One of the dilemmas for anyone looking to buy a PDA these days is whether to go for something that is GSM / GPRS connected. If you decide you do want the kind of device which can act as your phone as well as your PDA, then the next thing to do is decide whether you want something that leans more towards the phone or the PDA in terms of screen size, features and functionality.
For the PDA side of things, the tri-band XDA II from O2 would be a very compelling choice. Priced at £349 including the cost of a contract (it isn’t available on pay-as-you-go yet), you get a lot of value for your money in comparison with other hardware sharing similar features.
The design is pretty functional in terms of looks, and its silver casing isn’t exactly innovative, but with this second version of the XDA, O2 has managed to bury the antenna within the main body of the hardware, making it slightly tall for a PDA, but not unwieldy.
There is a digital stills and movie camera built into the back of the XDA II, which captures still images at 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 160 pixels, and video at 176 x 144 and 128 x 96 pixels. Using the camera is easy thanks to a dedicated button on the side of the casing, which both starts the software, turning the whole screen into a viewfinder, and captures images.
The internal specifications are top-notch. The processor, Intel’s PXA 263, runs at 400MHz, and there is 128MB of RAM available, with a further 14MB of flash memory for backing up data that absolutely must survive battery failure. An SD card slot lets you add even more memory.
The battery is removable so a spare can be swapped in if needed and there is space for charging a spare in the cradle. O2 says the supplied battery is good for 15 hours of PDA type functionality, or 3 hours 30 minutes talk-time / 150 hours on standby. When we looped MP3s through it we got 4 hours 30 minutes of life – far from O2′s claims, but enough, probably, to get you through a working day.
Irritatingly, the docking cradle holds the hardware at a rather more upright angle than usual, which means that to properly see the screen it has to be further away from you on the desk.
The standard Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition applications are all here, and O2 augments them with a few of its own located in the ROM of the device, so you don’t need to reinstall them if the power does fail you. Most notable among the suite provided is ClearVue PDF reader and ClearVue PPT for reading PowerPoint documents, plus PhotoContacts for attaching images to your contacts, and a backup tool.
There is also the O2 Active Today Screen, which provides one or two tap access to a range of Internet-based and other features, and there is an e-mail client which can be used to help you stay in touch while you are out and about. Bluetooth is present too, so thankfully you can use a headset if you’d rather not hold a PDA to your ear to make calls, Of course you can also use O2′s hands-free kit for this purpose.