Where Did the ViewSonic V35’s RAM Go?

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There has been a great deal of controversy swirling this week over the ViewSonic V35 Pocket PC.

The company’s website says this model “Includes a whopping 32MB ROM and 64MB SDRAM so you can store more e-mail, photos and music.” However, an article in Pocket PC Thoughts pointed out earlier this week that only 36.45MB of this RAM is actually available to the user. It appears that the V35 uses a type of ROM that requires the operating system to be copied into and run from RAM, which greatly reduces the amount of memory available to the user.

This isn’t an unusual situation. Most handhelds don’t allow the user to access all of their RAM. For example, the Palm Tungsten T has 16 MB of RAM, of which 14 MB is user accessible. The HP iPAQ h1910 has 64MB of RAM but 16MB of this is reserved for the Pocket PC OS. However, the big difference in the case of the V35 is that ViewSonic didn’t acknowledge in any of its advertising materials that people couldn’t actually use a big chunk of RAM, as its competitors do. For example, on its website Sony says the NX70V has 16 MB of RAM but a footnote says “Actual available space is 11 MB. (A portion is used for data management functions)”. The first news that the V35 reserved over 27 MB of RAM only emerged when people began to receive the handhelds they had ordered.

After several days of mounting complaints, ViewSonic has acknowledged the issue. A company spokesperson told The Register that his company’s failure to properly inform customers about the amount of user accessible RAM was a mistake that it will correct. Future marketing materials will make this clear and the company is revising its user guide. [The company’s website has just been updated to state the amount of usable RAM. -Ed].

This brings to light the fact that when shopping for a handheld, it’s important to look not just at the amount of RAM, but at the amount that is user accessible. The V35 and iPAQ h1910 are quite similar models and both have 64 MB of RAM. However, the h1910 lets users access 48 MB of this, while the V35 allows just 36 MB, a substantial difference.

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