By Yardena Arar
Any personal digital assistant can store your address book and calendar. But new high-end models from Sony and Compaq target well-heeled buyers searching for more than the basics.
At just about 0.4 inches thick and 4.3 ounces, Sony's Palm-based Clié PEG-T415 is today's leanest PDA, undercutting even Handspring's skinny Visor Edge. Yet Sony managed to squeeze in a Memory Stick slot on top, so you can add storage (above the included 8MB of RAM) or even a camera module, without adding bulk. The detachable cloth cover shields a sleek silver (or black) case and a monochrome screen--but, as with the color Cliés, the LCD's resolution is twice that of other Palms, making the display more readable. Other older-Clié holdovers: a USB HotSync cradle and a Jog Dial for navigating sans stylus. Unlike previous Cliés, the $300 T415 can be synced on a Windows XP PC.
The T415 ships with several Sony apps, including one that lets you use the device as a universal remote. You can't program it, however, so you can use it only with a limited number of consumer electronics devices. I got my shipping unit to control my Panasonic VCR, but not, surprisingly, my Sony CD changer. With a Paint application similar to the one in Windows, you can create and manipulate images (not much fun on the mono screen); with another bundled utility you can set up Memory Stick-based apps to run automatically when the stick is inserted into its slot. You also get DataViz's software for working with Microsoft Word and Excel documents.
Compaq, meanwhile, sets its sights squarely on the corporate market with its new PDA. The $599 IPaq H3850 retains the general look and feel of its popular predecessors while delivering Microsoft's new Pocket PC 2002 OS; it also has a built-in Secure Digital disk slot on top. The unit's gorgeous 65,536-color screen gets protection from a slide-on plastic cover that can be flipped to either side--and removed completely if you want to substitute other expansion modules, such as a wireless modem. These modules fatten the 5.7-ounce base unit, but I had to attach one while syncing--otherwise my shipping unit wouldn't fit properly in its cradle.
Compaq augments Microsoft's software bundle (which includes Office, a media player, and an e-book reader) with an array of primarily corporate applications, such as a program for accessing data from a server. You also get a Pocket PC version of IBM ViaVoice that allows you to issue voice commands to the device, but I found it more trouble than it was worth.
Neither unit comes cheap. But for corporate high-flyers, Compaq delivers the most connectivity options in a handsome package, while the Clié PEG-T415 offers those willing to splurge on a monochrome PDA a lot of Sony's much-touted style.
From the March 2002 issue of PC World magazine