Palmtop Handheld and PDA Product Guide

Palmtop Handheld and PDA

Magicians say the hand is quicker than the eye. Human hands have been behind the construction of civilizations, creation of art and the communication of language. Palmtops work with your hands to help keep your busy life organized. It's as easy to use as a paper memo pad yet far more practical. Using an easy-to-read, touch-sensitive screen, you can store thousands of contacts, create and maintain schedules and keep comprehensive lists of all the things you need to do. In addition, with optional software and accessories, you can send and receive E-Mail, connect with the Internet almost anywhere, read books, listen to music, play games, virtually anything you might imagine. You can also easily transfer information to your home computer, too. And it all fits in the palm of your hand.

Palmtop Overview

Palmtop computers are small devices that come in all types of models and perform various organizing and communicating functions. Palms, Handsprings, Pocket PCs, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), and Handhelds are all types of references to palmtop computers that you carry along with you basically anywhere. Palmtops are generally very thin and have a large LCD screen that may display in color or generic black on green. They have neat organizing tools like calendars, to-do lists, address books, email, and even Internet access. Most organizers have a graphic user interface with menus for selection, and have the ability to synchronize with information on your PC.

Palmtop Functions

From personal tools, to great communicating functions to cool pocket entertainment, the palmtop can perform wonders.

Personal Information

Most palmtops allow you to keep track of your schedule, maintain a to-do list, and save contact information. How much information your palmtop can hold depends on the amount of memory it comes with. Most palmtops can store hundreds of contacts, numbers, email addresses and many other types of information. Some even have the ability to read and store the handwriting that you enter onto an LCD screen with a special pen. Most palmtops also have a built-in calculator and some even have a clock with world time zones, which you can use for appointment alarms. Another great feature of palmtop computers is their ability to synchronize with your PC. Let's say you have an appointment calendar on your PC and you'd like to transfer that information to your Palm so that they are both accurate and up to date. With most palmtops, you can synchronize the information by a number of various methods and with software that usually comes with most palmtops.


Can you send/receive email, and access the Internet on a palmtop computer? Sure! Most palmtops don't come with standard modems, however you do have the option of purchasing a card modem for your handheld device. There are even some palmtops that come "wireless" but require a service, which you'll be billed for every month. There are also adapters and other devices that snap onto some palmtops for sending and receiving email like PocketMail. Accessing a corporate or small-business network with a handheld is now possible with certain accessories.


Some palmtop devices let you read books, listen to music, view photos and play games, and read maps, right on the device. Extra ports for a microphone or headphone may also be available with some units. Many palmtops also come in flashy new colors.


Palmtops are designed to be very easy to use with menus that allow you to jump from function to function in a snap. Millions of people all over the world from moms to financial professionals are now using palmtop computers as organizing and communicating tools. If you already have a paper organizer, and looking for an electronic solution to keeping all your information controlled, then you'd appreciate having a palmtop. If you were going away to college for the first time and fear not being able to organize your time well, buying a palmtop would be a great way to start. People on business trips and always on the go that have to often refer to information, will find palmtops helpful.

Types of Palmtops

Palmtops have come a long way from when they were first introduced to the world. New palmtops have more RAM, more room for storage, are slim and lightweight, and can perform a variety of multimedia functions. Most palmtops come with an average of 8MB of RAM and connect to computers using a USB interface. Memory capacity and functionality differ from brand to brand.


The manufacturer Palm created the very first palmtops called "Palm". No other handheld device can be called a Palm, although they may be referred to as palmtops. When Palms were first introduced, all of them were grayscale handheld organizers. Palm has many different versions of their electronic organizers out on the market today, including some color models. Most Palms come with anywhere between 2MB and 8MB of RAM and up to 8MB of internal memory. All Palms operate using an original Palm operating system. Some LCD screens come backlit, and most operate using a touch screen and stylus. There are some models that come sleek and ultra slim, and may include an infrared wireless port. Some Palms work with both Macs and PCs, while others are only PC compatible. Accessories like attachable full-size keyboards for data entry and Back Flip for email access are available for most Palms. Palms operate using regular alkaline batteries.

Pocket PC

Pocket PCs are a relatively recent advancement in the electronic organizer community. Casio, who currently manufactures them in a variety of colors, coined the term Pocket PC. All Pocket PCs operate using a limited version (formerly know as Windows CE) of Microsoft Word, Excel and Money. They come with 16MB of RAM and a 150MHz processor. Most models come with a slot that accepts Multimedia Cards with up to 64MB of storage. Pocket PCs only work with PCs via a USB interface, and run on a rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery. Cassiopeia is the top-of-the-line when it comes to Casio's Pocket PCs, including 32MB of storage and compatibility with Microsoft Outlook 2000.


Handspring palmtops operate similar to Palms. They use the Palm operating system, and have the ability to file share with other Palms. Handsprings have all the basic features of a Palm unit with some added functionality. Turn a handspring into a digital camera or Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver. They connect to both PCs and MACs using a USB interface, and come in various colors as well. Handsprings come with a grayscale LCD, and operate on 2 AAA batteries.

Others / Alternatives

There are a variety of other manufacturers of palmtop devices. Compaq makes the iPaq, which comes with 32MB of RAM, and a 206MHz processor. The iPaq comes with pocket versions (limited versions) of Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Explorer, Windows Media Player. IPaqs also come with an iPaq modem and have the ability to record voice. They connect with PCs only via a USB or Serial port. Sony recently introduced their electronic personal organizer called the Clie. Clies come with up to 8MB of RAM, a neat jog control wheel, and are memory-stick compatible. The Sony Clie works on the Palm operating system and uses touch-screen interface. They are compatible with Windows 98/2000/Me on the PC. Hewlett-Packard and Franklin also have their versions of palmtops.

Personal Organizers

If you don't need all the functions a palmtop has to offer, you can get a device that is less like a personal organizer. These are handheld devices that come with their own built-in mini keypad for data entry. They can also store addresses and phone numbers and other types of information just like a palmtop. Personal organizers are usually less expensive than palmtops and are made by Psion, Rolodex, Casio, Sharp, Seiko, Royal, and Xircom, among other manufacturers.

Windows CE

Windows CE is an operating system that has a similar look and feel to Windows 95. It includes scaled down pocket versions of Excel, Word, Internet Explorer and Schedule. E-Mail is supported in a smaller version of the InBox that is available in Windows 95. The term Windows CE is rarely being used now, and replaced with PocketPC. Most Palmtop units operate using the Palm operating system. Unlike Windows CE, the Palm operating system was designed specifically for the handheld units. Many personal organizers today use the Palm operating system.

Inputing Information

Since palmtops are usually used while on the go, entering information has to be quick and easy. Most palmtops come with an input device called a stylus, which is a small, thin, pen-like plastic device used on your palmtop's LCD screen. The stylus is used to perform various functions on a touch screen, as well as work as a pen when jotting down handnotes right onto your palmtop's screen. Other input devices include optional keyboard attachments. The keyboards for palmtops usually fold into three and are easy to carry around with your palmtop.

Internet Access

Some Palmtops come wireless, with an antenna for email and Internet access. These palmtops usually require that you subscribe to a service that provides wireless access on your palmtop every month.

Palmtop vs. Notebook

A notebook computer, whether a PC or Mac, is a full-functioning computer using either the Windows or the Mac OS operating system. A palmtop operates using an entirely different operation system. Standard notebook computers are much larger in size and heavier and have more performance capabilities than a palmtop computer. Most notebook computers don't have touch sensitive touch screens like some palmtops. In terms of functionality, your palmtop should ideally be the device you always carry around and add information to, like an electronic memo pad. At the end of the day, simply transfer and synchronize the information on your handheld with your notebook or desktop computer.

Palmtop Accessories

Palmtop devices are becoming so popular that more and more accessories are being made to make using palmtops more easy and practical. Card modems that slip into slots on a handheld device to allow it to send and receive data are becoming very common. Carrying and protective cases of all styles and colors are available for many palmtops, including sporty ones and hard case ones. A multitude of software can be found for palmtops, from games to financial organizing software. Palm accessories also include folding keyboard units, rechargeable batteries, spare hot sync and recharging cradles, replacement styli, memory upgrades, fax modems and memory storage cards.


Many palmtops are still only compatible with PCs. Fewer models work with Macs.


Some palmtops exchange information with standard desktop or notebook computers (or "hotsync") while sitting in a cradle. The cradle has a thin cable that connects to the computer using either a USB or serial interface. Others have a connecting cable that attaches from the handheld unit directly to your computer. Sometimes, the transfer of data between the two devices may be possible using infrared technology, provided the appropriate software is used, and if both the palmtop unit and the computer (or peripheral) have infrared capability.


Some palmtops operate on regular AA or AAA batteries. Others use rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries, which usually last for 6 or 8 hours. How long batteries last depend on which features you use and how often. Certain features like modem use and beaming information eat away at battery life more than others.

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