“ "Write an opinion on how to choose the right PDA / Handheld. No opinions on specific PDA’s please!" „
I have wanted a palmtop computer for a while. I researched and decided on a Psion 5, but ended up with an Osaris. Here's why : As palm computers/PDAs go, the Osaris is cheap. It retails at around £150, whereas its nearest rival, the Psion 5, is nearer £400. So what's the difference? Surprisingly, not much. The Osaris is basically a very good clone of the Psion 5. If you are unfamiliar with palms/PDAs, they are little computers. Some don’t have keyboards and used with a stylus pen (you write on the screen). This one does have a keyboard, and you can type directly into it. There are electronic organisers out there for around £20, but I’m not talking about those here. What I am talking about is a powerful mini PC. I use it mainly for writing but it has also replaced my Filofax because it is useful for appointments, telephone/addresses, etc. ~ FEATURES ~ The Osaris’s screen is smaller than the Psion 5's but that is part of the reduced cost (that and the fact that Psions have always been expensive). It is big enough for most purposes - you wouldn't want to be drawing up architectural plans on it but you can use all the software it comes with easily. The keyboard is small, of course. It takes some getting used to but I have found that I can type just as quickly on it now as on my PC. There are fewer keys so a function button is there for alternate functions – for example, the dash symbol is with the U instead of on the top number line. Due to the reduced size. it isn't easy to type using all fingers. I find I don’t use my little fingers on the Osaris, and I don't use my thumb for the space bar, but an index finger - it feels less clumsy. ~ SOFTWARE INCLUDED ~ WORD A simplified version of Microsoft Word. but just as easy to use. This gives the advantage of making transfer of documents to the PC easy and quick. It is fully functioning and even uses the usu al keyboard shortcuts such as CTRL S for save. SHEET A simplified version of Excel but surprisingly powerful. DATA a mini database. AGENDA a very good program for appointments, with a calendar, to-do list, etc. It integrates with Lotus and Microsoft for transfer to the PC. I have linked it to Outlook on my PC and was able to transfer contact details directly from the PC to the Osaris quickly and easily. They also go back the same way, from the Osaris to the PC. This is very useful when out and about as it is easy to jot down addresses and telephone numbers then synchronise with your main PC when you get home. JOTTER a notepad. I use it for shopping lists - "must buy the latest computer gadget", etc. SKETCH a drawing program. CALC a calculator, obviously. It is easy to use but has some powerful facilities. Alas, maths may as well be Martian to me so I will probably never use these. TIME. I like this one, I use it to set alarms for myself. It also has a map, but I'm not sure how useful that is. SPELL. This is for spell-checking documents, but also has a thesaurus and an anagram-solver. It is customisable as well, which I didn't expect on such an inexpensive machine. OTHER - there is a game (Bombs), a programming facility if you are programmer, an infrared facility (for data transfer), a modem and web/email facility. In addition, it comes with a stylus pen for selecting things straight off the screen. It is a touch-screen, so I hate to think how much it would cost to replace. I prefer keyboard shortcuts, so I don't think I will get much use out of that. My husband has much larger fingers than me, though, and finds typing fiddly. He will probably get a lot of use out of the pen and touch-screen facility. The Osaris runs off 2 x AA batteries, which I was pleased with as they are cheap and readily available. There were 2 in the box when I got it - Duracell, no less, no expense spared. Also in the box was a CD for setting up your PC for transferring data, and a PC connection cable. ~ TRANSFERRING TO/FROM THE PC ~ Transferring data to and from the PC s simple and quick. A serial connection cable is supplies with the Osaris which simply plugs into COM Port 1 or 2. The other end plugs into the Osaris. It is simple ten to clock on either synchronisation or backup. If your PC has infrared facility, the Osaris can use that instead of a cable. The first time I tried to connect my Osaris to the PC I was a bit scared, I have to admit. It was simplicity itself, though, and surprisingly quick. I transferred a Word document (which on the Osaris is called EPOC Word), which converted itself into Word 2000 on my PC and came up instantly. I worked on it on the PC, then transferred it back to the Osaris, where it converted itself back to EPOC Word. Easy! ~ THINGS I LIKE ~ The whole thing, it great, but specifically : You don't have to save work before switching off the machine, it saves itself automatically. It boots up quickly - impressively quickly. It shuts itself off after a set period of inactivity. When you start it again the document you were working on is still open. Nice feature. It is new, so comes with a guarantee. I did consider buying a second-hand Psion 5 but the inherent risks outweighed the benefits (no guarantee, no way of knowing how it has been treated, etc.). A second-hand Psion 5 is around the same price as a new Osaris. ~ THINGS I DON'T LIKE ~ Not much. The keyboard is small. I knew it would be, I knew it would be fiddly and hard to get used to. Actually it wasn't that hard, just took a while to find out where they had put things that are usually there! Its not impossibly small but I think people with very large hands would find it a bit too fiddly for comfort. ~ OSARIS VERSUS PSION 5 ~ It is true that the Osaris is very like the Psion 5. It is very similar to use and has many of the same features. The Psion is slightly more powerful and a bit more fancy, but a lot of those features are unnecessary. The Psion has a recording facility, for example, which I wouldn’t use (I carry a dictation machine around with me for that, it holds much more information). The screen on the Psion is larger but we’re not talking about something like the difference between a 15” and 17” monitor, it’s only slightly bigger. One thing I was slightly concerned about was how quick the Osaris would boot up. I knew that the Psion 5mx was pretty much instant. So is the Osaris. Some Psions come with extra software (it depends on how much over £400 you are prepared to pay), such as Autoroute. Similar software is available for the Osaris. The specifications for the two machines are very similar (the main difference is in the audio, with the Psion having a recording facility) : PSION 5 specs –EPOC operating system, 1 CompactFlash slot, 2xAA batteries, standard 3v lithium backup cell, optional external power supply. SCREEN – 16 grey scale, backlit, touch sensitive, 100 characters x 26 lines, 133 x 50 mm active area. KEYBOARD touch-type laptop-sytle. AUDIO internal speaker, microphone for recording, external buttons for recording. SIZE 170 x 90 x 23mm. WEIGHT 354g with batteries. COMMUNICATIONS RS232 fast serial port, IrDA-compliant Infrared. Additional software available. Windows and Macintosh compatible. Osaris specs – EPOC operating system, 1 CompactFlash slot, 2 x AA batteries, standard lithium backup cell, optional external power supply. SCREEN 320 x 200 pixels, touch-screen with backlit LCD. KEYBOARD touch-type, large keys. SIZE 170 x 91 x 22mm. COMMUNICATIONS RS232 fast serial port, IrDA-compliant Infrared. Additional software available. Windows and Macintosh compatible. Compatible with most popular software : Lotus 12 3, Quattro Pro, Excel, Works, Access, dBase, Word, WordPerfect, Lotus Organizer, Schedule+, Outlook, Lotus Notes Calendar, Symantec ACT!, Novel Groupwise and Maximizer. ===== The Osaris comes with 4mb. My husband was concerned that this might not be enough to make it speedy and powerful, but it is. The Psion 5 comes with 8 or 16mb, which again boosts the price. The Osaris is easily upgradeable if necessary. And I do mean easily - it is a simple CompactFlash system, and they aren't too expensive. We had a spare one which we had intended to use for our digital camera, so I am using that. It simply inserts into a slot in the side of the Osaris. We have a Swift card reader for reading from the card onto the PC. I think I would have been quite happy with the original 4 MB though. You only need lots of memory if you are going to do graphic-intensive work, which I’m not. The Osaris comes with a surprisingly good manual. I usually throw them away unread, but this one is OK. It is spiral-bound so easy to use. Plus it actually seems to have been written by someone who has used the machine, which makes a change. I am delighted with my purchase and am using it a lot for writing articles, working on a book, scheduling appointments, remembering birthdays/shopping lists and even the alarm facility. It is very useful for taking notes when I am researching at the library. It is much less conspicuous than a laptop and quicker/more useful than pen and paper. Plus it is fun! I don’t suppose I really NEEDED one, I just love new technology – and I really appreciate this particular piece of new technology. I bought it on special offer in Comet for £119 (it is normally £149, which is the manufacturer’s recommended price). Tesco Direct had them on offer recently for £99, so it is worth shopping round and/or waiting for offers. ~ FOOTNOTE ~ In researching this article, I visited the website of the O saris’s manufacturer, Oregon. They make a wide range of goodies for techno-freaks like me, such as : Pulse Rate Monitor, Heart Rate Monitor (only £49.99, they give the prices on the site, which is unusual), Digital Stopwatch, Electronic Pedometer (complete with radio!), Digital Map Reader, Educational products, Home & Environmental Monitoring products (such as air quality monitors, weather monitoring systems, etc.) Digital and Projection clocks (they project the time onto the ceiling!). All in all, a bit of an adventure playground for people who like gadgets. If you do, stay away at all costs! The site is at : http://www.oregonscientific.co.uk.
The PDA market, once more or less exclusively dominated by Psion, firstly with their Series 3 Organisers (and the Siena) and then with the Series 5 (and Revo). The Series 7 is possibly off the top end of the PDA market, being just that bit too big to be a viable option for an out and out PDA. Of course Ericsson and Nokia have been players from the Mobile Phone/PDA markets for a while now, and the market also boasts other players, with Palm, Handspring (using Palm OS), HP, Compaq and Casio in the fray. Gone are the days of the pocket databanks of 32k memory, and the hefty Casio organisers with little connectivity. With a wide range of products, and an equally broad range of price tags, it is a bit of a minefield, with new PDAs cropping up the whole time. I have owned Psions and Palms, currently using a Palm Vx as my PDA. The essential thing is that the PDA is no longer a stand-alone item, and the ease of synchronisation is an important factor to consider. I regularly swap contacts with people, and therefore synchronisation with my fixed contacts lists (on my PC) is an essential. It used to be the case that synchronisation leads/software were extras, but this has clearly been consigned to history. I have found that synchronisation for the Palm has been very easy, and the software provided (Chapura PocketMirror included with my Palm Vx) has made synchronisation very easy. My reservation about buying a Palm initial was to do with the lack of keyboard and mistrust of the Graffiti system – which is actually very easy to pick up, and with a bit of practice you can get up to approaching 30 wpm. It should be remembered too, that even a keyboard on a palmtop is going to be quite fiddly to use often, something I remember from the days of the Series 3 Palms I owned. Additionally a keyboard can prove to be an unwanted extra, as it is another thing that can go wrong, with many PDA keyboards not being that ruggedised. Palm do offer keyboards as extras, whic h can be worthwhile if you are using your Palm for more than just the occasional phone no. However it would be thoroughly recommended that you check the compatibility of the model you buy and the keyboard, as not all models will take the same type of keyboard. Of course the display is a considerable factor in buying a PDA, and a good display can make a lot of difference. Now there is a choice of monochrome or colour, with colour obviously being considerably more expensive. Backlit screens are more or less standard, but bear in mind that these will vastly reduce battery life, which is not good if you have no means of recharging things whilst on the road. A travel pack might be an idea, so that you can put juice into your PDA, especially if it doesn’t take normal batteries, e.g. like the Palm Series, as the last thing you want is to lose all your data. The memory is a question, more really based on how much you are likely to use your PDA in terms of quantities of contacts, messages etc, with figures quoted for current models ranging between 2Mb and 32Mb. Bear in mind that some models are upgradeable (such as the Palms previewed recently at Cebit, and the Psions, which have used Solid State Disks (in varying sizes) for a long time. This can help you increase the memory of the machine as necessary, but this is mainly a question of the intended life of the PDA. Obviously a Colour Display will be more memory hungry, if you are using it for graphical purposes (the real reason for having a colour display) and I would still advise against a Colour Display in terms of expense and reduced battery life, unless you really need it. I have found that 8Mb on my Palm Vx goes a long way, since Palm OS PDAs are nearly exempt from the bloatware syndrome that has hit PC specs. PalmOS software is tightly programmed, and has a lot less slack than WinCE (a Microsoft failure!) so the size of applications is very small. The Palm also has a lot of freeware and shareware software available, and this is easily downloaded from the Internet with installation via hotsync, and PocketPC format PDAs and Psions are not far behind in terms of the amount of software for download. As yet the Mobile Phone based PDAs lag behind in this area, with the Ericsson R380s being completely non-expandable and the Nokia Communicator series having limited development to date. If you are looking for a PDA, it is worthwhile remembering that the price in the High Street is unlikely to be the best you can get, and I would recommend either going to Tottenham Court Road (there are stacks of shops selling PDAs at discounted rates for cash sales) or buying at Heathrow if leaving the country, as you can get great Tax Free prices there, which can help you make a healthy saving. Alternatively buying online can be recommended, as again prices tend to be cheaper. If you are thinking buying a PDA, then the following list of questions might be useful to take along to the shop. · What methods of input does this PDA have (stylus/keyboard)? · How much memory do it have (we’re talking Megabytes here…)? · Can more memory be bought for it (and if so, how much will it cost for how much?)? · How much in terms of addresses, appointments etc. will the initial amount of memory allow you to store? · What software is supplied as standard, and what software can be added? · What is the display like, how big is it, and is it backlit? Is it colour or black and white? · What is typical battery life like, and how long does it take to recharge? Are there travel chargers available? · What are the synchronisation features like? Are these included as standard, or must you buy them as extras? If you are looking for stuff on the web, there are a lot of sites with information of PDAs, and software, and a search result for PDA will undoubtedly answer nearly any questions you might have.
Below are a few questions you might want to ask yourself before buying a Palm Vx or any other email enabled PDA. Which one to pick is a different issue... Now answer these questions: 1) Do you work long hours in front of the screen and don't feel like looking at one in your free time? Yes - 1 pt No - 0 pts Comment: If you have an infra red enabled phone you can download the free Eudora email program to check your personal email and not have to read/write it at work. 2) Do you use Microsoft Outlook or any similar package at work? Yes - 1 pt No - 0 pts Comment: Synchronize your diary with your Palm and you don't have to worry about missing meetings the next day! 3) Do you remember phone numbers of friends? Yes - 0 pts No - 1 pt Comment: If you are completely dependent upon your mobile phone, when it comes to numbers. Your palm can be a great back-up for all your numbers. Thanks to GSMtool, you can transfer all your number using infra-red onto your palm. 4) Do you feel embarrassed to own a gameboy? Yes - 1 pt No - 0 pts Comment: There are loads of great games, you can play any time, without looking childish or attracting unnecessary attention. 5) Do you keep to do lists? Yes - 1 pt No - 0 pts Comment: The Palm todo function is extremely useful when you have several projects/jobs/subjects for which you have separate lists. 6) Do you sms a lot? Yes - 1 pt No - 0 pts Comment: There are several decent sms (text message) packages where you can write them on your palm and just beam them across to your phone. Speeds up things when you have several to write. 7) Did you ever dream of having a watch with a built in remote control? Yes - 1 pt No - 0 pts Comment: Again there are several programs which transform your palm into a multi purpose/programmable re mote control! 8) Do you ever have some great ideas? Yes - 1 pt No - -10 pts Comment: When you do, its always nice to keep them in one place. Once you start using your palm, it will be the place to keep them. Special software for keeping passwords is also available. 9) Do you forget about meetings? Yes - 1 pt No - 0 pt Comment: I think this was the original purpose of the Palm :) 10) Do you like to keep up to date with new IT/gadget features? Yes - 1 pt No - 0 pt Comment: If you don't follow from time to time what is been developed for the palm, we'll miss out on many features of a palm. FINAL COMMENTS: Now count up your points --------------- Less that 6 pts: Don't waste your money, get yourself a 5 pound diary More that 5 pts: A palm is the thing you need! Comment: The one thing I was most afraid when buying the palm, was that after two weeks of using it I would get bored of it, just liked with most my other "toys". To my surprise, that was not the case! The palm becomes just another tool of your everyday life - just like a mobile phone! Beware, its an extra thing you can loose...
As any good sales person knows, one of the first questions you should ask a customer is "what will you be doing with the product". It is surprising how many £300 PDAs are being bought by people who simply want to store names and addresses. My tip, save your money buy a cheap £30 Casio or Sharp databank and take a nice holiday. However if your needs are a little more detailed read on. The first thing you notice is the vast array of terms used by the industry. PDA, PALM top, LAP top, POCKET PC. All these terms just make us sales people feel more important they mean very little to the every day user. I will call them organisers. You may notice that some organisers are in fact quite large, almost the same size as a lap top computer and some organisers are very small, almost the size of a credit card. Now would you believe me that if I said that I reckon that nearly 75% of my customers buy on look !! SERIOUSLY. Style is everything . Now that you have chosen your "look" will that product do what you want it really to do. For example if you major idea is to publish your life story then forget those dandy Palms or Pocket PCs. WHY? Well without a proper keyboard then typing your life story aint gonner be easy. (Palm do do a external keyboard = £90 and in my opinion defeats the purpose of having a super small organiser) What about emails? The next few years will see this area of the industry simply explode with new products. Remeber reading those news paper stories of the billion pound auction for G3 waveband, well its all about sendind DATA (or emails). All major orgainisers by PALM, PSION or Pocket PCs will send/receive email as long as you have the right mobile phone and phone contract. But pocket PCs will use good old Outlook while PALM and PSION use other software. What about major hair dressing? WHAT you may say! Certain products are considerably easier to use than others, for example with a Psion orga niser, Psion develop the mcahine, develop the software and combine then wonderfully. With a Pocket PC, casio may produce a unit with a microsoft operating system, see the major hair pulling out time? Also Certain companies like palm offer technical advice using a normal number, Psion charge £1 per min and you can be left guessing with some Pocket PDAs. So in summary.. Palm Products small, smart, sexy, easy to use, not suitable for heavy input of data, perhaps the best PC syncing software I have ever seen. image, image, image ! Psion Products, Medium sized, smart, sexy, easy to use, good sized keyboard for more serious inputting of data, PC syncing a bit fiddily, Premium rate support only. Pocket PCs Small, Powerful, feels like windows, easy to use if good with windows, not suitable for serious data inputting, few clashes with windows and organiser. As it runs things like pocket word should be a doddle when transfering to a proper PC. In conclusion If you want a slim, smart and sexy address book and diary that can do emails then have a look at the palm products. ( you can download from the net goodies like word processing but even my contact within Palm says don't bother) If you want sexy, smart looks but want a little more than an address book and diary, but don't mind a slightly larger product give the Psions a look. If you want all singing all dancing organisers but you wont input THAT much then look at the pocket PCs, just be wary that they are like a normal PC, you do need to know a little bit about the operating system. So now I have given you the details "HOW WILL YOU BE PAYING......."
I thought that when I saw PDA’s advertised in the PC magazines, I thought just another gadget, which probably does nothing special. I think that with the PDA’s I have not totally been proved wrong although I think that they are useful if you are a busy executive who needs their every appointment throughout the day categorised and written down, but isn’t that what a paper diary is for? OK so you can synchronise your e-mail’s, that still has to be done while you are at your desk, might as well read them while you are there. The company I work for have just brought in a load of PDA’s for the sales people to use, most of them have enough trouble using the memory on their phone let alone a computer and a PDA. Guess they want to look good in front of their clients. Any way the model they are using is a HP Jornada, which has been voted as the number one PDA including this month’s edition of FHM. Worth checking out if you are looking to buy, you can probably find the spec on the HP web site. I have got to say the little toy is not bad at all, you can download and play loads of cool games, and yea you can also synchronise most of you work so there is no excuse for not working out of hours. Which your boss is going to be most happy about. The colour graphics and the speed of this little thing is impressive. Good luck with trying to write word or excel documents on a screen of this size, I personally didn’t have the patience with no keyboard. All in all if you have a spare £400 to throw around then its worth getting this impressive diary, other than that do you really need it?
PDA's are very useful devices for the purpose they are designed for. However, it is a serious investment of your money, so choose carefully to gain full benefit. There are three main options, a Palm Pilot, a Psion or a generic PDA (Handsprung units etc.). I would suggest either the Palm or Psion for several reasons: They are form a series of previous models, and so have been refined. Many of the newer models on the market are new, and therefore, have not had 5-6 years of usage experience behind them. Also, the availability of software and add-ons for Palm/Psion is incredible, thanks to the net. There are many support sites for both brands, with many freeware programs and games. Do not expect a PDA to replace your computer - it cannot do that. At best, a PDA can be thought of like a portable, interactive floppy disk and diary. I have found two main uses for my PDA: 1. Keeping a diary and address book. 2. Using it as a stop-gap until I can get access to my computer Most PDA's can be connected to a PC/Mac, and I would strongly advise you not to buy one that doesn't. When it comes to choosing between a Palm or a Psion, carefully examine the pro's and cons. Both are very powerful PDA's, capable of doing clever things. Psions are more expensive. Palm Pilots are smaller, but less powerful than Psions. Psions have a keyboard, but Palm Pilots you can write on. Both are capable of internet use ... I could go on, but it probably wouldn't help. Before you buy one, list all the things you want your PDA to do, then investigate at a hight street shop. Get a feel for which one feels more comfortable in your hands. When are you going to use it, and what for? If you still aren't sure, have a look at some of the Palm?Psion websites, and read the fan's criticisms - it may sway you!
If its your boss then don't bother reading this he just wants you to work more. It all sounds good, get your email on the move, surf the net on the train. Is it really that easy? The answer at the moment is simply no!! or should I say how much are you prepared to spend? You can end up buying phone connection kits, modems, extra memory, spare batterys, lan cards... I have seen people in tangles worse than those of the 1980's Sony Walkman days. They are useful and in some form will be the future. Just be careful you know what you are getting, want and need. The adds will tell you they can do everything. They can do a lot but it will cost you alot too, they are also not as easy to setup. PDA's will not replace mobile phones, mobile phones will replace PDA's/Palmtops/laptops. Some good products can become useless, because they will not become the standard. When did you last use your betamax? Let you boss drive technology, go and get youself a mobile phone, their cheap now because someone else footed the development bill last decade. Come back in 18 months.
Handheld PCs, palm tops and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) are the confusingly almost interchangeable terms for the tiny computers initially designed as electronic personal organisers but which now have many more functions and capabilities. Other terms are H/PC handheld PC (with keyboard) and P/PC palm-sized PC (no keyboard). The most important question when choosing a handheld is what you are most likely to use it for. If you simply want to replace your bulky Filofax with something sleeker then a databank will do all that is necessary – a computer would be superfluous. Handheld computers, however, can be used not only for storing personal information but also as portable reference or entertainment centres. There are thousands of software titles which can be downloaded including educational subjects, route planners, technical references, currency converters, dictionaries etc. They can also be used to store electronic novels and books, games, puzzles and jokes. But if you want to play games do check out the useful article ‘PDA gaming has its limitations’ at http://news.tucows.com/pda/27830.html) Some also have audio or MP3 facilities. Finally it is possible to connect to the internet while on the move or download web pages from a PC using webclipping software. So you could download your favourite newspaper to read during the day. You might want to synchronise your email package so you can read and reply to emails on the move and send them when you re-synchronise. So it is worthwhile having a look at the type of software you might like to use on your handheld and its availability on the various operating systems. See http://entanet.pda.tucows.com/index.html for further information on software. There are three major operating systems currently used by handhelds: the Palm OS used by Palm and clones, the EPOC system used by Psion and Windows CE or Win CE 3.00 known as Pocket PC a Microsoft windows type OS. Palm probably has the wi dest selection of software titles, Psion also has a good range but at present PocketPC does not have so much choice. Obviously, a Mac user would not want a Windows OS. The type of software you are likely to want will also determine the memory requirements. The cheaper palms have 2MB of memory which is usually sufficient for most people. But if you intend to have a selection of memory eating games or vast databases of information then 8MB would be better. Some PDAs do have expansion slots to upgrade. Another important question is whether you want to input much data or whether it would be used mainly for retrieval. Handheld computers come in two basic styles – with or without a keyboard. Palm types do not have a keyboard but use a pen or stylus. Data input is either by using the onscreen keyboard or by handwriting using the “graffiti” system. Graffiti is a shorthand like system of pen strokes (e.g. The symbol for k is more like an a) which has to learnt. Some people find this difficult to master. Other PDAs use software which recognises more natural handwriting. Some also have voice recognition and playback which might be more convenient for recording brief notes. If, however, you might want to type or edit documents a traditional keyboard might be more suitable. It is possible to buy a fully collapsible keyboard for Palms but Psion have keyboards as standard. The Psion’s operating system mimics Windows 95 and is perhaps slightly easier to adjust to than graffiti type if you need to input much data. Keyboards are often generally quicker to use. Psion comes with Excel and Word and is designed more as a PC supplement. (If you do want to work with Word and Excel files please note that Palm OS has software which enables you to read only not edit.) A final consideration regards synchronisation. This refers to sharing data with PCs and other handhelds. Most, but not all, PDAs come with a cradle or docking statio n which is connected to the PC’s serial port. The PDA is placed in the cradle without having to worry about plugging and unplugging cables every time you want to sync up your data. The latest PDAs may have a USB (universal Serial Bus) which only works with the most recent PCs running Windows 98 or later. So it is necessary to check whether a serial connection is included or whether this has to be purchased as an extra if you do not have USB on your PC. Another method of sharing data, with a PC if it supports this or other IR palms, is by an infrared port (IR). You simply point your palm at the other and it magically sends the data through the air – cool. Other things to consider when choosing a PDA are where you will be using it most – indoors or outdoors? If outside a colour screen may not show up well and screen resolution will be important too. If you want to use it on a building site or other rough environment will it be tough enough? Will you need a backlight or will you normally use it in well-lit conditions? What accessories you might want and their availability. To check out mobile phone/ Internet compatibility see for Psion: http://www.psion.com/mobile/ for PalmOS see http://www.palm.com/ and for PocketPc see http://www.microsoft.com/mobile/pocketpc/default.asp For further information on downloading web pages and channels see http://avantgo.com/ Other useful web sites include: http://3lib.ukonline.co.uk/ http://www.nearlymobile.com/ http://entanet.pda.tucows.com/index.html
The first big decision is: 1) Will I be using my PDA to enter lots of text? If the answer is yes then the keyboards on the Psion series make this stand out. The Series 5 is quite usable - the 7 more so - but is a big beast and hardly qualifies as a PDA! Check out the Revo as well and see if your fingers are happy with the keyboard. If you don't plan to write essays on the move then a Palm or Visor may be more suitable. You can enter text on these devices - using the grafitti language and its not as hard as it looks - but you don't want to be writing your ten page monthly report this way. Next: 2) Is email/web on the move important? You may wish to consider an integrated phone/pda such as the nokia Communicator or the new Erikson. The Nokia is a bit if a brick though. You may wish to consider the Palm Vx and a modem enabled phone such as the tiny Nokia 8210 - a tiny and smart combination. Download the microbrowser from AvantGo and you have the killer application. 3) Do you want to use your PDA to support your desktop email inbox, calendar and address book? Ask for a demonstration of the connectivity software and use of a docking cradle. Make sure your PC email software is supported. Watch out for Pocket PC solutions as their connectivity to Windows can sometimes be less easy than the Palm OS or Epoch (Psion) based systems. 4) DO you want to dowmload lots of third party software and add-ons? The Palm wins here as it has a huge US following. Although Psion software is usually fantastic, it does not have anywhere near the market penetration as Palm devices in the US. All those busy US programmers have produced tons of freeware and shareware which is easily downloaded and installed. Whether its a copy of space invaders or software to turn your Palm into a universal Remote control - its out there. One word of warning - getting cool apps is a lot of fun - choose a PDA with loads of memory - at least 8Mb.
I am the happy owner of a Palm V and find it to be a very useful device. However, before buying any PDA, you should contemplate whether you are a PDA person or not. If you like to draw little figures or flowers in your calendar, which by the way is handmade from pieces of Indian saris – then you know for sure your not. However, if you thrive on structure, organisation and last but not least, appreciate being able to change the phone number or address of a contact without leaving a crossed-over old number – then run straight to the store and get one. But which one then? Without knowing everything about other brands, I am very happy with my Palm V. It is among the smallest and most slender I have seen, which is important because after all I am a girl and it needs to fit in the handbag and look well designed. The system for writing text, the “Graffiti” alphabet, is also working very well. It is definitely easier for a person to learn a simplified alphabet, than to teach the PDA to recognise somebody’s scribbles. Palm is also the brand with most software applications for it. Important to check is also whether your office calendar/email system supports the brand of your choice. Buying a PDA today I would go for a Palm V again, but I am finding that I use my mobile phone for looking up phone numbers. Therefore, combined PDAs and mobile phone (e.g. Ericsson R380) is a great solution and if I did not already have a mobile I would probably chose something like that instead of two separate devices.