Local News

More People Are Using Personal Digital Assistants To Keep Lives In Order

Posted May 10, 2001 3:57 a.m. EDT

— Wouldn't you love to have an assistant to keep track of all of your family appointments and school events as well as memorize all the names and addresses you need? More and more people are getting personal digital assistants (PDA).

You can pay plenty for a top-of-the line PDA. Some cost more than $500. Others are much less, mostly because they have fewer features.Consumer Reportsjust compared some of the different models.

Testers checked out the Casio PV-400 PLUS and the Royal DaVinci DV3. Both cost about $100 and can handle basic tasks such as keeping track of your calendar and your addresses. However, testers found the Royal DaVinci particularly hard to use.

"The calendar has tiny numbers, which are hard to read, and it requires a lot of steps to enter a simple appointment," says tester Chris Bucsko.

Though the Casio was better, testers say it was not easy to figure out.Consumer Reportssays a better choice for a basic personal assistant is the $150 Palm m100.

Like any personal digital assistant, it can be synchronized with your computer, so you can enter addresses, phone numbers and other data on a comfortable keyboard and transfer it right into your Palm.

Among pocket PCs,Consumer Reportsfound the Compaq iPAQ H3-630 and H3-650 are also quite good, although the batteries do not last as long as the Casio. They are identical and cost about $500.

The ability to write on PDAs varies from model to model. Those from Palm, Handspring and Sony use Palm's operating system, which means you cannot use regular writing.

Organizers from Casio, HP, Compaq and others use a form of Microsoft Windows and are called pocket PCs. They are more like tiny computers and can recognize regular writing.

"You just write in your normal handwriting, and it will recognize the characters and convert them to text," Bucsko says.

Consumer Reportsused a device to see how long the batteries last. It tapped each screen to keep it active. The tests found color screens only run 4 to 8 hours, while black and white displays can go for more than 24 hours.

Consumer Reportssays among pocket PCs, one of the easiest to use is Casio's Cassiopeia EM-500, which sells for $480.

A Palm-based organizer will cost you less.Consumer Reportsfound that the black and white Sony Clie PEG S-300 has a crisp display. The Palm m100 weighs eight ounces and fits easily in a shirt pocket or purse, and unlike some other PDAs, testers found its display is easy to read in bright sunlight.