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PDAs buying guide

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PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) Guide - An Introduction

A Personal Digital Assistant, or PDA as they are more commonly known, is a mobile device that connects to the Internet and manages your personal information. They have an electronic display, and some also have audio capabilities. This lets them be used as MP3 players or mobile phones, reducing the number of devices you have to carry.

Apple Computer’s CEO first coined the term PDA in 1992, referring to their Apple Newton. Nokia was the first to introduce a mobile phone with full PDA functionality in 1996. Their 9000 Communicator went on to become the best-selling PDA in the world, kicking off the smart phone category. Today most PDAs are also smart phones, selling 150 million units a year compared to only 3 million units of stand-alone PDAs.

Most PDAs have a touch screen for adding data, a memory card option for storing data, and some type of Internet connectivity such as WiFi or Bluetooth. To be considered a PDA, it must include software such as a to-do list, address book, appointment calendar, and a note-taking program. Instead of carrying a phone, MP3 player, address book, calendar, note pad and pen, the PDA can put all or most of these functions into one convenient package.

If you’re shopping for a PDA, Price Inspector’s buying guide will make your decisions easier. We give you information about popular brands, discuss available features, and give you buying tips. Once you’ve made your decision, we bring you the cheapest prices anywhere in the UK.

PDA Features

PDAs offer a variety of different features, so it’s important to consider which will useful to you and which aren’t worth paying extra for.

  • A GPS PDA uses satellite global positioning technology to give you directions to your destination. This can be useful when you’re walking or taking public transportation, or if your car doesn’t have a GPS device.
  • Like many mobile phones, a camera PDA lets you snap pictures when you see an interesting photo opportunity without having to carry your camera everywhere.
  • PDA speakers will let you use your PDA as an MP3 player. Some have built-in speakers, and others will let you connect external speakers for fuller sound.
  • A keyboard PDA lets you enter text with a QWERTY keyboard like a typewriter, while a touch screen PDA uses a stylus or fingertips. Most keyboard PDAs also offer the touch screen option, letting you choose which is more convenient each time. If you’re entering a lot of text, the keyboard is easier, while quick entries are good for the touch screen.
  • A microphone lets you record voice messages to yourself, which many people find is easier than jotting notes, such as a to-do list reminder.
  • A TV PDA lets you watch videos on the device, while a telephone PDA also functions as a mobile phone.
  • A modem PDA can serve as a wireless modem for your home PC.
  • A PDA antenna boosts the signal for the mobile phone functionality of your PDA, giving you clearer calls in more areas.

Popular PDA Brands

Some of the more popular PDA brands include:

  • The Asus A626 has a bright 3.5-inch LCD touch screen display with anti-glare. It’s lightweight, durable, and stylish with a stainless steel case. When you don’t want to use your laptop, the A626 keeps you connected with Wi-Fi and Microsoft Windows Mobile, letting you read email and access the Internet. With its Remote Presenter application, it can link and control presentations remotely via a Bluetooth connection. Because it stores data on a flash drive, you won’t lose your data if you lose battery life. It supports Windows Media Player, letting you stream video and audio, and its speakers let you listen to your favorite music.
  • The Hewlett Packard iPAQ 211 gives you a large, four-inch touch screen. It uses applications you already know, including Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You can easily synchronize your data and email via USB or Wi-Fi connectivity. It has built-in ports for headphones, a microphone, and other USB devices. You can also connect Bluetooth accessories like keyboards and headsets.
  • The Navman GPS 350 works with your pocket PC to give you complete navigational mapping.
  • The [pd:palm os 5.2 pda:Palm OS 5.2.1] Zire 21 is an easy, affordable Palm PDA. Keep all your information such as appointments and addresses handy. With its 8MB of memory, software, and fast processor, it’s a great value, and Palm is a leader in the handheld market.
  • The Sony Clio has a swivel screen and uses the Palm OS 5 operating system. It offers both wireless and LAN and Bluetooth connection options, and it has a built-in QWERTY keypad. The integrated camera has 3x zoom and lets you take both pictures and video.
  • The ViewSonic V37 Pocket PC is one of the lightest, thinnest, and most powerful PDAs in its class. It lets you create applications on the Pocket PC platform. It comes bundled with Visual Solutions software that lets you quickly create your applications. The fast processor and Windows operating system gives you access to all of your information even when you’re away from your PC, and yet it weighs only about 115 grams.

Other popular brands include:

* Acer
* Bosch
* Casio
* Compaq
* Dell
* Fujitsu Siemens
* Garmin
* Honeywell
* I-Mate
* Medion
* Metrologic Instruments
* Toshiba

Tips to consider before buying PDAs

  • Consider the viewing screen size. Popular sizes include 3.5 inches, 4 inches, and five inches. Larger screens make it easier to view your data because you don’t have to reduce the font size as small or scroll as much. However, it also means the PDA is larger, which may make it difficult to fit in your jacket pocket or purse.
  • If you are on a limited budget, look for a PDA that provides basic features such as a calendar, address book, to-do list, and synchronization with your PC. Many will let you add software or accessories later when your budget allows.
  • If you are using the PDA for business, look for one that has software that’s compatible with Word and Excel or else offers that exact software. Look for a model that has a lot of memory or an expansion slot. Also make sure that it is compatible with your company’s email system.
  • For frequent travelers, look for long battery life and connectivity options. Many offer batteries that are both rechargeable and replaceable, so you can have one charging while another is in use.
  • If you will be typing memos or emails frequently, you want a PDA that has an integrated keyboard.
  • Compare the display screens. Colour monitors are easier to read, and you should also look at the screen resolution. For example, a Windows Mobile handheld should have at least 240 x 320 pixel resolution, and 320 x 320 is even better.
  • Consider how readable the screen is in sunlight. LCD displays with TFT (thin-film transistor) screens are the best-performing option. Indoors, you can use back-lighting, but it will drain the battery more quickly.
  • If you will be playing games, videos, or music, a fast processor is crucial. Remember, however, that a faster processor will consume more power and shorten the battery life. Slower models are good for those who use them just as a calendar function.
  • Find out whether you will lose your data if you lose battery power. You can always turn the device off if you're running low, but some can store your data on a memory card. This is also helpful in case the PDA breaks, because you can then transfer the data to your next PDA without having to re-enter everything.

Jargon Explained

MBa measure of storage memory. MB is megabyte, or 1 million bits of information. The more memory you have, the more data you can store on your PDA.
Bluetootha wireless connectivity option that lets you connect wireless peripheral devices like keyboards.
PixelsThe tiny dots that make up an image. More pixels equals finer, sharper pictures.

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