Top Links

Shop @ Total PDA.
Windows Mobile
Palm OS
Symbian OS
Online guide
Travel news

Receive the latest updates direct to your inbox

FileSaveAs News Feed Follow FileSaveAs on Twitter FileSaveAs Tech Podcast
FrequencyCast UK Tech Podcast

Choosing a handheld PDA

New to the world of handheld PDAs? This page offers some advice on what to look for if you're looking to buy a handheld computer

Total PDA

There are many sites dedicated to helping people identify the best handheld device for their needs. Rather than trying to clone information you'll find on other PDA sites, this page will give a brief overview of the options to consider, and provide you with some useful links. As always, we welcome suggestions for additions to this page.

If you're looking to get online with a PDA, see our dedicated online buyers guide

Chances are, you've reached this page as you're looking for some general information about finding the right PDA. With so many makes and models on the market, we can't hope to find exactly what you're after, but we can offer some general advice and guidance.

Firstly, you have to work out if you're simply after a diary, organiser, word-processor type of device, something that's a combined phone and organiser, or you're looking for something with advanced features for connection to the Internet or an office network. If it's the last one of these options, hop over to our online PDA section first...


Traditional handheld PDA

Assuming you're not looking at a cheap-and-cheerful £30 unbranded PDA from the local market, you'll probably be looking at either a Windows Mobile, or a Palm OS device. See below:

Dell X51 Axim
Windows Mobile - Including machines from HP, Toshiba, Dell and Fujitsu-Siemens, these colour devices offer excellent functionality, and because they're powered by Microsoft software, they tend to synchronise well with PC software like Word, Excel and Outlook
Palm Tungsten E
Palm OS - From Palm themselves, Sony or PalmOne (formerly Handspring). Colour and monochrome machines are available - generally a little cheaper than Pocket PC machines, with a good selection of features

Psion 5mx

Psion handhelds - Sadly no longer in production, but Psion is the name most commonly associated with quality PDAs, at least in the UK. Machines came with keyboards, no colour displays, but offered a good range of features, and are easy to use. As they're discontinued, there's a good market for second-hand machines

Looking for a PDA? We recommend

The Smartphone

More and more handheld machines fall into this category - a PDA with a phone built-in, as well as extras like digital cameras and FM radios. These are more for the power user who wants to be able to connect to the 'Net, but can be a neat way of having everything together in one box.

Qtek S200
o2 XDA Orbit
Features: GPS Sat Nav, Web & Email
Connect: Wi-fi, USB, Bluetooth
Free on contract
From: O2 online
SonyEricsson P910i
Features: Web & Email
Free on contract
Nokia 6680
Nokia 6680
Features: Web & Email
Free on contract
Carphone Warehouse
Palm Treo 680
Palm Treo 680
Features: Web & Email
Available without contract
Palm Store

Things to consider

Keyboard or no keyboard? A Pocket PC keyboardHow are you going to use your PDA? If you're planning to keep most of your information on your PC, and use a PDA to keep it handy, then you probably be fine with a device that doesn't have a dedicated keyboard - instead, go for a tablet device with a big screen area - text input is done using a pop-up onscreen keyboard, or using character or handwriting recognition.
Email and Internet If you need to be connected in the field, it may be that a Smartphone is the thing for you. Have a look at our online buyers page for more on choosing a machine that can get you online.
Word processing?

Lots and lots of words to write? There's no substitute for a keyboard for fast data entry. Also note that although most PDA allow you to write letters and documents, the word processor isn't nearly as powerful as a desktop word processor, and if you're looking for tables, mail-merge, embedded graphs and clip-art - you may well be out of luck.

It's also worth noting that while the Pocket PC comes preloaded with Pocket Word as standard, in many cases the Palm devices only come pre-loaded with a basic Note Pad application, not really suited for document creation. Depending on the model you select, a Wordprocessor may be supplied on the CD with the Palm device, otherwise a third-party application can be purchased.

Contacts and Calendar One of the more common reasons for people to buy an electronic organiser, is to keep their diary and address book with them. If you happen to use Microsoft Outlook at home or work for your day-to-day diary, take our advice and consider a Pocket PC - We've used Psion and Palm devices, and for keeping your information in sync between handheld and desktop machines, a Pocket PC is very hard to beat - in fact it's such a close replica of your desktop Calendar, Contacts and Inbox, that you'll feel right at home.
Connectivity One of the joys of having a PDA or Smartphone is that it should be fairly easy to connect to your PC and transfer information. Just about all smartphones can be connected to a PC, but if you're planning to be more adventurous, consider making sure that your device supports Wi-fi (for connection to your home or work Broadband), or Bluetooth (for connection to mobile phones and PCs).
Memory requirements

Always a tough one, and it depends what you plan to keep on your machine. Power users will tend to be looking at either 32Meg or 64Meg - but that's because they'll be wanting to carry electronic books, video clips, mapping software and a stack of games with them. For a basic address book and diary with nothing else, a machine with 8Meg is more than adequate.

On a PDA, one Megabyte (MB) equals about 500 names and addresses, or a small-to-medium size paperback novel. It's always best to get more than you need - and getting that bit extra means you'll have space to download a couple of games or other applications to keep your idle hands busy.

Windows Mobile (Pocket PC) operating system:

Below is a small selection of screenshots from Windows Mobile handheld machines, demonstrating email, spreadsheet, video playing, web browsing and document writing. For more on Pocket PCs, see our Windows Mobile page.

Today view
Internet Explorer
Email on the move
Media player video

Palm operating system

Below is a small selection of screenshots from a Palm Tungsten E, demonstrating email, contacts, diary, expenses and document writing. For more on Palms and Palm OS, see our Palm page.

Main Menu
Calendar Today view

Symbian operating system

If a smartphone would most suit your needs, see our Symbian page for examples of the current range of smartphone devices. Below are a couple of screenshots from various Symbian phones:

Nokia 6600 menu
Nokia 7650 MMS
P800 Web browser
Nokia 3650 Email


Bookmark this page:

delicious digg stumble technorati facebook