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Toshiba e570

When one expansion slot is not enough

October 4, 2001 -- After what to Microsoft must have been a disheartening exodus of major players from the Windows CE camp over the past three years, things are starting to look a whole lot better. The Pocket PC platform is going gangbuster, making serious inroads on the previously invulnerable Palm for perhaps the first time. Compaq, Casio, and Hewlett Packard are all introducing exciting new hardware. And now Toshiba is joining the Pocket PC party with the brand-new Toshiba Pocket PC e570.

Toshiba, of course, is a world leader in high technology products with somewhere around US$54 billion in annual sales. For Toshiba to join the Pocket PC team is a major coup for Microsoft. It is also exceedingly good news for potential PDA customers everywhere as they now have a larger selection of high innovative quality products to choose from. So even though the e570 is Toshiba's first Pocket PC product, expectations are high. Does the Genio deliver? Let's take a look at Toshiba's new device.

First impressions is that the Genio is a smartly styled device that pretty much follows the current conventions in PDA design from the two tone silver/silver-gray color scheme, to the presence and arrangement of the navigation disc and the four application buttons, to overall size and weight. With PDAs from either camp resembling each other more and more, novices to mobile technology might well mistake the e570 for a Palm device. The new Sony Clié 610/710, for example, shares many design cues with the Genio, but so do the new HP Jornada and several other new PDA designs.

As far as size goes, the e570 is quite compact even for a Pocket PC. Its footprint of 3.1 x 4.95 inches is smaller than that of the competition from Compaq, HP, and Casio, and that includes Casio's handy EM-500. Despite the small footprint, the Toshiba has some substance to it. It weighs 6.7 ounces and is 0.7 inches thick--both well above Handspring Visor Edge or Palm Vx territory. The e570 also has a straightforward non-nonsense design that makes it appear larger and more robust than, say, the extremely detailed and filigreed Clie 710. Its plastic housing doesn't feel as smooth and cool as the metallic shells of the iPAQ, Clie, or Visor Edge, but its fit and finish is absolutely impeccable down to the last detail.

In its general layout, the Toshiba does not deviate from the Pocket PC norm. The front contains the by now standard four way navigation disc. Pressing down on it issues an "action" command. The two pairs of programmable application buttons that flank the disc launch Calendar, To-Do, the Home menu, and the Address Book. The speaker sits to the right of the disc.

The left side features the e570's IR port, microphone and voice recorder button. The small record button is slightly recessed and you have to push it firmly to begin recording. This pretty much eliminates the annoying tendency of some other Pocket PCs to record when you don't mean to. Recording quality was unexceptional, however. On the bottom you find the docking connector, a power jack, and a well protected hard reset button. The top houses the on/off button, the stylus housing, a stereo earphone jack, a status light, and one of the main attractions of the Toshiba Pocket PC, its dual expansion slots.

That's right: the e570 offers both a CF Card and a SD Card slot. Both are very cleverly integrated into the device. The Compact Flash slot has a hinged cover, which means that the device won't have a gaping hole if you remove the card and can't locate the plastic insert some of the competition uses instead of a cover. The cover also has a cutout for the SD card so that you won't have to open it to insert a SD. Finally, the e570's Compact Flash slot is of the Type II variety, which means it can accommodate all standard cards and adapters PLUS those big Type II storage cards and even IBM MicroDrives. This arrangement probably adds a tenth of an inch to the overall thickness--a very wise and much appreciated choice!

Under the hood the Toshiba doesn't deviate from the Microsoft-mandated specs. A 206MHz Intel StrongARM processor provides the kind of computing punch we've come to appreciate ever since the original iPAQ. The Pocket PC 2002 operating system and the standard applications all sit in 32MB of Flash ROM. The onboard 32MB of RAM are shared between storage and programs that are not in ROM. I didn't detect anything like the "hp safestore" non-volatile partition or the new iPAQ's ability to backup into Flash ROM. Of course, with dual card slots, that isn't quite as necessary (as long as you make frequent backups, that is!).

Like the iPAQ and the new offerings from HP and Casio, the e570 has a reflective color TFT that can display up to 64k color. This means that it offers the kind of compromise between excellent outdoor readability and acceptable indoor visibility that consumers embraced in the original iPAQ. Like Hewlett Packard, Toshiba chose a 3.5-inch diagonal display as opposed to the larger 3.8-inch display in the iPAQs. Like all reflective TFTs, the e570's has a sidelight, though in this case it is really a "bottomlight," located below the bottom edge of the screen. This means that the fluorescent "neon" effect isn't visible when you look at the display from the side. However, there are a couple of annoying shadow bars that can mar visibility at certain angles.

The Toshiba's light gray dock is heavy enough to keep from tipping over. The power supply connects either to the USB cradle or the device itself. It has a power cable rather prongs on the power supply brick itself, a boon for those of us who are running out of real estate on power strips.

On the software side, Toshiba throws in a nice "Home Menu" application with tabs to access different pages. Other than that, it's the standard Pocket PC 2002 fare.

Toshiba's first entry into the Pocket PC market is a competent, compact, well executed device. It doesn't break any new ground, but offers something the competition doesn't: two expansion slots. That alone will guarantee sales. -

Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

Processor Intel StrongARM 206 MHz
OS Pocket PC 2002
Memory 32/64MB RAM, 32MB Flash ROM
Display 3.5-inch 64k color 240 x 320 pixel reflective TFT LCD
Digitizer Pressure-sensitive panel
Storage Internal RAM, CF Type II + SD storage cards
Size 3.1 x 4.95 x 0.7 inches
Weight 6.7 oz
Power Li-Ion pack
Interface USB/Serial, Irda, stereo audio, mic
Options CF/SD cards, cradles, cases
Price US$569
Contact Toshiba genio-e.com