Wanted: The perfect mobile device


. . . for a reader named Tom.

Since a universally "perfect" device that meets everyone’s needs will never exist, deciding which portable gadget will best enhance an individual’s mobile lifestyle is an entirely personal choice. A dream come true for one person could easily be another’s worst nightmare. With this in mind, I’ve been thinking about what to recommend to Tom, who recently asked me to accompany him on his search for "a portable unit that will help [him] carry around word documents and PDFs if possible, as well as [give him] the ability to make some notes."

After some general Q&A, we decided to take his quest for the ideal mobile companion to you. I think all of our collective gadget histories and experiences can help him (and others with similar needs) find something perfect.

Tom has a (negotiable) budget of about $300 and is looking for a pocket-sized unit that lets him:

  • read books, articles, and other documents in PDF, .txt, and .doc file formats
  • "do a little bit of writing" with a portable keyboard connected via Bluetooth or USB

He does not need any of the following features:

  • Internet access (WLAN or WWAN)
  • Phone capabilities
  • Infrared connectivity

Since most current and upcoming devices far surpass his needs, an older device without modern bells and whistles would probably be best. He likes "most of the Palm units and the great clamshell electronics dictionaries" and in particular has had his eye on the Tungsten C. Being unable to find a good price, however, has forced him to consider alternatives.

That’s where we come in.

Significant amounts of internal storage and expansion options via removable memory cards are not part of Tom’s must-have list, but both "would be good." He mentioned really needing only about 10MB of space, so finding something suitable in this respect poses no problem.

Based on his requirements, I suggested the Palm LifeDrive Mobile Manager, which is available through third-party sellers on Amazon for about $250. It’s more capable than he needs it to be, but I suspect that this will often be the case regardless of the device.

What do you recommend? Why?

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Jenn K. Lee

Jenn K. Lee is the founder of Pocketables. She loves gadgets the way most women love shoes and purses. The pieces in her tech wardrobe that go with everything are currently the Samsung Galaxy Note II, Sony Tablet P, and Nexus 7, but there are still a couple of vintage UMPCs/MIDs in the back of her closet.

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9 thoughts on “Wanted: The perfect mobile device

  • How about sony reader or nokia n800? I like bigger screens than lifedrive.

  • Avatar of Bush -- not related

    Palm T|X — cheaper than the lifedrive but otherwise similar capacities.

    I read books on my Clie’ in 480×320 and have no trouble doin’ so. The T|X mated with a nice BT keyboard should meet all his needs, and then some.

    Me? I’d like the T|X, mark II — clamshell with USEABLE non-thumboard keyboard… cf: Psion series devices…

  • I too have been looking for the same kind of device (for years). But I would like to have some PIM functions as well and be able to add some kind of database program. Although I must have a keyboard attached.

    I too don’t need phone or internet option.

  • I would highly recommend the Sony Clie UX50. It sounds like the perfect device for Tom. First of all, its price should fall into his budget as long as he checks out Ebay. It also seems to have everything that he needs. The included Picsel Viewer software allows you to read and view many different formats of text and image files (I’m pretty sure it can do PDFs). The keyboard on the device is ‘very’ usable compared to other mobile devices (its a thumb keyboard), sporting decently sized buttons which are lit via LEDs, great for low light situations, also they keys have a great feel to them, and good feedback.

    The screen on the Clie UX50 is very spacious, and has a great resolution. Its a clamshell design, and the screen can be rotated around and folded down (just like a tablet PC would) to be able to use the touch screen if the keyboard isn’t necessary at the moment.

    Also the nature of the OS that the unit runs (Palm OS) means that you have access to hundreds, probably thousands of applications that will help you do what you need to on your Clie, including a great one called Docs to Go, which is a very good application which allows you to create/edit/view Microsoft Office docs (word/excel etc.), and the program helps you sync documents between your computer and your Clie.

    Now that you have everything that you are looking to do with your device, the UX50 also sports a few extras which although he didn’t specify as needing, are a great addition to the unit, and I’m sure they would be useful to him at some point or another.

    You have the 3.2MP camera which is built into the device and can be rotated. Memory Stick slot for all your memory expansion needs. Additionally it has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. BT to connect your cell phone, transfer files from your laptop, connect to a keyboard, or any other BT accessory, and Wi-Fi for those rare times that you may need to browse the web on your UX50 (something I use all the time), and the included browser called Netfront is a very good browser for a mobile device (especially one that is a few years old). Don’t let the age of the UX50 scare you away however, its an amazing device, and even though it includes all these features, its still very slim and light weight, probably smaller then most wallets, it can easily be slipped into a pocket.

  • Avatar of Karel Jansens

    If that’s all he needs, a Psion Series 5 or 5mx should accommodate all his wishes, without even having to purchase an additional keyboard: The Psion’s keyboard is, depending on the size of your hands, good for four-digits-plus-two-thumbs (a typing style made famous by the Psion Series 3) or ten-finger-blind typing.

    Mind you, the 5mx (16MB) is still pretty popular and will only rarely go for less than € 100.00 on eBay.

  • Benz, why am I not surprised by your recommendation? ;-)

    The T|X is a nice alternative to the LifeDrive, especially if Tom doesn’t need the 4GB hard drive. The Sharp Zaurus may be another device to consider. The lack of backlit keys could be a deal-breaker, though. I believe that was one of the reasons Sharon got rid of hers.

    I’m really amazed by the Psion’s longevity: it’s not even from this millennium and people are still talking about it.

  • It might also be worth looking at the Axim X50v or X51v. They have large high resolution screens which would be perfect for data entry with a Bluetooth keyboard. He could easily pickup the device, keyboard and a memory card for under $300.

    While he might not need it, it also has the WiFi and dual CF/SD slots.


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