Which PDA Should I Buy?

Category: Gadgets

The proliferation of PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) in the last several years has been staggering, and a wide range of products exists to satisfy the needs of everyone from the busy stay-at-home Mom to the power hungry Internet geek on the go. But with such a wide range of devices available, how do you know which one is right for you?

May I (Personally) Assist You (Digitally)?

The first step is to determine what you want to do with the PDA. Do you want to use it to store addresses, phone numbers and to-do lists? Do you want to be able to play games on it? Do you want to be able to access the Internet and e-mail with it? What about word processing and spreadsheet applications? Do you want it to be a phone as well? Should it run Windows? All of these options exist, in varying price ranges from under $100 to over $600.

As PDAs become more advanced, they also become more feature-rich. If you just want a PDA for simple tasks like address book and to-do list management, just about any low-end PDA on the market will work. I recommend that you stick with devices that run the PalmOS operating system, both to keep costs down and to ensure compatibility with your computer. Palm is the leader in the PDA market, and provides excellent support for its products.

If you need the ability to transfer Word and Excel documents to your handheld and carry them with you, either a Windows Mobile device or a mid-range PalmOS device will work well. Windows Mobile handles these documents natively, but Dataviz offers an excellent product for PalmOS called Documents To Go that allows PalmOS-based PDAs to create and edit Word and Excel documents, as well as display Adobe PDF files.

It Slices, It Dices, It Has a Dialtone

If your needs run more in the communications vein, the range of options becomes even wider. At the low end of the spectrum is the Blackberry series of devices by Research in Motion, which is designed around the idea of short text messaging. If necessary, these devices can also double as a phone, but if you need phone communications as well as text messaging and true e-mail access, you would be better served by the so-called convergence devices running Windows Mobile or PalmOS.

At the time of this writing, the leader in convergence devices is the Treo series by Palm. Palm offers Treo models on both PalmOS and Windows Mobile platforms. The Treo combines a cell phone with email, an organizer, messaging, and web access. The QWERTY keyboard is a step up from the clunky keypads on most cell phones, and Bluetooth technology lets you connecting wirelessly to other Bluetooth devices such as headsets and car kits. It also sports an MP3 player, a digital camera that captures video, and a full-color screen. For many active professionals, the Treo has replaced the laptop as a must-have carry along device. Friends of mine who have the Treo 650 rave about it, and say that by comparison, the newer Treo 700 doesn't look as good.

Whether you are looking for a simple electronic address book that you can synchronize with your home computer, or an all-in-one cell phone and home office, there is a PDA to fit your needs. Research, compare options and find the best deal on the Internet to find the PDA that's best for you. Here are some links to help you in that search:

Palm PDA Products - http://www.palm.com
Palm Treo - http://web.palm.com
Blackberry - http://www.blackberry.com

Mobile Tech Review - http://www.mobiletechreview.com
Epinions - http://www.epinions.com
PriceWatch - http://www.pricewatch.com

 
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Most recent comments on "Which PDA Should I Buy?"

Posted by:

Wayne Andersen
17 Jan 2006

Thanks Bob! Just the information I was out to find today! I would ask why you include the BlackBerry products without mention of the very real possibility that they will be (nearly) useless within a month?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I am aware of the legal challenge to Blackberry's email feature (which does not affect their text messaging) but I'm sure the lawyers and CEOs will knock heads and find a solution. Blackberry has too much at stake to just roll over and die.


Posted by:

David
18 Jan 2006

Great Advice Bob.
I've been using PalmOS PDA's since the original Pilot. My current Tungsten has over 50 applications, most of them free. Be sure to include SD card capability for more memory space. Then you'll have room to grow. The newer OS supports applications on the card and you can of course store Photos, documents etc. Dataviz brings Office to the Palm and sharing them is as easy as an IR "beam" to another Palm or printer.
So in my pocket are photo album, file cabinet, MP3 player, voice recorder, tide charts, games, drawing and paint programs, star charts, guitar tuner, shopping list, synthesizer, references, hundreds of passwords, and more. Available accessories incude camera, full size folding keyboard, modem, blah blah...
David


Posted by:

Neil
18 Jan 2006

Bob, if any of your readers decide on a Pocket PC type PDA (I did and it is great). Then the Viewsonic V37 can usually be bought cheaply on ebay. 400 Mhz for usually less than $150 brand new.


Posted by:

Holly
28 Jul 2006

Best PDA is the Palm Treo 700p at best buy in my opinion. It runs about $600


Posted by:

Bruce Lewis
04 Oct 2006

Bob, just got the new Cingular 3125 (also HTC StarTrek) last week -- runs Windows Mobile 5.0 and makes a good PDA. If you want something that fits on a belt or in a pocket in a smaller form-factor than the BlackBerry-style devices, the 3125 is for you. If you plan to thumb-type a lot of e-mail responses, go to one of the BlackBerry-style devices. It works great for me because I use the occasional minute here and there to sort my emails into "now," "later," and "when the polar icecaps melt" categories for later (in)action. Thanks for the great series of helpful suggestions!


Posted by:

Mark
13 Oct 2006

I'm so overwhelmed. I am stuck with SPRINT and they only offer 4 Smartphone available, I am leaning towards the Palm 700p. I will be needing a few of the MS OFFICE apps compatibility. With that, should I ensure that my Palm has a WINDOWS OS? or Will the Palm OS do the same?

EDITOR'S NOTE:The Palm 700p web page says it includes email, web browser, support for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, and a PDF viewer. So it appears you don't need a Windows OS on this device.


Posted by:

reish
13 Nov 2006

i'll buy a PDA to read a lot of PDF's..

What is the best option?? I'm thinking about ipaq 3115, is it good for my needs?!?!

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'd look for the one with the biggest screen for PDF reading.


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