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

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RALEIGH — Wouldn't you love to have an assistant to keep track of all of your familyappointments and school events as well as memorize all the names andaddresses you need? More and more people are getting personal digitalassistants (PDA).

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

Testers checked out the Casio PV-400 PLUS and the Royal DaVinciDV3. Both cost about $100 and can handle basic tasks such as keepingtrack ofyour calendar and your addresses. However, testers found the Royal DaVinciparticularly hardto use.

"The calendar has tiny numbers, which are hard to read, and itrequires a lot of steps to enter a simple appointment," says tester ChrisBucsko.

Though the Casio was better, testers say it was not easy tofigure out.Consumer Reportssays a better choice for a basicpersonalassistant 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 dataon a comfortable keyboard and transfer it right into your Palm.

Among pocket PCs,Consumer Reportsfound the Compaq iPAQH3-630 andH3-650 are also quite good, although the batteries do not last as long asthe 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, whichmeans you cannot use regular writing.

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

"You just write in your normal handwriting, and it will recognize thecharacters 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 colorscreens only run 4 to 8 hours, while black and white displays can go formore than 24 hours.

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

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


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