Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What PDA / Handheld should I buy for reading ebooks?

Well, like anything else, it depends on what you want. My primary purpose in buying a PDA was to read ebooks, so I wanted good screen resolution, good battery life, a memory card slot, and low price. If this is you, I'd suggest the Sony Clie SJ-20 or the Dell Axim x30 312 mhz and wifi.

Things to Consider:
  1. What operating system do you want? Palm OS or Windows Mobile. If you are going with Windows Mobile, I'd go with Windows Mobile 2003 SE or newer. If you are used to Windows on your laptop or desktop machine, Palm OS takes a little getting used to, but isn't too bad.
  2. Do you want to use your PDA for anything besides reading ebooks? I use mine to check my email and read ebooks. Some people want to play games or use it as an organizer. I used my clie to keep packing lists and shopping lists.
  3. Do you really need a color screen? Color screens drain the battery faster. If you are mostly reading, black and white is just fine.
  4. Do you want Wifi /802.11? Wifi / 802.11 allows your PDA or handheld to communicate wirelessly with email and the internet (assuming you have a wireless router). I use wifi to check my email around the house (no need to boot up the desktop) and to check my RSS feeds. Be aware many websites are not Pocket PC friendly. You can view them on a Pocket PC, but it isn't fun. Some PDAs advertise wireless, but they are actually talking about bluetooth (see below).
  5. Do you want Bluetooth? I have yet to see a need for bluetooth, but some people might want it to connect a wireless keyboard or their cell phone.
  6. What kind of ebooks do you want to read? If you want to read recent releases, check the specifications for the software you want to use and make sure it will run on the PDA you want to buy. The sj20 might be too old and not have enough memory, it depends. I mostly read books in the public domain, so I use Plucker on the Clie and Vade Meecum on the Axim mostly because they are free and open source. Plucker will convert webpages or text files into something the PDA can read. If you want to read the Scriptures, there are additional choices.

The Sony Clie SJ-20

  • My choice if you don't need wifi
  • Runs Palm OS
  • Has a black and white screen
  • Pros: great battery life (I recharged once a week), great screen resolution, plenty of free programs
  • Cons: must use graffiti to enter text, can only support the original Memory Stick and only supports up to 32M additional memory (don't quote me on that, check the manual), Screen is easily scratched
  • Many reviews note that the screen is easily cracked, but this seems to happen in the first 6 months or so. If you buy a used one older than that, it probably won't crack.
  • Cost: $60 - $100 used (on ebay)

Dell Axim x30 (312 mhz and Wifi)

  • My choice if you want Wifi
  • Runs Windows Mobile 2003 SE
  • Has a color screen
  • Check and double check the ebay add to make sure it has WiFi.
  • Pros: battery life (I recharge overnight, you can get away with less if you don't use WiFi much), good screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, MP3 Player,
  • Cons: stylus is lousy, battery life
  • Cost: $200 - $250 used on ebay.
  • Remember: the faster the processor, the faster it will eat your battery

Accessories you will need/want:
  1. Carrying case. It will protect your PDA if you drop it.
  2. Screen protector (I've scratched my screen several times on both PDAs before I wised up)
  3. Memory card (some PDAs have limits on how big a card they can accept, so check the manual) . The internal memory fills up fast. I have a 64 Meg card for my Axim which is enough for me to store about 20 pictures of my kids, my (limited) MP3 collection, and about 35 ebooks.
A Note on Prices and Ebay
As with anything, be careful when buying. Watch the eBay auctions for awhile so you can tell what price is fair. Read the auction carefully to make sure you are getting all the manuals, CDs, and wires you need. Also, the prices on used PDAs may appear to be the same as new. This is sometimes true. In that case, buy the new. In other cases, the used PDA is coming with a case, memory card, and screen protectors and is a better deal since you don't have to buy these items yourself.

Don't take my word for anything, research this out yourself :) I like and for researching. Good luck.

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