Two new devices, Toshiba America Inc.s Pocket PC e570 and Casio Computer Co. Ltd.s Cassiopeia BE-300, are based on Microsoft Corp.s Windows CE 3.0 operating system and priced to hit the high and low ends of the handheld market, respectively.
In tests, eWEEK Labs found that (surprise, surprise) you get what you pay for. The $569 e570 offers users as wide a range of software and peripheral options as any device on the market today, while the $299 BE-300 offers a modest feature set and an excellent color display at an entry-level price.
The e570 is Toshibas inaugural entrant in the handheld device space. However, the unit, packed with 64MB of RAM and offering Type 2 CompactFlash and Secure Digital peripheral expansion slots, performs like a seasoned player.
The e570, which began shipping last month, is built around the Pocket PC 2002 edition of Microsofts handheld operating system and includes the same suite of pocket-size productivity, communications and multimedia applications as Hewlett-Packard Co.s Jornada 560-series devices. (For eWEEK Labs Sept. 10 review of the Jornada 560, go to www.eweek.com/article/0,3658,s%253D701%2526a%253D14777,00.asp.)
Casio has taken a different tack with the Cassiopeia BE-300, which also shipped last month. The BE-300 runs Windows CE 3.0 but features a Casio-developed interface and application set. (Casio is set to release a Pocket PC 2002-based device later this month). Casios home-grown interface and application set give it greater flexibility in selecting components for its devices, enabling the company to keep the BE-300s price well in the Palm OS-based PDA (personal digital assistant) range.
However, this also means that in most cases, software developed for Pocket PCs will have to be tweaked and recompiled to run on the BE-300. Casio officials assured us that this is a simple process that most handheld developers are likely to undertake, but unless the BE-300 takes the world by storm, were not holding our breath.
Out of the box, the BE-300 has plenty of applications to fulfill most basic PDA needs, and the BE-300s color display is an excellent value for the price. However, users looking for a low-cost PDA with wider software flexibility might be better off opting for a Handspring Inc. Visor.