Guide to buying a color PDA

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Guide to buying a color PDA
By Ernest Khoo
CNet
(17/9/2001)

A color PDA is just like a color TV. Once you look at the colorful world on your screen, you’ll never want to go back to the drab universe of blacks and grays.

Traditionally, handhelds with LCD screens tend to be monochrome. Recently, more and more color handhelds have come onto the market. For Pocket PC users, color-screen HP Jornadas, Compaq iPaqs and Casio’s Cassiopeias are available. Not to be outdone, Palm OS-based PDAs such as the Palm IIIc, Visor Prism and the recently released Sony Clie PEG-710C/G and Palm m505 are sporting color screens as well.

But not all color displays are created equal. That’s why when it comes to buying a color PDA, there are a few points that you need to consider before you hand over your hard-earned cash:

  • Colors
    The number of colors your handheld’s screen can handle determines how vibrant the colors on your PDA will be. Depending on the device, the screen may be able to handle 8-bit (256), 12-bit (4,096), or 16-bit (65,536) colors. As a rule, the more colors, the better. Do also note that the apps you use need to be optimized to display 16-bit colors before you can actually see the difference on your handheld.

  • Screen type
    Most handheld comes with an active matrix or TFT (thin film transistor) screen that uses a flat panel liquid crystal display. However, some handhelds do use passive matrix display. Comparatively, active matrix screens are brighter and produce better color while passive matrix display are less bright but consume less power.

  • Viewing condition
    Depending on the type of display you have, the quality can vary when you use your PDA outdoors or indoors. Active matrix screens tend to be bright indoors but become rather unreadable in bright sunlight. Screens with a reflective display tend to perform well in bright areas but require a good front- or side-light indoors or in darker conditions. Thankfully, color PDAs have either front- or side-lights for that purpose. Hence, the type of color PDA you get may depend on where you normally use your handheld.

  • Battery life
    Because of the color screen, these handhelds tend to consume power faster than their monochrome counterparts. Generally, Pocket PCs suck up power faster than Palm-powered ones. Although manufacturers do sometimes claim that you can achieve certain hours of usage with a full charge, take those figures with a pinch of salt. The best thing for you to do is seek out those who have used the same models to find out what their experiences have been.

  • Screen resolution
    Of course, higher resolution means you get a clearer, less-pixelated picture. If you’re going to use a Pocket PC, it’s pretty straight forward as Pocket PC devices uses a 240 x 320-pixel screen. If you’re going for a Palm, you can choose between the 160 x 160 Palm and Visor, or the 320 x 320 Sony CLIE.

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