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Hand-Helds

Stuff to Keep Your Fingers Tapping

No matter what your price range, these stylish, well-priced personal digital assistants and accessories would make just about any fan of PDAs happy.

November 29, 2001|MARK A. KELLNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

There's plenty for a hand-held computer user to covet this holiday season.

Palm m125: Sleek and stylish, this $250 personal digital assistant boasts 8 megabytes of RAM plus a SecureDigital slot capable of holding 16-, 64-and 128-MB expansion cards on which data and programs can be stored. The battery-powered device offers the traditional Palm features such as calendar and address book, plus plenty of room for expansion.

But the top feature of the m125 is its appearance. It's stylish enough for a party yet sensible enough for office use. The device accepts a host of Palm accessories, including a folding keyboard, and it runs the thousands of applications available for the Palm operating system.

About the only drawback is the lack of built-in wireless communications. Palm, however, offers an option that would let users connect to the Internet via a cell phone or land line.

Casio BE-300: This $200 hand-held doesn't run the full Pocket PC suite from Microsoft but relies on the older Windows CE operating system. The unit offers a full-color screen, 16 MB of memory and applications that manage a calendar, to-do list and contact file, all of which synchronize with a desktop PC's Microsoft Outlook.

The device fits in a shirt pocket and has a rechargeable battery.

The BE-300 can't be beat on price, which could take quite a bite out of Palm's dominance. Although all the bells and whistles of the Pocket PC aren't here, Casio offers an optional plug-in digital camera and MP3 player software for the unit. The firm also has opened up the BE-300 to other software developers.

NEC MobilePro P-300: This $600 wonder offers 64 MB of storage (32 MB internal and 32 MB on an included memory card), a Universal Serial Bus connection for peripheral devices and special software for synchronization with corporate systems.

All of this comes at a price $50 less than similar models from Hewlett-Packard and Compaq, while offering the built-in slot that neither delivers.

Although the on-board speaker could sound better, the combination of price and performance makes the MobilePro P-300 a winner for those wanting to give a great Pocket PC 2002-based device for the holidays.

Electric Fuel power pack: The $25 Instant Power packs from Electric Fuel Inc. offer a fuel cell that attaches to hand-held computers and cell phones to keep them going after their internal batteries have conked out.

Exposure to oxygen activates the fuel cell, which can recharge the device as often as three times. All popular hand-helds are supported, including devices by Palm, Handspring, Casio, Compaq and HP. In the case of Handspring, the combination of the Instant Power cord and car adapter is the only way I know to run a Visor using an automobile's power system.

Replacement fuel cells cost $10 each.

Kensington PocketType portable keyboard: Kensington's PocketType, a clip-on keyboard for the Handspring Visor, is a $50 add-on that lets users type in data and messages instead of relying on the Graffiti handwriting system that's standard with the unit.

The scroll wheel on the side of the device lets users navigate programs and menus on the Visor more easily. Some users like these little thumb-boards more than others, but those who like the convenience of one-handed computing probably will rejoice at seeing this little item in their holiday stockings.

Mark A. Kellner is a freelance technology writer and hosts "Mark Kellner on Computers" at http://www.adrenalineradio.com from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursdays. He can be reached at mark@kellner2000.com.

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