Personal Digital Assistant Use: Practical Advice for the Advanced Practice Nurse

Andrew E. Craig, MSN, FNP


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2002;2(4) 

In This Article

Choosing a PDA Model

After you pick a brand, you will then need to decide which model you want within that brand. This decision is based on what particular model has more of the features you like. Ask yourself if you need or want something like wireless Internet access, or a really thin carrying case. Other features you might find useful are battery type (rechargeable vs alkaline), color vs a grayscale display, or a specialty model, such as the newer combination PDA/cell phone. You might even decide you'd like one of the newer PDA models equipped with an alphanumeric touch keypad. The choice is yours -- pick the features that you think will suit your particular situation best.

Important criteria to consider when choosing a PDA model are the type of processor chip and the memory size. Keep in mind that processor and memory requirements for a Pocket PC are totally different than those for a Palm OS-based device. The Pocket PC system requires a faster processor speed and more memory to support its superior graphics and sound. There is not as much variation in available processor speeds as there was perhaps a year ago; however, the requirements are still totally different between PDA styles. Palm OS-based products typically have a Motorola Dragonball processor running at 33 mHz; Pocket PCs typically have an Intel processor chip running at 133 mHz or higher. A general rule to apply, regardless of what style of PDA you are choosing, is "faster is better." Just remember that processor speed comparisons between the two styles of PDAs are invalid.

Palm OS-based PDAs typically come with 8 megabytes (MB) of memory, which is the minimum acceptable amount. Additional memory cards can be purchased and easily plugged in to the PDA by the user; some newer models have recently been introduced that come with 16 MB of internal memory. These are handy if you anticipate using a lot of programs and you expect to use a lot of add-on accessories as well, since these accessories plug into the same slot that would otherwise be needed for installing add-on memory. Beware of older Palm OS-based PDAs that have only 2 MB of memory; this is only enough to run the basic "day-planner" type applications that come preinstalled on the PDA. If you buy a 2-MB model, you most likely will not have sufficient memory to add any additional programs of your own.

A Pocket PC typically comes with 16 to 64 MB of memory. Note that a Pocket PC will typically use a third to half of its memory just to run the OS, leaving only the remainder actually available for storing programs. If you are running low on memory and wish to add more programs, you can adjust how much memory is available to your software applications by tweaking the system settings, but only to a point. This "additional" memory is obtained at the expense of system operating speed. For Pocket PCs, a minimum of 32 to 64 MB of memory is best. Models equipped with only 16 MB will not have enough room to add much additional software, especially considering that programs written for Windows CE tend to be larger than their Palm OS counterparts.[1] Note that 16 MB represents a very desirable amount of memory for a Palm OS-based PDA, but is an insufficient amount for a Pocket PC.


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