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Hot PDA deals and PDA shopping guide

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Latest PDA Deals  

Jan. 6 BuyDig: Pyle Handheld Phone and Desktop Dock for iPhone,Ipad & Android $5 shipped, Exp Unknown

Dec. 17 eBay: Dyson DC58 V6 Trigger Max Handheld Vacuum $130 shipped, Exp Unknown

Dec. 15 eBay: Dreamgear My Arcade Gamer V Handheld Gaming System with 220 Games $25 shipped, Exp Unknown

Dec. 6 Amazon: Celestron 5 MP Handheld Digital Microscope Pro $62 shipped, Exp Unknown

Nov. 24 eBay: Refurb Dyson V6 Absolute Cordless Handheld Bagless Powerful Stick Vacuum Cleaner $230 shipped, Exp Unknown

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Amazon PDA Top Sellers

Palm TX Handheld
Palm Z22 Handheld
Palm Tungsten E2 Handheld
List Price: $299.99
Amazon Price: $253.43
You save: $46.56 (15.52%)
List Price: $99.99
Amazon Price: $89.19
You save: $10.80 (10.80%)
List Price: $199.99
Amazon Price: $172.99
You save: $27.00 (13.50%)


PDA Shopping Guide

Introduction

PDA stands for Personal Digital Assistant. It is a palm-size computer you can bring anywhere. In the begining they are mostly used for PIM (person information manager) applications and data - address books, calendars, notes and tasks. Though these are still one of the main use of PDA, now they can do much more and cost less. With proper configuration and software, you can use it as a cell phone, a camera, a mp3 player, a remote control, a game pad ... There are worlds of features. Just figure out what you want and there will be a PDA right for you.

There are 3 breeds of PDAs according to the Operating Systems they use:

Palm OS PDAs: Made by Palm, Sony and Handspring, famous for their simpilicity, speed and easy customization using 3rd party softwares.

Pocket PCs: Made by many companies, including HP, Toshiba, Dell, Viewsonic, Casio, Symbol. Comes with Pocket version of IE, Word, Excel, Media Player, Outlook, MSN messenger, connection manager and more and even a WinXP-like look. 

Linux or other OS PDAs: Made by Sharp and some small companies, not so popular partly because of the lack of accessories and 3rd party softwares that are available for them.

Palm OS or Pocket PC?

Cost: generally speaking, Palm OS PDAs are cheaper. They usually have less CPU power and less RAM but it doesn't mean they are slower -- the OS they use simply require less.  Entry-level Palm Zire starts from only $99. But higher models like the Palm Tungsten C or the Sony Clie NX80V can also be quite expensive.

Pocket PCs use resource-demanding Windows OS and usually start at $200+. But mostly they are equipped with nice color displays, and audio playback and recording feature.

PIM functions: Palm OS PDAs win this one, at least for now. It takes fewer clicks to get the contacts, to-do list or other information you want in Palm OS PDAs. But if you are just not comfortable without Windows, Pocket PC can offer a more familiar environment.

Document processing: Pocket PCs come with integrated Microsoft Word and Excel. With a simple copy and paste, you can read/write your existing desktop files on your PDAs. But don't expect the PDA version of Word and Excel is as good as the desktop version, you may even lose your formating and font information.

Almost all non-entry level Palm OS PDAs come with a software bundle called "Documents to go". It actually offers more advance features and compatible with MS office documents.

Input Methods: Both have handwriting recognition and on-screen keyboard.

Palm OS PDAs come with Graffiti handwriting recognition. You can enter characters using the stylus but some characters must be written in a strange way and different from normal handwriting. It takes some learn to use it. PDAs with Palm OS 5.2 or later version can also use the Graffiti 2, which recognizes the normal style handwriting. Sony Clie NX73V and NX80V also has Decuma. Decuma is a natural language input system that recognizes handwriting words and even sentences.

Pocket PCs has 3 handwriting recognition tools: one is similar to Graffiti (great for long time Palm users who switch to Pocket PC), another similar to Graffiti 2, and a Transcriber that allows you to write in cursive/script but not so accuate.

Music, Mp3, Camera: For Music/Mp3, all Pocket PC can play music file with included Windows Media Player, but most Palm OS PDAs can't do that. Only selected pretty expensive Sony Clie and Palm Tungsten can also work as an Mp3 player.

If you like a cool built-in digital camera, you have to get a Palm OS PDA. But you can also buy 3rd party add-on camera for your Pocket PC if you like.

Battery Life: On average, Palm OS PDAs have significantly longer battery life because of the less demanding OS, less demanding applications and sometimes, less features. But for some expensive and more advanced Palm OS PDAs with bright color display and multimedia capabilities, the gap is getting smaller.

Size and Weight: Generally Pocket PC are larger and heavier. But also, on more expensive models, the gap is getting smaller.

Connectivity: Pocket PCs with CF slots can accept WiFi and Ethernet CF cards, but Palm OS PDAs can't because they don't have the CF slots (with the exception of select Sony Clie that have CF slots that use Sony's expensive WiFi card). But some higher Palm OS PDAs like Palm Tungsten C have built-in WiFi.

Palm OS 4 and higher PDAs can use Bluetooth card through SD slots to get Bluetooth connectivity. But both Pocket PC and Palm OS PDAs have models with built-in bluetooth.

Memory Cards: Palm usually use SD card and MMC cards, Handspring Visors use Springboards, Sony Clies use Memory Stick (pro) and select models use CF too. 

Pocket PCs mainly use CF cards, Pocket PC 2002 PDAs also accept SD and MMC cards, selected iPAQ accept PC Card memory and hard drive through PC Card expansion, some also accept IBM MicroDrive/CF II cards.

Conclusion:

Palm OS PDAs: Cheaper, simple to use, fast, light weight, longer battery life, lots of 3rd party software and accessories to choose.

Pocket PCs: Come with lots of familiar Microsoft applications and can do many tasks out of box without any upgrades. Can play music by default, built-in camera available. 

So at least for now, if you just want a cheaper model to handle your contacts and documents, try Palm OS PDAs. But the more multimedia works you desire, the better the Pocket PC stands. So for more expensive models, take a look at both types of PDAs and choose the one that better fits your needs.

Things to considering when buying a PDA

Size, weight, etc. Hold it before you buy!

Most people think the smaller, the better. It is true if you just consider the portability. But if you are a big guy, you might get frustrated with the tiny keys or the super slim stylus on the ultra compact PDAs. Also, for smaller person, bigger PDAs can cause trouble too -- it can be too wide to fit in hands, or some controls are just too far to reach with only one hand. So if possible, don't just buy a good-looking device, go to the stores and test if you are comfortable with it. After all, PDA is for your convenience. It would be useless if you need to take pains to work with it.

Screen: Just remember, don't choose the bright big color screen just because you like it. They can drain your battery in 2 hours. For simple PIM work, a darker, smaller, less colorful or even mono screen could work and a set of battery can last you upto several months!

  • Size, Resolution - The greater, the better image quality. 320x480 is already more than good.
  • Color, brightness, backlight - choose a unit with backlight if you usually work outdoors.
  • Other: Can you write on the whole screen or it is limited in a small area? Can you swtich between landscape and portrait mode? 

Battery: Most PDAs come with rechargeable batteries and many also work with regular alkalines. The majority use one or two among these three: Nickel Cadmium (NiCad), Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Lithium-ion (Li-ion or LiOn). The Nickel are cheaper but they will run out fast if you don't use the unit for a while.

Proprietary rechargeable batteries don't need to be replaced and should last the lifetime of the PDA. Some are user replaceable (note: only some) but extras are expensive and it is hard to find replaceables when you can't find a power outlet to recharge it (for example, when you are camping)

Some PDA can work during charging, others can't. 

Connecting to Web: You certainly would like to use your PDA to browse the internet or at least read e-mail. But unlike some people think, PDAs don't connect with web out of box. And you can't just access the Internet anywhere even if you have WiFi. Some come with built-in connectivity, other have them as optional accessories. For best connectivity, try PDA Phones which are PDA and Cell phone all-in-one. It has become very popular lately. Here is some connectivity options, choose the one best for you and get a PDA with it.

  • Modem - Connect via phone line. Some PDA have a PC card or CF slot that you can plug a add-on modem to, others use proprietary snap-on modems that attach to the back or bottom of the device. or better yet, you can use your cell phone as modem for your PDA if 1) both have bluetooth or 2)your cell phone has the modem feature.
  • WiFi - 802.11b, 11Mbps max speed. 80211hotspots.com has a listing of many sites around the US where you can access public wireless networks, including Starbucks, McDonalds, some even free. Or if you have Wireless router/accesspoint at home, you can get WiFi at home for free.
  • BlueTooth - It is a wireless Personal Area Networking (PAN) technology that allows devices with this feature connect to each other using a certain radio frequency in a range of 33 feet (10m, or more with stronger signal). It won't interfere with WiFi network. It is pretty slow comparing with WiFi, but it is fast enough to transfer data from modem.
  • IR: PDAs with IR ports can connect with web through external modem or other networking device with IR ports.

Sync with PC: All PDAs can sync with your PC and interchange data. Some via the included Cradle, others just use a cable. But if you have a favorite PIM application, find a PDA with sync program that supports it. PDA can also sync with PC via web connection, but that means you have to leave your PC on, which is not good for security reasons.

Expansion slots: Most PDAs have expansion that accepts storage/memory cards and IO cards such as modem and networking cards. Pick a PDA with the expansion you want. See the connectivity and memory card section of the above Palm OS PDA/Pocket PC comparison for more information.

Accessories, software: Check both the included software and accessories and available otional ones. Some come with a Cradle to sync and recharge, protective screen or carrying case are necessary for large screen smaller models. Buy a model with keyboard or have add-on keyboard available if you have lots of input work to do.

Memory, CPU: May not be as important as you thought. But if you need to run some big programs or game on your PDA, invest on a fast CPU and larger RAM.

Our recommends

  • HP iPAQ 1935 Pocket PC: Touch-sensitive display, Dazzling transflective TFT color display w/ LED backlight, Include mobile versions of Microsoft Outlook, Word, and Excel, fun games, music and video.
  • Dell 400MHz Axim X3 w/ Integrated 802.11b: 3.5" color TFT display, 64MB SDRAM and 64MB ROM, Mobile Pocket PC 2003 pre-installed, Integrated Secure Digital / SDIO Now! / MMC card slot.
  • Sony Clie PEG-TJ35 Handheld: integrated MP3 audio player, view native Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and PDF documents, Decuma handwriting recognition software.
  • T-Mobile Color Sidekick Phone (T-Mobile): PDA phone. 11 ine large color screen with backlight, keyboard, built-in connectivity with service.

Also see hot deals and buyer's guide on the following products in this category:

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