Hand-held vs. laptop?

My home PC recently died. I have a swish new Mac G4 at school that I can use for net-surfing, graphics, etc., so buying a full-blown replacement for my PC isn’t really necessary right now. It would be very helpful, though, to be able to take my text documents home & on the road to work on, as well as be able to retrieve email.

I had the use of a laptop for a while, and really liked the flexibility I had (= got spoiled). At the moment, though, I don’t have a lot of money to spare - only ~$1,000.

No surprise, there are very few laptops in that price range; the ones that are, are cheap because they have relatively old technology. Even laptops costing a few hundred dollars more don’t seem to have that much in terms of extra features. Given that I’m not looking to watch DVD’s or give business presentations, I was wondering whether a hand-held PC (with a keyboard, like the HP Jornada) might be a cost-effective alternative for the basic tasks I’d need to do.

Opinions, experiences, anyone?

Don’t get an ancient-history laptop. You won’t like it.

Do seriously consider scraping everything you’ve got together (including selling your wonderfully snazzy ultramodern G4 desktop computer) and buying the fastest laptop you can buy. Apple is now putting out 500s; that’s a lot of laptop. More to the point, it can go eyeball-to-eyeball with a hell of a lot of desktop computers.

When you are at home, hook up a couple 19 inch monitors, a legacy keyboard (via USB-to-ADB), mouse, and other peripherals; if you can, discard legacy SCSI and replace with USB and FireWire. The only time you’ll really miss your desktop G4 is when slow video throughput clogs up the screen refresh.

And when you realize that you ALWAYS have your computer with you – not a different one that may or may not have the extensions and control panels and the cool shareware program you downloaded from Info-Mac last night, but the actual computer – that makes up for a lot.

And it doesn’t really have to make up for very much.

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Thanks for the suggestion, AHunter3. I should have mentioned that the G4 is university property, so I couldn’t trade it in if I wanted to. Neither can I use grant money for a new laptop, because we just don’t have the money to spare in the budget. So I’m on my own as far as a new toy is concerned. :frowning: Ultimately I’d like to get an up-to-date laptop to replace my PC desktop entirely, but that might be as much as a year away.

I have an HP Jornada 820, one of the bigger handhelds. It runs Windows CE so it does NOT run regular Windows 3.1/95/98 software. In that sense, it is very limited in what it can do. Handhelds do not have hard drives, so storage space is limited.

However, it has one huge advantage: battery life. The catalogue value of 13.5 hours is a bit optimistic, but over 8 hours is no problem. It’s got a nice big keyboard and is perfect for taking notes and writing documents. I can use it to take notes for a full-day meeting and afterwards go into a cafe and write down the meeting minutes. The built in modem is not very fast but adequate for e-mail and some web browsing. One particularly nice software is AvantGo, which is an off-line web browser; just connect once and it downloads all the pages in your list, so you can read it later.

By the way, a couple of weeks ago the IBM Workpad z50, a 2-lb Windows-CE handheld, got discontinued and was selling for about $250. Prices have gone up a bit, but you can still get them for under $400 new, or fairly new units for $300 on eBay. Still a good deal, if you decide to go with handhelds.

One thing I don’t know is how well they work with Macs. Maybe someone else here has experience, or try Microsoft’s web page.

A lot of people will tell you “WinCE is bloated and slow and made by an evil company! Palm is much better!” Don’t listen to them. They are very different. Palms are not well suited for taking notes and writing documents or e-mail messages; you really want a keyboard and a large screen for that.

I should have made it clear that AvantGo is not specific to the HP Jornada handheld. It’s a free software that runs on most Windows CE and Palm handhelds. (Requires WinCE 2.0, I think, but unless you’re buying a used unit you don’t need to worry) OK, it’s not “free” as in open source, but it’s “free” as in you don’t have to pay for it. You can get it at - you guessed it - http://www.avantgo.com/

Geez I hate saying this because I really hate the concept, but it might work out alright for you. Some computer companies are doing the monthly payment thing, i think Gateway calls it “Your Ware”. Try that. In my boldest opinion get an iBook(is that what there calling it now)

Sorry to flood this tread, but just to add: if weight and battery life are not important to you at all - i.e. if you carry it on a car and have no interest in using it in cafe’s, classrooms, library, etc. - I don’t think you’ll be happy with a handheld. If you are considering handhelds only for the price, you may be happier with a used laptop - have you looked in ebay yet?

Thanks for the suggestions, folks. I haven’t looked at ebay yet; I have to admit that I’m a little leery of buying used equipment without being able to see it & give it a test drive first.

scr4, I’ll probably be traveling more this year than I have in the past, so weight is a bit of a consideration. It would also be nice to be able to work for more than 1.5-2 hrs at a time on battery power (the one big gripe I had about the laptop I was using). That’s why the hand-helds caught my eye - I just didn’t know anyone who had one & could comment on its pros and cons.

I realize that my low budget is not going to get me much more than a ride on the subway, but that’s okay as long as whatever I get is reliable.

Just rent one. That way when its out of date, you can rent another one.

If you do decide on a handheld, the IBM z50 which I mentioned is in stock new at http://www.outpost.com/ for $370. No experience with this store personally though.