Saturday, January 17, 2009

Windows Mobile and My Dell Axim x50v

A little more than three years ago when I switched jobs, I used part of my signing bonus (yeah, remember those?) to purchase a Dell Axim x50v. At the time, this was the crème de la crème of PDAs. It had a true VGA screen (640x480), a powerhouse processor (624MHz) and oodles of built in memory (64MB). It had all of the ports and signals you could ask for: SD card, Compact Flash, Bluetooth, IrDA, and USB dock for PC. At the time of purchase, it was running Windows Mobile 2003 SE. Windows Mobile 5 was just on the horizon, and Dell promised to make that image available to any Axim buyer.

If you remember, my first one arrived DOA. Fortunately, my replacement arrived quickly. I loved this little device. I made daily use of it, tracking my calendar, e-mail, notes, and playing some music as well. There were a couple of irritations though. The biggest was the built-in version of Internet Explorer, which was just plain awful. The second was that the device had a bad habit of needing a soft reset about once a week.

Fast forward roughly six months and Dell has a version of Windows Mobile 5 available. Anxious to see what the new rev offers, I requested my CD and received it that week. I loaded it up, and regretted it immediately. It crashed. A lot. I found myself constantly tagging the reset button on the back of the device. A few weeks later Dell issued a downgrade CD so that you could revert to 2003SE. I did that immediately. Not long after Dell quietly released a new build of WinMo5. The reviews from the users of the newer model Axim x51v were quite good, but apparently my model used a variety of memory that WM5 just didn't agree with. While it rang much better than Dell's initial release, it was certainly far from perfect. I stuck with it though, for two reasons. One - the new version of IE was an improvement, and Two - it was able to display Powerpoint slideshows.

I continued to have good success with my Axim throughout 2006. The next year I was promoted, and as part of my promotion I started to carry a Blackberry. The Blackberry was doing everything I needed from the Axim, so I stopped carrying it. It became a toy for my son to play bubble breaker on. What a sad state for this gadget. If you've read my recent posts, you know the Blackberry is no more, so I dusted off the Dell. I was very pleased to find that it was still very useful. Still, the constant resets were driving me nuts.

Dell is out of the PDA market. The x51v, their last hurrah, is three years old, and Dell never released updated ROMs for these devices. Microsoft has moved on with version 6 and 6.1 of there Windows Mobile platform. After a bit of searching, I found that there was still a niche group of avid Axim fans who had ported Windows Mobile 6.1 to their favorite PDA. Response to this hack were pretty good, so I decided to give it a shot. Here is a blurry-cam review of the process of flashing my device.

Reading the image from the SD card

Writing the image to flash

Erasing storage

All done, ready to reboot

First time setup

Upgraded to Windows Mobile 6.1

I have no idea if this will be an improvement over my WM5 experience or not. I'll give it a few days use to see what happens. I still have my original Dell discs and I can flash it back to WM5, or even 2003SE. Hopefully this will result in a better experience with my Axim.


  1. Hey Jade any recent activity with your dell axim? I just took mine out again after 2 years and it still has WM2003SE but I want to upgrade any feedback would be great! So now we have WM 6.5 coming and I want to see if it will work.

  2. I was finding less and less use for mine, so I wound up flashing it back to WinMo 5 and selling it. The 6.1 improvements were very slight, and really nothing that made it suddenly worth using. From what I've seen reported of 6.5, I continue to be unenthusiastic about Windows Mobile in general. The upcoming version 7 and the Pink initiative seem slightly more interesting, but nothing that would compel me to buy a WinMo smartphone over, say, an iPhone, Pre, Android, or Blackberry.

    If you are thinking of dusting off your own Axim, great! They are fun, especially as a development testbed for mobile apps. The biggest advantage of flashing to WinMo 5 or 6.1 would be the support for newer version of the .NET mobile framework. Even though I shrugged off the 6.1 update, it did appear to be more stable than the official Dell release of 5.0.

  3. I see, well thanks for your input and I just made the connection about your name not being Jade. I found your article searching through Google for Axim articles and I came across yours and I enjoyed reading it as well as your 25 cent article. As for programing I'm a big computer hardware geek and I very seldom but do play with design software i.e. Photoshop and Corel. I do want to start learning PHP and Actionscript but it seems overwhelming at times but I digress. Thank you for your quick update Adam.

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