Final Four – PDA Style

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It is now the month of March and few things are more important than basketball. Men’s and women’s college teams are firmly entrenched into playing at the Big Dance (the NCAA Final Four Championship). NBA teams are getting ready for their big playoff push. Baseball is getting ready to take off. And for all of us technology lovers, rumors and deals abound as manufacturers are getting ready for spring releases and sales rushes. So with all of the roaring fun this brings, here BargainPDA brings you d-roC’s top four picks in PDAs and smartphones. Granted, there will be much room for debate, but in four categories, these four models have the ability to make you feel like a mobile technology champion.

Like the NCAA’s, my four picks will come from four regions of PDA use: Best PDA under $300; Best PDA over $300; Best Wireless PDA/Smartphone; and Best Multimedia Focused PDA. Though there will not be an overall winner (this isn’t going to end up like the BCS), there will be no one PDA or smartphone that repeats in another category. So, with that all said and done, let’s look at who makes it to the end.

Best PDA Under $300
Why the $300 boundary? PDAs that cost $300 and lower sell more than those over $300. The aim for buyers in this range is to have a PDA that does well in many areas, but is not necessarily the top of the line or the most technologically advanced. Key items looked for here for our finalist included easy to use out of the box, ease in everyday use, and simplicity.

Winner: palmOne Zire72


Combining the easy to use Palm operating system, an integrated digital camera, and Bluetooth wireless technology in a well designed package, the Zire72 is a very capable handheld for just about any user. A release last fall of the silver-colored Special Edition Zire72 adds to the ability to use this PDA in the board room, as well as at the beach. PalmOne has also a bundled GPS navigator pack for the Zire72 that extends its functionality even more.

Other considerations: Dell Axim X30 Mid, palmOne Tungsten E

Best PDA Over $300

There are no diaper dandies in this group. A product of well designed PDAs from times past, these well-schooled PDAs have the best feature sets, fastest processors, and most memory.. Some have the ability to use two types of memory, while all of them have at least some additional wireless technology. These are the best of the best, and given the nature of this highly competitive price range, most of these models will be replaced by something better by the time the next basketball season rolls around.

Winner: Dell Axim X50v


Fastest processor, check; most expansion options BT, WiFi, SD and CF memory, check; best screen on a PDA (VGA, i.e., 600×480 pixels), check, great battery life and a heck of a bargain at $425 (from Dell.com). The X50v doesn’t have a camera like the similarly equipped Asus A730W, but it does hold a lower price, better screen, and lower cost that more than makes up for the lack of a substandard camera. It doesn’t have as much memory or as good battery life as the palmOne Tungsten T5, but that screen and the Wireless Options (Bluetooth and 802.11b WiFi) both trump the nearly as expensive palmOne offering. For those looking for the top of the line in ability, the Dell Axim X50v is very hard to beat.

Other considerations: palmOne Tungsten T5, HP iPaq hx4700

Best Wireless PDA or Smartphone

For many users today, mobility means having the ability to access data from the Internet or on a corporate system when you are not in the area. Wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and WiFi are just one part of that mobile access puzzle. An increasingly important part of that wireless puzzle is telephony. Smartphones are projected to be the largest area of growth for mobile devices in the short term and therefore, PDAs that take wireless connectivity into consideration will probably become primary in the minds of many consumers. A wireless PDA or smartphone has come ready to work, secure for the end user (and company if deployed over that much larger of an area), and not so feature filled that the battery life would suffer.

Winner (after a few overtimes): palmOne Treo650


This was a lot harder than any other category. The Blackberry lineup has more corporate savvy 7100 series, but not as many expansion options. The Treo650 has a built in MS Exchange Active Sync client which makes it as close to a Blackberry as you can get (rumors have it that palmOne is testing a Blackberry client for the Treo650 as well). The Treo650 does not (currently) have the ability to use WiFi, vunlike the HP iPAQ h6300, but it also doesn’t suffer the same slow performance issues and low battery life. An update to the very popular Treo600, the 650 added Bluetooth and a higher resolution screen. It also has a newer type of memory that doesn’t lose power if the battery were to run dry. Memory issues aside (23MB of usable RAM is kinda small), the Treo650 has won over many reviewers and users on its ease of use.

Other considerations: RIM blackberry 7100 (7100g Cingular, 7100t T-Mobile), HP iPaq h6300 (T-Mobile), Audiovox SMT5600

Best Multimedia Focused PDA
Unlike other segments that get more publicity, the multimedia PDA is the silent contributor to most of the other segments. These PDAs have the ability to be successful at work-only objects, but excel when being pushed to the edge as multimedia devices. Cameras, nice integrated audio abilities, and excellent screens are the calling cards for these showboats. But excellent battery life and Wireless Options keep these models from sitting on the sidelines in the clutch.

Winner: HP iPaq rx3715



Another category where there could have been multiple winners, the rx3715 wins on its ability to do just about everything well; not great, but well. It uses the Windows Mobile operating system and just about pushes it to its limits. Included Nevo remote software insures that the rx3715 is not just a mobile companion, but can also control all of your goodies (that use a remote control) inside of your house. 196MB of memory is quite a lot to fill, and the rx3715 also has a SD memory slot to stretch that memory space even further. Bluetooth and WiFi wireless networking enable you to connect to you home Wireless Network to control audio on your home network and still have Internet access when you only have your phone as the modem. And a 1.3MPx camera that also takes video ensures that you can not only see memorable moments, but listen to them as well. The only knock on it is the price ($450), but even still you get a heck of a lot for the money.

Other considerations: Tapwave Zodiac 2, HP iPAQ h6300, palmOne Zire72

So there you have it. My picks for this year’s March Madness in the PDA tourney. And if you happen to invest in one of these champions, you are sure to have more than one Cinderella season.

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