January 12, 2004 12:57 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for new PDA after a year or so PDA-less. (My trusty Palm m500 bit the dust a while back.) There's been a lot of changes since I last bought one, so can someone bring me up to speed? [more inside]

I was planning to wait for Palm OS 6 to come out, but I've heard it may be pretty buggy. Any truth to that? Has WinCE improved enough to be worth a look? How about a smartphone? Does the consolidation factor of only having to lug around one device outweigh the unwieldiness of the interface? And what are some good sites to check out-- in terms of news and discussion forums?
posted by keswick to Technology (11 answers total)
What do you use your PDA for?
posted by daver at 1:04 PM on January 12, 2004

I can't say enough good things about my Treo 600. It's pricey and has a phone integrated, but I suggest it for being pretty close to the pda I've been looking for for a long time.
posted by rudyfink at 1:07 PM on January 12, 2004

Most phones (PalmOS models excepted) have extremely primitive text input, the most advanced being the unwaveringly hideous T9 system. If text input and pointing ability is useful to you, for notetaking, writing, message composition, or game playing steer clear of using a phone and go for something with stylus or thumboard input.

But that brings up the point: What do you want a PDA for? I still use an ancient Palm III (with a hefty memory and flash upgrade) and it suits my needs perfectly -- I can read ebooks and text, play plenty of games, run Vindigo, use it as an infrared remote control, track train schedules, ssh to my Unix boxes, browse the web and read email (using a GPRS phone as a modem) and do all the usual PIM & scheduler things -- even though the hardware itself is close to worthless.

Oh, and I've heard that Windows CE has improved a bit since the early days, but when last I played with it (about a year or so ago) I still found it awkward and baffling.
posted by majick at 1:11 PM on January 12, 2004

Well, when I had my m500, I used it for the standard apps- datebook, to-do, memo, calendar. I also used it as a database (shopping lists, home inventory), e-book reader, eWallet (passwords, account #s), calculator, bank account register (program that interfaces w/ MS Money), um... that's all I can think of right now. With the new machines, I also want to carry around a small portfolio of my digital photographs (so hi-res color is a must) and if it has mp3 and voice recording, that's swell too. I don't care about Bluetooth, and while Wi-Fi might be nice, I don't see myself using it much.
posted by keswick at 1:12 PM on January 12, 2004

It sounds like the sort of thing you'd be using a PDA for could be easily handled by your basic previous-generation Palm Tungsten or Sony Clie. The current high end and upcoming stuff probably doesn't offer anything compelling given your needs. Sticking with Palm gives you the added bonus of being able to reuse all the software you bought for your m, if there was any you were particularly attached to.
posted by majick at 1:20 PM on January 12, 2004

Brighthand is a great site to visit for reviews and the lowdown on what's coming out. If you want more info on the Treo, you might find Treocentral of use. I'm personally not a fan of PocketPC and recommend Palm-brand PDAs over others (I've owned Handspring, Sony, and now a Tungsten T, which I'm just getting ready to sell).

If you plan on doing any intensive word processing on your PDA, I'd recommend you get a model that is compatible with a Think Outside keyboard.

Most of the units in the Palm Tungsten Series do everything you've listed.
posted by dobbs at 1:21 PM on January 12, 2004

Oh, and will OS6 be able to run OS4 and OS5 programs?
posted by keswick at 1:23 PM on January 12, 2004

Windows CE (Pocket PC) has improved tremendously from the past nightmares, er, versions. And this is coming from a Mac person.

I have a Dell Axim x3i now, which replaced my nice-but-too-huge Sony Clie NX80V. I like my Dell. Has all the features you need, and for the power you'll need for your apps, it will be under/around $300. Would I recommend Dell computers? No. But I like their PDA.
posted by benjh at 1:49 PM on January 12, 2004

As far as I know, OS6 is going to continue support for OS2 & 3 software, so 4&5 shouldn't be an issue.

It looks like $200 to $300 will get you a Tungsten, depending on if you want the T or C model.
posted by majick at 3:09 PM on January 12, 2004

I'm really lusting after the T3; the virtual graffiti area and slider are too nifty.
posted by keswick at 3:19 PM on January 12, 2004

keswick, the biggest change in Palm-land to be aware of is Graffiti 2. Palm changed their text input system after a patent infringement suit from Xerox. The new Palm devices have Graffiti 2. Those of us who have Graffiti engrained in our neurons have had some trouble adjusting to the new system. If this scares you, from what I've read I think you will be satisfied with a Tungsten T. It has Palm OS 5, the old Graffiti, and hi-res color. (I believe it is also possible, through a hack Palm pretends it doesn't know about, to put old-style Graffiti on a newer Palm).

Also: Many devices have been dropping stylus-based text input altogether, and adding miniature keyboards instead. The Treo 600 is the most obvious of these, but the Tungsten W also did this, as did some earlier Handsprings.

I recently acquired a Garmin iQue 3600, which has a stunningly beautiful screen with virtual graffiti, plus GPS and full navigation and mapping software. It is choice. (Except for the Graffiti 2 part).

Another caution: When I moved from a slim m505 to a relatively bulky Tungsten T, I found myself carrying the device less. That makes it less useful. Consider the heir to the "so thin it's incredible" Palm V/m50x form factor, the m515.
posted by profwhat at 2:51 PM on January 13, 2004

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