New PDAs pack a punch

After a spate of announcements focusing on Palm products (not to mention Palm’s buyout of Handspring), we’re now seeing some movement in the Pocket PC-based PDA market.

iPAQ h4350

Starting with the most initially striking, the iPAQ h4350 brings an integrated keyboard to the Pocket PC platform. At first glance the keyboard seems too tiny to be useful, but it’s fine for two-thumb operation: anyone used to churning out rapid SMSes will quickly come to grips with it. Although the keyboard adds some length to the h4350, the device still seems thin and light to hold — just don’t expect it to fit as snugly in the hand as other Palm and Pocket PC models. Another of HP’s recent releases, the lithe $849 h4150, for example, measures 113.6x70.6x13.5mm (LxWxH) and weighs 132g compared to the 138.7x74.6x14.5mm and 165g for the h4350. Of course, an extra 33g and 25mm in length may be a small price to pay if you hate using the stylus to enter text.

Toshiba’s new PDA, the e800, is no less eye-catching, with a large, 4in screen that can switch from a VGA 480x640 resolution to a more regular 240x320 display (in comparison, both new iPAQs feature a 3.5in display). Be warned, however, that software support for this more powerful display is extremely limited, so Toshiba has bundled ClearVue for viewing files at 480x640.

Toshiba e800

The e800 features a whopping 128MB of RAM when most other Pocket PC devices come with 64MB (including the two iPAQs). These impressive specs (particularly the screen), however, mean a chunkier handheld: the e800 comes in at 77.0x135x16.7mm.

On the subject of design, Toshiba has fashioned the e800 in a dark blue case rather than the ubiquitous silver of most PDAs. Also, given the size, we have to wonder about Toshiba’s telescopic stylus choice here. This painful tool seemed to stick each time we tried to extract it, which is a definite annoyance for PDA users.

Toshiba has released two versions of the e800 — one with integrated Wi-Fi and a slightly cheaper one with Bluetooth. In contrast, iPAQ buyers won’t have to choose between connectivity options as the h4350 (as well as the h4150) features both. On the other hand, the h4350 (and the h4150) support only Secure Digital whereas the e800 can accommodate both SD and CompactFlash.

HP iPAQ h4350
Price: $949
Vendor: Hewlett-Packard
Phone: 1300 305 018
URL: www.hp.com.au

Toshiba e800
Price: $1248.50 (Wi-Fi), $1199 (Bluetooth)
Vendor: Toshiba
Phone: 13 3070
URL: www.toshiba.com.au

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Deanne McIntosh

PC World
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