Getting Organized with PDAs

Think Palms are strictly workhorses and Pocket PCs (PPCs) are feature-packed multimedia toys? These models go to show that preconceptions like this are now completely out of date. As the Sony Cliés have shown, PDAs with the Palm OS can also deliver multimedia features like MP3 playback, digital imaging and high resolution displays. Indeed, the Palm PDA category winner, the Sony Clié PEG-NX70V, easily keeps up with the Pocket PCs as far as multimedia is concerned. At the same time, the Clié is careful not to ignore the classic Palm virtues - user friendliness and plenty of PDA features.

As always, Pocket PCs are more demanding in terms of hardware, so you won't find them in the cut-price segment alongside the Palm Zire. Nevertheless, the arrival of the first OEM units has put downward pressure on the price of Pocket PCs. Some models with respectable specifications are available for a price that makes them attractive for the less affluent customer. As recently as 12 months ago, it was impossible to gain admission to the world of Pocket PCs for less than $700.

Same Hardware, But Different

Attractively priced units cannot compete against high-tech PDAs like the Ipaq H5450 on price alone, however. Our Pocket PC group winner includes all the features you can expect to find in a PDA. With WLAN and Bluetooth module, fingerprint scanner for secure login, bright 3.8" display and 400 MHz XScale CPU - what else could anyone want? The device is priced accordingly: you will have to shell out $699 for this top-of-the-line PDA.

Special features such as Bluetooth and WLAN aside, there is not much variety in the Pocket PC camp - for the most part, the hardware is identical. They all use Intel's XScale CPU running at 300 or 400 MHz. The basic standard specification for a PDA in 2003 includes 64 MB of main memory, a TFT display with 65,536 colors and 240 x 320 pixel resolution, and a USB port for synchronization. This is a direct consequence of the Microsoft design guidelines. Manufacturers who want to use the PPC operating system have to adhere strictly to the Microsoft design guidelines when it comes to TFT resolution and color-depth, the number of function keys, the dictation function, and other features.

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