Well, I did it. I bought a Dell Axim X50 PDA. It was pricy ($400), but I have been looking for a mobile device that can handle Wifi, address book,scheduling, notetaking and of course ebooks. This product has a lot of bells and whistles, and undoubtedly I will share in this weblog which of the bells and whistles I actually use.
Interestingly, about a year ago, I was exploring the question of whether to buy a PDA and whether to buy an integrated cellphone/PDA solution. I eventually went with just a cellphone, and in retrospect I think that was a wise move, although a year later I have a feeling that the integrated solutions are much better than before. But it’s just too tempting for Cingular/Sprint to “cripple” their integrated solution as an incentive for people to use their premium services.
I just bought a web server and am making the transition to a wireless home network, so that seemed the good time to go for a wireless PDA. I expect that in a year or two prices on PDA will all be in the sub-200$ range, and this PDA will seem like a luxury. But from talking to other users, I am hearing that PDA increases in value over time as you accumulate more personal data. When buying a “cutting edge gizmo” you need to factor in the extra time that a product can be used. For example, I was one of the first people to buy a CD writer, an expensive $350 SCSI thing (which I still have by the way). CD writers plummetted in price (to the point where they sell for under $40), but that’s not the point. For a year or two I had the ability to burn and archive all my email and documents easily, which makes the high price well worth it. Before the CD writer came along, I lived in perpetual fear of having a hard drive crash, and I was buying peace of mind.
The challenge is waiting for the moment when a cutting edge gizmo is just one rung below cutting edge, (that moment when the product offers great value). In fact, sometimes when you are too cutting edge, you end up having lots of “early adopter bugs” to deal with and a dearth of utilities and help pages to help you make full use of the product. One thing Dell does well is being “second best” at making products. Right now, HP’s PDA’s are technologically superior to almost all of Dell products, but Dell’s product (even its high end products) are 30-40% cheaper and comparable. The HP iPaq hx4705 is slightly ahead of the Axim X50V in almost every respect, but 200$ more expensive (which probably is too expensive for a PDA anyway).
When buying a PDA, you should check the reviews at bargainpda, which are great. (They even link to third party reviews). BargainPDA publishes Dell coupons for PDA’s, although the Dell coupons are tricky to redeem (as I found out). Also, bargainpda has a consumer forum with lots of helpful information. Some things I’ve learned: Anti-virus programs are a waste of money, a lot of good free software already exists for pda’s, SD memory cards are a little faster than CF memory, and a little cheaper, and how to run DivX vids on a PDA.