Palmtop Porridge

Need To Know

The average price of a handheld PC isn't much-just $800. (You'll want to search for the lowest prices on the Net.) So if you're willing to trade functionality to gain mobility and reduce costs, a handheld PC fits the bill as a remote workstation. To help you decide if a handheld PC is right for you, consider the following:

  • Understand what you need. What are your key applications? If they include heavy graphics, a handheld PC won't provide the performance you need.
  • Figure out how much accessories will cost. This is especially critical if you do presentations on the road. Printer cables can add to your budget; so can other cables that aren't included, such as serial and VGA cables.
  • To type comfortably, how big a keyboard do you need? Some models have a 95 percent full-sized keyboard, but others have smaller, tiny keys that are sometimes difficult to poke and prod. And make sure to understand the following terms before you shop around:
  • CompactFlash card: About the size of a matchbook, these provide extra storage in special battery-backed memory. The cards are smaller than PC cards, but can be used with a PC card adaptor to fit into standard PC card slots.
  • PC Card: A credit-card-sized ex-pansion card, formerly called a PCMCIA card. Type I are thin and mostly add memory. Type II are thicker and are used for modems, networking and other adaptors. Type III are thickest and used for hard drives. PC cards add a variety of storage and communication functions.
  • SDRAM: Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory. A high-speed RAM that can synchronize itself with the clock speed of the microprocessor's data bus.

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This article was originally published in the July 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Palmtop Porridge.

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