Toshiba have released the e830 Pocket PC device, the successor to the popular e800 Pocket PC. The e800 was the first VGA Pocket PC on the market and supported VGA even before Windows Mobile supported it. The e800 created a small cult following because of this and Toshiba are looking to expand on with the e830.
In this review we look at the e830 and see if it stacks up to Toshiba’s previous work and whether it stacks up to the competition.
The first time you pick up the e830 you will notice that it is quite light in spite of its size. You will also notice its size –like other VGA devices currently in the market it is quite large. In fact the Toshiba e830 is marginally taller than the HP iPAQ hx4700 as well as a few millimetres thicker. The Toshiba e830 dimensions are 135.0 x 77.0 x 16.7 mm (LxWxH), and it weighs 200 g.
The e830 has some nice hardware and software specifications:
Intel PXA 272 processor @ 520 MHz
TFT LCD screen with VGA resolution (640x480 pixels) 64k colours
22 MB Usable Flash memory
Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
SD (SDIO enabled)
Compact Flash (CF 3.3V) Type II
User replaceable 1320 MaH battery
Having 128 Mb in a device is now a must for me. Having a large flash is great and I’ll always use that for installing apps first, however, there is simply too much you can do with these devices that means having 64Mb RAM is a limitation for a power user. This is especially true if you insert the card from your digital camera into the handy CF slot to copy and edit images directly on the device.
While the Flash ROM may not be as large as other devices on the market, it is not an insignificant size and is useful.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi seems to be standard on the current crop of Windows mobile devices, so it is good to see Toshiba finally having both in their top end device too.
Power users will appreciate the Jogdial which is very nice for general navigation, scrolling and managing lists (such as playlists).
One of the first things that struck me about this device is that it has a lot of buttons and switches on it. In addition to the four normal application buttons and the record button, it also has a “hold” switch for locking access to the button while the device is off, a switch to turn the wireless radios on and off (this works in conjunction with the software as you’ll see later), a CF eject button, a power button, a power switch, a battery lock switch and the jog dial.
The number of switches and buttons on the device is a clue to what you’ll find as you go through the device: it gives you the flexibility to change and alter almost every aspect of the devices functionality, performance and configuration.
Memory: 128MB for user, plus 22MB "Rom disk"
Not the fastest CPU on top of the line Pocket PC, but above the current average
Screen comparison: Toshiba e830 (L), HP iPAQ hx4700 (R)
Size comparison: HP iPAQ h4150, Toshiba e830, Harrier (Verizon XV6600), HP iPAQ hx4700
When you take a look through the settings applets, you will see options to change everything from the headphone balance to the CPU speed right out of the box.
Managing the balance between speed and battery life
In the ROM, Toshiba have also added a voice recording application, a utility for zero configuration wireless network connectivity, a backup utility, the Toshiba home application, an IP Phone client and a world clock.
Frankly, the software Toshiba has added to the device does little to enhance the value of the device. I’ll explain why.
The voice recording application is not VGA aware and looks blocky and only records in WAV format. This ultimately delivers a subset of the default notes application.
The world clock does not account for daylight saving (at least in New Zealand) and thus reports the current time incorrectly. Ultimately I can’t be sure of whether the times in the other countries are correct or not. The ironic thing about this is that the Toshiba clock completely disregards the current timezone information. The current time on the device was correct, but the world clock software reported a different time.
World clock: note the different time in the clock and the application
The Toshiba home application is great, but would be considerably better if it supported Today screen plug-ins (by default there are no Today screen plug-ins other than the default). If you use the hardware home button this application may be useful. I normally remap all the buttons to suit my needs and add plug-ins to the today screen, making this application redundant. As it stands, however, you may find this useful to launch applications.
Home application: good launcher, but with limitations
The IP Phone application is intriguing. This application will allow integration with your office IP phones. You can call by IP address or if you are not a number person (like almost everyone) you can call by device name. Of course you will need to use headphones with a microphone and have wireless turned on and leave the device powered up to receive calls. The IP phone application will also allow you to work on the Gphone system (a VoIP application based on SIP). Of course that is if you know anyone who uses Gphone. Again, for my needs (and I suspect many others) this is really redundant.
The ConfigFree application seems to be the most useful application, but needs to be started manually before you turn the radio on meaning it is just as quick to not use it as it is to use it. It manages both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections and provides a Connectivity Doctor that helps identifying problems and possible solutions while using wireless connection.
This application adds some interesting functionality. For example, it is possible to define different profiles and establish an Automatic Switch from one profile to another if you are in the vicinity of a specific network (identified by its SSID). The automatic switch will change configuration details like IP Address, VPN, Internet, ActiveSync settings, and even the Pocket Internet Explorer default Home Page.
Of course, if the user does not require such high level of control, the default wireless functionality in Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition is familiar and not hard to use anyway.
ConfigFree: searching for Wi-Fi Access Points
ConfigFree: visible Bluetooth devices, red line shows a connection
ConfigFree: Auto Switch configuration based on SSID
ConfigFree: Advice in case of problems with connections
On the CD
Toshiba have included a copy of Microsoft Voice Command (version 1.0), Toshiba Text to Speech, the ClearVue office readers and Microsoft Outlook 2002.
This is not a bad bundle of software, however I would have preferred ClearVue to be in the ROM as this is useful software.
The VGA screen on the e830 is very nice. The colours are not as bright as the HP iPAQ hx4700, but the “liquid” that is apparent on the hx4700 when you drag the stylus across is nowhere to be seen on the e830.
However, putting the hx4700 and the e830 side by side demonstrates the distance between these screens and personally, I think the screen on the iPAQ leaves the e830 for dead. By comparison, the e830 looks washed out.
There's also something with the video controller. The program used to grab screenshots for this review is the same used for other devices, but all captures are of lower quality.
Unlike its predecessor the e800, the e830 has got both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built-in. The wireless functionality is switched on by switching the hardware switch at the bottom of the unit. When you flick the switch, the e830 will turn itself on and start the wireless applet that will let you select which (if any) wireless radios you want on. If you elect to have both radios turned off you need to use the software applet to turn them on until you next use the switch to turn the radios on.
Having the external switch is handy in my opinion as it is generally faster to flick a hardware switch than it is to wade through menus to turn off a radio. This is particularly true if the device is in your bag or your pocket and you are about to board an aeroplane.
Wi-Fi: plenty of status information
While the Wi-Fi functionality is largely complemented by the ConfigFree application described earlier, the Bluetooth software is much better than previous versions. It improves the easy to use and provides support for Bluetooth headset, including system sounds and support for Windows Media Player. It does not support the Bluetooth stereo profile (A2DP) though.
The Bluetooth ActiveSync function allows the definition of an automatic ActiveSync. Providing the device is on it can be set to connect to ActiveSync every [x] minutes, and disconnect after the synchronisation is complete.
The Bluetooth file transfer is very nice, with a metaphor similar to FTP programs, making it very easy to manage and transfer files between different devices.
Bluetooth: easier ActiveSync configuration
Bluetooth: schedule your ActiveSync connections
Bluetooth: native support for headset
The e830 has an Intel PXA272 processor running at 520 MHz. I was kind of surprised by this as I had expected that as a high end Pocket PC it would be comparable in specifications to other devices in its class, with a faster CPU.
As a quick test, I installed my SD Card in the device and copied a 56Mb file to the internal memory. The copy was quick enough, but while the copy was in progress, I had a go at using the device to do other things. What surprised me was the responsiveness that the device showed. There was no noticeable degradation of performance while opening other applications or navigating the menus.
In all my usage of the e830, the device seemed snappy and responsive even when doing reasonably complex tasks or with a reasonable number of applications open.
When I ran SPB Benchmark on the device, I was surprised to find that the device did not perform as well as it seemed to when I was using it. If you click in the chart you can have access to our Performance Centre, with other Pocket PC reviews and more charts:
My reviews does not include an exhaustive test of the battery, however, my usage of the device yielded very solid battery performance. The battery did not drain unreasonably fast and it seemed to hold a charge well. From this I can only say that the battery seems to be well matched to support the hardware.
Overall the Toshiba is a really nice device. It looks nice, it is light and it’ has got some cool features to burn. Good points in my opinion for the Toshiba e830 are the 128 Mb RAM, Wireless switch, CF Slot, Jog dial and VGA screen.
If you want a Pocket PC that gives you the absolute maximum control over the hardware and settings, the ability to use a hardware switch to turn the wireless on and off and a jog dial (which I do like but have never had in my own devices), then you will love the Toshiba e830.
If you are in the market for a new VGA Pocket PC, then you are probably looking for a device with an outstanding screen. While the screen on the e830 is very nice, it is not up to the quality of the screens in some of the competing devices.
My summation of the e830 is that it is a great hardware package which is let down slightly by its ROM software and overall value for money.