When the ViewSonic V35 Pocket PC was announced, this even caused a real sensation - the V35 and the Dell Axim X5 were much discussed as first budget models based on the Pocket PC 2002 and offered at the retail price of $300. Pocket PCs are not profile products for ViewSonic, that is why the device itself and its role in the market strategy looked very interesting.
After the careful examination of this PDA we understood why such device, so untypical of ViewSonic, got into its line, how it was developed and put on the market at such a low price. But let's start from the very beginning.
The colorful box, conveniently arranged and excellently printed out, contains the PDA itself, a USB cradle, a charger, a CD with software (ActiveSync 3.6, Pocket Outlook 2002 and USB drivers for the PDA) and a leatherette case. I can't say the pack is rich but it's typical of a budget PDA. I'm glad there is a cradle, - inexpensive devices usually do not have such.
The ViewSonic V35 doesn't look extraordinary - it's housed in a usual rectangular case with straight panels and roundish corners. Only the bottom is a little curved. However, the computer is compact (122.5 mm 76.5 mm) and slim (12.6 mm), that is why users will like the design, especially those who prefer an austere style.
The body is silvery black, which is typical of the latest ViewSonic's solutions. The rear panel that also embraces the side panels by half is made of rough plastic, and the device does not tend to fall out of your hand, in contrast to the ASUS MyPal A600 or HP IPAQ h1910. The front cover is plastic as well. Lack of metallic parts turns it into a featherweight (100 g only!). It seems to be too light for its dimensions. The Rover PC P3 makes a similar impression too.
The Pocket PC has traditional controls: a 4-way joystick and 4 application shortcut buttons on the front panel, a half-JogDial (the wheel rotates only partially) and a record button on the left panel, and a power button on the top. The IR port and SD connector (MMC is not supported) are also on the top. The headphones-out is on the left, and information and power connectors are underneath. The multimedia components are not traditionally arranged - the speaker's on the front panel in the lower right-hand corner, and the microphone hides on the left.
In contrast to most Pocket PCs, the V35 is equipped with separate buttons for soft and hard reset. The former, housed in the left panel, can be pressed with the stylus's unscrewed tip; the other is located on the back and looks like a lever, a little recessed and positioned horizontally relative to the body, and you must pull it with the stylus.
The stylus of the telescopic cylindric design is made of metal with plastic tips. It is rather massive though its dimensions are quite average.
The plastic cradle is solid enough to grip the PDA reliably. However, you must position the PDA very precisely to make the information connector get into it.
If necessary, you can connect the charger to the cradle for simultaneous data synchronization and battery recharging. The charger's connector is combined with the USB jack, which looks quite unexpectedly, though such solution has no advantages or disadvantages over the traditional design when the power connector is right in the cradle.
The unremovable Li-Ion 900 mAh battery of the V35 ensures about 5-6 hours of continuous operation with the backlight on and an average CPU load (data sync, games, tests). It's acceptable, though many modern PDAs have it better. Since the battery is unremovable, it can be a problem if you have no power circuit around for a long time.
The transreflective 3.5 display in the ViewSonic V35 supports the resolutions of 320 x 240 pixels and up to 65,000 colors. Such matrices are used today in most Pocket PCs, including budget-level solutions. The image quality is excellent, the colors are clear and bright. The display looks very similar to the RoverPC P3.
Hardware part. The computer is based on the Intel PXA250 processor (XScale architecture) running at 300 MHz. The full RAM is 64 MB, but a part of it is used for the OS needs. Inexpensive chips of slow flash memory used as ROM make the OS copy a part of its code into the RAM and run it there. As a result, a user is given only 36 MB. But 5.1 MB out of 32MB of ROM can be used as an integrated flash disc. Its contents does not disappear even after the hard reset, and, thus, it can be used for important information - applications, utilities, shells, contacts etc.
Software suite supplied with the V35 comprises only the Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 Premium Edition. The OS comes without frills like user shells, additional programs or data. The only distinguishing feature of the V35's software environment is an applet controlling the battery's performance - Smart Battery. It has three modes - High-performance (the run-down time is the lowest here), Low-performance (the highest run-down time) and Auto (where one of the other two modes is selected automatically depending on how intensive a current application is).
The tests show that the performance of the ViewSonic V35 hardly depends on these modes, - its high-performance mode doesn't make operation as efficient as that of the turbo mode of the ASUS MyPal A600. The difference is actually unnoticeable.
The VOBenchmark doesn't work on the V35: the module measuring the flash-memory rate makes the test and the system on the whole hang when it tries to access the integrated "flash disc". That is why we can estimate the maximum performance of the PDA by playing an MPEG-4 video clip in the Pocket DivX player;). The system performance can be estimated by the image quality in the dynamic scenes and by the number of frames missed during the playback. We measured the performance several times for each mode right after the PDA rebooted. In the High-Performance mode the clip was played gradually or with unnoticeable losses (up to 10% frames), but when the picture was changing swiftly, the quality was much worse. In the Low-Performance mode up to 30% of frames disappeared, sometimes in bulk, with the image freezing for a certain time. In the auto mode the performance was equal to the Low-Performance one - the algorithm either didn't work or switched to that mode for such a tough task, like in case of the MPEG-4 decoding.
Impression and Summary
Our impressions and the test results of the ViewSonic V35 indicate how close (in functions and in design) this model is to the OEM versions of the Mitac MIO 338, among which the RoverPC P3 is the most popular in Russia. They have the same size, elements of the design and their arrangement, display type and quality, configuration, peculiarities of the operation, and performance on the whole. The rumor has it that the V35 is a modification of the MIO 338, and it differs only in the front panel. I'm inclined to believe it because these models are really very similar.
In such situation the main competitor of the V35 is the RoverPC P3 on our local market. The ViewSonic has a higher CPU's clock speed, but the RoverPC comes with the localized interface. If the prices are equal, the RoverPC P3 might be in greater demand on our market. But the V35 can attract more attention in case of the lower price, short supplies of the Rover, users' dislike for this trade mark, unnecessary localized interface etc. All in all, the ViewSonic V35 is an excellent product at a reasonable sum of money.
The place of the V35 in the ViewSonic's line and its target on the market
became clear when we examined it thoroughly. This device was made to meet
the needs mostly of the American market, and then of the European one.
On the more price sensitive markets it will fight against the Mitac's original
and its clones from local brands. But Mitac is not popular in USA, and
the only way to get onto the American market was to release a product under
some trade mark popular there. As a result, by the Xmas the US stores were
filled up with the V35, Dell Axim X5 and HP iPAQ h1910 - three budget PocketPC
systems which were very different and went through a very interesting competition.
Judging by the Xmas sales, at least, the ViewSonic didn't lose there. The
V35 solved ViewSonic's tactic problem - it brought some additional income
from the rapidly developing budget PDA market. It also highlighted the
company's orientation towards development of mobile and advanced products
since it supplemented the row of "CRT monitor- LCD monitor - LCD with a
touch display - LCD with a tablet PC function - PDA". The time will show
whether this "OEM-impromptu" is just a starting point.
Ivan Melnichuk (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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