From the People’s Republic of China comes a wave of cheap computer notebooks. Typically I wouldn’t discuss such devices, however, these happen run on Windows CE. Despite their appearance, these “notebooks” are basically PDAs in disguise. They come in a variety of colors, memory sizes and processor speeds. Some have names like Sylvania or iView on the lid, but most manufacturers didn’t even bother with a name..
The one I happen to have is called an iView 700NB. (Does the “NB” stands for Never Buy?) But I’m a glass-is-half-full kind of guy. Rather than focusing on what this device can’t do, let’s discuss what we can do with it. First the stats…
- Windows CE 6
- Headphones – 3.5 mm, Microphone
- 80-Key Keyboard and touchpad
- 2 x USB 2.0 ports
- Wireless internet – 802.11b
- Preloaded Software – Internet Explorer, Media Player, MSN Messenger, Email, Core Player, Webvideo, SpreadCE Excel Viewer, Softmaker, Foxit Reader (pdf reader), WinRAR, Recorder, Calculator, SoftMaker Office (TextMaker, PlanMaker and Presentations)
- 7 inch Matrix TFT Color LCD screen
- Display Resolution 800 x 480
- Internal Hard Drive – 1 GB
- RAM – 256 MB
- Supported Flash Memory Cards – SD Memory Card (SDHC supported), MultiMediaCard
- Processor – VIA 840 (ARM9) 250 MHz 200Mhz DSP (running at 318 Mhz)
As you probably noticed, everything was going just fine until that last item. Some of these things have higher processing speeds – this one is extremely slow.
So let’s get part at out of the way first. Here’s what it CAN’T do…
- Play videos reliably – Despite coming out of the box with three pre-installed video players, the video will be choppy at best. I installed TCPMP, but it constantly crashes. If you must watch videos, I did have some luck with a program called Webvideo. I think it’s some kind of hack of TCPMP. It’s intended to play YouTube videos, but it won’t. However, if you click the “File Open” icon, it will run video files at an acceptable frame rate, albeit not full screen.
- Use Facebook - For some reason, Internet Explorer wouldn’t load Facebook for me, so I successfully installed Minimo. Minimo allowed me to view the mobile version of Facebook but I couldn’t update my status. Minimo wouldn’t give me a cursor for any multi-line input box. Opera Mini seemed to install correctly but the program wouldn’t run.
- Watch YouTube Videos – The device comes pre-installed with a program to load and play YouTube videos but YouTube’s software is no longer compatible.
- Play most Win CE games – I was hoping the process for getting Win CE games to run on the iView would be similar to my Jornada 720 or Windows CE tablet (a review for another day.) Getting games designed for a 320 x 240 isn’t easy, but it’s possible…most of the time. I tried working with GAPI Setup.
Here’s what it CAN do with it…
- Read email – I didn’t have any problems connecting via wireless Internet. Email loaded quickly.
- Play music – With a built-in 1GB flash card, plus a slot for a full-size SD card, storage space won’t be much of an issue. The speaker isn’t great, but I’ve heard worse. The headphone jack is a good option.
- Draw a picture – MS Paint works just fine. Plus an external mouse to keep the kids busy in the back of the car.
- Make a slideshow – Microsoft ImageViewer comes pre-installed and runs smoothly.
- Write a novel – A pre-installed application called TextMaker allows you to type and save in a Microsoft Word .doc format.
If you’ve read the header on this site, you’ve figured out I think there are still many uses for an old PDA. Games, movies and music are just a few ways to bring these devices back to life. But how do you know a good old PDA from a bad one? Here are some questions you should ask before buying or bidding.
- Does it work? Okay, this one is a bit obvious but I’m surprised how many eBay sellers don’t say this in their auction. A photo of the device turned on is always a good indication, but don’t assume anything. The digitizer (i.e. touch screen) may be broken or the buttons may not work. On eBay, check to see if it’s being sold as “for parts or not working.” What’s the return policy? If it doesn’t say, it’s better to ask before you bid.
The back of this iPAQ rx1950 pops off to replace the main battery.
- Does the main battery hold a charge? Many auctions on eBay will tell you that the device has been tested, but will not guarantee how long the battery will hold a charge. This is their way of telling you that the battery life isn’t good. If the main battery is the original, this creates a problem if you want to take the PDA away from an outlet.First, find out if the battery is user replaceable. A lot of PDAs have a back battery compartment which will simply slide off. Some battery compartments have a small release switch in the back or a few small screws. Replacement batteries for most devices can still be purchased on the Internet, although they may have to be shipped from overseas. If the PDA manufacturer does not consider the battery to be user replaceable, it’s still possible to do it yourself although it’s a royal pain. You’ll need special tools such as a torx screwdriver, a pry tool and possibly a soldering kit. You’ll also need excellent vision as you’ll be dealing with a lot of tiny screws and ribbon cables.Of course if you’re purchasing a PDA made before 2000, they may use AAA batteries. The Casio Cassiopeia E-15 and Palm m125 are examples of my favorite PDAs that require AAA batteries.
The Dell Axim X3 and X30 series use a non-user replaceable back up battery.
- What type of backup battery does it use? PDA makers quickly figured out that their customers became annoyed when they lost all their data every time the main battery ran out of juice. So most PDA manufacturers began designing their devices with some form of back-up battery. Most PDAs designed from 2000 to 2005 use a coin-sized CR2032 battery. These are easy to find online and in your local stores. Energizer and Duracell manufacture these, but the cheaper, generic ones seem to last just as long.
PDAs manufactured after 2005 will often use a rechargeable backup battery. The ones I’ve seen are not user replaceable. One of the most notorious is the Dell Axim X3/X3i and X30/x30i. Overall, these are powerful little PDAs, but replacing the backup battery requires a steady hand. The device must be almost completely disassembled then precisely reassembled. The cord for the battery must be coiled just right or it pushes against the on/off button for the wireless Internet. Frustrating! My advice is to steer clear.
- What’s the condition? Wear and tear on an old PDA is to be expected, but there are many PDAs out there in excellent condition. The condition of the screen and the buttons should be the main concern. Ask if a screen protector has been used. There are also many PDAs that were given as gifts but ended up in the back of a drawer.
A stylus for a Jornada 720 can cost more than the device itself.
- What’s it come with? I understand…power adapters and styluses get lost over time. But buying a used PDA without accessories can get costly. I’ve seen adapters sell for more than the PDA itself! The most economical deals are those bundled with the PDA, power cord and accessories such as an external keyboard, extra stylus and docking station.
Always do your research. Check out the PDA’s specs and manufacturer. There are still many great sites out there with information about PDAs…including this one!
I ran across this gem of a program called Palm OS Cobalt Simulator v 6.1. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It allows you to emulate/simulate a device running Palm OS Cobalt.
The nice thing is that this one already has the roms included. It even creates the necessary folders for your program. Simply copy your .prc files into the “…Card1/PALM/Launcher” folder. No muss, no fuss.
Here’s the link.