Dell Axim X51v Bluetooth GPS review

Price when reviewed

Dell’s bundle is a step away from the norm, partly because it’s based on the high-end Axim X51v PDA and partly because it runs Dell’s own GPS software rather than a third-party application.

Dell Axim X51v Bluetooth GPS review

The kit on test here boasts Dell’s flagship 624MHz Axim X51v, which is tempting for those who feel the PDA itself is as important as GPS navigation. It’s expensive, but there are cheaper alternatives comprising the 520MHz (£374) and 416MHz (£354) X51 PDAs.

Still, when you’ve seen the X51v’s stunning 3.7in VGA screen, you might be tempted to splash out. With 480 x 640 pixels, there are four times as many dots as a standard 240 x 320 screen for silky smooth text and sharp graphics. It’s driven by Intel’s 16MB 2700G video accelerator, with great gaming potential and a VGA output that can drive a projector (accessory cable required).

The screen’s maximum brightness can’t match Mio’s super-bright A201, although with superb transflective properties it’s easily the best in bright sunlight, when you’re on foot or in the car. Besides the fast processor, you also get 256MB of ROM, and both CompactFlash and SD card slots.

There’s no integrated GPS receiver, so Dell includes a Bluetooth device. It doesn’t slow down acquisition, though, matching the Asus and Mio devices from software start-up to first fix at around 55 seconds. The car kit has a huge 345mm windscreen suction mount, bringing the PDA closer to the driver.

Navteq provides the maps for Dell’s proprietary software, and it’s worth noting that the price includes accompanying CDs with licences for maps of Europe. But also remember that the Mio A201 includes European maps for a lot less cash.

Dell’s software is easy to use, yet it can be initially confusing as everything is duplicated in two menu systems; it’s tricky to remember where to look for particular functions until you realise it doesn’t matter: you can use either. However, it’s the menu button below the map display you’ll use most often. Tapping it allows you to control most settings as well as search for a destination, review turn-by-turn instructions, and set route and display options. Rest assured that it’s unlikely you’ll need the manual.

The map shows your current position, and your route if you’ve set one. Drag with the stylus and it becomes an offline map – your GPS position can wander off the display, and you’re free to scroll where you like. Press Exit and it snaps back to your live GPS position. Tapping and holding on the map shows the road name and house number, and allows you to set the location as your journey’s origin or destination, or save it for future use.

With the sheer power of the X51v, route calculation is usually quick. But as it doesn’t give you the chance to select a travel mode, you must remember to choose fastest, shortest, main roads or local roads in the menu before you start (there’s no walking mode). You can then add waypoints, although it will go to your last-added waypoint first with no option to re-order.

When searching for an address via the menu, Dell’s GPS software filters the list on suffixes such as Street and Road, restricting the list to the city you’ve entered. It can be surprisingly slow to progress from one screen to another, though. Mercifully, there’s an onscreen QWERTY keyboard for quick name entry (only the Palm’s TomTom software shares this feature). Although the manual never mentions postcodes, you can enter up to the first four digits in the city field, and again your street choices are constrained to that zone.

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