Casio's Pocket PC Media Center

SAN FRANCISCO (06/23/2000) - Want a personal digital assistant that doubles as an entertainment center? Casio Computer Co. Ltd.'s latest Windows CE palmtop, the Cassiopeia E-115 Pocket PC, looks identical to its predecessors in the E-100 line, and has much of the same multimedia spin. You can run videos on its glorious 65,536-color active-matrix touch screen. Music sounds decent over the built-in speaker and even nicer if you listen with stereo headphones. (A coupon included with the unit lets you send for a basic headset and three extra styluses for about US$6.)Unlike its predecessors, the E-115 runs on the latest version of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE operating system for handhelds; it has the friendliest CE user interface yet, as well as a Reader application to handle electronic books.

You get a generous 32MB of RAM and Casio's software for playing (fairly short) videos that you've converted to a proprietary file format via an included desktop program. To entice Palm users to jump ship, Casio includes Harmony Enterprise 99 (for transferring data from a Palm to a Windows CE device) in the software bundle. An optional $299 camera plugs into the Compact Flash port.

At $599, the E-115 costs almost the same as HP's Jornada 548, the only comparably equipped (except for a humbler 4096-color display) Pocket PC.

However, I preferred the Jornada's sleeker charcoal-gray plastic case, with its flip-up cover, to the boxy metallic look of a shipping E-115. I also liked the Jornada's USB sync cradle (Casio provides a slower serial hookup). Unless you're dying to play videos or listen to stereo music on your palmtop, the Jornada is the ticket for Pocket PC enthusiasts.

If you need a basic address book, a calendar, memos, and to-do lists in a color palmtop, the sensible choice remains the Palm IIIc, with a 256-color display, for a mere $449.

--Yardena Arar

Cassiopeia E-115

PRO: Pocket PC doubles as video and stereo player; great display.

CON: No USB hookup; expensive.

VALUE: Buy only if you want to play videos on a Windows CE palmtop.

List price: $599



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