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Casio BE-300 Overview
By Chris De Herrera, Copyright 2001

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Developers:  Attend Casio's Pocket Manager Developer's Conference to learn more about porting your applications to run on the BE-300!

Windows CE PDA

Today, Casio announced their latest Windows CE based PDA called the Casio BE-300.  Casio categorizes it as a Pocket Manager, not a Pocket PC.  You'll see that it offers many of the features that the Pocket PC and Palm-size PC do.  Let's get this straight up front - it's not a Pocket PC or a Palm-size PC but it does use Windows CE 3.0 as it's core OS.

Features

Basically the BE-300 is about the same size as the iPAQ or the Jornada.  It has a 32k color screen that's a little smaller and it's a STN (not Active Matrix) display so it's good for color but not great for high speed games or videos.  The display looks good and does not have the "plaid" effect that the Jornada 500 series does.  One thing you will notice is that it has a "finger joystick" and 4 app launch buttons as well as 7 silk screened launch buttons on the display.  These features make it easy to switch apps.  You'll notice that there is no up/down rocker on the side like the other Casios have had in the past.

Specs

The BE-300 uses the NEC Mips Vr4131 CPU at 166 mhz which has dual instruction pipelines which execute 2 instructions at the same time!  It's also got 16 Mb of flash storage right on the device as well as 16 MB of RAM for program execution.  One thing you will notice is that only the MP3 player can run in the background.  All the rest of the applications run single tasking.  I expect that there is no skipping in the MP3 player due to this design change.

Expansion

The BE-300 has a built in CompactFlash Type II slot for flash cards and peripherals.   There is a $149 PC Card adapter option as well with it's own battery (however you have to separately charge it).  You can use CompactFlash flash storage cards to store programs and data as well as use the slot for 56k modems, Ethernet and 802.11b cards as well.  I was pleased to see that the PC Card adapter is a jacket similar to what the iPAQ has except it slips into the CompactFlash slot.  This adapter also fits into the cradle for desktop sync.

Connectivity

The BE-300 offers the standard Casio connector on the bottom so your standard serial cable, USB cable and 56k serial modem will work fine.  Also, you can use Ethernet or 56k CompactFlash cards or with the PC Card adapter, 802.11b or other wireless options.  One feature you will not find is a Infrared port like the Pocket PC has.

Applications

The BE-300 has built in applications for calendar, contacts, tasks, Web browser, e-mail, notes, MP3 player as well as a calculator.  You can change your system settings as well.  One of the cool features it offers is the ability to add or remove applications from the flash ram.  So this way you don't have to worry about running your battery dry - all the applications and data are stored in flash, unlike the existing Pocket PCs.  It does run some of the existing Palm-size PC applications so you'll want to check with Casio about specific apps.

Conclusion

Overall, I was impressed with the BE-300's capabilities. At the $299 price point for 16 Mb of flash and a color screen it's the cheapest color device I've seen. You can learn more about the BE-300 at Casio's website.

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