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If the Rolodex was the ?in? organizer of the 80s, and the day-planer was the sheik thing to have in the 90s, then it would seem that the PDA is the new fad of 2000. Of all the PDA?s that stand out, a few lead the charge into the wireless internet realm. In a world where the Palm VII and IPAQ stand out as the leaders in the field, I was surprised to find that Casio?s <b>Cassiopeia EM500</b> leaves its rivals behind in many aspects. The most important factor in choosing the <b>Cassiopeia EM500</b>, was simply the fact that it was available when it was time to give up my beloved trial version of the Compaq IPAQ. I find it quite funny that I have an old IBM Thinkpad at home collecting dust, that for all practical purposes, will do less than this little palm top device. <b>Cassiopeia</b>. <b>Technical Specifications</b> The <b>Cassiopeia</b> is equipped with 16mb of standard memory, and though that may not sound like a whole lot, with the slimmed down software that it uses, that would normally prove to be enough memory for most people?s day to day usage. For myself, I ordered an additional 32mb memory card in the anticipation that I would need this additional memory. Casio has an ingenious system that allows additional memory chips to be added via a small slot on the top of the device. This will allow you to just replace the memory chip in the future instead of having to completely replace your PDA when you out-grow the included memory. I appreciate that Casio also puts a locking switch on the cover to the memory housing, as instead of sliding open, it folds open, and I could see a risk of this breaking. The Casio uses a VR4122 processor that is rated at only about 150 MHz, however, as slow as this may sound, it is quite sufficient for a PDA. Where you really notice the difference on the speed of the processor is when you are downloading any mail or information from Outlook or my daily backup of my calendar and not
es to my pc. <b>Software</b> The <b>Cassiopeia</b> includes a plethora of software that normally would be options on many competing PDAs. The most useful software for myself is Pocket Outlook. This is a slim downed version of Outlook 2000, that will allow you not only to download your e-mails from the Outlook program on your pc, for later reading, but has a calendar for your daily scheduling. I found a software package from <i>Franklin-Covey</i> that takes your Outlook 2000 and Pocket Outlook and customizes it to resemble the Covey day planner sheets, even down to your daily journal logs. This software is available only from Franklin-Covey, however I recommend it for anyone who has become accustomed to using the Covey day planner. Casio also includes Pocket Word, which I have found to be very useful for writing down notes, or even starting some Epinions. With Pocket Word, even though it does have a grammar and spelling check, I still prefer to download any documents that I write, back to my pc, in order to finish editing them. This is more due to my own comfort level than any problems with the Cassiopeia. As for its internet software, Casio includes both Internet Explorer and a version of AOL made for use on a PDA. The web sites available to use on PDAs right now is very limited, however AOL does make very good use of a system they have made for PDA users that will give them a variety of news channels and shopping guides. For the most part, my internet usage is limited to just getting news headlines and stock quotes, so the limitation on sites has not really effected my usage (other than not being able to view Epinions.) I am sure that as more people start using PDAs and wireless phones to access the internet, the amount of companies that format their sites for PDAs or WAP will increase over time. These are the only software programs that I have had an opportunity to use thoroughly enough to use, however,
this is not the limitation of the <b>Cassiopeia</b> capabilities. For those who like to use voice recorders, yes, one is built into the Cassiopeia. Unlike the iPaq, however, there is no software that will convert any recorded notes into text. (This software was on my Beta trial of the iPaq, however, I am not aware that this is available on the consumer market yet.) Casio also includes everything from Pocket Excel to a golf game, so as to not keep their users bored, or feeling as though they are being gypped on the software end. One of the more interesting software programs included, that I have not been able to experiment yet, is Microsoft Reader. This program allows you to download books off of either the internet, or a CDR on your pc, so as to read books directly off your PDA. While I may miss the smell of a freshly printed book, or the feel of pages in my fingers, there is something intriguing about this new program. <b>Hardware</b> The <b>Cassiopeia</b> looks and feels almost identical to the iPaq, and even uses a similar button set up for navigating your programs. Of course, most of the functions that you use on a daily basis it is simpler to use your stylus on the screen than to toggle through your buttons. Casio, however, did one thing which I find extremely useful, and that is to have an instant access calendar button on the face. This way, you can quickly access your calendar instead of having to jump back to the main program menu from whatever program you are in at the time. The size of the <b>Cassiopeia</b> is comfortable to hold while using, however, I find that the stylus is far to small to hold comfortably. I caught myself using a used up ball point pen more often than not instead of the stylus, and I purchased some protective screen covers just in case I accidentally pick up a pen that is not completely used up. To alleviate this problem, I have ordered a stylus from Levenger.com that doubles as a p
en, but is much larger so you do not feel as though you are holding a <i>Put-Put</i> pencil. Also from Levenger.com, I am ordering a new faceplate in wood-grain, as the Cassiopeia only comes in colors similar to the I-Mac computers. I originally just ordered this in a simple blue, however, this looks quite unprofessional, and if I had one request, it would be that Casio at least offer just a gray plastic option, instead of blue, green, pink, or purple. Of course, Casio includes the obvious rapid charger, but there are no adapters for using this with a cellular phone, or an in-vehicle charger. <b>Connectivity </b> I had to make a totally separate category for connecting the <b>Cassiopeia</b> to your pc because there are some very important things you should check before purchasing this product. While Casio includes all of the software you need, they only include a USB cable for connecting. It is important that you check to make sure that you have a USB port on your pc before you order. Even if you have a USB port, I recommend investing in the optional Serial cable, as this seems to sync with your pc much faster, and more efficiently. To use this as a wireless internet device in conjunction with your cellular phone, it is important that you make sure that your cellular phone is data ready, and you must order an optional adapter for your specific type of phone. Be warned, that these additional ?options? for proper connection, along with a car adapter, will end up running you a couple of hundred extra dollars on top of the $500 that the <b>Cassiopeia</b> costs. Still, if you are in the market for an internet ready PDA, the Cassiopeia still proves to be the best value. As I am still new to using my <b>Cassiopeia</b>, I have not had the opportunity to explore all the features and software that it has to offer. For what I have used so far, I feel that Casio makes a PDA that leaves most of its rivals far be
hind. As I further venture into all the Cassiopeia has to offer, I will continue to keep this review updated. For now, I think I will try downloading some MP3s and check out the sound quality, and maybe play a few games of golf. Yes, the Cassiopeia can be used for much more than business.
The Casio EM-500 PDA is one of the best pda's out. With Windows CE built in and easy syncronising with your desktop pc, this is a really worthwhile investment. Not only do you get the pda but you also get loads of free software from the manufactuers, Casio. You can also get loads of free software from the web for free! The good thing about the operating system being windows ce is that you also get many other microsoft products for it such as Word, Excel and Internet Explorer. The pda can be used as an mpeg player and MP3 player. The graphics are the best i've seen on such a small machine. The memory can get used up quite quick so a recommendation is an upgrade mmc card, at about £1 a meg they're not that expensive either. The battery lasts about 5 hours for normal use and maybe 3 hours for constant use depending on whether your playing movies music or just doing word documents.
I've had my Casio for nearly 6 months now, and think it's a great little machine. I moved up from a palm, and although the learning curve was a little steep, it was well worth it. The screen on this handheld is incredible, so rich, but can be hard to read in bright, direct sunlight (although I've used it regularly on the train in sunlight and it was readable). Also the value is very hard to beat, but you should also buy a MMC card with it for storing extra programs and music. The casio can also play video clips as well, which is a great way of impressing people. And the buttons are laid out in a game-boy fashion, so games are really easy to play.Of course the built-in MS Office applications are great to have. The processor is fast enough - I can listen to music while playing games or reading an ebook without noticable slowdown. Battery life is acceptable, much longer that a laptop, but less that a Palm. It is not a s much of an issue as the unit has a built in rechargable battery which is replaceable and a back-up battery as well so that you should never lose your information. The build quality is excellent, probably on a par with the Jornada, and I've had no problems with my machine (except for some scratches which are my fault). The case that comes with the unit isn't very functional, so you might want to find a good leather case as well. Lastly, you should buy a few screen protectors to stop the screen getting scratched.
What can I say? This really is a fantastic piece of kit, especially as it is in Dixons now for £299.99! I bought one a few months ago, and I have found it very good. The quality and size of the screen (not to mention it is in color) are excellent for spending large amounts of time using it. The ability to synchronize with Outlook 2000 is really useful, as I can check my e-mails on the train to work, and reply to them using the Infra-red port on my mobile. The actual speed of the processor unit means programs load up very quickly, and above all, it looks much better than its predecessor and its competitors. Its battery life is not as good as palms, but what do you expect for a color machine. However I have had no problems with this, as long as I charge it up every night. Take this as a serious consideration if you are buying a PDA. Just because it is made by Casio and not a major PC manufacturer, like HP, does not mean it does not perform as well. In my experience it performs better. The only disadvantage is that it takes a while to get use to the handwriting recognition, but you soon get used to it!
Maybe its my luck but every Casio I have sold has come back. The machines were not faulty its just that it never seems to do what you wanted it to do. Firstly a great product, MP3, media player , great colour screen. However the software (pocket windows) and the Casio never get on. Bewarned that the AOL software installed on the Casio is the US version and not compatable with the UK version. Difficult to set up if you are using an ethernet network. NOT FOR THE PDA VIRGIN. Casio helpline number is not in the box, used our secret number and was greeted by a 16 year old reading a script, did not know what they were talking about. Line frequently engaged. I would only recommend if you are happy with the ins and outs of Windows and you have used a PDA before.
I have been a PSION fan for some time now mainly because of its reliability and speed, and powerful tools like the database. Unfortunately my Revo went to heaven recently - faulty battery or something following my 5mx which was stolen) so I decided to try out a palm of sometype (I was thinking about Palm V or IIIc). Having had an MP3 player (Rio) I opted for the Cassiopeia EM500 (Compaq was not available) because of a) the beautiful colour screen b) the great sexy stuff like internet explorer and colour avantgo c)the built in MP3/WMA element. After a few teething problems I must say Microsoft have made an excellent piece of kit that is fairly reliable (though not a patch on Psion Epoch for speed or robustness of OS) and fun to use. The active synch tools are great and there is enough free stuff on the web to keep me amused (like video players) . The battery life and colour aspects are also reasonable, as I did have concerns about the 7hour quoted battery life. The build quality and the fact that the battery is replaceable is considerably better than the Compaq 3130 that I have also used (I upgraded mine to 48MB for about £50) The failings (as there are some) is the complexity of file navigation, poor database (you actually have to buy one as access won’t synch), fairly slow (as all good MS products it is getting slower by the day) and the lack of a established “freebie” developer community. On the Palm front, I have borrowed one to trial out. They are good and simple, but functionality get wise poor a Psion or a Pocket PC anyday. Finally I must say I do miss my Psion keyboard, but until Psion get their act together with a real competitor I will remain Pocket PC! ******************************************** UPDATE MAY 2001 - about 6 months of using it This tool (as I think of it as nothing less) just gets better and better. Thus I have rerated it as 5*****. I am using
photoalbums, music and AVANTGO (the downloadable websites tool - enabling downloads from websites like the BBC -yes all BBC news daily - and various sites for IT industry news) in addtion to the standard PDA stuff. None of this available on my old PSION and Palm is music-less and also prone to crashing (I was surprised about this but I have set me wife up with one just to get a feel for it).
The EM500 is the latest fix in my years of PDA addiction that started with the Sharp Zaurus and Apple Newton. Since then, I've had HP Omnibooks, Palms, HandSprings and Psions (Revo and 5mx). So you could say I'd know a little about living with these pocket-sized miracles. One thing to consider when buying a PDA - it'll be out of date in 6 months. These things don't tend to have an upgrade path outside of memory expansion. I'm assuming that you know a little about Pocket PC - the latest incarnation of Windows CE - a cut-down version of Windows. Don't believe any salesman who tells you that it is Windows - because it isn't - you have to run PocketPC specific software on it. The EM500 is a fantastic device - not noticibily bigger or heavier than a Palm III or a Handspring, it's a powerful 16-bit colour Pocket PC - and actually less cumbersome than the highly rated Compaq iPaq with an expansion sleeve. The ONLY areas where the EM500 are beaten by the iPaq are in looks (the iPaq is a very pretty piece of kit), and the display (iPaq has a neat light sensitive display that automatically adjust to ambient light). I'd recommend the EM500 to anyone looking for a fast, high-quality piece of kit that seamlessly integrates into a Windows environment (via USB connector). It's got infra red that allows you to connect to the internet via a compatible mobile phone, great stereo sound reproduction, and video playback facilities. Killer app? AvantGo. This piece of software allows you to grab pages from your favourite websites every time you synchronise with your laptop. In real terms, this could mean the end of buying newspapers every morning. The FT, Times and Guardian are available, and it certainly beats trying to read a broadsheet on a crowded tube train. So if you're in the market for a PocketPC, give the EM500 some serious thought.
Casio's first attempt at the pocket pc, the E-115 was good. It has arguably the best screen of all the pocket pcs. However, it lacked certain key factors. It had no USB syncronisation, which is essential. It also lacked a good design, it was just the E-105 with a different OS. The were key things that were missing. The new EM-500 has these features and more! However, the new EM-500 is the only real rival for compaq's top spot. Firstly, the design has been totally changed. It looks glamourous and eye catching. It's available in several colours, red being my personal favourite. It has a rubber grip where you can err.... grip the device unlike the ipaq which is slippery. Hurrah! Casio have made USB standard with the device, this means much quicker exchange which is especially important for transfering large files such as mp3s. Casio have also given the EM-500 a quicker processor, 150MHz. The difference isn't really noticeable though. Casio says that the machine is designed for multimedia. It has a multimedia slot, which accepts postage stamp sized memory cards. This is a good expansion facility that works well. However, you won't fit much multimedia onto the mean 16MB RAM. That is really unacceptable. With an mp3 track taking up about 3 megs and e-books taking up the same amount there isn't much room for multimedia. The multimedia cards are needed if you are gonna take full advantage of the device. The screen is great. Beautiful to look at and it is TFT (thin film transistor). It displays a huge 65,000 colours. However, the Casio may have 61,000 more colours than the ipaq, but the difference is barely noticeable. The Casio's screen may have more than 61,000 colours than the ipaq, but it is not visible outdoors in direct sunlight. The Sound is brilliant. Just as good as compaq's device. Stereo quality. It only has 6 hours battery life though, so you'll
be constantly recharging it so it's not great for a day on the road! Like all pocket pc's, it has a microphone, a headphone jack, a speaker, the ability to play short films and music and the ability to read e-books using microsoft reader. Overall the Casio is still not as good as the ipaq. But the screen is brighter. Maybe Casio can be third time lucky. They need longer battery life and at least 32MB of memory. The price is good though. If you're gonna buy a pocket pc, it's between the Casio EM-500 and the Compaq Ipaq 3600, it just depends on your needs!