RAM, memory, storage... so many
words for the same thing! The real questions are just how much
of the stuff do you need in your PDA, why do you see seemingly
similar PDAs with vastly different amounts of memory, and is
more really better?
With the exception of Windows Mobile/Pocket
PC PDAs, the amount of RAM quoted on the box and in the specs refers
to the amount of storage memory available for any programs and
data you choose to install. Pocket PC devices actually share RAM
between storage and operating memory, which means some of the RAM
is dedicated to the brain power required to run programs, while
the rest is allocated as a place where you can store all your data
and programs. Think of it as the RAM in your computer combined
with the hard drive. Pocket PC can actually dynamically manage
the balance for you, while older WinCE devices usually set the
default as a 50-50 balance that you can adjust in a control panel.
This is similar to the idea of virtual memory in a desktop computer.
Does this mean you have to buy the
Pocket PC that has the most memory? Nope. You can always choose
to install programs and files to your storage card. These include
CompactFlash cards and SD cards. See our
storage card article for more info on these cards. But you
should leave at least 16 megs of internal memory (RAM) free because
the Pocket PC will use this to run programs in the same way your
computer uses RAM/memory. Think of the storage card as an additional
Most Pocket PCs come with a minimum
of 32 megs of RAM and some have 64 or even 128. 32 megs is fine
if you're going to use your Pocket PC for its standard functions
such as managing contacts, calendar, reminders and working with
a Word and Excel documents. If you intend to install a good deal
of additional software, you may want a 64 meg model if you can
afford it. If you're a real power user who wants to install lots
of apps, go for a 128 meg model if possible. Programs run fastest
from internal memory, and you'll have access to them even if you
swap out storage cards.
If you plan on using a CF modem or
network card, then you'll have to remove your CF storage card,
so remember, you won't have access to those programs installed
on a CF card. If you buy a Pocket PC that has both a CF card slot
and an SD slot, you can store programs on your SD card and use
the CF slot for that modem or network card.
vs. Pocket PC Memory Specs
Why do Pocket PCs have so much more
memory than Palm OS computers? Does this make them better? The
answer is not better, just different. Because Pocket PC programs
share storage and operating memory in RAM, they need more. Pocket
PC programs tend to require more memory to run (ah, the legacy
of the bloated Windows OS). Pocket PC devices support such things
as multimedia in the form of sound recording, MP3 players and files,
and image viewing and editing. These things require a decent amount
of memory to run, and the file size of these things is large compared
to a contact or agenda item. We all know how you can easily fill
up your desktop computer's hard drive with MP3 files and pretty
images! These are some good reasons why WinCE PDAs usually come
with 32 or 64 megs of RAM (and faster processors too). Pocket PC
PDAs come with Pocket Internet Explorer, and most HPC (keyboarded)
devices have a built-in modem. Web pages left in your cache also
take up a good deal of space. Another reason for memory.
Palm OS computers run a highly specialized
and optimized operating system: running programs require little
memory and files are in the form of text and Palm OS database records,
which are smaller than images files and Windows library files.
They just don't take much space. Think of your Palm: lots of text
on the screen, very little in the way of graphical images and all
sounds are frugal midi files. If you're using the Palm straight
out of the box for such things as contacts, calendar and notes,
you won't need more than the 8 megs of RAM found on many Palm models,
in fact you could probably make do with less. If you're a shareware
and commercial software user, and want to download and install
all those nifty Palm programs available on the Net, you'll probably
be happy with 8 megs. 16 megs will accommodate a good deal of 3rd
party software. Unless you're an AvantGo off-line web browser user,
or have a Sony Clié with MP3 playback capabilities. If you're
into MP3's on your Clié, get one or more Memory Sticks!
Palm OS PDAs can be expanded via SD
cards (for newer Palm branded PDAs), MemorySticks (Sony branded
PDAs) and Springboard module (for Handspring Visor PDAs). You can
install programs and files onto these cards. However, not all programs
are designed to run off of expansion cards because this technology
is a recent addition. About 1/3 to 1/2 of the shareware programs
available today will run off of an expansion card.
But which PDA takes what? Use this table as a guideline.
PalmOne (Palm V and newer):
SD cards (preferred) and MMC cards.
Includes Treo 600 and 650.
Pocket PC and Handheld PC:
CompactFlash (CF) on some, SD cards
on all. PC Card memory and hard drives for those with PC Card
sleeves (iPAQ 3000 and 5000 models only), IBM MicroDrive for
those with a type II CF slot. Note: The HP Jornada 540, 560
and 720 series have type I CF slots, not type II.