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Conumer Buyer GuidePalm Pilot or Pocket PC? What's the difference?

Palm Pilot :: Pocket PC Consumer Buying Guide

Palm Advantages

Simplicity
Lower resource requirements
More support
Cost (at lower end)
MS Office documents
Battery life
Mac compatibility

Pocket PC Advantages

Multimedia
Features
Upgradability
Outlook compatibility
Resolution / display quality
Input methods

What to Look For

Colour or monochrome
Memory
Type of screen
Built-in wireless
Upgrade slots
Accessories

It seems like everywhere you go today, you’ll see someone busy tapping away at a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). Many people call them “Palms” or “Palm-Pilots” but in reality there are many brands and models to choose from. Palm is just one of the many brands. This guide will help you to understand the differences between all the options and help you to choose the model that best suits your needs.

Palm or Pocket PC?

One of the first decisions you’ll be faced with when you start looking at PDAs is whether you want a Palm-based model or a Pocket PC-based model.

The Palm operating system is the one with which most people are familiar. In fact, the PDA’s are regularly referred to as “Palms”. Palm makes many different PDAs, all of which run the Palm operating system. There are other brands that also use the Palm OS, most notably the Sony Clie - (Only available in Japan - Sony pulled all inventory from North America) While the basic features are the same from one Palm-based model to another, there can be significant differences in extras. It is much the same as with computers. While different brands may all run Windows, there can be big differences in features from one unit to another.

Pocket PC (Windows CE) is Microsoft’s operating system for PDAs. It is based on a version of Windows, called Windows CE. Toshiba HP Pocket PC Because it is based on a version of Windows, it will be very familiar to anyone who uses Windows on their computer. While Palm has been around longer and is more widely used, the Pocket PC systems are gaining a lot of ground.

There are a number of differences between the two systems and which will suit you best depends on the kinds of things you will be doing with your PDA.

The Palm OS is known for its simplicity and efficiency. Its memory requirements are lower and it uses less processing power than the Pocket PC.

The Pocket PC, on the other hand, has many of the same features as a computer. Because it is based on a version of Windows, the way it works is very similar to this familiar program. It has “Pocket” versions of a number of Microsoft’s programs, including Internet Explorer, Word, Excel and Outlook. All Pocket PCs will play MP3 music, video clips, audio books, and other multimedia files.

While some higher-end Palm models can do these things, it’s not common to all models.

If you are mainly going to use your PDA for keeping track of contacts, your calendar, and to-do lists, Palm-based models will be the better choice. Moving from one program to another is very easy and fast with a Palm. Because the Palm OS uses less memory and processing power, you don’t need as much memory in the PDA to do the same things as with the Pocket PC.

If you are going to be playing MP3 or other audio files, viewing pictures or video clips, or playing games, the Pocket PC is a better choice.

While some high-end Palm OS models from Palm and especially from Sony can do all these things, the Pocket PC models have the faster processors and larger memory required for these kinds of applications.

Another thing to consider when making your choice is what is going to be compatible with any specific programs you might use. Palm-based PDAs have been around longer; many programs have better support for them than they do for Pocket PCs.

For example, if you use ACT! or Maximizer as your contact management software, they have better support for the Palm OS.

If you use Microsoft Outlook, it will work very well with the Pocket PC without the need for additional software required to make it work with the Palm. Many Palms do include this software, however, so don’t let that one point discourage you from Palm.

Toshiba HP Palm Pilot Pocket PCOne factor that will probably surprise you is support for Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) documents. You would expect that the Pocket PC would be the most compatible since it includes Pocket versions of many of the programs, made by Microsoft . Strangely enough, however, the Palm OS has better support for working with Office files. There is software available for the Palm OS that will let you create, view and edit Office files and it actually does a better job with more complicated documents than the versions built into the Pocket PC. Some Palm-based PDAs even include this software.

If you are a Macintosh user, you have one further thing to consider. Palm-based PDAs are supported much better on the Mac. There is software available for the Mac to work with the Pocket PC, but it is still not as well supported or easy to use as the Palm.

Accessories You Might Need

One of the most important accessories you will need is a protective case. Most models include some kind of screen cover or case, but there are many other options available. You can get hard cases that will protect your PDA in rough environments or leather cases that will double as wallets. There are also different sizes available, depending on what other items you might want to carry along with it. Some cases are designed for a specific model so they add as little bulk as possible while other are more generic.

You can get extra cables or cradles for connecting your PDA to your computer. If you have a computer at work and one at home, for example, this will save you from having to carry a cable or cradle back and forth. You can also get extra power cords or a cable to connect directly to your computer to recharge your batteries.

Because you are writing directly on the screen with most PDAs, screen protectors are important. They will help protect the screen against scratches and other marks. If they get marked up, you just replace them.

You can also get an extra stylus, which is the plastic tipped “pen” that you use to write on the screen. If you lose your stylus, it becomes difficult to use your PDA, so it’s a good idea to always have an extra one on hand.

There are other accessories such as wireless cards or modems that will let you connect to the internet or to your corporate network. These vary depending on the model, so if this is something you are looking for, make sure you choose a model that will be compatible with the system you need to use.

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