This is a Windows CE powered device which came out around 1998. I bought one on the recommendation of a shop assistant in a well known chain store. At the time, I was considering a Psion 5, but totally fell for the "no keyboard; write on the screen" hook, line and sinker! Unfortunately, the machine is expensive to upgrade and the Windows CE 2.0 operating system is memory-heavy, using up the lion's share of the measley 4MB of RAM. After 6 months, I had to buy a new battery as my useage was quite erratic due to frustration with the machine. The machine has all the usual functions you would expect from a PDA: address book, calender, inbox program to handle e-mails, notebook program, task list editor, voice recorder, solitaire program and calculator. It also comes bundled with SmArtWriter handwriting recognition software, which I feel is quite poor at its job. You have a choice of 3 methods to input data, using either T9 text input (quite difficult to use), an on-screen tap keyboard or a handwriting scratchpad (with or without word completion, where you enter a single letter at a time and the device tries to guess the word as you go along). Whichever method you use, data entry is cumbersome. The machine come complete with a recharger and a cradle which links up to the serial port on your PC and is able to swap and update information to the latest version added. Linking up to the PC also updates the Nino's clock and date to match that of the PC. The installation software for the synchronisation program and the other bundled software were quite difficult to set up, however, there was no problem once the device was running, except occasionally when I wanted to use the modem on the desktop and I had to manually deactivate the synchronisation program. For those lucky enough to have an infra-red port on their PC or laptop, the Nino is able to connect directly through this. The connection is line of sight and the machines have to be
within 10 feet of each other, but this is no problem. The Nino also has the capability of communicating with other Ninos and some other compatible devices, but I never found one that worked with it. A modem is available for direct connection to the internet, but don't hope to use it properly with the 4MB version. I phoned Widget software who warned me about buying this expensive 9,600 baud modem which would not function particularly well! I am irritated by the inability of the machine to handle printing functions. I am sure that such software is available for Windows CE devices, but it is certainly not bundled with the machine and it doesn't accept a printer cable that I know of in any case. The IR port would probably not function with a printer in any case. What I actually wanted was a more standalone machine which would function for long periods without needing to be linked up to the PC, with word processing and printing functions and a good deal more memory or more efficient use of what was available. In this sense, the Psion was probably what I needed and the Nino is probably, just like the Palm/Handspring PDAs, just a glorified address book with very little extra real functionality. I know the machine has a cult following and that there is a selection of available software, both on the net for free and available from Widget Software by mail order, but I think that this is better suited to the 8MB machine. At the end of the day, as a surgeon, this machine has not been the valuable device I needed to help me in practice, however, I can see how it would appeal to some people.
I've owned my Nino since they first came out - in fact I paid full price for it at the time (near enough £500), with it replacing a Psion 3c as my PDA. My only gripes with it are that the memory is a little small for heavy duty work - although it had the largest amount of memory at the time of release - 8Mb would have been better than 4Mb, and the fact that if you let both the main batteries & backup battery run *almost* flat - it has a tendency to crash. Other than those caveats, it has been a very stable little Windows CE device. The built in applications are the standard Microsoft affairs, but lacking IE - since IE for CE only comes designed for machines with a keyboard, good free-text recognition software, as well as T9 Predictive text input (the same as the new Nokia mobile phones), and it's own character set - similar to the PalmPilots system, all three input methods lend themselves to relatively speedy text input - which is a godsend with a total lack of keyboard. It also comes with voice recognition software (which works well, after a little training), and a voice-memo recorder. The Nino synchornises seamlessly with the desktop PC - although the original version of the Windows CE connection software was a little unstable, that's all fixed now - allowing you to synchronise messages from Outlook, appointments, contacts, and Web-channels between the two devices. The construction is robust - mine has seen a few trips onto the floor - and the screen is tough and scratch resistant, and works well with the supplied stylus, or even your finger if you're just clicking buttons. All in all - a highly reccommended PDA, that won't let you down in a hurry.
Having owned both a Windows CE first-generation handheld device and a second-generation handheld device, I always suffered from what I called "Palm envy". Not that I was dis-satisfied with my handhelds, they did exactly what I needed them to do. But the allure of the Palm Pilot was strong and I felt myself giving in to its popularity. But then the new Windows CE palm devices came out and I was immediately drawn to one of them - the Philips Nino. The Nino is an attention grabber. It's shell, a metallic brushed-steel, is more than the typical boxed shell you see on the other palm-size devices. It's a little larger than other CE palm units, but you'll hardly notice. It's curved figure fits snuggly in the hand, and the controls found on the sides of the Nino allow you full control with a single hand. The right side of the unit houses 4 "quick start" keys that by default launch the voice recorder, calendar, contacts, and inbox applications (but can be configured to launch other applications) and a contrast dial. The left side has a scrolling rocker bar, an action button, and an exit button. Both side's buttons are surrounded by a rubber grip that feels great in your hand. The power button, two indicator lights (one lights when charging, the other when communicating), and a speaker and microphone are located on the front of the unit. Speaking of the microphone, Philips includes voice command recognition software that allows for basic hands-free operation for such things as bringing up contact information. On the top of the Nino you will find the slot for the stylus, a slot for CompactFlash cards and an infrared eye for syncing with a notebook or desktop with an IR device and for transferring contact info to other CE devices The Nino comes with the standard set of applications found on other CE palm devices, and a few that aren't. The primary Pocket Outlook applications (calendar, contacts, and inbox) provide
the same basic functionality as Outlook does on the desktop. The Pocket Outlook applications also provide easy synchronization with their desktop counterpart. Just slide the Nino into its sleek, oval docking station connected to a PC via a serial cable, install CE Services on your PC, and you're all set. For handwriting recognition, the Nino uses Jot. Jot provides a writing area on the lower third of the screen where you can write non-cursive letters to be converted to text. There's also a Notetaker that functions as a digital inkpad. In addition, Philips provides Smart's Pocket Commander (mentioned earlier), Smart's Handwriting recognition software Smartwriter, an expense tracking program and a Tegic T9 keyboard. The T9 software keyboard uses a layout similar to a telephone keypad and, as a user taps the keys, tries to guess what word is being entered. The Nino comes in three models - the £199 300, the £250 312 and the $299 320. The 300 includes 4MB of memory while the 312/320 come with 8MB. The 320 also comes with a click-on modem. All three come with a NiMH battery pack, a nice touch given that a typical set of alkalines will only give you about 10 hours of use. The only complaint I had about the Nino was that its display wasn't as clear as I would have liked and I found myself using the Nino's excellent backlight more often than not. It's 4" diagonal, 240 x 320, 4 scale monotone, FSTN liquid crystal display is smallish but useable none the less. If you're looking for a palm device and prefer Windows CE to the Palm OS, the Nino is certainly one of the very best of the Windows CE devices and definitively gives the Palm some tough competition. Needless to say, now that I've got my Nino I no longer suffer from "Palm envy". This time it's the Palm users turn to catch a little "Nino envy".
I must admit I do like gadgets whether they are mobile phones, CD/MP3 players or personal organisers. Last year, I went through a phase of wanting to get a better grip over organising myself at work. Time for a gadget I thought & after a week or 2 of deliberations – I purchased a Philips Nino 300. The Nino is palm sized though it is quite a thick machine. You write on it using a plastic stylus supplied with it. There are a number of ways to write numbers or letters. One way is to ‘draw’ the character, which is then converted by the Nino into the required character. Another way is to bring up a little keyboard image at the base of the screen and to tap the numbers/letters to make them appear on the screen. If you want to be flash, you can assign voice commands to certain functions – though this one is more appropriate for exhibitionists. Can you imagine talking to a Nino on a train! My Nino has a comprehensive address book where I can record all sorts of information about people from the basic name and address; through to phone numbers and email addresses/web sites. These details can be synchronised with Microsoft Outlook – more about that later. Another useful function is the Calendar. If you are familiar with Outlook, it’s very similar. With it, you can set up appointment for particular hours in a day or for all day. The appointment can be a one-off or recurring. Your calendar can be viewed in an annual, monthly or daily format. An interesting feature is the use of little circles to indicate how much free time is available. The more of the circle coloured black – the less free time available. An appointment can also be set-up to remind you in advance either as a message or an alarm. Then there are tasks. Again, very similar in format to tasks on Outlook. Once of the worst problems with having a personal organiser is losing it or the battery going flat. At a stroke, you can lose a
ll your ‘life history’. The Nino gets around this by synchronising with a host PC and recharging the battery in 1 go. If a battery goes flat, the data can be reloaded onto the Nino. Other features my Nino has is the ability to compose and send emails, they are only actually transmitted if ‘synching’ with the host PC or connected to a mobile phone. It also has a calculator, and a few games to play when bored. Although my Nino is invaluable, they’re a number of things, which do irritate me. I wish it had a colour screen. Mine is a greeny colour. I also wish mine had some sort of built in MP3 player/radio – though I am sure the latest models do have this facility. A proper keyboard would also be nice to speed up getting the text into the machine – you can only scribble so fast. And finally, versions of excel and Word would be useful. I think my Nino is invaluable and would be lost without it. An electronic organiser suits me fine and I would never go back to a paper based address book, calendar and to do list. I would love to replace it with a modern version, but at the price of a new one – I really cannot justify it at present.
I bought my Nino for 99 quid from BT. They were selling them off as they had been replaced with the battery eating color (sic) models. The Nino is a very nice looking unit, and has 8MB RAM and 8MB ROM. The operating system is Windows CE 2.1 and its pretty quick and easy to use. I use it for loads of things including writing small amounts of text (theres a great handwriting recognition program) for schedules, contacts, and for the internet. You can sync your desktop PC with it seamlessly, and it works well with the inbuilt modem of a 7110e. Full internet access is achieved by downloading a third party browser - or AvantGo.