Although I-mate is better known for its smart phones in the United States, the company calls itself "specialists in Windows Mobile device solutions," and that includes PDAs. Hence, the I-mate PDA-N. The handheld runs the latest Windows Mobile 5 operating system and includes many of the features found on other PDAs today, but it also throws in some extra tricks, such as GPS navigation and VoIP support. However, you're going to pay a price for such features, as the PDA-N costs a whopping $499. Along with its smart-phone siblings, the and the , the I-mate PDA-N is scheduled for release in April.
Upside: As we mentioned, the I-mate PDA-N includes VoIP support and ships with Skype loaded on the device, so with the built-in Wi-Fi, you can use the PDA-N to make phone calls over the Internet--a boon for mobile professionals. Also, useful to road warriors is the embedded 12-channel GPS receiver, which can help navigate to various client meetings, conferences, or the kids' soccer practice. I-mate will also package it with a vehicle mount.
Standard features on the I-mate PDA-N include Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC Edition, with the full Office Mobile suite, Bluetooth (in addition to the aforementioned Wi-Fi), a 300MHz Samsung processor, and multimedia support (WAV, WMA, AMR, and MP3 music files, as well as M-JPEG/WMV video files).
Downside: The I-mate PDA-N comes with only 128MB of ROM and 32MB of RAM, which is a bit on the low side for a device of this class. Fortunately, there is an SDIO/MMC expansion slot. Also, on the small side is the PDA's screen. It measures only 2.8 inches diagonal, and though it has a crisp 240x320-pixel resolution and shows 64,000 colors, most handhelds today come with at least 3.5-inch displays. Finally, we're curious to see what the battery life is on the PDA-N, considering the advanced functions, such as VoIP and GPS. According to I-mate, the PDA-N has a rated battery life of 5 hours in GPS mode and 8 hours playing a looped video; we'll be sure to put these claims to test when we get it into CNET Labs.
Outlook: Being the new kid on the block, the I-mate PDA-N will have to prove that it can play with the big boys: HP, Dell, and Palm. On paper, it has the credentials and even steps it up a notch with its included VoIP functionality, but can it actually deliver on performance? Check back soon for a full review.