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Palm OS Buying Tips

by Tim Drenk
updated 10/8/03

At the Handheld Ministry exhibit at a recent convention, a common question I was asked was "Which Palm should I buy?" There are several brands of Palm OS handhelds. Palm Computing, Handspring, and Sony are the most common. Ultimately the question comes down to personal preference, but here are some suggestions for things to consider.

1. Determine what you want to spend. Since most of us live on a budget, how much you want to spend becomes one of the biggest factors in determining which Palm OS device you should buy. Prices for handhelds start at $99 and go up to $700. If you want a good device that meets most people's needs, expect to spend $200 to $300.

2. Determine the features that are most important to you. Do you want a color screen or monochrome? A color screen is easier to read in most lighting conditions than monochrome, but it's more expensive. Do you want a high resolution screens which makes letters and objects look crisper and not as jagged? Instead of 160 dots across and 160 dots down, they have 320 dots across and 320 dots down or even 480 dots down. Do you want a slim handheld or is size not important? The slimmer devices are easier to fit into your pocket and may be more comfortable to hold. How much memory should the device have? All the current devices come with at least 8MB and most with 16MB or more. Older devices, except the low end models, come with at least 8 megabytes of memory. Do you want an expansion slot? An expansion slot allows you to add more memory or other functions (everything from a phone to camera) to the device.

3. See how the devices look and feel. Like anything you carry around, you should like how it looks and feels. And of course, people react different to the different styles of Palm handhelds. Here are a few pictures of different handhelds. The best way to see them is to go to a store like Best Buy, CompUSA, Office Depot, or Staples that have Palm devices for sale and see them for yourself.

Palm m505Palm m100Visor NeoClie PEG-600C

4. Make sure the handheld can connect to your desktop or laptop computer. All current Palm OS Devices come with USB cradles so your computer must have a free USB port. If your computer is less than two or three years old, it most likely has USB ports. Most companies sell cradles with serial cables and there are USB to serial adapters available, but that will add $30-$40 to your total cost.

5. Find the best price. By now, you probably have a good idea of which handheld you want. Shop around at different stores and web sites to find the best price. Many stores are running sales and bundle deals on handhelds. You may find a better price from an internet reseller by checking out PriceGrabber.com and PriceMobileComputing.com, but as the saying goes, "buyer beware". Be sure to check out the shipping/handling charges and the return policy before you buy and don't get lured into buying overpriced accessories. You can also check out what other people think of various resellers at ResellerRatings.com and Epinions.com.

My recommendations:

If you are on a tight budget, the most inexpensive device is the Pa1mOne Zire for $79. The Pa1mOne Zire 21, at $99, offers probably the most bang of the money. Reconditioned units offer another option for keeping the cost down. Handspring's Reconditioned Products and Palm's Outlet Store carry limited stock of current and recently discontinued handhelds.

For around $200, I would suggest the Tungsten E or the CLIE PEG-TJ25. Both come with latest operating system, high resolutioin screens, and 32MB of RAM. The only caveat I would mention about the Tungsten E is that it does not have Pa1mOne's Universal Connector which means it cannot use certain accessories.

For around $300, the better handheld depends on what you want. The CLIE PEG-TG50 offers a high resolution screen and a built-in keyboard. The Zire 71 has a high resolution screen and a camera. And the Tungsten T2 ($320) has the 32MB of memory, wireless capabilities, a voice recorder, and a collapsible form.

For $400, the Tungsten T3 has one of the largest screens that is viewable in portrait and landscape mode, 64MB of RAM, and all of the features of the T2. The CLIE PEG-NX73V, at $450, is the least expensive Flip & Rotate device with a .3MP camera and built-in keyboard.

The bottom line: get the Palm OS device that meets your needs and stay within your budget.


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Currently Available Palm OS Handhelds

For definitions of terms used, click here. Prices are the current list price as of Oct. 8th 2003.

Company Device Name Price Description
Pa1mOne Tungsten C $499 400Mhz, 64MB (52MB Storage), 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., SD Slot, MP3, WiFi, UC, Keyboard, OS 5.2.1
Pa1mOne Tungsten W $419 33Mhz, 16MB, 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., SD Slot, Voice/Data, UC, Keyboard, OS 4.1.1
Pa1mOne Tungsten T3 $399 400Mhz, 64MB (52MB Storage), 320x480 Color, Int. Batt., SD Slot, MP3, Voice Rec., BT, UC, OS 5.2.1
Pa1mOne Tungsten T2 $329 144Mhz, 32MB (28MB Storage), 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., SD Slot, MP3, Voice Rec., BT, UC, OS 5.2.1
Pa1mOne Tungsten E $199 126Mhz, 32MB (28MB Storage), 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., SD Slot, MP3, OS 5.2.1
Pa1mOne Zire 71 $299 144Mhz, 16MB (28MB Storage), 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., SD Slot, MP3, .3MP Camera, OS 5.2.1
Pa1mOne Zire 21 $99 126Mhz, 8MB (7MB Storage), 160x160 Mono, Int. Batt., OS 5.2.1
Pa1mOne Zire $79 16Mhz, 2MB, 160x160 Mono, Int. Batt., OS 4.1
Handspring Treo 300 $99 33Mhz, 16MB, 160x160 Color, Int. Batt., Built-in Keyboard, Phone, OS 4.1, Available from SprintPCS
Handspring Treo 270 $249 33Mhz, 16MB, 160x160 Color, Int. Batt., Built-in Keyboard, Phone, OS 4.1, Available from T-Mobile and AT&T
Handspring Treo 600 $449 144Mhz, 32MB (22-25MB Storage), 160x160 Color, Int. Batt., SD Slot, MP3, .3MP Camera, Built-in Keyboard, Phone, OS 5.2, Available from SprintPCS
Sony CLIE PEG-NZ90 $799 200Mhz, 16MB, 320x480 Color, Rmv. Batt., MS & Wireless LAN Slot, MP3, 2MP Camera, BT, U-IR, Voice Rec., Built-in Keyboard, F&R Design, OS 5.0
Sony CLIE PEG-UX50 $699 300Mhz, 61MB, 480x320 Color, Int. Batt., MS Slot, MP3, .3MP Camera & Video, BT, WiFi, Voice Rec., Built-in Keyboard, F&R Design, OS 5.2
Sony CLIE PEG-UX40 $599 300Mhz, 61MB, 480x320 Color, Int. Batt., MS Slot, MP3, .3MP Camera & Video, BT, Voice Rec., Built-in Keyboard, F&R Design, OS 5.2
Sony CLIE PEG-NX80V $549 200Mhz, 32MB, 320x480 Color, Int. Batt., MS & Wireless LAN Slot, MP3, 1.3MP Camera, U-IR, Voice Rec., Built-in Keyboard, F&R Design, OS 5.0
Sony CLIE PEG-NX73V $449 200Mhz, 16MB, 320x480 Color, Int. Batt., MS & Wireless LAN Slot, MP3, .3MP Camera, U-IR, Voice Rec., Built-in Keyboard, F&R Design, OS 5.0
Sony CLIE PEG-TG50 $299 200Mhz, 16MB, 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., MS Slot, MP3, BT, U-IR, Voice Rec., Built-in Keyboard, OS 5.0
Sony CLIE PEG-TJ35 $249 200Mhz, 32MB, 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., MS Slot, MP3, OS 5.0
Sony CLIE PEG-SJ33 $219 66Mhz, 32MB, 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., MS Slot, MP3, OS 4.1
Sony CLIE PEG-TJ25 $199 200Mhz, 32MB, 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., MS Slot, MP3, OS 5.0
Sony CLIE PEG-SJ22 $149 33Mhz, 32MB, 320x320 Color, Int. Batt., MS Slot, MP3, OS 4.1
Garmin iQue 3600 $589 200Mhz, 32MB, 320x480 Color, Int. Batt., SD Slot, MP3, GPS, Voice Rec., OS 5.2
Samsung SPH-i500 $599 66Mhz, 16MB, 160x240 Color, Rmv. Batt., MP3, Phone, Flip Design, OS 4.1, Available from SprintPCS
Samsung SPH-i330 $499 66Mhz, 16MB, 160x240 Color, Rmv. Batt., Phone, OS 4.1, Available from SprintPCS
Kyocera 7135 $499 33Mhz, 16MB, 160x160 Color, Rmv. Batt., MP3, SD Slot, Phone, OS 4.1


Definitions
  • #Mhz = the speed of the processor the device has
  • #MB = the amount of memory the device has;(xMB Storage) refers to the amount of RAM that is accessable to the user
  • 160x160, 320x320, 320x480 = The screen resolution. 160x160 has been the stardard, 320x320 also known as HiRes is the new stardard on most OS 5 devices. Devices with 320x480 resolutions have a virtual graffiti writing area instead of being permanent silkscreen area.
  • x Color = the screen can display colors
  • x Mono = the screen can display more shades of gray than the Monochrome screen
  • Int. Batt. = the device has an internal rechargable battery
  • Rmv. Batt. = the device has an removable internal rechargable battery
  • SD Slot = Secure Digital and MultiMedia Card (MMC) expansion slot
  • MS Slot = Sony's MemoryStick expansion slot
  • MP3 = the device can play MP3 files
  • xMP Camera = the device has a built-in camera, the xMP gives the resolution of the camera
  • BT = the device has Bluetooth, a wireless capability
  • WiFi = the device has a built-in WiFi capability
  • UC = Universal Connector, Pa1mOne's standard docking connector
  • U-IR = the device has a more powerful IR signal to control AV equipment
  • Voice Rec = the device has a voice recorder
  • Built-in Keyboard = the device has a keyboard, also known as a thumb board, instead of the traditional graffiti area
  • Phone = the device doubles as a mobile phone and most likely is capable of data communications
  • F&R Design = Flip and Rotate Design, also known as a clam shell design
  • OS x = the Operating System of the device
  • Dis = the device has been discontiuned although maybe still available
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