The Palm family of handheld PCs rules the PDA realm, but they're no bargains, with street prices ranging from $300 for a sturdy Palm IIIx to $US599 for an internet-ready Palm VII. The newest member of 3Com's Palm Computing family, the Palm IIIe, targets new users who'd like to jump on the Palm bandwagon without spending quite so much money. Its $229 price tag, while not quite bargain basement, is a good deal for a PDA that acts a lot like the pricier Palm IIIx.
The Palm IIIe includes version 3 of Palm's desktop software, along with all the basic, easy-to-use Palm applications: address book, datebook, memo pad, to-do list, and expense tracker. Like the IIIx, it has a cradle from which you sync it with a PC, and an infrared port for beaming data to other devices. My shipping IIIe also had the bright monochrome touch screen and easy-to-read larger fonts found on higher-end Palms.
Drawbacks? The Palm IIIe has 2MB of RAM (the IIIx has 4MB) and lacks an expansion slot for flash memory, a pager card, or another device.
Some Web retailers are selling the original Palm III (with its inferior screen) for less than $175, but the Palm IIIe's brighter display alone makes it worth the extra $50. The IIIe looks like a winner -- not only for Palm newcomers but also for owners of older Palm Pilots who want to upgrade.
PRO: Palm IIIx look-alike at a cut-rate price.
CON: Less memory than a Palm IIIx, no expansion slot.
VALUE: Great choice for PDA novices and Palm Pilot upgraders.
List price: $229