Is the PDA dead? Well, its debatable Last year, a Gartner report claimed PDA shipments were up, while IDC said they were down. The discrepancy was due to how each defined devices. What’s clear though is that regular PDAs have been losing out to increasingly capable smartphones, with the draw being carrying one device instead of two.
However, there are still things that can best be done on a dedicated PDA and if you’re in the market for one there’s no doubt that the Acer n311 is one of the finest on the market. The most immediate feature of note is simply its size. The dimensions of 70 x 14 x 110mm (WxDxH) are impressively small, especially the depth figure, as it means that you can slip it into a jacket pocket without it spoiling the lines. It’s also reasonably light at 135g, compared to 175g for a Dell Axim X51. In fairness though the Dell is larger because it has both Compact Flash and SD card slots – the Acer only features the latter, though as SD cards are so capacious and affordable these days it’s only a loss if you already have CF cards.
The small size of the Acer also means that its appearance is really dominated by its 3.7in screen, which offers an impressive VGA (640 x 480) resolution. It’s capable of displaying up to 65,536 colours and photos looks great, but isn’t as vivid as something like as the screen on the PSP.
Design wise the Acer is on the money. It’s black and silver colouring is smart and the buttons and joystick have a good feel to them. In fact, the Acer feels particularly good to hold in the hand, a combination of the size, weight and materials. Turn it round and you’ll find a brushed metal finish with an Acer logo covering the removable battery. The power button is on the left – press once for on off and hold down to activate the backlight. Below this is hold switch, a great addition, which makes it ideal to put the PDA in your pocket or bag and use as a music player. At the top there’s an SD card slot next to a standard 3.5m headphone jack. There’s a yellow light on the right to show charging and one that lights up blue when wireless is activated.