Tech Tips: Which PDA is right for me? (Part 1)

October 8, 2008

With so many PDAs in the market currently, exactly how do you find the right one for yourself? We hope to have the solutions for your questions.

In this article, we will cover key components/features of today’s PDA and hopefully after going through, you will be able to understand better and decide on what is a necessity and what is nice-to-have.

PDA has come a long way. Not too long ago, PDA was essentially called “Palm” by many. This was not surprising as Palm “was” the dominant player in the market. Back then, Palm PDA has built in of only 8MB (with no memory slot) and does not even come with color screen! Consumer has to organize mass gathering to upgrade their 8GB to 16GB and this usually also void their warranty.

Fast forward to today, how we are spoilt for choices and the PDA market changed significantly. We now have PDA with all kind of features one could ever dream of. Some PDA have built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, 3.5G, 5 MP camera, Bio-metric finger print scanner, 600++ Mhz and built in 16GB of memory! Recent range of PDA comes with accelerometer and WVGA.

In the world of tech, just how do you choose one which is suitable? Below are some questions which you should ask yourself first.

Which Operating System (OS) should I choose?

There are 6 major OS dominating the smartphone/PDA market; Windows Mobile, Palm, Symbian, Blackberry, Apple and the new Android by Google. Each has its own strength and weakness and to say which is a better than another would be akin to comparing Mercedes Benz with BMW.

Since Apple, Android, Palm and Blackberry are very hardware specific, we shall not include in this tech tip. E.g., If you like the Apple iPhone, there is no other choice/alternative to it.

In Malaysia, the most popular OS for PDA (not smartphone) is Windows Mobile. For easy discussion sake, we shall just concentrate on the Windows Mobile 6.1.

Tech Tips: Windows Mobile and Palm has one of the most number of third-party software you can purchase from the Internet.

What are the different features/built-in?

Not all PDA are built equal to cater to different market. Hence, it is important for you to think carefully if you really need a particular feature before paying money for it. E.g., if you already have a GPS navigator in your vehicle, why pay extra to get one with built-in? Below are some of the key features found in today’s PDA.


This is essentially the speed of the data transfer rate between the network. Below shows a simple overview of all the different connection name with their speed.

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) – Max Speed of 80 kbits/second

EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM) – Max Speed of 236.8 kbit/second

UMTS aka 3G (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) – Max Speed of 384kbits/second

HPSDA aka 3.5G (High-Speed Download Packet Access) – Max 14.4Mbp/second

For those who access the Internet often, this is a very important point to consider. Although not all telco are currently ready to provide HSDPA and even if they do, usually are in limited locations only. Nevertheless, if possible, always choose 3.5G and above as your PDA can also act as a wireless modem for your laptop.

Tips: Always check with your local telco for a unlimited data package. Failure to do this might unknowingly cause you hundreds to thousand of ringgit on data charges alone. At the time of writing, Maxis offers RM99 (3.5G), U Mobile (3.5G) capped it at RM176 and Digi (EDGE) offers RM66 for unlimited data transfer.

Some of the PDA currently that supports HSDPA are the HTC Touch 3G, HTC Touch HD, HTC Touch Diamond, HTC Touch Pro, HTC Tytn II, HTC Touch Cruise, Samsung Omnia, Samsung i780

Global Positioning System (G.P.S)

GPS is relatively new in Malaysia. When GPS devices first started selling in our retail outlets some 4 to 5 years ago, we had a hard time educating the general consumers. Most of the people confused GPS with GPRS and hence the question we always get is “How much is the monthly access fee?”.

The built-in GPS in PDA is essentially a receiver which receives signal from multiple satellite orbiting the earth at a certain location. The receiver is able to calculate the exact distance based on the fixed interval of the signal and the location of the satellite info in the signal. With this information, the receiver will be able to triangulate and get the precise coordinates from a minimum of 3 satellites. Of course, the more satellite it detects, the more accurate the location.

number of satellite a receiver can “see” at any point in time

Coordinate is pretty much useless to ordinary folks. What you need then is a map software so tell you what road are you on, where you will be able to travel, how long is the distance, the estimated time of arrival. There are several mapping company in Malaysia you can get your maps from. One very useful website you start reading is Malsingmaps.com

Tips: Some of the maps comes bundled free when you purchase the PDA. If not, you can always purchase it online. There are NO monthly charges, just yearly charges for the updates of maps if you want to keep your map updated.

Some of the PDA currently that comes with built-in GPS function are HTC Touch 3G, HTC Touch HD, HTC Touch DiamondHTC Touch ProHTC Tytn IIHTC Touch Cruise, HTC P3300, Asus P320Samsung OmniaSamsung i780

Weight, Size and Form-Factor

PDA nowadays comes with all kind of shape and sizes. Lets briefly go through some of the more common ones.

Type 1 – Candy Bar

Type 2 – Candy bar with Sliding Keypad (Up)

Type 3 – Candy Bar with Keypad

Type 4 – Candy Bar with Full Keyboard

Type 5 – Candy Bar with Keypad and Slide out Keyboard

Type 6 – With Slide Out Keyboard

Type 7 – With Slide out Keyboard (Curved)

Type 8 – With Slide Out Tilting Keyboard

Type 9 – Clamshell with Keypad

Type 10 – Clamshell with Keyboard

Type 11 – Clamshell Keyboard with Rotating Screen

Type 12 – Detachable Keyboard

Type 13 – Dual Hinge with Keyboard

Tech Tips: Always try to go for a PDA with built-in keyboard as this makes input much easier. Also, one-handed operation is much more feasible on a PDA with keypad. PDA with keyboard normally do not look as nice as those without but sometimes a little compromise is good for the long run.

[To be continued]

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One comment

  1. i think you must choose OS of PDA you need. if you need open source, you can choose Windows Mobile which is open with so many third party. you can choose candybar with keyboard qwerty, coz it easy to use.

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