Consumer Reports: Best Basic PDA

At least 9 million people own a personal digital assistant, or PDA. Another two-and-a-half million people are expected to buy one this year. Consumer Reports has just tested nearly two dozen PDA/s to find the best one, whether you are buying your first one or you are looking to upgrade.

Mike Lingle does not go anywhere without his PDA. He uses it to store addresses, telephone numbers, and for work. I usually take notes during meetings and I come back and sync it back up and the notes end up in my computer.

Consumer Reports has just assessed twenty PDA/s, costing from $150 all the way up to $600. Testers looked at ones from Sony, Palm, Handspring and HP. About half of the PDA/s tested had black and white screens, the other half were color.

To test how easy the PDA/s are to read, Chris Bucsko put them in this box and evaluated the screens in different lighting conditions, from dime to bright light. You can see the color screens do better in dim light, but the black and whites do better in normal and bright light.

The PDA/s were also tested to see how quickly they used up batteries. This machine taps on the buttons to keep the PDA active. A light sensor monitors the backlight. Consumer Reports found some color PDAs that use up batteries six times as fast as black and white ones.

Another drawback, some PDAs has rechargeable batteries you cannot change yourself. On this unit, the battery is removable, so it is easily replaced. On this unit, the battery is sealed in, so it would have to be sent back to the manufacturer for servicing.

When all the tests were done, Consumer Reports found the Palm m125 was a very good basic organizer. It has excellent battery life and runs on standard AAA batteries. In addition, it synchronizes with both Macs and Windows. It is also one of the smaller PDA’s, which is handy, if, like Mike, you want to take it with you everywhere.

If you want a PDA for more than the basics, Consumer Reports says you may want to consider the JP Jornada 565. It has easy to use software and more multi-media capability. It costs about $600.00.

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