Friday, June 28, 2002

Freakin' awesome - the Zaurus 5500

I picked up a Sharp Zaurus 5500 a few weeks ago - what a great device! Granted, it has a few shortcomings, which I'll list to start out with:

- A little bit on the big side

- Battery life is so-so (but you can swap in a fresh pack, which helps)

- The CF slot protector is too easy to knock out

- The built-in apps still need some polish - in particular, one-touch appointments should be possible. The address book and calendar replacements from The Kompany are nicer-looking with a few more goodies, but slow to load and suffering from some glitches. They also don't uninstall right.

- No Mac sync.

- No speaker.

Sounds like it sucks, right? Well, it doesn't. here's why. This is not "just an organizer". It's a full-out, Linux-based PC that happens to run on a tiny battery and fit in a pocket. The networking features are great - my D-Link wireless card Just Worked when I popped it in - now I can surf using either my home AirPort (it works great with it) or any public Wi-Fi network out there. I have a batch of standard Linux scanning/troubleshooting tools loaded on it, which I can use to replace my big klunky Fluke LANmeter for some uses. It has an SD slot as well, so I've got an extra 128MB of storage available. The navigation disc is well-thought out, the screen is bright and clear, and the sliding built-in keyboard is awesome, if a little klunkier than the one on my Blackberry.

It makes my PocketPC (an iPaq 3765) look like a piece of junk in comparison, and the iPaq uses almost identical StrongARM-based hardware. The Zaurus is far more rugged than the iPaq (discovered the hard way, when one of my cats knocked it off my desk), and though it's a little bigger it fits my hand better.

Essentially, here's how I see it. If you live exclusively in a Windows world (brrr...) then maybe a PocketPC will be to your liking. If you can get one cheap enough. If you want either a cheap organizer, a tiny organizer, or the simplest thing around, then you want a Palm.

But if you live in a multiplatform world, are comfortable playing on a command line, and want a computer that's so powerful and expandable as to make carrying a laptop almost redundant, then you want a Sharp Zaurus. It's that cool.

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