Although there are studies showing that connected PDAs (converged devices and smartphones) will dominate the handheld market in the near future, there is still market space for entry level PDAs. There are users that seek organiser functionality over connectivity and for these users entry level devices are in high demand.
The Toshiba e400 and e405 target this segment. The Pocket PC comes in a small box with basic instructions sheets (a printed user's manual is part of the European version), stylus (no spare), AC adapter, power cord, CD (including user's manual in Adobe Acrobat format) and USB cable. Like other entry-level Pocket PC there is no cradle in the box, and the USB cable plugs directly into the device.
The device is just a little bit bigger than the HP iPAQ h4155: 125mm x 76 mm x 12.5mm (L x W x H). It's actually the same height, and it fits comfortably in a shirt pocket. The sides are covered with a rugged plastic cover, making it easier to hold it in the hand while using. Actually quite a good looking PDA, with a non common blue colour case.
The stylus is extendable, and when inserted into the slot it actually reduces its size to 6.5 cm. When removed from the slot you can extend it to its full length, 9.8cm.
An interesting feature (documented in the manual, but not tested) is the USB client and host interfaces. An USB host cable is available as an accessory, but not in the box.
It uses the standard 3.5" screen common to other Pocket PCs, with a 240x320 pixels resolution. It's very easy to read and brighter than other Pocket PCs.
There's no Bluetooth or wi-fi functionality, although users can still connect to an ActiveSync host computer or to a mobile phone using the infrared port available.
The Toshiba e400 runs Windows Mobile 2003 Professional Edition, meaning that some applications (Microsoft Reader and the Windows Mobile Image Viewers) are not available in ROM. If needed some of these programs can be installed in RAM later, using some of the 64 MB of RAM (62.12MB available to the user). There's a 32 MB of NAND Flash memory available for more permanent storage. The processor is an Intel XScale PXA261 @ 300Mhz.
Processor and ROM configuration
62.12MB RAM available
Low battery alarm setting: goodbye to annoying alarms at 40% battery
Part of the basic software on this Pocket PC is a World Time clock and home application. Like in previous Toshiba products, the home application is program launcher, but this version has enhanced functionality. Users can check what programs are running, access programs in groups, and check current battery and memory status. There's also a basic backup/restore utility.
World Time clock
Backup and restore utility
There's a stereo headset at the top of the e400, and there are controls (not available in other Pocket PCs) to fine tune the sound. This will certainly attract a few users who are looking for a basic device but with good sound performance.
For music lovers: additional volume controls
More for music lovers: bass and treble controls
Where this device really excels is in the text-to-speech and speech-recognition functionality Toshiba made available in this version. The software comes on the CD and once installed the user can issue basic commands and also more complex instructions, including document creation, e-mail reading, and more. And all of this without voice training or recording.
Speech-recognition: Global commands available
Speech-recognition: Application commands available
Speech-recognition: User-configurable commands
Text-to-speech: Reading e-mails
The back is not flat like in other Pocket PCs, but it is recessed, with some space taken by the SD card holder.
The Toshiba e400 did not show a great performance, but most users of this handheld will not expect something for intensive gaming or video playback. How does it perform on a benchmark against other machines? I've used Spb Benchmark to collect performance information, and if you click in the chart you can have access to our Performance Centre, with other Pocket PC reviews and charts:
In summary, it's a machine appropriate for entry level users, looking for an organiser with some special functionality. The text-to-speech and speech-recognition software place this handheld a notch above other entry level Pocket PCs.