Same OS, Nothing Else
Same OS, Nothing Else
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.
Power in Hand
Power in Hand
The BE-300 is powered by a 64-bit, 166MHz NEC Electronics Inc. MIPS processor, which, according to Casio officials, is faster than the 206MHz StrongARM that powers the e570 and its Pocket PC brethren. At 16MB of RAM, the BE-300 is something of a lightweight, memorywise, but this is in keeping with the low cost of the device.
Both devices store their operating system and key applications in flash ROM32MB for the e570 and 16MB for the BE-300. We were disappointed that the e570 has no utility for saving files to flash ROM, where data is safe from a power loss or hard reset. The BE-300 has such a facility, as does the Jornada 560.
The e570 has the standard slate of Pocket PC applicationsshrunken versions of Word, Excel, Outlook, Media Player, Messenger and File Explorer, as well as an e-book reader and a Terminal Services client. The BE-300 comes with calendar, contacts, tasks and notes programs, along with a mail application and a Web browser.
We found these applications, although Spartan, did the job and synchronized well with our desktop data.
The BE-300 lacks the Word and Excel file-editing capabilities of the e570 but ships with Inso Corp.s Quick View Plus, with which we could view Word and Excel files, as well as various image formats. This came in handy because the Photo Viewer application that ships with the BE-300 could not display images that were better than 640-by-480-pixel resolutionrather low for todays digital cameras.
The e570 features a front-lit, reflective thin-film-transistor display that measures 3.5 inches diagonally and is very readable outdoors. However, wed like to see the e570 include a brightness control that responds to ambient light, as do Compaq Computer Corp.s iPaq 3600 and the Jornada 560 series.
The BE-300s display measures 3.2 inches diagonally and features standard backlighting, which makes for excellent indoor viewing but often-problematic use outdoors.
Both systems displays have a resolution of 320 by 240 pixels. The BE-300 has a stereo headphone jack and a serial port for synchronization. (A version of Pumatech Inc.s Intellisync software comes bundled with the device.)
To install additional applications on the BE-300, we had to use versions of the applications that came with a Casio installer program. As a result, we couldnt install drivers in the same way that we would for other Windows CE devices.
The e570 synchronizes using Microsoft Activesync 3.5 and includes Universal Serial Bus and Infrared Data Association ports, as well as a stereo headphone jack and an internal speaker.
Both units are powered by non- removable lithium-ion batteries that should last 6 to 8 hours between charges.
The machines have very similar footprints. The 5.6-ounce BE-300 is 4.76 inches long, 2.99 inches wide and 0.7 inches thick. The e570 is 4.9 inches long, 3 inches wide and 0.7 inches thick. It weighs 6.3 ounces.
Based on Windows CE 3.0 and a Casio-designed interface and application set, the Cassiopeia BE-300 trades some of Pocket PC 2002s flexibility to hit a low price point$299. Although the BE-300 sports a nice color display and is a solid performer for basic PDA tasks, it lacks the available application breadth of other Palm OS or Pocket PC operating system-based devices.
SHORT-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // Users accustomed to Pocket PC- or Palm-based devices will need time to learn the BE-300s new Casio-designed interface.
LONG-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // Unless the BE-300 is a huge hit among PDA buyers, lack of applications and drivers will likely place a pinch on users looking to expand their BE-300 devices.
PROS: Operating system and applications are saved in flash ROM, so users may save other data to flash as well; bright color display; low price.
CONS: Windows CE applications must be specifically recompiled for BE-300; display is difficult to read outdoors.
Casio Computer Co. Ltd., Dover, N.J.; (973) 252-7570; www.casio.com
Pocket PC e570
Pocket PC e570
Toshibas Pocket PC e570 marks a strong inaugural handheld outing for Toshiba. The e570 is the only Pocket PC weve seen that features CompactFlash Type 2 and Secure Digital expansion slots, and the device includes a generous 64MB of RAM.
SHORT-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // The e570 offers users access to a wide range of CompactFlash and Secure Digital peripherals, without requiring add-ons, as do the HP Jornada 560- and Compaq iPaq 3600-series devices.
LONG-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // With the operating system and core applications stored in flash ROM, the e570 is open to future software upgrades.
PROS: CompactFlash and Secure Digital slots; display readable outdoors; 64MB of RAM.
CONS: No light-sensitive brightness control; no application for saving user data to flash ROM.
Toshiba America Inc., Irvine, Calif.; (949) 583-3000; www.csd.toshiba.com/pda/pda_home.html