Buying Guide for
One of the first
decisions to make when purchasing a PDA is whether to go for a palm-size, streamlined
easy-to-use PDA, or a more advanced, full featured and larger handheld model.
A good rule of thumb is to think about how much you want it to mimic your computer's
functions, as opposed to functioning as your date book and notepad. If you lean
towards the computer, you should look at the bigger, more advanced models. If
you'll use it primarily for maintaining addresses, an entry-level Palm model
or even something smaller should do just fine.
should I be looking at when deciding on a PDA?
As their compact
size and portability has probably drawn you to them in the first place, you'll
want to think about how much power/performance/comfort you're willing to sacrifice
to get the size down even smaller. The thinnest PDAs are practically credit
card thin, but do little more than function as an electronic address book. While
the bigger ones probably won't fit in your pocket, they will in some cases come
close to the performance of entry-level notebook computers. New technology is
also allowing the more advanced models to get thinner and thinner, so size is
becoming less of a factor. Other than size, consider these features:
data entry: One of the fundamental considerations when purchasing a
PDA. Consider how and how frequently you use PDA, and whether you need to enter
data quickly or just easily. If you decide to go with a touch screen (offered
on most PDAs, such as Palm), you should probably be willing to learn a modified
alphabet, or be prepared to purchase handwriting recognition software or an
attachable keyboard that will help.
readiness: If you plan on surfing the web or sending or checking email
from your PDA, you'll need to find one with an internal or external add-on modem,
as well as communication software.
If you'll be using it a lot, look for one with rechargeable batteriesmost have
them. An AC adapter is a nice touch, although not all come with them or even
accept them. Know your battery life, because dead batteries can mean lost data.
Note: larger, more full featured PDA's eat up batteries faster.
System: To Palm or not to Palm, that is the question. Palm once dominated
the handheld market, and buying a Palm or Palm OS device ensured a multitude
of software and accessories options. The good news: competing systems, such
as Microsoft 's Pocket PC, have just about completely caught up.
If you're buying a more full featured PDA, compare memory amounts included.
The more complex PDA applications require more memory to maintain good performance.
What's the difference
between a PDA, a PalmPilot, and a Handheld?
is often inconsistent, and hence the confusion. Generally speaking, a PDA (personal
digital assistant) is the broad term for all these devices that store contact
information and perform light and sometimes advanced computing. "Handheld" generally
refers to the larger of these devices which usually use Microsoft's Pocket PC
operating system, while "palm-sized" generally refers to the more compact version
that can actually fit in the palm of your hand. PalmPilot is a major name brand
of palm-sized devices.
to have PalmPilots. Is that what I should get?
Palm is definitely
a leader in handheld devices, and for good reason. They're easy to use, have
tons of available software, and are economically priced. That doesn't, however,
mean they're your only option. Pocket PC models have largely caught up in available
software, and are also coming in more streamlined and portable versions, making
them a great option also. To help you decide, start by thinking about the tasks
you will perform on it, as well as your preferred method of data entry. For
more help, see the question in this FAQ page about what features to look for.
Which is bettertouch
screens with handwriting recognition or keyboards?
The way you enter
data is one of the fundamental considerations when purchasing a PDA, and there
are pros and cons to each method. Consider how and how frequently you use PDA,
and whether you need to enter data quickly or just easily. If you decide to
go with a touch screen (offered on most PDAs, such as Palm), you need to be
willing to learn a modified alphabet, or be prepared to purchase handwriting
recognition software that might help, but also might eat up a lot of your PDA's
memory. Once you get the hang of using a stylus you'll probably find it fast
and easy, but if you end up relying on the on-screen keyboard, then expect to
move slowly. If you decide a real keyboard is more for you, you'll end up looking
at bigger models that won't fit into your shirt pocket. If that's okay and you
really feel more comfortable with a keyboard, then you'll probably end up with
a system that offers even more power and expandability.
Can I surf the
Internet with my handheld?
Yes, most handhelds
have the ability to do this if three necessary components are present: a modem,
an ISP (Internet service provider), and proper software. Your handheld may come
with an internal modem, or you may need to buy an external one. If you have
all the necessary components, read any instructions in your PDA's user guide
and then contact your ISP, because setting up a PDA Internet account can be
a little more tricky than a regular one.
What is HotSync/synchronization?
is the process of exchanging data between your handheld and your PC or Mac computer.
HotSync is a synonym for synchronization used by manufacturer Palm. Synchronization
allows you to download into your PDA emails, documents, web materials and other
useful information from your computer, and you can also transfer data, such
as new contacts, notes or appoints, from your PDA to your computer. Pay attention
to how your PDA will synchronize. Some use standard parallel ports, while others
use USB for faster downloads or even infrared ports that require no hookups.
Many PDAs come with docking cradles that both synchronize with the computer
and recharge the PDA's batteries.
How long do
PDA batteries last?
Battery life varies
greatly, depending on the individual unit and the frequency and type of usage.
Most PDAs use rechargeable batteries, and lithium-ion rechargeables tend to
last longest. Many PDAs also come with an AC adapter to conserve and sometime
recharge batteries during use. Some PDAs only use regular AA or AAA batteries,
so keep that in mind if you plan to use your device a lot and want to keep it
economical. Whether you're cost-conscience or not, it's important to know your
PDAs battery life, because dead batteries can cause a complete loss of information.