Below the Wireless button is one that activates the record mode, enabling you to take notes either by speaking into the built-in microphone or with the stylus. When I went to pick up the Axim I often accidentally activated this button, especially when I took the PDA out of its cradle. Perhaps a better place would have been slightly lower down, rather than in the middle. Speaking of the cradle, the one included isn't as large or as brash as the one bundled with the X30 range. Out goes the glowing blue Dell logo for a more understated (and cheaper, presumably) affair with no backlight. As with the old cradle there's a slot for recharging a spare battery.
A very welcome sight at the top of the device are slots for Compact Flash and SD IO devices. This is impressive considering that the X50 range is smaller than the dual-slot HP iPaq hx4700, and adds a wide range of expansion possibilities.
The Axim X50s run Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. It's interesting that every time I've gone back to using a PocketPC from a Palm, I can't help but notice how much snappier Palm OS is. This was true even when I forced the Axim to run at 620MHz at all times, rather than the automatic setting, which cuts back the clock speed when it can to conserve battery power. That said, I still prefer using a PocketPC. One key reason is ActiveSync, which assuming you use Outlook, is far better at keeping your PDA and PC synchronised than Palm OS' HotSync, as anything you change on the PC gets synchronised with the PDA immediately and automatically. This means you're far more likely to have the information you might need with you at any time.
One of the benefits of Windows Mobile 2003 SE is that it natively supports VGA in both landscape and portrait. This enables you to see far more than you can with standard QVGA screens. The quality of the screen can't be faulted either. It's bright, clear and evenly lit and makes pictures look great and text easy to read. This helps make the X50v easily the most pleasant to use PDA in my experience.
What's even better about the display is that it's backed by an Intel 2700G 'Marathon' graphics accelerator with 16MB of video RAM. This graphics chip is based on a PowerVR graphics chip from Imagination Technology, which most famously was found in the Sega Dreamcast console.
To show off the power of the graphics chip, Dell has included a CD with two games: a racing title and another that was too bizarre for me to work out how to play, but looked great. The graphics were genuinely impressive on both. There's a good range of titles available for download online but I hope more are created that really take advantage of the power on offer here. In the meantime, if you're interested in seeing what your Axim can do, you can download some demos from PowerVR's web site.