Worth knowing about the Dell Axim x50v/x51v screens

On Sunday, I had to stay in bed and used the free time for browsing on my Dell Axim x51v. I had to resort to the WM5 x51v because my favourite Pocket PC Web browser, Opera, only works on WM5 without frequent lock-ups, unlike on my WM2003SE Fujitsu-Siemens Pocket Loox 720 (PL720). That is, I can tell you some first-hand experience about the long-time usability of the Landscape mode on the x51v.

While it's possible to use the great Sony LCD of the PL720 in Landscape screen orientation for even 10-15 hours without any pauses (I've already done this on occasions), the x51v screen is far-far inferior. It's impossible to browse the Web for more than, say, an hour (or two) with the x51v in Landscape mode.

I've even found blocking one of my eyes with something so that it couldn't see the screen while browsing Web pages in landscape was easier on the eyes - something that has never happened with my PL720.

The (standard) Portrait orientation, on the other hand, has no problems like this – the x51v can be used for hours in that orientation without any need to be switched off/taken down.

The reason for this is pretty simple, which you can also very easily find out.

Take your Axim into a dark room with a white wall and you switch on your PDA, displaying (an almost) white image (for example, the Start/Programs screen) and turn it to be parallel with the white wall. Look at the projection (the whiteness on the wall); you'll see that there will be a really limited area with very strong backlight concentration in the center of the the screen, while the other parts of the projection will be much darker.

All this will only apply to the light distribution along the longer side of the screen, not the shorter one showing the distribution of the backlight is pretty the same along the X axis (the Y - vertical - position being the same), unlike with the opposite.

You may repeat the test with other PDA's; preferably ones that you find very easy on the eyes in the Landscape orientation – for example, the above-mentioned PL720, the iPAQ hx4700, the M600 (see this review for more information/comparative screenshots on the spectacular screen of this model) or any of the HTC Phone Edition combos with 2.8" QVGA screens. The HTC Universal is also said to be much better in this respect; I haven't personally checked this at yet.

You'll see that none of them has so centralized a light concentration in the center area of the projection – they all have a much more even light distribution.

This shows that the two eyes get an entirely different picture when you stare at the x51v screen in Landscape mode. The left eye see an image that has a considerably lighter left and darker right side; the right eye sees exactly the opposite (a lighter right and a darker left side). This is why staring at the Dell Axim x51v (or, for that matter, x50v) screen can/will be very straining.

Note that this nothing has to do with the color saturation of the screen. The (comparative) lack of saturated colors on the x51v won't cause similar problems.

All in all,

if you plan to use your PDA for extended lengths of time (more than 2-3 hours a day) in landscape mode and you still haven't bought a PDA, think twice before going for the VGA Dell Axims. It's the best to ask a friend to loan his or her PDA for some time to you or use the money-back guarantee of the particular PDA shop to see whether you can live with the screen of the device. I also highly recommend a side-by-side comparison of the Axim with a PDA that, in this respect, has a far superior screen – for example, the above-mentioned PL720 or the iPAQ hx4700.

Give you several hours of Web browsing sessions in Landscape so that you can see whether your eyes are as "sensible" to the uneven light distribution as those of many of other Pocket PC users.

I, personally, I won't ever use the x51v in Landscape mode again – it puts just too much strain on the eyes when compared to my PL720. (Even when I need to resort to using slower Web browsers – for example, NetFront – on the WM2003SE PL720 or end up buying a iPAQ hx4700 if its WM5 upgrade proves to be usable.) In addition, it caused not only a lot of strain on my eyes, but also a slight headache I'm still feeling. It's something I had after some minutes of using a Virtual Reality helmet (a very expensive helmet with two LCD screens in front of the two eyes) back in 1996-1997. I haven't paid attention to adjusting the eye correction then. The result was a week-long, very bad headache. I feel something similar right now – fortunately, at a much lower intensity.

Note that, while I don't particularly recommend the HTC Universal (for various reasons; size, weight, generic slowness and price being the most important ones) as a "generic" PDA, the "old", but still very good iPAQ hx4700 may be reborn: it will receive the WM5 upgrade today. If the upgrade proves be a good one (that is, much better than the close-to-useless WM5 upgrade of the Dell Axim x50/x50v and not having the common problems of the WM5 upgrade for the HP iPAQ hx2xxx series), then, the hx4700 will again become a highly recommended, up-to-date VGA PDA, unlike the PL720, which doesn't receive the WM5 upgrade.

Also note that it's highly likely that the two forthcoming Fujitsu-Siemens VGA models, the C550 and the N560 (the latter being a device with really good specifications) will most likely have the same high-quality screen as the PL720. That is, if you don't want to go for the Dells and wouldn't get the "old" hx4700 either, it may be worth waiting a bit more to see whether the screen quality of the two new F-S devices are worth paying for.

Recommended reading

Some opinions on the hx4700 and its usability as a book reader: 1; 2

Some questions/links

Another (highly heated) thread on this problem causing headache

Generic (one-on-one) comparison of WM2003SE VGA Pocket PC's; the information there also applies to the x51v, which has the same screen as the (non-early) x50v. (Early x50v's had a vastly different, even worse screen than later ones/the x51v.)

ADDITION (2-Feb): this, this, this and this AximSite threads are also worth checking out - they DO state a LOT of other Axim users have the same problem.

crh, exactly this is what about half of the forum posters in the two linked AximSite threads (see the "ADDITION" section for links) said. The other half stated exactly the same as me :)

So, it seems, there are two kinds of people: one half is sensitive to polarization problems, the other half isn't. I, unfortunately, belong to the latter - I just can't play for example on my Casio E-125 in Landscape mode because of the very uneven polarization (I get a terrible headache in a minute), while some other people aren't affected by the problem at all.

It seems it's not a question of defective units: all x51v / x50v screens are the same (except for early x50v, rare batches, which used an entirely different screen) and people sensitive to the effects of uneven polarization continued to complain about it even after getting a brand new screen / device.

That is, people that are not sensitive to the problem may safely get a x50v/x51v; people that are should go for a device with a better screen (any Fujitsu-Siemens VGA device, the HTC Universal, the HP iPAQ hx4700. Speaking of the Universal, I'm always using it in Landscape - because of the thumbboard - and I have absolutely no problems with it.)

I have a different problem

I have a different problem with my X51V screen when using a particular gps software ,the top program bar blanks out part of the screen although the tap digitiser works fine on the blacked out portion.

Any tips on eliminating this would be welcome.

I already tried switching both the X51 and the software to landscape but the bar remains there but with a different gps software I get the full screen no problems.

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