Data In Your Pocket 

With Sony leaving the PDA market, others are more than willing to take up the slack.

When you name a product with a letter and a number you are giving little away with regards to the item’s main function and any capabilities it might possess.  In the case of the N30, from Acer, this is a Personal Digital Assistance (PDA) product that makes use of the Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC software.


In appearance the N30 hardly stands out from the crowd. However it is definitely slimmer and lighter than some models that I have seen.  These are important considerations with a device that needs to be carried with you whenever you go.  The whole unit measures 118 x 71 x 13mm (L x W x D) and weighs 130g which includes the stylus. 


Rectangular in shape, the front of the unit is dominated by a 3.5 inch transflective TFT LCD screen that is generally visible in various lighting conditions.  Four control buttons and the unit’s internal speaker are arranged beneath the screen.   The power button and a scroll wheel are located on the left side of the N30 with the styles housed on the right.  Positioned along the top you will find a slot for inserting a Secure Digital or Multimedia card plus an earphone socket.  A 26-pin connection socket on the bottom allows for recharging the unit and connecting to a computer via USB using a double-headed lead.  Additional methods of connectivity in the form of infrared and Bluetooth are provided.


At the heart of the N30 is a Samsung S3C2410 processor rated at 266MHz.  There is 32MB of flash memory that is used by the operating system. A further 64MB of SDRAM is set aside for application and storage usage.  A rechargeable Li-ion battery can provide up to eight hours of power although this does depend upon the type of applications being used.


The N30 comes pre-loaded with enough software to satisfy the needs of most users.  Pocket versions of Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer and Media Player are included.  There are various utilities for viewing images and e-books; file management needs; and backing up important files plus MSN Messenger and Microsoft Activesyn 3.7.1 for synchronising data between the handheld and a computer.  Basic game-play in the form of Solitaire and Jawbreaker is provided to help pass the time when on a long journey.


As this is a personal device, you should expect a degree of customisation to be available and the N30 does not disappoint in this respect.  A wide range of configuration options have been categories into Personal, System and Connection sections.  In the Personal section you can change the actions assigned to the various control buttons plus select from different input methods; enter a password; and owner information.  You can also add and remove items from the main menu listing as long as you do not exceed the limit of nine entries. 


The System category covers items such as adjusting the backlight; the use of certificates; defining the amount of memory allocated to storage or applications; and aligning the screen with or without a ClearType option to smooth the edges of fonts.  Both infrared and Bluetooth settings can be adjusted from the Connection section with the latter being one of those that could have an adverse effect on battery life.


Various accessories are available as an additional purchase.  These include a car charger, cradle and a leather case to replace the slip case that comes with the standard package.  The N30 should be available for around £155 and is well worth considering by those looking for a means of taking their data with them when travelling.

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