The Folding Society

Portable Paraphernalia
Small Portable Computers - Handheld and Palmtop

Xircom Rex


The Rex was originally branded as the Franklin Rex, but now carries the name Xircom Rex (Xircom is quite well known for communications devices, particularly network connections). Price here in the UK at present is around 70.

RexThe Rex is just about the smallest 'serious' PDA that I have come across - it makes even a Palm look big (see photograph). It is just a PC (PCMCIA) card, so it has the footprint of a credit card, and is about twice the thickness, with the connector built into the end. The front consists of a display panel and 6 small buttons (some users may find such small buttons awkward to operate). The display is not back lit, but in all except very dark conditions it is extremely sharp and clear - probably mainly because it is not touch sensitive; there is no back light - the device runs off 2 CR2025 batteries, which keep it going for at least 6 months, but would nor really be suitable for powering a backlight. The push buttons are used to control and select what is to be displayed - one can actually be used to input data as well. Selecting the relevant data can be a bit tedious with such a small display and so few buttons, but it isn't complicated.

The device provides storage for 5 types of data - calendar/diary, names and addresses, an action list, notes and a world clock. There is also a tools function to control some settings. The first 4 of these applications are fully synchronised with the equivalents on a desktop application - the machine is supplied with its own information manager program (a cut down version of Sidekick [Sidekick now seems to be out of production]), or you can synchronise with Microsoft Outlook (but, like other PDA synchronisers, not Outlook Express). Connection to a PC for synchronisation is either through a PC (PCMCIA) slot (typically on a laptop) or a docking station which connects to the PC via a serial port. I found synchronisation reasonably quick (apart from the first time), apparently accurate, and fairly trouble free.

The Rex seems a fairly robust piece of equipment - probably the greatest danger would be putting it in a back pocket and then sitting on it! It comes with a rigid transparent plastic 'case' which protects the main body, but leaves the screen visible (as it is transparent) and the buttons exposed for operation. It marginally increases the size, but is a good way of protecting it from knocks. Put it in a good waterproof plastic bag and it should be safe against most conditions you may encounter while cycling. A slim wallet should also be supplied, but supplies seem to have dried up, and Xircom ask you to register on their web site to receive one later.

If all you want is to be able to carry your diary, names and address, action list and notes as kept in Outlook on a PC, then the Rex is an exceptionally small and light package to do this ( a big advantage for cyclists), and you can be sure the data is up to date if you synchronise regularly. By the nature of the operation, all the data is backed up (in fact you could regard the Rex as a back up for the PC data). There is no facility for adding additional programs, handling email, the web, or anything else, but within its limitations it is quite effective. If I were going out on a bike-only outing (ie no train travel), and felt the need to have my diary, addresses etc available, I'd rate the Rex as a good way to carry this information. However, I must say that most such outings I make do not really necessitate taking such information, and on a train I would like something which allows me to read books on it, write notes and reports etc. So although I have one, it isn't used all that much, but some readers may find it well suited to their needs.

(This report prepared on a Handspring Visor Deluxe with Stowaway keyboard; web page controls inserted on a PC and uploaded via the PC).


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Last updated: 29 October 2000
URL: http://www.whooper.demon.co.uk/foldsoc/rex.html