PDair 3inOne Stylus - Palm OS & Pocket PC

Reviewed by: Mark Goldstein, July 2004, send e-mail
Manufactured by: PDair Workshop, go to the web site
Available at: StylusCentral, go to the web site
Requires: Any popular PDA (Palm OS or Pocket PC/Windows Mobile); model reviewed is compatible with Sony Clie CLIE TH55, TJ37, UX50, NX80V and NX73V
MSRP: $16.99

There are half a dozen companies worldwide that are designing and manufacturing third-party replacement stylii for Palm PDAs, mobile phones and Windows Mobile PDAs. The fact that the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) seem hell-bent on supplying nothing but average to poor stylii with their mostly fine handheld devices is a mystery to us. On the other hand, the variety of third-party models provides a lot of choice. StylusCentral has been terrific about supplying Kickstartnews with new stylus models and PDA cases from its large invetory and this latest stylus is a good example of a third-party manufacturer easily outdoing the OEM. This stylus features a pen, stylus tip and reset pin. The model we've been using for this review is designed specifically for the short stylus storage silo in five different Sony PDAs, all of which require a telescoping stick.

The first design rule for any replacement stylus is that it has to be better than the OEM stick. The telescoping steel OEM stick supplied by Sony is highly polished (which means its ultra smooth and therefore somewhat difficult to grip securely), of tiny diameter (which is a basic design flaw - I mean even my petite 10 year old niece found the OEM stick too skinny), telescopes in & out properly (read: locks open and closed reasonably securely), and snaps into the silo firmly enough to prevent the stick from falling out accidentally. The design of the Sony stick is flawed further by the fact that the telescoping upper section is naturally even skinnier than the lower barrel and unavoidably rotates as you hook a fingernail under the stylus cap to lift the stick out of its silo, which in turn makes removing the stylus for use a bit of a bother until you get used to firmly gripping the cap between two fingers and yanking on the upper portion to remove it from the silo. Whew! Bet you didn't think a simple stylus merited that much analysis. Think again - especially when considering that the stylus is the principle data input device and user interface access device for 95% of all PDA users. Sony, PalmOne, Compaq/HP, Toshiba and all the others have got to do a better job here; a much better job.

The PDair has to solve all of the foregoing concerns in order to merit replacing the Sony stick. First and foremost then, the PDair 3-in-1 is grippier than the OEM stick. It's pretty enough and very cleanly finished, but it's also slightly rough - barely detectable - on the lower barrel just above the tapered tip section, all of which combines to provide a noticeably more secure grip (using the Sony stick, your grip tends to slide down the barrel requiring you to frequently reposition your fingers - aggravating). Chalk up one for PDair.

The PDair stylus is constrained in this case by the limits imposed by the very small diameter silo and the need for telescoping action. The silo fit is a bit snugger and the locking detent on the telescoping section is a bit firmer, which all means that removing the PDair 3-in-1 stylus from the Sony silo is a more secure activity. Chalk up another one for PDair.

Cons: We'd like a slightly firmer telescoping lock. Of course we could also wish that Sony started designing fatter stylii for its PDAs, but now that Sony has announced it's going to discontinue PDA production and marketing anyway, the request is moot. The feature set of the PDair is described incorrectly on the product web page; there are three main features alright but PDair, like Sony, uses the stylus tip to double as a reset pin when inserted into the oversize reset pin hole in the bottom of the PDA casing.

Pros: The PDair 3-in-1 model for the Zire 71/72 is also vastly superior to the PalmOne OEM stylus. Excellent stylus tip wear charactersitics which treat your precious PDA screen gently while providing a firm feel in the grafitti area when entering data. Tip material characteristics seem identical to the OEM tip, providing a sensitive touch and smooth glide on the screen or on screen protector film. As usual with these 3-in-1 models, having a ballpoint pen handy as part of the stylus itself is quite useful. The short little pen refill is easily replaceable by unscrewing the grip section from the main stylus barrel; new refills are available from StylusCentral. For seventeen bucks you can't go wrong and we recommend this stylus.

Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: whine@kickstartnews.com





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