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By Chris De Herrera 
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Pocket PCs - Not Quite There
By Philip Bennett , Copyright 2000
 Version 1.00  Revised 5/7/2000

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Background

Being a Palm user, I've had my curiosity piqued with the new machines. I test-played with a Casio 115 and HP 545 at Circuit City. I was a little impressed. So, I managed to procure a 545 for extended use (and possible purchase).

What I liked about the HP 545

Compared to the Casio 115, the screen seems more flexible. I agree the Casio screen is brighter and more clear (more on this later) but take it outside on even a cloudy day and the screen disappears. I guess I use my PDA outside about 15-20% of the time but, damn it, I do need to read the thing without heading for a bomb shelter or darkroom (I can read my Palm IIIc in my car with some degree of strain).  To me, the HP screen was much more readable in the car and seemed to be bright enough inside.

Unlike some of my Palm brothers and sisters, I like the complexity of the new (redone??) OS on the HP. As others have pointed out, the ability to have multiple phone numbers and categories is a big help to me. The notepad is much bigger and, as a former Newton user, I really like the option of Transcriber. Not having a close button on apps is not the greatest IMHO but then neither does the Palm.

The ability to play MP3's was one of the features that caught my attention. I really like music and listening while making notes or checking a calendar entries is great and I enjoyed doing it on the HP.

Being able to use Pocket Word and Excel to produce complex documents and then email them to my office is great. I'm a Mac user and I could email my Pocket Word files to myself and then open them with Word 98. It doesn't
happen a lot but it is nice when you need it.

Having a CF slot was really great. I can use my digital camera, put in a modem, or other accessories that use this type of media.

What I really don't like about the HP 545

I loaded the Sierra Image viewer to carry family pictures and other pictures with me. I can do this on my 256 color IIIc and was looking forward to having 65,000 colors on a larger screen. I noticed that even the Solitaire game had a grain background with lines. So I loaded the viewer and looked at pictures from there. Yuck. I have read some complaints about the CSTN screen chosen by HP. Viewing any kind of graphics leaves a lot to be desired. This
is 65K colors? Surely it can be better than this. I know that Casio looks much better--unless you go outside.

The speed could be better. Maybe the 548 works better but, to me, the HP is slower than my IIIc. The Casio is faster but uses a slightly slower processor. The new OS is a lot cleaner and easier to operate but it still needs some extra clicks to do things other reviewers have discussed.

Conclusion

I won't be buying an HP 545 or a Casio for reasons outlined about. I don't want to step back, I want a step up from my IIIc. Word is that the iPAQ Pocket PC with its faster processor (and hopefully better screen, indoors and out). I wish it would do 65K colors but other item are worth more to me. I'm keeping my options open, but, so far, I can't justify a change to a Pocket PC. Maybe the future will provide better machines. I really liked the HP design, size, etc. but it just isn't there yet. Neither, for me, is the Casio. In the mean while, I'll wait...somewhat impatiently...with my Palm.

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