Matt Gemmell

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An action-thriller novel — book 1 in the KESTREL series.

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Which PDA to get

general & tech 2 min read

I’m interested in getting a PDA. That’s been true for quite a while, but my recent dalliance with my Nintendo DS piqued my interest again. Jim at work has an HP hx4700, which is truly a thing of beauty, but it’s quite costly and I’m a bit reluctant to go with something that doesn’t sync natively with OS X (i.e. without 3rd-party software).

I’ve had a few Palms before, and I’m kind of interested in the LifeDrive, but I’m concerned that the microdrive will be noticeably slower than the flash memory of most other PDAs. I guess I’m also concerned that they’re going to release a newer model soon since it’s been out for a while now, maybe with Cobalt (Palm OS 6.x) instead of Garnet (5.x). Not that the hx4700 is exactly a recent model PDA either; I’m pretty sure it was released in back in 2004. If anyone has any news on upcoming PDA models (for the UK market) that would help me set a timeframe for my buying decision, that would be really handy.

Now, to features. I need wifi and bluetooth, decent (but not necessarily the very best; as long as it’s in excess of 300-400 MHz or so) processor speed, and at least rudimentary syncing with Mac OS X (iCal, Address Book), and I’d really like that syncing to be wireless. I need email on the go and a reasonable web browser. I do not want a PDA that’s also a phone (I mean it, because I’m extremely tough on my phones and I want to keep the devices separate anyway).

I need a 65k color screen of at least half-VGA (320x480) size, which can switch orientations and with decent brightness. I need expandability via standard memory cards of whatever type. I need to be able to transfer files between my PowerBook and the device, ideally without resorting to a physical cable (plain old BT OBEX file transfer is ok, but I’d much prefer wifi remote shares, even if it needs 3rd-party software). If the thing has to use cables, then those cables should be USB, and I’d much prefer USB 2.0.

I don’t care what kind of handwriting recognition it does (Graffiti 1 or 2 is more than enough) because I’ll be getting a collapsible wireless keyboard for any kind of serious use. A large software library is good, and I particularly need a platform with a decent SSH client, for pay or otherwise. I’ll want to view photos from time to time, but not as a primary task. I want the ability to view video files and play MP3s, but only very rarely in either case. For normal use (i.e. lots of intermittent PIM stuff, and occasional wireless networking), I’m willing to charge it every couple of days - but I don’t want to have to charge it every single evening.

Average PDA size and weight are fine. Recommend a decent case if you know of one, but take account of the fact that I’d be careful with it; I value easy access over hard-shell containers. I don’t much care what ancillary navigational device it incorporates (wheel, ball, touchpad) since I’ll be using the stylus. I won’t be using the device for games, other than stuff like solitaire or such. Ideal budget would be £300-400. Suggest a decent place to order from online if you like.

Given all that, can anyone suggest the right device for me? Any experiences you’ve had with either of the devices I mentioned above would also be great. Thanks for any thoughts, and I promise to post a review of whatever gadget I end up buying. Cheers!