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ASUS A696

This slimline, brushed metal phone-less PDA packs GPS and Bluetooth, but somehow manages to miss out on Windows Mobile 6.

Upside
For those wanting a new PDA without mobile telephony, products are few and far between but Asus has just launched a few phone-less PDAs. One of them is the A696, a good looking device with its brushed metal face. Its key trick, though, is that manages to pack a GPS receiver and circuitry -- the same SiRF Star II chipset found on dedicated portable GPS units -- into a body just 15.7mm thick. The A696's 3.5-inch, 240 x 320 LCD should be sufficient for in-car navigation duties when used in landscape mode.

Packing Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity and Asus' Remote Presenter application, the A696 should appeal to both corporate warriors, who have to present Powerpoint presentations, and those wanting to listen to music on their Bluetooth headphones. There's also Wi-Fi connectivity, as the A696 comes with 802.11b/g.

Downside
The rest of the package is pretty much class standard, like the internals: a 416MHz Intel Xscale processor, 256MB of flash ROM and 64MB of SDRAM. An SD-card slot is present, as is a 3.5mm stereo jack and built-in microphone and speakers.

It's disappointing that a newly launched PDA should ship with Windows Mobile 5.0, not version 6.0 which has been on the market for about half-a-year. But this isn't the first time Asus has launched a new PDA with an outdated operating system: the Asus P735 was initially sold overseas with Windows Mobile 5.0 installed.

Outlook
The A696 is on-sale now for AU$599. There's also the cheaper AU$499 A686, which looks similar but it misses out on Wi-Fi, and has lower specs in the way of processing punch and on-board memory.

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