Acer n30

  • Editors' rating
    7.7 Very good

Pros

  • Thin and light
  • integrated Bluetooth
  • good backup software
  • Flash ROM area for saving crucial data

Cons

  • lacks Wi-Fi
  • low on available RAM
  • no navigation button

Acer's handheld strategy has previously included Palm OS- and Pocket PC-based devices, in the shape of the s60 and n20 respectively. The company's latest offering, the n30, is a Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC device, which suggests a level of commitment to Microsoft's handheld OS.

Design
Acer has come up with a compact, lightweight design for the n30, which measures 7.1cm wide by 11.8cm tall by 1.3cm high, and weighs 130g. It certainly feels significantly sleeker than, say, Dell's similarly positioned Axim X3i. The n30 takes a minimalist approach to buttons and connectors. The application shortcut buttons that sit beneath the screen lie in slightly recessed bays, so that while they themselves protrude from their base, they do not sit proud of the surrounding casing. The scroll wheel on the left-hand side is also recessed as far as it can be while still functioning. The most significant design feature, though, has to be the absence of any kind of navigation button on the front of the device. The spot traditionally taken by one of these, centred beneath the screen, is occupied by a speaker that delivers surprisingly loud sound but is, obviously, quite useless for navigation purposes. In fact, we rather like this idea, as we rarely use navigation buttons – they're often small, fiddly and too close to the bottom of the device to be effective. We prefer scroll wheels or application specific on-screen controls. The top edge of the device is home to the obligatory SD card slot, and here we do have a niggle. Cards protrude a few millimetres when inserted, which, while not influencing their operation, does look a little ungainly and may advertise their presence to would be SD card thieves. The bottom edge houses both soft and hard reset tools, sitting respectively to the left and right of the docking connector. We prefer button combinations for hard resets as it is more difficult to accidentally perform a hard reset with this configuration, and would have liked on-device labels for both the soft and hard reset tools. Otherwise, users may do a hard reset when a soft reset is required, which could be disastrous. The materials used in the casing, a mix of sliver and black in colour, seem solid and robust, which is good. Not so good is the flimsy stylus – almost every handheld we’ve seen falls down here, so Asus’ offering is no real surprise. In the box you get a carrying case for the n30, a sync cable with USB host incorporated, and a mains power adapter. Headphones are not supplied, and the 2.5mm jack means you may need to buy a converter to use a set you already own.

Features
Acer’s Web site describes the n30 as a ‘wireless wonder’., which may may be somewhat overstating the case. Although Bluetooth is present and correct, a true wireless wonder might also be expected to offer 802.11b and GPRS communications as well. Neither feature here. Bluetooth will prove useful for connecting to a suitably equipped mobile phone for use as a modem, but this hardly confers 'wireless wonder' status. Acer has chosen a non-Intel processor for the n30: Samsung’s S3C2410 processor at 266MHz is precisely the same as that used by Hewlett Packard in its iPAQ H1940. This worked fine, and we didn't miss Intel's chips at all. We were surprised that only 55MB of the n30's 64MB of RAM is available for applications and data. Other Pocket PCs manage to retain almost all of the 64MB for user access, and the loss of nearly 10MB of potential storage capacity could be an issue. The SD card slot lets you add removable storage, of course, but we prefer as much on-board memory as possible. As well as being used to add extra memory, SD cards can be used for backup purposes, and Acer’s one RAM-installed application will carry out this task. As well as making backups on demand, this program can be set to automatically make backups when battery power sinks below 30 percent. And in addition to sending backups to an SD card, it can utilise a 1.84MB portion of ROM which has been set aside for storage of vital data. Acer has included a useful option for business users in the form of a USB host the connector for which, as already noted, is attached to the provided sync cable. There is no cradle with the n30, so the cabling is a little unwieldy, but it should allow you to use of a range of USB peripherals with this device.

Performance
The n30 performed reasonably well for an affordable Pocket PC handheld. Acer claims that battery life should stretch to 8 hours, while our test, which involved looping MP3 music with the screen set always on and at half its brightness level, delivered 3 hours 37 minutes of music and a total of 4 hours 2 minutes of battery life. Breaking the 4-hour barrier is an achievement, but we have seen handhelds do better, and it's annoying that a device so squarely aimed at business users lacks a removable battery, which offers the chance of longer life away from mains power. Although it's possible to charge the n30 via its USB connect cable, the host device will – if it's a notebook, as is likely -- itself need access to power for its own battery. The n30 is likely to have its greatest appeal among Acer's existing business customers who are looking to equip their staff with handhelds. The company may struggle to sell outside this group though. The small business and consumer sectors now have a lot of choice, and the increasing availability of battery-swappable, Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-equipped handhelds may push Acer’s latest offering into the background.

Specifications

Display
Technology TFT active matrix
LCD Technology Transflective
Diagonal Size 3.5 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 8.9 cm
Output Type Color
Color Support 16-bit (64K colors)
Native Resolution 240 x 320
Miscellaneous
Included Handheld Accessories Stylus
Processor
Clock Speed 266 MHz
Type S3C2410
Manufacturer Samsung
Audio
Type speaker(s)
Communications
Wireless Protocol Bluetooth
Networking
Wireless Connectivity IrDA, Bluetooth
Input Device
Type Touch-screen, Wheel
Battery
Run Time (Up To) 8 hour(s)
Technology Lithium ion
Recharge Time 3 hour(s)
Header
Brand Acer
Product Line Acer
Model n30
Packaged Quantity 1
Compatibility PC
System
Platform Windows
Handheld Type Handheld
Expansion / Connectivity
Free Qty 1
ROM
Installed Size 32 MB
RAM
Technology SDRAM
Installed Size 64 MB
Card Reader
Supported Flash Memory Cards SD Memory Card
Audio Output
Type Speaker
Audio Input
Type Microphone
GPS System
Navigation None
Expansion Slots
Type SD Memory Card
Total Qty 1
Interface Provided
Interface USB
Qty 1
OS Provided
Type Microsoft Windows Mobile for Pocket PC 2003 Premium
PDA Software
Type Microsoft Pocket Excel, Pocket Internet Explorer, Voice Recorder, File Explorer, Jeux, PocketTV Enterprise Edition, Microsoft Reader 2.0 pour Pocket PC, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Microsoft Pocket Outlook, Microsoft ActiveSync 3.7.1, Microsoft Pocket Word, Windows Media Player 9.0 pour Pocket PC, Adobe Acrobat Reader for Pocket PC, Calculatrice, Pictures, MSN Messenger
Power Device
Type Power adapter
Dimensions & Weight
Width 2.8 in
Depth 0.5 in
Height 4.6 in
Weight 4.6 oz

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