Best PDA with wifi?
February 19, 2008 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Please suggest a good PDA with wireless access.

Apologies for yet another 'best PDA' question, but none of the previous ones were quite the right angle. I'm looking to replace my ancient Palm that just died, and the large number of options is totally overwhelming. Help me, please!

I want a PDA with wifi. I mainly will use the calendar, address book, todo list, email, and web surfing.

I have no strong preferences about operating system but I would like something fairly easy to use. I want a usable keyboard of some kind (onscreen could be ok). I would also like something relatively inexpensive, say $300 or less (more expensive could be ok for something incredibly awesome, but for my basic needs I don't think I super-awesome is required).
posted by medusa to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I recently purchased an 8gb ipod touch for this very use. It's been, to date, a great purchase. Even without jailbreaking it to run third party apps. There also seems to be an SDK forthcoming which should make it drastically easier to produce and distribute (and therefor acquire) such applications.

Small, easy to read in daylight, the onscreen 'keyboard' is good enough for casual data entry and plays nice with the default OSX applications out of the box. I paid $278CAD.
posted by mce at 8:09 AM on February 19, 2008

I have a Nokia N800. I like it; battery is a little lacking (maybe 2 hours w/ the wifi going) but otherwise it does what you ask. Onscreen keyboard; the N810 is more than 300 bucks, but it has a hardware keyboard and GPS. However, it lacks the two SD slots that the N800 has; it just has one mini-SD slot. Otherwise more or less the same screen, RAM and processor speed.

Bonus is that it will run PalmOS stuff via GarnetVM.
posted by the dief at 8:10 AM on February 19, 2008

Seems like the iPhone should be in the running for you. Any thoughts on it?

for my basic needs I don't think I super-awesome is required

I've advised a lot of computer purchases in my time and everyone always says "I don't need, like, the bestest-best in the world..." presumably because no one walks into such a decision begging to pay the high end of the scale. What would be advanced needs by contrast to your basic needs? What are you willing to trade off?

Might be relevant: what kind of email do you use? Is it a POP account somewhere? Some webmail account? Outlook/Exchange through work?
posted by scarabic at 8:12 AM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Crap, that last link should be this.
posted by the dief at 8:12 AM on February 19, 2008

Thanks for the advice so far. This is helpful.

scarabic: Good question about advanced needs. I would say my advanced wish list would be reading/editing documents - text, PDF, and Word, in that order of priority - listening to music; showing off pretty photos to friends.

To answer your other questions: I don't really want an iphone because I don't want the phone part; probably an ipod touch would be better for me.

For email I use both gmail and a work imap account. I have setup my work email account to route through the gmail account, for extra spam filtering and so I have an easily searchable archive of all my email. So while it would be convenient to use the work imap account directly, I could also just use the gmail account.

I don't care a huge amount about a giant display, super-long battery life, or the latest, fastest processor.
posted by medusa at 9:02 AM on February 19, 2008

mce: could you point me somewhere that explains what "jailbreaking" and "SDK" mean using small words?
posted by medusa at 9:03 AM on February 19, 2008

jailbreaking: unlocking the iPhone/Touch to use unofficial 3rd party apps.
SDK: Software Development Kit, meaning there will soon be official 3rd party apps.

(Seconding an iPod Touch).
posted by blue_beetle at 9:11 AM on February 19, 2008

the dief: the nokia device looks cool. do you use the garnet vm and palm applications? do you think it works well? are you still able to synch your calendar with a desktop machine?
posted by medusa at 9:13 AM on February 19, 2008

You might want to be aware that iPod/iPhones don't have a tasklist, the notes don't sync with anything, and you can't use an external bluetooth keyboard, unlike Palms. If those are deal-breakers for you, the Palm TX is awesome (it was my pre-iPhone PDA).
posted by blue_beetle at 9:13 AM on February 19, 2008

For those who like the ipod touch: what do you think of the onscreen keyboard?
posted by medusa at 9:20 AM on February 19, 2008

nthing iPhone or iPod Touch... will do everything you need it to do. go to your local Apple Store and play around with one if you're unsure.
posted by hummercash at 9:32 AM on February 19, 2008

I use a Blackberry Curve for this. I have a data-only plan, and don't use the phone function (I have a separate cell phone for a number of reasons.) It gets wifi but also internet access anywhere it can pick up a T-mobile signal, meaning I can pick up email and surf the web pretty much everywhere. May not be worth it if you only want to use your PDA with wifi.

Has email, web, calendar, to do list, address book, decent google apps, enough games and 3rd party apps to keep me happy, instant messaging, and a camera. I got the t-mobile version because they had the best unlimited data-only plan. It syncs with my Mac (but not as well as it interacts with PCs). The camera is surprisingly decent for a cell phone - I may have posted some of the mefi meetup photos I took with it. I can open word docs, pdfs, and spreadsheets. It's a bit clunky for making lots of edits - I'd get frustrated fast if I needed to make a lot of changes to something - but it can be done.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:34 AM on February 19, 2008

Depends on how often you will have access to wifi. I love my iPod Touch 8Gb. I use gmail (mail application - IMAP), Remember The Milk for tasks, Google Calendar. It's not quite a PDA, but the web browser is so much better than any Windows Mobile device I've had. I had a Nokia n800 for a couple of weeks, but returned it because of the sub-par web browser experience and poor screen quality.
posted by tom_g at 9:43 AM on February 19, 2008

I have a Nokia N800, too. While I like it a great deal, I don't think the PIM functionality you're looking for is going to be an easy road, and GarnetVM won't be free much longer. You can check out the Palm OS thread over at internettablettalk (which is not exactly the friendliest place, btw) for more information.
posted by malaprohibita at 9:52 AM on February 19, 2008

I just got and n810 and i love it.
posted by DJWeezy at 10:15 AM on February 19, 2008

n'thing the iPod Touch for its web browser. It currently lacks a few features like flash and downloading...but the multitouch display more than makes up for its shortcomings (flash support is in the works...possibly with the next update). At first i was skeptical about a PDA that lacked a sylus, but since then I've seen how uneccessary it is.

The PIM features are there too..while not robust and feature rich they get the job done. The onscreen keyboard has no tactile feedback so it takes a little getting used to. These devices are hard to put down however, and are great conversation starters.

I currently own a iPhone w/ an unlimited data plan (which is pretty much the iPod Touch, but with cellphone capabilities). So for those areas without wireless coverage the Edge network kicks in. It's a monthly cost for that however, so if you're already locked into a cellphone contract the Touch is the way to go.
posted by samsara at 10:28 AM on February 19, 2008

iPod Touch-er, here. The keyboard took a little getting used to, but is really pretty easy. I don't have giant fingers, but I don't have little skinny stick figures either.

I also didn't need a phone or a full-function-gotta-sync-everything PDA; I wanted a wireless device for web browsing and email, and the video is most excellent, as is the mp3-ability. I use the notes function for keeping track of what books/cds I want to look at when I'm in a bookstore, and for shopping lists. I use the calendar on it more than I use the one on my laptop, because I always have the Touch with me. You can't (yet) edit docs on it, although I can read pdfs that are sent as email attachments without any trouble.

Anyway, I'm in love.
posted by rtha at 11:35 AM on February 19, 2008

stick fingers, that is. Not figures.
posted by rtha at 11:36 AM on February 19, 2008

To the nokia fans: do you know of any good calendar/address book programs for the tablet, that you can sync with a windows version of same?
posted by medusa at 11:54 AM on February 19, 2008

Another vote for the Touch.

For your 'main uses' list above, it fits the bill perfectly.

My one 'it's a drag' complaint is that the battery life sees to be pretty poor if you are using the web browsing function intensively. (As my email/calendar are Google based for portability and availability-for-others my use is a bit web-intensive.)

I don't use the included calendar or mail apps, but am considering it to see if it will help with the battery issue.

Battery life for audio playback is amazing.

Typing isn't bad. As previously mentioned there is no tactile feedback so it takes a little getting used to, especially if you are used to a phone or Treo-like palm. I like that it automagically replaces my all-thumbs "poor-spelling" if I accidentally hit the wrong letter. Most of the time it guesses correctly.

There are a number of things the 'keyboard' does to make typing with it easier - auto-caps in the 'right' places. Apostrophe's most of the time in the right words. Periods at the end of a sentence and a cap for the first letter of the next sentence. Yadda yadda yadda.

Find someone who has one... or an Apple store and spend some time playing with one if you have the opportunity.

If you can't absolutely rule it out as a contender, buy one from a place with a liberal return policy - mine was 15 days. It is FAR easier to judge your likeitloveitlumpit level when you have it at home and can arrange its use to your liking.
posted by Incognita at 12:05 PM on February 19, 2008

medusa, sorry. I don't use the calendaring in N800 -- there exists a scheme to sync it with Google Calendar, but I don't use Windows so I don't know about any Windows stuff.

Bummer about Garnet not being free, though. I rather liked it. It worked with every app I threw at it except one.
posted by the dief at 12:37 PM on February 19, 2008

if you're still checking this thread: I don't think there are any tools for syncing with Windows-based calendar apps. In fact, having thought it over the last couple of days, I would not suggest the N800 or N810 for you. They are great little tinker toys in a way, but they truly require a lot of tinkering and tweaking. Some people love that about them, but if you want to spend time actually using a device instead of configuring it over and over and over, it may be better to look at something else.
posted by malaprohibita at 5:58 AM on February 21, 2008

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