Bye Bye Zaurus...

april 4, 2002

I returned the Zaurus today. Yea, I know, I know, that was quick! I didn't even spend 30 days with it. I really liked the machine, but there were some short comings that I made it so that I could not justify keeping a $499 machine. Here's what they were. Don't get me wrong, the machine is great. I love the Zaurus -- especially that hidden keyboard. And having it run Linux was very cool indeed. But, here are the reasons why I didn't keep it and returned it -- in exchange for a Sony PEG-T415 (the kickass black aluminium one).

First, and most important, there was no Memopad. OK, you might be grabbing your monitor and yelling, "What?!" But this is the biggest reason why I returned the Zaurus. The Zaurus synchronizes only three apps: Address book, Calendar, and Todo list. Now, after using a Palm for so many years and also using a PocketPC for a while too, the missing Memopad is really a big deal. There's nothing like taking out a PDA and scribbling down a quick note. Or while at home, openning up the PIM application of your choice (Outlook or Palm Desktop) and just typing in a quick note to yourself. With the Zaurus there was no such functionality. If you wanted to take a note, you'd have to edit a new file with the text editor or creatively use the Todo application. This was a huge oversight for Sharp.

The second largest reason was battery power. Some users have been lucky to get 3 hours of usage on the Zaurus before needing to recharge. There have been more reports of lower usage (around 2 hours, which is what is stated in the manual). I've been doing a lot of travelling lately and have been away from the house for at least a week at a time. Yes, I did do the travel charger setup and that would have taken care of me, but I really don't want to carry around extra cables and stuff with me. The T415 might be a 16-grayscale machine, but the damn thing will run for two or three weeks on a single charge. That is worth it to me. That is the one thing that people don't think about when they are buying PDAs: Color PDAs are power hungry little beasts.

Thirdly, the software that comes with the Zaurus is not that bad, but on the flip side, it's not that great either. This is talking about the software running on both ends. The Qtopia Desktop, which is what one would run as a Desktop PIM (Personal Information Manager) is a nice application but severely limited. (No memopad!) The included Intellisync for SL (a special Intellisync just for the Zaurus works fine, but it is still a bit finicky. It deleted four of my appointments during one sync. On the Zaurus side the Todo list application would always show completed tasks after a sync -- even with the do-not-show-completed-tasks checked. The calendar application (on Qtopia Desktop and on the Zaurus) does not have an event. An even in the sense that I could just write a bullet on one of the days and say, "Bought Zaurus today." Rather, if you want to write down an event, it is translated into an all-day event -- which is not bad until you see how all-day events are shown in the calendar. It is a solid square that eats up the whole screen (and a bit more).

Another reason is the heft of the machine. Although the thing is light compared to my Casio E-125, it is still pretty heavy. The size of the machine is also pretty large -- longer than the brick E-125, wide as my Sony PEG-N610C, and as thick as the E-125. The E-125 is a pretty big machine. The thing is that I find it hard to carry such a large machine around with me. I don't have enough space in my pockets for such a big thing. And if I can't carry a PDA around with me, then the PDA is no good for me.

And lastly, there aren't too many applications for the machine yet. For right now it's a $499 calendar, address, and todo machine.

The machine is a wonderful machine. The Linux that it runs on is very cool -- how much cooler is it to ssh into the machine from a desktop? The applications, though flawed, are contenders. The interface of the machine is great. It's intuitive and easy to use. The two expansion slots (on CF I/II and one SD) are good to have around -- a 802.11b card in the CF slot and a memory card in the SD slot is a nice combo (though that would draw some serious power from the already taxed Lithium Ion battery). The 64MB of RAM on the machine is spacious and the 206MHz StrongARM processor is really speedy. But, in the end I couldn't justify keeping this $499 machine, even if it had all these nice qualities to it.

The Sony Clie PEG-T415 is the thinnest PDA around, it runs PalmOS 4.1, and has a 320x320 16-grayscale screen. The screen is a little dim at times, but works good. I'll write more on the PEG-T415 when I get more time with the machine. But, the biggest thing is that it's small enough for my pocket, it has a memopad, and it can hold a charge for a reasonably long time.