time by unplugging the ethernet cable, waiting a bit, then reconnecting, but then the connection would go down again.

I gave up for a while and was about to call the helpdesk at the hotel when everything started working perfectly: I guess they must have fixed whatever problems they were having.

Once things seemed fixed for a few minutes I connected up the router, then switched on the wireless on both laptops and everything worked fine. Switched on the Axim X30 pocket pc and had no problems syncing wirelessly with my laptop.

In the hotel WiFiFoFum only picks up my network, no-one else here seems to be wirelessly connected (although I am on the 58th floor so I probably can’t pick up networks in the lower floors and the shopping center).

Overall using the Axim X30 is still mostly hassle free and it is definitely a worthwhile investment that is making my trip easier, more productive, and more fun.

Today will be spent in Hong Kong, then its off to Shenzhen in mainland China for 6 days where the connectivity may not be quite as easy.

Part 2 Summary:
Plus: WiFi (pay for) at San Francisco
Plus: Netgear WGR101 Router still worked perfectly
Plus: Igo Juice worked great on the plane
Minus: No Igo adapter for Axim X30
Minus: Internet problems at hotel in Hong Kong

Update:

Part 3 of the Trip

Hotel 3: Crowne Plaza Shenzhen

The web connectivity from here is always interesting – this time I cannot work effectively as many web site show up as “page not found” 90+ percent of the time.

For example; a lot of my work involves creating, optimizing, and managing Google Adwords adverts, however the google adwords site is unreachable 90% of the time, and when I can get to it then it takes an average of 2 minutes for each page to load.

One thing that does work well is catching up on email wirelessly with the Axim X30 pocket pc. I have the wireless travel router setup in my room on the 15th floor and I can sit down below at the pool reading and answering emails wirelessly with a good WiFi signal.

The battery life is good enough for me to spend a couple of hours at the pool emailing with the WiFi on and brightness near maximum.

Now if I can only buy a bluetooth folding keyboard, a nicer case, an extended battery, and find a way to order margaritas wirelessly I will be set for my vacation in Mexico in a couple of months!……

Part 4 of the Trip

Hotel 4: Conrad Hong Kong (again)

No problems getting connected this time. Our room was on the top floor next door to the presidential suite, and I was able to connect to the wireless router easily from the Executive Lounge two floors below.

The wireless connectivity of the Axim X30 Pocket PC and the Netgear WGR-101 Router definitely makes the trip a lot easier: instead of being chained to a desk I can go to the lounge for a drink, a snack, and a change of scenery.

The Airport and Flights #3 and #4:

The trip back home consisted of a 4 hour flight to Narita (Tokyo, Japan) followed by a 12 hour flight to JFK (New York), the flights themselves went smoothly and seemed a lot quicker with the X30 Pocket PC and the Laptop (powered by the Igo Juice so no battery worries). Only downside was that there was supposed to be free Wi-Fi connectivity at the Narita Red Carpet Club, however it wasn’t working when I was there (the staff’s suggestion was to use dial-up instead).

Conclusions

None of the Gadgets were indispensable but they all made my trip a lot easier and more comfortable:

The Igo Juice Power Adapter allowed me to use my Laptop continuously on the 2 12+ hour flights.

The Netgear WGR-101 Router allowed me to have 2 laptops and a pocket PC simultaneously connected (wirelessly) to the hotel’s high-speed network and to use those gadgets outside the room.

The Pocket PC allowed me to get emails, check the news, weather etc without switching on the laptop. It also allowed me to track expenses and keep flight/hotel information together in one place, and kept me occupied with books, music, and games.

Overall, for this trip, I would rate the Router 10/10 (no complaints), the Igo Juice 8/10 (no adapters for Dell D series laptops, messy cable organization/storage), and the Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC 8/10 (flimsy stylus and stylus slot, wireless button controls both bluetooth and 802.11b).

Aximsite has a more detailed/technical review
For more info and to order from Dell click here

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