Xircom Rex 6000 Review

Mark Power

You have probably noticed from the title that this article is not about a Hewlett Packard machine however there are a number of reasons I think this may be of interest to Datafile readers:

What is Rex?

Rex is a very small Personal Digital Assistant. By very small I mean that it is exactly the same size as a standard PCMCIA card. What distinguishes it from a standard card is that pretty much the whole of one size is taken up with an 240 x 120 pixel LCD touch screen.

In terms of capability, Rex has a calendar for appointments, a task list, a contact list, notes, selected web content, a world time clock, a calculator and various security options. All of these are pretty standard for a PDA and like most PDAs Rex can be synchronised with information on your desktop or laptop computer.

Synchronising Rex

I said that Rex is exactly the same size as a PCMCIA card (8.57 x 5.40 x .5 cm), that is because it IS a PCMCIA card. With the appropriate software on your laptop all you do is plug Rex into a card slot on the side, start the synchronisation software and away you go. If you have a desktop, the standard package includes a docking cradle that plugs into a serial port.

Rex can be synchronised to Microsoft Outlook or the PIM included on the disk. As a "corporate" user I have only tried it with Outlook. The first thing that strikes you about Rex is that they have made the screens look very similar to Outlook - even the repeat appointment and reminder icons are exactly the same.

Web Content

As well as downloading your appointments, if your PC is connected to the Internet you can download information from pre-selected channels on the Rex web site. These include top technology stories, share information (US only at the moment), the weather forecast (I get the weather for London and Norwich and guess what it will be like in Ipswich in the middle), business news, European news, etc.

Many of the channels are US biased at the moment but hopefully Xircom will get around to adding share information from the London Stock Exchange in due course. All of the information downloaded is text only and I have seen the odd bit of raw HTML character coding displayed that hasn't been vetted out correctly.

Static web information may seem pointless, but if you sync up your Rex and have registered some web channels then the information is there in your hand when you have a moment free and wonder what is going on in the rest of the world.

Entering Information

The original Rex machines were read-only devices, the "Pro" version allowed you to enter information buy virtue of having 5 buttons at one end. Unfortunately this was even slower than entering text on a mobile phone as you had to cycle through the alphabet using up and down keys.

This latest Rex 6000 has a touch screen and when you press "New" to enter some new information a QWERTY keyboard is drawn on the display - Rex does not have handwriting recognition.

When first presented with the keyboard your immediate reaction is "How on earth do I enter anything on that!". Don't worry, with a little precision, disengage your brain a little and the second time you try using it you happily bash away with the stylus and suddenly find you have mastered it quicker than your can say "Graffiti".

In the box

With Rex you get a wallet to carry it in, the docking cradle for desktop use, batteries, a stylus for the touch screen, a CD-ROM with software for Windows 98/ME/2000 and a getting started manual. Corporate users should note that Windows NT is not officially supported and when I tried the software off the CD on my PC at work, the software crashed numerous times. Subsequently I downloaded the latest drivers from the Rex web site (www.rex.net) and everything worked perfectly.

How much?

106 including VAT & next day delivery from Misco (www.misco.co.uk).


mark.power@btinternet.com
Page last modified : 23rd May 2002