A Common Sense Approach to Buying A Mobile Computer

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By: AWright of BargainPDA.com

Over the course of writing articles and reading through the forums here, I often wonder what it is that keeps so many people asking for help in finding a PDA that will best fit their lifestyle. I can attest, it was a lot harder even two years ago with companies such as Sony (who put out different models every three months or so) and HP who would flood the market with so many devices and different configurations.

One would almost think they were purchasing a new, full-sized computer. But then, there is always a range of questions that ask for help in that search. There really are many things to consider. And even with multiple budgets to think about, the different fields in which the PDA would be used, and even the different accessories that would be bought with it; a mobile computer has proved to be a tough item to purchase for many.

In some ways, that is why I like what Palm and Dell have done with their mobile computer lineups. They have extremely simple model lineups; and depending on how much it is that you want to spend, there is a level of complexity/convenience that comes with that purchase. But even with things ironed out that well in the retail area, how does one really choose a mobile computer that would best fit his/her needs (and at the same time provide a great overall value no matter how much is/is not spent)?

Therefore I say, think of this as your common sense buyer’s guide. Not so much because you don’t know what it is that you are looking for; but because you do. Don’t let us make the decision for you on which device specifically however, that is up to you. Looking at these notes and noodles, you can get a better idea of what mobile computer will work best for you; and end up as a very satisfied purchaser.

Rule #1: Know how much you want to spend.

This is possibly the easiest one to have in mind, but for many people, after looking at features, it’s the first one that is set aside for something “just a little bit more expensive.” As a general rule, look at your budget for what you want to spend, and then give an over/under of 10%. The reason over/under helps you if you find there is a similar model that better meets your needs, but costs more, or if you find a lower price, leaving room for purchasing accessories.

The other part of cost has to do with what it is you want to purchase along with your device. Maybe you are a person who needs to purchase a case or keyboard, or you are purchasing a PDA phone/smartphone device and need to look at monthly data costs. Or maybe you are purchasing a mobile computer and know that there is plenty of software to download and try. Setting aside some funds for those items when you are in the budgeting process of looking for a mobile computer is a great way to get started with be a satisfied owner.

Rule #2: Know what you want to accomplish.

This one is a bit harder than you think. Many people who are looking at PDAs really just want a media player or a mini-laptop. It’s a good idea to know the different forms of mobile devices, and from there make your decision. Here is a brief on some of the major device types and what to look for in each.

PDAs — essentially, mobile data organizers. Many of the higher end models combine cellular, bluetooth, or wifi wireless connections. These devices are good for data organization and email management.

Media Players — commonly thought of as just MP3 players, these entertainment devices allow for audio and/or video play. In this class of device, there may be some functionality to handle address books and calendars, but that support is minimal.

Video Game Players — video game players are a different type of media player. They allow for some interaction via audio and video files, and even some degree of personal information management (PIM). But what sets these devices apart is their ability to play files contained on discs and cartridges. This aspect gives video game players a more individual nature in it interaction.

Laptops and Tablet PCs — many times, in looking for something that we want tot be more productive with, we overlook the class of laptops called mini-laptops, and also Tablet PCs. Mini-notebooks look and are in many ways as powerful as a full-sized notebook. Commonly the size will be smaller, and items such as DVD drives would be external and hook into a dock. Tablet PCs are essentially notebooks, with the added interface of pen navigation and recognition. Very similar to PDAs in function; Tablet PCs can serve as really good note takers and diagram devices. Both Tablet PCs and mini-notebooks can be more portable than PDAs if the need is to take a complete office on the go.

Rule #3: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and try to touch the devices.

There are two things that I like to tell people that see my Treo 650 and then decide that they want one too: guess how much my bill is per month, and play with the keyboard. For many people, the monthly data charge is something they did not think about. But for many PDAs, Internet content can be downloaded freely for use. The other huge consideration is the way the device feels in the hand. I can remember first seeing a Treo 600 and thinking that it was too large to be functional and therefore was not a device I wanted. When I got my hands on one, I quickly changed my mind. It fit into my hand just right and that became a big motivator in moving to the 650 this past December. Getting questions asked, as well as some face time with the device, will allow you to get to understand from an emotional and functional level what it is in a device you’re looking for.

The other part of that is to not take the first experience of a device that’s in a office store as the final one. In many cases the units on display have been very much abused. Many times, you will have to go to multiple places to get an authentic feel. Also, don’t just base what you like on what your technically-enabled relative or friend might have. Their needs and usages will be different than yours. And while you can pull some things about general usability, it’s best to have as clean a slate as possible.

So that’s all for now. At this time of year, there are almost no new products being released, and so you have the opportunity to catch a great deal. Keep your eyes open and remember these simple rules, they will make searching for, and owning a mobile device a lot of fun and functional.



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