Pocket rocket

2nd May 2003 at 01:00
Smaller than a shirt pocket, and a fraction of the size of a laptop, pocket diaries find some handy uses. We've heard of schools using them, just like this smart Toshiba, to mark registers or record scores in PE lessons.

Mostly you'd use this as an organiser and keep it in "sync" with your desktop computer, except that the Toshiba 740e does lots more.

If you saw the Tosh in a high street showcase, you'd admire the sleek metal finish and bright colour screen. But not much on the outside tells you it has wireless (Wi-Fi) capability inside that will keep you in touch with the school network.

If you're after an organiser for personal use only, the cost of a wireless link is affordable, even for home use. I used MSN Messenger for a spot of instant chat; browsing the internet was easy, too, although at this pocket size rather impractical.

But picking up your email using a wireless connection is so fabulous that you could easily conclude it's the key to all staff having useful, hassle-free email. And if you need to email the world at large, the Toshiba can dial-up the internet (using an infra-red connection) through most mobile phones. Alternatively you could get a different version that uses Bluetooth technology - a shorter range wireless link to Bluetooth equipped mobile phones and PCs.

Thoughtful design is built-in - like the slot to take inexpensive digital camera cards (Compact Flash). With this you could carry hundreds of floppy disks' worth of documents and photos. You could also store PowerPoint presentations and, amazingly, with the help of a pound;20 expansion pack, show them on a regular monitor or projector.

Impressively the 740e is powered by a beefy 400MHz chip, which makes it faster than most Pocket PCs and not far behind the speed of many desktop machines in schools.

But the dumb thing is that this processor has to work on battery power - typically all you get is a day's worth of power before recharging. I left the Tosh off its charging cradle for a week and found I had no friends and no appointments, but I did have a gorgeous piece of kit.

This is not a problem specific to the Toshiba, it's common with digital diaries and it's really very frustrating - after all my mobile phone has never once lost all my stored details. It just goes to show that recharging a Pocket PC is a job for life, not just for Christmas.

Roger Frost

Toshiba PDA 740e

Fitness for purpose 35

Ease of use 45

Features 55

Design 55

Value for money 35

Wi-fi version - pound;425 + VAT Bluetooth version - pound;399 + VAT 400MHz processor, 64Mb memory. Type II Compact Flash Slot; Secure Digital card slot. Monitor and keyboard ports via Expansion Pack (pound;20). Large battery (pound;90). www.toshiba.co.uk

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