Gadget Guy ponders: Which PDA to buy?

"Which handheld computer should I buy?" I get asked that question a lot. Of course, the answer depends. If you intend to do a lot of reading or store detailed color maps on a handheld, then consider a device running Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system, such as the small Compaq iPaq.

For most people, though, buying their first handheld seems to be an experiment in hope over experience -- can they organize their life with a gadget when they failed with a paper planner? For the hopeful, the Palm IIIxe ($200) is a good place to start. If you only want a calendar and a phone book, then I think the Palm M100 is good too. It's a little smaller, has a cool design and is $150.

If you're really stuck on the Palm OS, the color Palm IIIc ($329) and Handspring Visor ($450) are really nice. Expect Mountain View, Calif.-based Handspring Inc. to match prices soon. For the money, the Visor already comes with a Universal Serial Bus cable for syncing and improved basic software. Though with the release of Palm 4.0 in the possible near future, you might want to wait to buy any Handspring devices, since you can't upgrade their operating system, which resides in read-only memory. Also, the manufacturers sometimes sell refurbished units too. They're a steal.

On the other hand, I'm a big proponent of personal digital assistant (PDA) recycling. Wait 12 to 18 months after buying a PDA, then sell it on eBay and recoup most of the original investment. Then get a new one.

Regardless, which PDAs would you recommend?

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