PDA Buyers Guide: Fall 2005 Edition

by Reads (26,929)

It’s that time of year again, when wallets open and traffic increases to meet the needs for the next few months of work and holidays. Here at BargainPDA, we want to help you get on the ball in terms of PDAs and other mobile technology that may suit your needs. So in this guide, we will not only talk about what is out there; but how you can get the most out of what devices that you choose.

Criteria 1: Basic organization needs on a basic budget

For this group, you probably don’t want to spend more than $200 on the device, less if possible, and you really want something that would get the all jobs done without having to purchase additional software or devices. Here is my list of best buys under $200 for PDAs and mobile technology:

Palm Z22 — far and away the best for those who have never had a PDA before. With its long battery life and ability to preserve your information even when the power runs dry (most people in this group could get 2 weeks off of one charge unless they find a game they really enjoy), the Palm Z22 makes an excellent gift for the holidays, or for any other unorganized time of the year.

Palm Tungsten E2 — probably the best mid-range PDA value right now; 32MB of memory that does not delete your data when the power goes all the way down (similar to the Z22); Bluetooth for connecting to phones and other devices wirelessly; and a very nice screen for showing off pictures of loved ones, or holding maps of were to go next.

Audiovox SMT5600 — a very capable phone and PDA using the Windows Mobile operating system; with contract, this device comes in well under $200, and the features can make it quite compelling for one who needs to be connected and organized.

RIM BlackBerry 7100 — for those needing to be always connected to their office email, yet not look like every other BlackBerry-toting person out there, the 7100 (available from Cingular, TMobile, Rogers, and Orange) looks and acts the part of a phone, but has the BB foundation that makes it a nice emailing device as well; the keypad takes some getting used to, but with the amount of email that many BB users get, one could get used to it in no time.

 

Criteria 2: Already own PDA and looking for an upgrade, or need more features in a moderate budget

For this group, the price range of $200 to $500 is a lot more common. These devices can replace many tasks that one does on a normal computer (usually when paired to a mobile phone or using WiFi for Internet connectivity). A PDA in this range will not only be a productivity tool, but it can also handle a lot of entertainment needs as well.

 

Dell Axim X51 and X51v — the best high-end PDA value today (especially the VGA screened X51V); combining Compact Flash (CF) and Secure Digital (SD) memory slots, dual wireless (Bluetooth and WiFi), and a killer price before incentives (and Dell usually has a coupon or two going to help the cause). The X51 and X51v were announced as updates to the popular X50/X50v models. The addition of Windows Mobile 5 has improved battery life and added non-volatile memory so data isn’t lost when the battery dies.

 

Palm TX — one of the best ways to spend $300 and still have a very solid device. One of the most recently released models in this list, the TX benefits from lessons learned from the Life Drive, Tungsten T5 and, Treo 650 models from Palm. Its main selling point is that it is the lowest cost PDA that has Bluetooth and WiFi (802.11b) wireless technologies built-in. With 100MB of usable memory, it’s going to take a while to fill it up with applications and personal data. There’s also an SD slot to add more memory for music, movies, or whatever else a slim WiFi-wielding model should do.

 

Palm Life Drive Mobile Manager — start with the Dell X51v; take away the Compact Flash slot and add a 4GB hard drive; take away the Windows Mobile operating system and add the Palm OS; add some programs that enable you to copy back and forth to the hard drive from your computer, and you have the Palm Life Drive. It got out of the gates a bit slow, but with its emphasis on multimedia ability and an excellent 320×480 pixel (HVGA) screen, the Life Drive is Palm’s answer to the question of managing life and media on one neatly-sized device.

 

HP iPaq hx2000 series — apart from the high price and ugly looks, the hx2000 series of PDAs from HP is made for those who value data security (fingerprint scanner built in), along with accessibility (dual wireless and SD expansion).

  

Criteria 3: Phone and PDA in one device

This is for the smartphone crowd; the crowd that is tired of carrying their PDA and phone, only to realize that one really is better than two. Devices in this class can cost anywhere from $200 to over $800 (the main determinant being if a contract signed with the purchase, or if the device was purchased unlocked).

Palm Treo 650 — nearly a year after it’s introduction it is still the benchmark for smartphones; despite its shortcomings of a small amount of memory and lack of wifi, the total package has been a compelling one for many users. The 650, like the all Palm releases of the last year, offers a non-volatile memory feature (meaning that when your power goes, your information stays), Bluetooth wireless for headsets and other connections, and the familiar and easy to use Palm OS interface and can be had for as low as $200 with a new contract (or $650 if purchased unlocked with no contract from Palm).

PPC-6700 — the current champion in the “can do it all and be portable about it” category. The 6700 includes the Windows Mobile 5 operating system, Bluetooth and WiFi, a slide out keyboard, and a size to rival that of the Palm Treo. Its battery life isn’t too bad, but it’s only available through Sprint, so switching carriers may be the biggest hurdle.

Samsung i730 — Bluetooth, Windows Mobile 2003 Second edition, sliding keypad, removable battery, and the kitchen sink. Its only knock is the abysmal 3hrs of battery life and cripples wireless functionality, thanks to Verizon. Despite the problems, this is an excellent device for the mobile computer user who is on the Verizon Wireless network, but not compelling enough to switch carriers.

Nokia 9300 –the 9300 is an intelligent offering for users who want the best of mobile computing in a package that looks like a phone, but is as versatile as a laptop; excellent battery life means that you will not be stranded when needing to use a phone call, though its weight and form factor might have you wanting a smaller phone; the 9300 opens to reveal a keypad suitable for two-handed thumb action and has a web browser and office utilities that would see one getting a lot of use from the keyboard; the price is a bit high, but the ability is right there with the rest of the items on this list. Cingular should be offering it soon and Documents to Go has just announced software support for this model, so it’s viability continues to expand.

 

Criteria 4: You want more than a PDA but have specialized needs

There are mobile devices, and then there are specialized mobile devices. Either gaming devices, GPS devices, or mini-notebooks that are the size of PDAs, these devices offer more than the normal options offered by many PDAs, or in some ways are better tools than PDAs for some tasks. This list should not be considered a one is better than another, but a “needs” list for your specific concerns.

Garmin — while best known for GPS devices, Garmin produces Palm OS (the 3600 and 3200) and Windows Mobile (the M5 and M3) GPS Enabled PDAs. While primarily GPS units, these units are no slouch in the PDA side of the deal. Battery life is on the lower side of acceptable due to the additional power drain, but all models are designed to be used while in a car, plane or boat, making it easy to attach adapters into those devices for a greater flexibility.

Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) — while not a PDA in the truest sense of the word, it has a web browser, to-do list viewer, WiFi, and soon to come keyboard; which would make it more than just a premier gaming and media device for kids, but for the executive that spends a great deal of time on planes and trains as well.

Rugged PDAs — Symbol and a few other companies make ruggedized PDAs for industrial or field applications. These generally offer ruggedized casings but lack the latest and greatest hardware.

 

This overview should hold you over until the spring when other new devices are released. Be sure to also look for different deals that manufacturers, office stores, and others will be offering with these devices. Many times, one can score a bundle for the same cost as one would normally purchase the device only.

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