Business-like, isn't he?



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    Big things in small packages

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver October 28- November 3, 2002 issue #731 GearGuide column

    Latest round of PDAs, phones and cameras packs more features than ever

    The search for the perfect gadget that fits in a pocket continues. The newly resurgent Palm (now renamed PalmOne) offers three new ones, with a range of features at a range of price points.

    Pslm Tungsten T3Office in a pocket

    Last year, the company brought out its original Zire, featuring a new minimalist price ($149). It was a best-seller with over a million sold, but its minimal memory and features limited its expandability. This time around, Palm has replaced it with the Zire 21, keeping the low-end price and monochrome screen, but with a faster processor, new operating system version and four times the memory the new model offers far more functionality.

    Doubling the price to $299 gets you a Tungsten E, the lowest price member of Palm's business-focused lineup includes a bright, high-resolution colour screen, a speaker (to play MP3 music), expansion slot, 32 MB of memory (four times that of the Zire 21), an easy-to-use five-way navigator button and a sleek silver case reminiscent of the company's classic Palm V model. The bundled Dataviz Documents to Go software lets users read and write Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents.

    Double the price yet again, to $599 and you can get a Tungsten T3, the third generation Tungsten T. Like last year's original model, it features a space-saving pull-down case and built-in Bluetooth wireless. It adds a stunning 320x480 pixel screen that can be used for extra viewing space in either vertical ("portrait") or horizontal ("landscape") orientation. The bright colour screen, fast processor and 64 MB memory make it the best Palm ever for multimedia. You can use it for photo and video viewing, playing MP3 music, and running RealAudio. As with the Tungsten E, users can work with Microsoft Outlook and Office documents.

    Palm has also updated its accessory lineup, offering a range of stocking stuffers for PDA-users, from stylus to keyboard to a 1.3 megapixel camera on a card.

    Fido HiptopOffice in a phone

    Microcell/Fido's HipTop ($375 with service plan after rebates, made by Danger, Inc., who calls it the Sidekick) combines PDA-style contacts and calendar lists with a GSM/GPRS cell phone and e-mail, Web browsing, and AOL's Instant Messenger service. The monochrome screen swivels around to reveal a mini-keyboard, while a scroll wheel makes it easy to move between functions or around the screen. The result is a package that's surprisingly easy to use for something that fits in a shirt pocket. Unlike traditional PDAs, the HipTop doesn't synchronize with a PC or Mac. Instead, personal data is stored on distant servers, from which it can be accessed either with the HipTop or by any computer with a Web browser. An optional camera can be added, letting users take pictures and instantly send them as e-mail attachments.

    Compact camera

    Fuji FunePix 410If you want better picture quality and can forgo the instant gratification of combining a camera with a PDA, Fujifilm's $650 Finepix F410 also squeezes a lot into a pocket-sized package. While it's really a three megapixel camera, like other Fuji products, it can throw a punch beyond its weight, producing images as large as six megapixels. It includes three-times optical and 4.4-times digital zooms, and can also take video clips with sound, with length limited only by your storage card.

    The camera uses Fujifilm's new, postage-stamp-size xD memory cards, which, like those of its competitors, is only 16 MB. Be sure to budget for larger-capacity memory cards.

    As well, it can be used for video conferencing or as a webcam.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan