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By Chris De Herrera 
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Casio E-125 and 1 GB IBM MicroDrive Review
By Justin Yu, Copyright 2001
 Version 1.00  Revised 1/28/2001

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Sponsored by Mobile Planet

Introduction

Production teams at Casio have been working like crazy to bring the consumer three new Pocket PC’s in the last three months.  Each one focuses on the different needs of the PDA marketers.  The only question left to be asked is: At what point will the E125 become outdated by future technological advancements? Hmm… 

Internal

So, you’re looking to buy a PDA, which blazes at speeds comparable to one of the first generation Pentium computer?  Well look no further, because Casio’s E125 contains a whopping 150mhz VR4122 processor.  You know that annoying little hourglass which forever turns on your computer sometimes when loading a huge picture/document?  Well, that little irritation is practically nonexistent on the E125.  I was particularly impressed how fast the machine operated with the 1 Gigabyte IBM MicroDrive, which I tested out along with this PDA.  I will get into more detail about the MicroDrive later in this review.  Changing between applications was very easy, and there was less than a two second delay between programs.  I also loaded Pocket TV and a couple movies onto the Pocket PC, and it still ran smoothly.  Like most of the Windows CE organizers out there today, the E125 contains 32 MB of RAM and 16 MB of flashable ROM.  32 megabytes was just about enough to handle a couple movies, AvantGo (three channels), plus Pocket TV.  One of the strong points that the new Pocket PC Operating System offers is the ability to allocate how much space the user wants to allow for program memory and storage memory.  I chose to put more memory in storage, since I had many mp3’s I wanted to put on my machine.  Hopefully in the future, PDA manufacturers will wise up and realize that some users need more than 32 megabytes to handle their everyday multimedia needs.  After all, audio and video capabilities are one of the main advantages Windows CE has over Palms.  We wouldn’t want Palm to get the upper hand, now do we?  Or does Palm already have it?  Hmm…let’s not go there.

Hardware

The left side of the unit houses the Record button, jog dial, start menu button, headphone jack, and infrared port.  The jog dial definitely comes in handy, and it is one aspect of the Pocket PC line that I love.  It is especially helpful when reading long books while walking, or scrolling through that long document in class.  Overall it is an excellent hardware tool.  There is nothing on the ride side of the unit besides the stylus silo.  This is beneficial to right handed users, because one-handed operation is a must at times. Unfortunately, left hand users seem to be out of luck once again.  Southpaws are forced to cope with the buttons where they are.  On the front of the unit, there are the tradition Casio trademark joystick and triple button setup.  Of course all three buttons are programmable, although I’d suggest keeping the top as the “home” function. 

Display

The E125 has a 240x320 resolution, heading up a Hyper Amorphous Silicon TFT color liquid crystal, 65,536-color, touch-panel display.  65,000 colors is more than enough to bring a smile to your face.  As I turned on the unit, I noticed that the screen seemed exceptionally dim.  I went to settings - brightness, and turned both contrast and brightness all the way up.  WOW.  The amount of light put off by this little machine is amazing.  As a simple test, I turned off the lights, and the Pocket PC could easily operate as a makeshift flashlight.  I was most impressed with the screen on this unit.  I would venture to say that it is, so far, the brightest screen of all the Pocket PC’s I have tested. (Note: I have not tested the iPAQ yet.)  

Sound

As I stated before, I received a 1 Gigabyte MicroDrive with the unit, and I loaded almost 400 mp3’s on it, along with a couple of movies using PocketTV for playback.  I found the sound system on the E125 to be excellent.  As always, I was hoping that the playback through the speaker would be better quality and be a bit louder, but unfortunately, I’m still looking for that one unit which would satisfy my audiophile needs.  I suppose I’ll just have to keep looking….

Battery Life

            I was actually very impressed with the battery life on this unit.  The life span was around seven hours with the MicroDrive installed and in use, eight hours without it in.  These numbers are almost exactly what the specifications say on the Casio website.  Well whaddaya know, a company, which actually sells what they claim!  Recharging is super easy also.  You have two choices; 1. Recharge in the cradle while syncing, or 2. Recharge with just the input cable.  It takes about five hours for a full recharge. 

Software

The Pocket PC software made for the Casio E125 was a breeze to operate.  I run Windows Millennium on my computer, so I was already accustomed to the familiar start menu in the top left corner of the touch screen.  I definitely like Casio’s “home” menu, accessible by pressing the default top button on the front of the machine.  This takes the user to a menu with all the programs available.  Like the button mapping, the menu is also programmable.  Navigation around the software OS is a breeze to learn for new users, and a simple ½ hour “fiddling” session will answer anyone’s questions about the software. 

Price

Luckily for all you prospective buyers, Casio just cut the price down from $599 to only $549.  Yes, yes I know what you all are thinking.  “ONLY $549?!”  I would have to agree.  The older models of the Jornada(420,430) and the Cassiopeia’s(E100, E115) only cost $499, but I suppose with new technology and a new OS comes a new price.  The only advice I can offer to those who think the price is too much is to just wait it out until the price drops once more.  The only problem is that by then there will surely be a new product made by Casio to entice the buyer.  It’s a vicious cycle.  

MicroDrive

The folks at Mobileplanet were once again gracious enough to send me a 1 Gigabyte MicroDrive by IBM.  I’m convinced that this little tool is sent from heaven.  It’s hard to fathom that approximately four years ago, 1 gigabyte of hard drive space was an obscene number, unreachable by everyday standards.  IBM introduced the world's first gigabyte-capacity disk drive, the 3380, in 1980. It was the size of a refrigerator, weighed 550 pounds (about 250 kg) and cost $40,000. Of course nowadays you can get a 30 gig hard drive for about 100 bucks, but it is difficult to fathom the way we’ve come from the early days of computing.  I was amazed each time I fired the little machine up and could hear the whirring of the heads spinning on the tiny drive.  The transfer time from computer to hard drive was a bit slow.  Transferring a collection of mp3’s onto the drive can become tedious, so I suggest creative a new folder on your desktop, labeled “Microdrive Playlist” and just copy and paste the mp3’s from that drive onto the MicroDrive.  It took about three minutes to transfer a four megabyte mp3 to the minidrive.  I suppose this is as good as we can expect…for now.  Currently the 1GB MicroDrive will run you $459 off Buy.com.  Other options include a 512 Mb drive for $387.95, or 340 mb drive plus travel kit for $261.95.  The travel kit includes a PCMCIA card adaptor for all you laptop users out there.  Although the prices seem a bit expensive, the quality of the machinery is amazing, and totally worth the money. 

Conclusion

The Casio seemed to be a bit bulkier than the rest of the Pocket PC’s, and was a bit of a hindrance in my pocket.  I wouldn’t even call it a Pocket PC. Despite such a heavy form factor, the rest of the unit was awesome.  Multimedia mixed with the traditional Windows CE Office Programs makes the E125 one of the leading contenders in the Pocket PC Shootout.

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