TechXNY: Roundup: PDAs faster, connected

With new PCs now a rarity at the show formerly known as PC Expo, personal digital assistants have assumed a higher profile. New models on display at PC Expo/TechXNY here this week are more powerful, versatile, and connected than ever.

One of the most striking models on the show floor was Kyocera Corp.'s latest Palm-CDMA phone hybrid, the 7135. A successor to the company's pioneering monochrome models, the 7135 boasts a 65,000-plus-color transflective diode screen that should be legible even in bright daylight. And at less than 2.5 inches wide, the clamshell-form CDMA phone is slimmer than its predecessors--not to mention Handspring Inc.'s Treo, another Palm-phone hybrid (though the latter does weigh less than the 7135).

The 7135 incorporates an MP3 music player and a media player that handles still images in .jpg, .bmp, .tif, and .png formats and video in .mov, .avi, .aud, and .wml formats. It will also support the new CDMA 2000 1x networks from Verizon Wireless Inc., Sprint PCS Group, and others, which can move data at about 40 to 70 kilobits per second (versus the 14.4-kbps speed of today's CDMA networks). The unit's pricing will depend on carrier subsidies, but it's likely to run from US$300 to $500. The 7135 is slated to ship in time for the holidays.

Sony's Latest Clie

Sony Corp., meanwhile, announced a new addition to its popular line of Palm OS-based Clie handhelds. The $399 Clie PEG-T665C has the same slim lines and color display as its sibling, the ultrathin $299 PEG-T615C/S, but it can also play MP3s.

Palm Inc. showed no new devices at PC Expo/TechXNY, though the first devices based on the company's new Palm 5 operating system are expected to ship later this year. But at Palm's centrally located booth, a number of vendors demonstrated new devices and apps for the popular handheld. Red Mercury's AcidImage 2.0 image viewer lets Palm users immediately view images stored on a memory card in any of five formats, including the popular .bmp, .gif, and .jpg formats, without first having to convert them to a different format. The $20 application supports the 320-by-480 screens on higher-resolution Palm-based devices (such as the Clie line), and simplifies zooming in and out of images.

Margi Systems Inc., which specializes in devices that allow mobile workers to store and make their presentations on handhelds, demonstrated its recently introduced Presenter-to-Go for Palms. The new $199 module connects at one end to recent Palm models that have SD (Secure Digital) disk slots, and at the other end to a projector via a standard analog display hookup.

You can use Presenter-to-Go with PowerPoint or any Windows application that creates printable presentations: Margi's software installs a virtual printer, so you "print" the finished presentation to transfer it to your Palm. Presenter-to-Go supports 1024-by-768 displays and comes with its own remote control.

Another newcomer introduced here is KeyContacts, a replacement for the Palm OS Address Book. The $25 utility from Chapura Inc. enhances and extends the address book functions of Palm-based PDAs, capturing data stored in Outlook to help the two applications work more closely when synced.

Pocket PC Power

On the Pocket PC side of the PDA market, Hewlett-Packard Co. showed off the IPaq 3900 series, the first IPaq Pocket PCs to be powered by Intel Corp.'s PXA400 processor, a next-generation StrongARM CPU that incorporates new XScale technology to add power without sacrificing battery life. The PXA400 boasts a top speed of 400 MHz, nearly twice as fast as the 206-MHz StrongARM that powered the 3900 series' predecessors in the 3800 series.

The first IPaq 3900s--the $649 model 3950 and the $749 Bluetooth-enabled 3970--boast LCD displays that look visibly brighter and clearer than the already-handsome displays of previous models. Both include SD slots in place of the Compact Flash slots in earlier IPaqs, and HP has introduced a 256MB SD card priced at $199.

In addition, the 3900 series models come with software that lets you use the devices as universal remotes. They support an exceptionally large list of consumer electronics products and brands, including such newcomers as SonicBlue Inc.'s ReplayTV personal digital video recorders.

HP also introduced a handheld that perpetuates an otherwise defunct brand: the Jornada 728, the latest in HP's clamshell-type line; this $999 device comes with a keyboard that's three-quarters of full size. The Jornada 728 has 64MB of RAM (twice as much as the previous clamshell Jornada) and built-in Compact Flash and PC Card slots, plus a smart card reader.

Also on display is Toshiba Corp.'s new Pocket PC E740, the first PDA to offer a built-in 802.11b adapter, allowing out-of-the-box connection to WiFi networks. The E740 is based on Intel's PXA250 processor, a slower version of the new Xscale chip, which is designed for small-form-factor devices. The $599 device has built-in Compact Flash and SD slots, and is shipping now.

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