It weighs under 3lbs, has a 800x600 res backlit 256 colour screen, a 95% full keyboard and competes with the Sony Viao range for size. It has Pocket Office (Word, Powerpoint, Access, Excel)and more, plus a built in sound recorder, speaker and media player. It has a built in 56K modem. It comes with 16meg of memory that you can configure to either expand processing speed or storage capacity, and it has expansion slots everywhere for adding flash cards and more memory. It switches on instantly and has a battery life of around 7 hours (optional battery pack can increase this to 12). The closest thing to it on the market is the new Psion 7, but that costs around £700. The Aero costs under £470 including VAT!! It comes with Outlook and Microsoft's own synchronisation software - just install on your PC and you can automatically update your desktop and Aero from either machine (synchronise callendar, contacts, files, etc.). It doesn't use floppy's or CD. Who would use one? Anyone with a pc who wants a mobile writing machine that's comfortable to use, lightweight and compact, fast (the "Instant On" is a boon and the 128MHz processor is plenty for the Pocket Office apps). I just wanted a portable word-processor, and I found the perfect machine. Where can you get one? That's the only problem - they are only available in a few places but Dabs.com are worth trying if you are happy to order online. Note as well: I got mine delivered quickly, but it arrived with an American AC Adapter - I had to buy another adapter plug to convert it for use in The UK (about £5). Check with Dabs that the AC adapter is a UK one before you buy. At this price it's the best value for money notebook on the market - anywhere. If you can find one...snap it up!
Although this is classified here as a PDA, it might be considered a baby laptop. The difference is that it has no disc drives, and the operating system (Windows CE) and applications are all in ROM. This is both good and bad, or to put it another way, there's no such thing as a free lunch. If, like me, you get fed up with waiting for Windows to boot and programs to load, you'll love the fact that both operations are virtually instant. You shut down by closing the lid, and boot up the same way. Windows CE includes 'pocket' versions of Word and Excel, and this one comes with Access and Powerpoint as well. In fact, you can run a Powerpoint slideshow directly from the Aero to an external display or projector, as it has the necessary output, which is common enough in a laptop, but unheard of in a PDA. The downside is that there isn't any real mass storage, but few will have this as their only computer, and if you've got an ordinary PC back at base, all you have to do is link the two with the supplied cable and transfer any files you've written. If your PC is new enough to have an IRDA (infra-red) link, you might even be able to dispense with the piece of wire, although I think this is really intended to communicate with external devices such as printers, mobile phones or another Windows CE device. The Aero also has slots for more memory (up to 64Mb), a PCMCIA card and a Smart Card, which can be used for security purposes. What sets it apart from pocketable PDA's is its size, and this, more than anything else, will determine its appeal. It really isn't much smaller than a notebook computer (although it is a lot slimmer and lighter) but this is simply because it has a proper 800x600 display and a full-size keyboard. Both of these are a joy to use. The display, which is made by Sharp, is just plain wonderful, and I was staggered to learn that it is a DSTN, rather than TFT, type. This is for power consumption reasons, bu
t you would never know. If you do much typing or spreadsheet work, this is reason enough to buy it, especially if you use Word or Excel back at the office. Did I mention that it has a 56k modem built in too? It comes with a version of Internet Explorer, so you can plug straight into a phone socket and surf the 'net without any speed or screen compromises. Whether you'll actually want to spend £500 on one is debatable. This is a lot for a PDA, but not for the functionality it offers, which is much more like a notebook. Indeed, it's better than a notebook in some respects, as it takes no time to boot or load applications, makes no noise (even the keyboard is quiet) and has a decent battery life of 6-7 hours. You have to download your work regularly if you use it to create files (although for corporate users who just want to calculate mortgage rates or insurance premiums, that won't be an issue) and the Microsoft programs installed are 'lite' versions of their desktop counterparts. This isn't necessarily a disadvantage, as it makes them both easier to drive and harder to crash. My overall verdict is that if it is the sort of thing you want, you'll love it. If you want something to go in your pocket, however, buy a Palm.