Pda Buyers Guide: The Basics For Choosing A Pda

Basic tips for purchasing a PDA, and questions to ask yourself to help make an informed decision

Buying a PDA or personal data assistant, can be a confusing task with the myriad options available in today's PDA market. By following a few basic steps, you can make a purchase that will be a useable asset to your electronics assortment.


Knowing what you will mainly be using the PDA for is your first step towards an informed purchase. Take into consideration what you could 'possibly' use it for also. For example, if you are considering a separate purchase of an Mp3 player, look at the pros and cons of purchasing a PDA that plays Mp3's compared to the pros and cons of purchasing two separate units.


Types of batteries can vary from brand to brand, even model to model. Is the battery removable, so that you can have a spare charged and ready to swap? What is the average use time from a full charge? Does the AC adapter come with the unit or is it a separate purchase?


Overall, prices on handhelds have dropped dramatically in the past few years. You can find prices ranging from under the hundred-dollar mark, upwards. Set a limit, but be realistic. Features such as built in cameras, phones, and GPS, will quickly bring up the price. As they move more and more into the mainstream markets though, with parents even buying them for their early elementary students, prices have become more affordable. As with anything electronic, shop around, if you know what features you want, including online, and you will be able to find one in a price range that will not put you in the poorhouse. I purchased a lower end Tungsten for my son for just over one hundred dollars. It doubles as an MP3 player, stores photos, plays games, and even helps with his homework, albeit after I added an encyclopedia on a memory card.


This can greatly affect the price from model to model. If you have two units that look nearly identical, and both roughly the same price, except for example, one has a camera feature built in, you need to double check the built in memory space, and if included, the memory card size. One unit may have plenty of both, but to keep the price looking affordable for the one with the camera, you may have only the most minimal storage card included. You will need to purchase separately, an extra storage card to make the camera feature useable beyond snapping a half a dozen photos.


There are two main types of PDA's. Those that run on the Palm OS, versus those that run on Window's Pocket PC. Both have distinct advantages over each other. Palm is much more user friendly for the initial user, and Windows Pocket PC is more compatible, out of the box, with your current desktop software if you are already a Window's user. Both will work well for the more advanced user, so it may become a decision based upon what software is available for each unit. This lends itself back to knowing what you intend on doing with the handheld. Software was once scarce beyond the included titles and those available as shareware and freeware. As the PDA has become more mainstream, the title list has grown quite expansively.

Feature reference guide:

Ask yourself some basic questions: What features are available? What features will you use? What do you want, including extras? What combinations are available in your price range, and what are some standard choices? Check the list below for quick reference.

Telephone capability

Color screen or Monochrome (Unbelievably, monochrome screens still exist in many of the lowest priced, basic PDA's)

Screen size and resolution

Processor speed

Internal memory

Card memory



Keyboard options



Voice recorder


PC or Mac compatible

Cradle or cord for synchronizing with desktop

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