Wednesday, December 15, 2004

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Blegging for PDA advice

Five years ago I bought a Palm Pilot and discovered that I didn't have enough appointments to make it worthwhile -- so I wound up not using it all that much.

Five years later, I'm finding that my schedule is filling up more rapidly and further in advance. In other words, now I need a PDA.

What's the best one in the marketplace right now?

This is most definitely a job for my readers.

posted by Dan on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM


i hope people say the Dell PDA's are good, cause thats what i asked for Christmas

posted by: Kenny on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

I've been using a plain old Palm Pilot for 6 years. Started with a Palm V and graduated to a Palm m505 3 yrs ago. Both did yeoman service and never failed me. I also had a Compaq Windows CE that was clumsy and shortlived that I tried to use for 6 months. I had a Sony Clie that was nice for about a year and then failed. Now I have on my desk a Palm treo 270 which I've spent 15 hours trying to get working so I could have cellphone and PDA integrated. I finally gave up. I'm still using my trusty m505, happily. I think there's a more recent version, m515, and that's what I'd advise.


posted by: bliffle on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]


i know a lot of academic friends (including one senior member of your department) who opt for the Ipod. You can listen to music on flights, store large amounts of data and files for backups or transport, and yes it does have a functional datebook. The 40gb model also does voice recording if you conduct interviews.

Otherwise, I'd avoid getting lured by the bells and whistles of the models. Most all do most everythin pretty well. Critically, it depends on what you need to do. And how much of a tech weenie you are.

Will this function as a portable typewriter for you (probably not if you have a laptop)? If yes, then get one (like the Palm Zire 72) that have functional keyboards.

Do you plan on using it for other functions like weblogging (gee why do I ask). Then you need something with wireless capability + keyboarding (Tungsten e.g).

Or it is really just a souped up datebook / alarm? Then really one of the lowest end models will work just fine.

You may find, depending on your lifestyle, that a phone / PDA combination is best of all. And in fact your cell phone may even have a pretty good datebook facility already.

posted by: the prof on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

I switched from a Sony Clie to a Samsung I330 phone/PDA combo. It's a little chunky (and hence very cheap on e-bay), but the new version, the Samsung I500 is almost tiny. I really, really like having all my phone numbers, addresses and e-mails all in one spot, and all backed up on my desktop. Playing video games or browsing the web while I'm stuck in the doctor's office doesn't suck, either.
The Treo 600 is sexier and has the teeny keyboard, but the Samsungs are dual band, tri-mode which mean they roam better. And the forthcoming Samsung I550 has Bluetooth and the rest of the bells and whistles.

posted by: Hmmm on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

I use the Sony Clie TJ-37. It serves me well with it's wireless capabilities. It is smaller than some, but if you don't like bulky items in your pocket this is perfect.

If you prefer a bigger screen check out the TH-55. If you need a thumb board you could go with a NX-73V. I have had experience with all three models. All have features that will benefit you.

And no, I don't work for Sony.

posted by: Jason on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

Get the Tungsten T3. Your schedule will never be the same.

posted by: praktike on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

I've got the Samsung i500, btw, but every once in a while it goes crazy and has exception errors, and it doesn't work again until the batteries die completely. Otherwise, I love it.

posted by: praktike on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

Stay away from anything that uses the Windows (or some variant of same) OS. Palm is the best; easy to use, synchronizes easily with a computer (which also acts as a backup), has tons of add-on applications, and there are lots of actual device choices. Small and compact enough to fit in your shirt pocket. Altogether wonderful.

posted by: too many steves on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

I got the T3 several months ago and am quite happy with it except for the battery life, which is only a couple of days. But I'm a geek. The nice screen and CPU speed is probably overkill for most folks. I hear that the T2 has much better battery life. My dad and my sister both have a Tungsten E and are very satisfied. It doesn't do that nifty slider thing, but I think has most of the same functionality (color, sync w/ Outlook & MS Office, SD slot, play MP3s, etc.), although no voice recorder, which I hardly use anyway. Probably a much better value at below $200.

I'd stay away from the T5. It's just a more expensive E. You can get much of the flash drive functionality with the above modules using the $15 Card Export II, in that you can use SD cards as a virtual drive (not the Palm's internal memory). But since you can get 1 GB SD cards for under $100, that should be fine. You can also probably get a used older Palm that serves your purposes for less than $50. The Palm Vx would probably be a good one to target. Probably slightly harder to buy accessories that way, though.

Whatever Palm you get, I've found that the $25 DateBk5 is far superior to the built-in calendar app. Has an Outlook-style week view and allows you to assign icons to each appointment.

I've never used the Microsoft-powered PDAs, but have generally never been impressed with their OS's. They strike me as a tech company whose marketing department carries a bit too much clout.

posted by: fling93 on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

Notwithstanding that I am in most respects a hardcore early adopter, I would strongly recommend to you the 2005 At-A-GlanceĀ® Monthly Classic Planner, 6-7/8" x 8-3/4", item #502208. It's the only thing that has ever really worked for me -- PDAs are too much hassle when you are trying to scribble down a meeting while holding the phone to your ear with your shoulder.

This particular version is large enough so that the inevitable cross-outs when meetings get moved don't take up all your writing space, but it is not so big that it is an inconvenience to carry. There are a lot of extra blank pages in the back for making shopping lists, taking some quick notes, etc.

On the occasions I travel -- about once a month or so -- I print out my itinerary and tape it to one of the blank pages.

I keep key phone numbers on my cell phone and in a list that I print out in small type and binder clip to the inside front cover of the calendar along with a few of my business cards.

I appreciate that the Palm technology is very good and even tried to use a Palm for a while. I know some people love them, but you may want to consider whether you fall within the class of persons who can use them effectively. I, alas, don't.

posted by: alkali on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

If you use MS Outlook on your desktop, I would look at the PocketPC - ignoring toomanysteves kneejerk anti MS rant. Dell has some nice offerings - better priced than the other brands. Depends what fetures you want - i.e. built in wireless, speed, memory, etc. They have a non-wireless (X30) for $200. With wireless - $280 to $424.

The iPaqs from HP are also nice.

This is a pretty good website for info:

I have used both Palms and PocketPCs. I have been using the PocketPC of late since it can be a laptop substitute. I can use it for some easy word processing and spreadsheet work (with MS Word and MS Excel) without lugging around a laptop.

posted by: martin on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

A 12" powerbook.

Seriously--you just carry it around in a backpack (no
more of a pain than fitting a PDA in your pocket with
your keys and cellphone). Wireless built in, great calendar
program, plus everything else. Really, why deal with
Palm's graffiti or thumb keyboard, and the tiny screen with the
truncated programs?

Ever since I got my powerbook, my PDA has been sitting on a shelf.

posted by: matt on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

Well...Dan did ask for readers suggestions.
Wonder if his question falls under the catagory
"Be careful what you wish for"?
Enjoy choosing your PDA...Please advise readers
on what you finally decide.

posted by: James on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

I have used a palm from the first one. Had a Palm III, then a Palm V (which was very nice). Then switched to a Treo600 to combine cell phone and pda devices. Wouldn't be without it now. Keyboard is nice for SMS and email, also helps get apointments and new contacts in the device. I mostly use the desktop for time planning and entering names, notes, etc. But, my Treo600 has become my memory aide, has everything I need to remember in it.

posted by: John on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

I've been using the 505, myself.

There are limitations on the size of the databases I can use on it, even with the huge amounts of memory I've added to it... (A mapping issue, not unlike the old days of DOS/Windows, where one must watch what area of memory is being used for what... but I've been doing about everything with it for a few years now, and never been UNable to do what I needed with it.

I not only keep my Cal in there...(Sync'd with my Lotus Notes Cal through Intellisync) but I keep several databases I(in Han-D-Base) pertaining to hobbies, van repairs/gas milage... several novels...(At the moment, all three Tolkien triolgy books, plus the Hobbit, as well as a few others, Like Clancy's "Hunt for Red October".. and for some reason, "The Art of war" and 'the One Minute Manager" which I really should get around to deleting, soon.

Several games, (Chess, Solotaire, Poker, 21, Euchre,tetris, etc) and Via AvantGo, several web pages I read daily... including this one.

It contains a complete Office Suite, which reads and writes Word Excel and Powerpoint documents, PDF's. I use "Word To Go " to pre-write a lot of what's posted on my 'blog; I find it helpful many times to capture thoughts as they occur to me this way, for later brush-up, once I arrive at home.

It has native Email, and so on, as well, which I do use quite a bit.

I've never bothered with Wi-Fi attachments. I imagine that will come when I do finally get around to replacing this unit. Then again, I don't travel nearly as much as you do, nor do I have nearly the sources of Wi-Fi that you would in Chicago, and/or on Campus.

When that happens, whenI do need to replace this thing, depending on when it does, I'm looking at the Tungsten T5.

...and were I you, that's what I'd be looking at.

posted by: Bithead on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

Got the Treo650 for Chanukah. Been a palm owner for years. Don't choose anything else. Worth every penny, or euro, or dong, or whatever!

posted by: ron on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]


Good question, & I'm surprised that no one's yet suggested a Blackberry. I had a Palm for years & loved it. However, having moved over to a Blackberry, I'd never go back. It's all you need: PDA, mobile 'phone, email, web browser, etc.

Of course, you'll find that it begins to monopolize your life, & your family will hate it. So be warned.


lac in Canada.

posted by: Lucas on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

Let me also put in a vote for the Treo (I have the 600), but more specifically, GET A MODEL THAT'S ALSO A PHONE. Dan, it sounds like you're like me: I had a Palm and just never remembered to look at it. Making your Palm also your phone means you have it in your pocket all the time, you look at it a lot more, you learn to use all its functions, and then it becomes an indespensible little personal assistant. "Mr. A, sir, don't forget Hanukah's almost over and you still haven't gotten a gift for your girlfriend." "Ah! Quite right, Treo, quite right." "Shall I call your mother, say you'll be late for dinner?" "Yes, Treo, quite so."

I couldn't do without it.

posted by: Contributor A on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

If you are looking for a simple yet extremely versitile PDA, I would go with a Dell Axim. If you want something a little more high end, you might consider this HP product. But I cannot recommend the Treo enough; it is uber cool and uber functional.

I have the Axim and have been more than happy with its performance. However, if I had the cash to do it all over again, I would get the Treo; simply more bang for your buck.

posted by: Zach on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

It depends on what you want?

If you want it to be your phone too...
The Treo 600 is good,
The blackberry's are good (the 7100t is the newest)
The Ipaq 6315 has just about achieved godhead in the handtop arena.

posted by: theco on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]


save the money, just get a moleskine.

posted by: rdg on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

A paper solution would be certainly more cost-effective, and writing on paper is much quicker than entering anything into a Palm. The Palm was intended more for data recall on-the-go than data entry (although the fold-up keyboards work pretty well -- I know people who've written novels using it). It assumes you enter most of your data into your desktop, and most people type a lot faster than they write anyway. So if you get most of your appointments by phone, paper might be better for you. If you get them by e-mail, it's a lot easier and less error-prone to copy and paste into Outlook (or what-have-you) and sync the Palm.

Other obvious drawbacks of paper is that it doesn't sound an alarm reminder for appointments, and that it's very time-consuming to back it up compared to a Palm.

posted by: fling93 on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

I've been very impressed by the new T-mobile (HP) PDA. Great for thumbing, scribbling and fat-finger use. Works world-wide (I'm a few hours west of the date-line writing this on the device). Integrated everything. Hands-free wired or blue-tooth. Great battery life. And t-mobile seems to have its service and partner act together world-wide (I've been in 20 countries, was able to use voice and data everywhere, and the seamless sms & email-integration w/ optimizations to eliminate uneeded text transmission has likely paid for my device by now).

No, I don't work for t-mobile. :-)


posted by: Ari Tau on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

One of my long time close friends is a long time Microsoft programmer. He swears by the Palm OS.

I love my Treo 600, and the Treo 650 that I just tried out looks much better (albeit sans WiFi or GPS, which will probably keep me from getting it.)

Definitely check out the phone models! Using only one device for phone and PDA is quite handy, even if they are a bit clunky as phones go.

Also, definitely check out whether you prefer the handwriting recognition of the tiny keyboard. They both get some getting used to, but I've grown to prefer the keyboard, even though the Treo 600's is actually too small for me to use especially comfortably.

The phone models allows you to get Internet service on the device which will let you get emails and RSS feeds from your favorite blogs. Way cool!

With a big SD card, it can even triple as an MP3 player.

Finally, don't be pursuaded by the "I only need a simple scheduler" arguments. Anyone worth his salt will want to start using everything, and more! .

posted by: Scott Wood on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

ps--The Treo 600, even though a Palm OS device, comes with MS Outlook integration.

posted by: Scott Wood on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

Add me to the chorus of Treo lovers. I haven't graduated past the Treo 270 (yet) but it's an indispensable little gadget. The nicest part for me is that it syncs with my PowerBook using iSync, which allows me to keep iCal, Address Book, my Blackberry (for work) and my Treo all synced up with the same calendar data, contacts and to-do lists. Seriously sweet.

posted by: Rich on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

An original geek I got the original Palm Pilot. I moved up to the III and then used the Vx for the longest time. I was never fully satisfied until I had the Vx which comes with all the memory I needed.

When I dropped the second one in the toilet three years ago (the first needed a replacment screen which Palm gladly refurbished for 100 bucks) I decided to go palmless and reverted to paper and a superior cellphone.

That worked for three years and I resisted the temptations of the web capable smartphones an WinCE devices. When I could take it no more I gave in but only halfway. I bought a 'new' Vx again. All of my old archived files came back to life but still I found myself jury rigging connectivity between my pda, cellphone, home computer and laptop.

Now I have the new Treo 650 and I couldn't be more satisfied. I am typing this very response from the parking lot at LAX. It's better connected than my laptop.

I do synch with MS Outlook which I conceded two years ago has the best Contacts functions. The Treo goes Outlook one better by allowing you to take pictures of the person and see it right in the organizer. When Joe calls me on my phone, his picture ppops up.

The treo handles call waiting better than any device I've ever used. In combination with Google mail, I handle all of my email wherever. I can IM or SMS around corporate firewalls, play MP3s and record video. It could only be improved by having IPod amounts of storage, but that's a job I leave to my laptop.

The wait is over. This machine is the bomb.

posted by: Cobb on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

Is this what your after:

Unlimited battery life.
Built in calendar, world time zones, measurement conversion, world map, CPR charts, monthly planners, yearly planners, telephone and address books.
Displays text as fast as you input it.
Unlimited fonts and colours.
Leather bound in a vast array of colours, sizes and textures for the fashion concious.

It's called a diary.

posted by: Jon on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

One problem with getting a PDA/phone combo is that you may have problems using it on planes. (Many airlines forbid their use even if they have an airline mode that prevents them from operating as phones.) Since I use mine (currently a Toshiba Pocket PC, probably moving to an Ipaq or Dell Axim shortly) to read books on, that's a dealbreaker for me. Though if you can live without being able to use it in flight, of course, there's a lot to be said for minimizing the number of devices you carry.

posted by: Mike on 12.15.04 at 05:20 PM [permalink]

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