Shopping for a handheld PC used to be easy
It used to be that shopping for a handheld PC was easy. That’s because there was just one: 3Com’s PalmPilot. But success begets competition, and now there are literally dozens of new handheld personal organizers from which to choose, including two new Pilots and several color Windows CE devices. Ultimately, the decision as to which device to buy is a matter of personal preference and budget, but here’s a handy list of factors to consider before you shell out $400 to $500 for one of the latest. The Palm OS versus Windows CE PalmPilots run on the Palm OS, and Palm PCs use Microsoft Windows CE. In general, the Palm OS is easier to navigate, more elegant, and a tad zippier. Win CE, however, is arguably the more robust OS, and synchronization with Microsoft Outlook is fluid. It supports voice recording (a mike is built into every Win CE device). And, most important, Win CE supports color displays. Style versus color If you’re out for sleek, you can’t miss with the Palm V, which is half as thick as the Palm III, weighs only four ounces, and has a sharper display. Even so, the color Win CE screens are superior, and many color CE devices ship with a picture viewer that allows you to display digital images like product stills. Expandability Planning to use your handheld for more than storing contacts, keeping appointments, and making to-do lists? All the extra applications you can add to these devices – everything from restaurant guides to sales-tracking tools to games – eat up more memory. And though the Palm V is upgradable, it ships with only 2MB of memory and has no expansion slot for adding storage cards and peripherals – unlike Windows CE devices, which have the slot. Palm users who demand more memory should look at the Palm IIIx, ($369) which ships with double the memory of the Palm V and a memory-expansion slot. Battery life Color Win CE devices come with rechargeable batteries that give you about 10 hours of power. By contrast, the Palm V’s rechargeable battery lasts for up to a month. Communications Want to send and receive e-mail and do a little Web surfing? A special detachable 33.6K modem is available for the Palm V ($169), but additional software is required for surfing the Web. Modem options for Win CE devices vary from device to device, but 56K modems are available for the two in our roundup. No additional software is required for Web surfing.