My PocketPC Upgrade Path

Toshiba e335

I originally got a Toshiba e335 a few years ago when Pocket PCs were starting to become popular.  Many of my friends had Palms or other organizers, and I needed something to replace my outdated Franklin Planner.  I had been a Franklin Planner cultist for nearly 8 years, so I always write everything down and archive everything…
So I figured I’d get all of that functionality PLUS games and other PC uses (playing MODs, MIDIs, etc).  The unit didn’t come with Bluetooth or any wireless, so any connectivity had to be done with ActiveSync.  SD wireless adapters just came on the market, and were incredible expensive.  The Toshiba e335 had these specs:
200Mhz XScale processor
Pocket PC 2002 OS
SD card (I bought a 128MB card for $70 at the time)
3.7″ TTF color screen (QVGA, 320×240, 64,000 colors)
64 MB memory
I used it all the time.  Hand recognition was great, and used it in meetings to take notes, and then distributed the notes to my team.  I even covertly recorded some “private” meetings, too, just in case…
HP ipaq h4155
I was working at a job until Tim (who’s written a few networking articles here) showed me his Compaq Ipaq with a much faster Xscale processor.  I tried DOOM on his unit and it ran 30 fps no problem!  I was stunned and amazed!  I immediately researched new Pocket PCs and came across the h4155, which had the smallest form factor of any Pocket PC, had integrated wireless, and better graphics performance than most other PPCs.  Here are the specs:
400Mhz Xscale Processor
Pocket PC 2003 OS
SD card slot (512MB SD card)
Integrated Bluetooth and 801.11b wireless
64 MB memory
3.5″ TTF color screen QVGA (320×240, 64,000 colors)
2.8MB internal flash memory (ipaq file store)
The ipaq did nearly everything I needed it to, and played all of my games very fast (although Tomb Raider’s audio lagged somewhat).  Only recently have games emerged that tax the 400Mhz Xscale processor.
I tried several tweaks and overclocking experiments, and never could get the unit past its default 400MHz without immediately crashing.
Dell Axim x51v
The Dell Axim x51v is freakin’ amazing!  It’s now a year old, so they’re starting to become affordable.  It is the first PPC to feature Windows Mobile 5, and one of the only PPCs with onboard graphics acceleration!  The main reason I got it was for this, as I can play Quake at 640×480 at 30fps (and this is with Bilinear filtering, transparency, and everything).  The Intel 2700g is similar in performance to a Voodoo Graphics card (or possibly even a Voodoo 2).
Right now all 3d accelerated games have to be written specifically for the Intel 2700g (like back in the Voodoo days before DirectX).  Microsoft is working on DirectX for handhelds, so it won’t be long before smartphones and pocket pcs are playing 3d accelerated games.
Here are the specs:
Windows Mobile 5
624 MHz Xscale processor (overclocked to 720MHz)
Intel 2700g 3d accelerator (that’s right, 3d acceleration on a Pocket PC!)
256MB internal flash store
Integrated Bluetooth and 801.11b wireless

SD Slot

Compact Flash slot (type 2)
3.7″ TTF VGA color screen (640×480, 64,000 colors)
Windows Mobile 5 works totally different than the previous PPC OSses…  Everything works more like a real PC… previously PPCs had 64MB of RAM, which was shared between program memory and storage (so realistically you only had 20-32MB of RAM available to the OS), and if the unit crashed or rebooted, you lost what was in storage, so who kept anything in storage?  Most everyone stored things on an SD card, so the storage RAM was basically useless and wasted.
Since everything is in flash (the Dell uses Intel Strataflash, so it’s not as bad as you think), it boots a little slower, and access is a little slower, but is much more stable, and there’s no way you can lose any data (unless you hard reset, which clears out the ROM).  Unfortunately, it caches a lot more to compensate for the flash RAM, but works more like a real PC.
This thing is wicked fast!  I have basically every 3d accelerated game out for it right now.  There is a port for Quake 3, but I don’t have enough RAM to run it. I can have the RAM upgraded to 128MB, which will solve this problem).  The 624Mhz Xscale processor is also very flexible, as I can easily overclock it to 720Mhz when running games without a problem.
The only thing missing is a camera, cell phone, and GPS, but the Compact Flash slot makes this easy.
I wish it had 802.11g wireless networking tho.  I use the unit to connect to my Media Center network and warch TV and videos outside on the deck!  Some bigger videos stutter sometimes because 802.11b is barely able to keep up with the streaming demands, but most Divx videos play fine. 
The dell Axim x51v is almost a PC replacement, as I can do nearly anything I can do at a real PC (edit music & mp3s, play nearly any video file, play 3d games, surf internet, email, write a document, powerpoint presentations… etc).
I might do a review, but if this thread keeps going then I might just spill the beans on just how awesome this thing is!
From my experience with Pocket PCs and how they perform, I’ve come up with the following processing equivilents.  I remember that it took a 486-66 to run Doom smoothly, and a Pentium 90 to play Tomb Raider smoothly (in software mode).  As near as I can tell, these equivilents are pretty close in processing power..
200Mhz Xscale = 486 25Mhz
400Mhz Xscale = 486 66Mhz
624Mhz Xscale = Pentium 90Mhz
Alan is a web architect, stand-up comedian, and your friendly neighborhood Grammar Nazi. You can stalk him on the Interwebs via Google+, Facebook and follow his ass on Twitter @ocmodshop.