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Sharp Zaurus SL-5500

(Discontinued. Check out our review of the Zaurus SL-5600 and Zaurus SL-6000 which replaced the SL-5500)

And now for something different: a Linux-based PDA with handwriting recognition and a built-in keyboard that's revealed when you slide the bottom portion of the PDA down (see image at left). And now for some of the same: the hardware specs of this PDA are the same as any Pocket PC 2002 device. In fact, this device could run Pocket PC 2002 OS, but Sharp, once a leader in the organizer industry with their Zaurus line of products and OS (operating system), has decided to do it their way, once again.

The device is cheaper than Pocket PCs since Sharp didn't have to pay Microsoft for the Pocket PC OS license. You'll find the hardware and features are same as a Pocket PC 2002 PDA.

What do you get? You'll enjoy a 65,000 color front lit LCD, viewable indoors and outdoors. The resolution is 240 x 320 pixels, same as a Pocket PC. For you MP3 fans, there's a stereo headphone jack and MP3 player software.

The thumb-type keyboard is there when you need it, and concealed when you don't. It integrates beautifully into the device. You can buy an optional $169 digital camera which plugs into the CompactFlash card slot. Its resolution is 1/3 megapixel (350,000 pixels). These add-on cameras seem to be all the rage these days. . . that's to say several companies are making them for their brand of PDA.

Sharp Zaurus SL550

You'll get the usual PIM apps: Calendar, Contacts, Memo and To-Do, along with the Opera web browser, email client, MP3 and video player, Image Viewer, and Hancom Office, which includes a word processor and spreadsheet program which are compatible with MS Word and MS Excel and a Powerpoint presentation viewer. To check out additional 3rd party software available for the Zaurus, visit Handango's Linux PDA software section and Just in case the physical keyboard isn't enough, you'll also get an onscreen software QWERTY keyboard and handwriting recognition which does not work well, alas. The SL-5500 comes with excellent support for network cards, both wired and wireless.

The unit is very expandable: it comes with a both internal CompactFlash type II slot AND an internal MMC/SD slot. These will allow you to use accessories memory cards, modems and network cards (including wireless network cards) simultaneously if you wish.

Connectivity is via USB (a $39.95 serial cable is available as an accessory should you not have USB ports on your PC). USB syncing can be flakey however.

The SL-5500 is quite popular in Japan. The list price is $399 in the US.

Pro: Both an SD slot and a CompactFlash expansion slot built into the unit-- you can use a modem or wireless card at the same time you've got a memory card installed. Battery is replaceable. Built-in support for wired and wireless networking is very good. Integrated keyboard is neatly designed and only there when you need it. The hardware is as sophisticated as a Pocket PC, but the Zaurus costs less. Con: Not much software out there yet for this operating system. Handwriting recognition isn't good. If you want to hear sound from MP3s or games, you'll have to listen through headphones. Syncing via USB can be unreliable.

Read our Linux Game Reviews for Zaurus!





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Display: Reflective TFT color LCD, 65,536 colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5", Resolution: 240 x 320

Battery Lithium Ion rechargeable. Replaceable.

Performance: Intel Strong Arm 1110 206MHz, 16MB Flash ROM, 64MB RAM

Operating System: Linux based embedded OS (Embedix3) QT Palmtop Environment, Personal Java.

Size: 2.9”W x 5.4”H x .7”D. Weight Approximately (6.6oz. without cover, 7.3 with protective display cover)

Audio: Built in speaker and stereo headphone jack.

Software: Linux-based operating system. Calendar, Address Book, To-Do, and Memo apps (can be launched using the 4 buttons on the front of the PDA), Word processor compatible with Word docs, spreadsheet app compatible with Excel files, File Manager, E-mail program supporting POP3, SMTP, IMAP4 protocols, Web browser (equivalent to Internet Explorer 4 on the desktop, just as MS Pocket IE is equiv. to IE 4). Syncing software: Qtopia™ and Intellisync for SL (synchronize with Outlook).

Expansion: SD/MMC slot, CF card slot (TYPE II)


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