Belkin Penlight PDA Stylus

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Made by: Belkin Corporation, go to the web site
Requires: Compatible PDA: Palm V, m130, m500, m505, m515, i705; Handspring Visor, Prism, Platinum, Pro, Neo; HP Jornada 560 Series; Sony Clie N Series, PEG-S360; Samsung 1300; Toshiba e570
MSRP: US$13.99

The Belkin Penlight Stylus is an interesting accessory for your Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). It is a replacement for your existing stylus and is designed with a built in LED tip and reasonably good balance and feel for writing Graffiti. The LED is powered by a replaceable BR435 Lithium 3V battery, one of which is supplied with the stylus. The LED light in the stylus is meant to be used occasionally instead of your PDA's backlight, thereby extending the life of your PDA battery. Belkin Components (formerly Belkin Corporation), has a huge list of PDA and other accessories in its product list these days and the Penlight PDA Stylus is one of the newest additions.

Belkin sent us a model designed for use with selected Palm, Handspring Visor, HP Jornada and Sony Clie PDAs. The stylus fit perfectly into the integrated holder on the Clie PEG-S360 we used for testing. The end cap of the stylus twists clockwise to turn on the LED, and counterclockwise to turn it off. Whatever you do, don't forget to turn off the LED before inserting the stylus into its slot - the non-rechargeable battery will run down because there's no Auto-Off function. Replacement BR435 batteries cost upwards of $9.00. A couple of accidental run-downs will make you wonder why you bothered with the stylus in the first place. Stated battery life is approximately 10 hours, which equates to months of general PDA use.

The stylus works reasonably well, but it's not a replacement for your PDA's backlight. Unlike the PDA's backlight, only a small Graffiti area is visible around the stylus tip. The light brightly illuminates only a small, circular area about 10mm in diameter, surrounded by a 4mm wide band of shadow and a wider, diffuse outer ring of faint light. You can't tell if the Graffiti you're writing is complete nonsense unless you stop and check the output every few words. You have to concentrate on what you're writing and avoid looking at the bright stylus tip. The stylus light is strictly for emergencies, such as situations in poor light in which your PDA battery is nearly dead and you have to enter some important data.

We did a run-down test of the battery supplied with the stylus. It lasted 8 hours in a continuous use test (and I filled many screens full of notes and played many, many rounds of Solitaire, Sokoban, Traffic and Bejeweled). We purchased a replacement battery at a local hobby shop - the BR435 is used to power model airplane beacons, flashing fishing float LEDs and several other applications. We used the replacement as a spot illuminator for 30 minute PDA sessions scattered over about a week and a half and managed to clock almost 11 hours of use before the second stylus battery died. Under normal PDA use, the battery in the stylus should last for months.

Cons: The LED lens - which forms the writing tip of the stylus - is not frosted and does not diffuse the light into a soft, even pattern. There is also a band of shadow, the light is harsh and you will get reflections off your PDA screen, all of which make it difficult, though not impossible, to use the Penlight PDA Stylus as an emergency reading light.

Pros: Battery life is quite good. The tiny lithium BR435 can last through months of occasional use and replacements have come way down in price - as low as $2.00. The stylus is a featherweight, lighter than a stock PDA stylus, but well-balanced. I like it as a Graffiti writing instrument (although it's not significantly better than the Sony stylus I normally use and like just fine). I wrote this review on the PDA using the Belkin stylus. When your PDA battery life is down to 5% and you have to take a bunch of notes in a poorly lit area, the Belkin Penlight PDA Stylus may come in handy.

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