Tuesday, September 1, 1998

Nino 300 vs. the Palm III organizer: the hardware

HARDWARE SHOOTOUT

By Jason Perlow

Alrighty then. So you're probably wondering why in the name of all that is sacred that we're opening up the potential for religious wars this month in PalmPower. We all love our PalmPilot devices and our Palm III organizers and our WorkPads, and even thinking about the evil goons at Microsoft gives us the willies. Who cares? End of story! Right?

Well, it's not that simple. Up until recently, the Palm computing platform was the only game in town if you wanted an easy-to-use, well-supported electronic organizer that fit in your shirt pocket and synchronized with all of your favorite applications. Now that Windows CE is in its second generation with the Palm-sized PC, many of you might be curious as to how Microsoft's come-lately contender stacks up to our favorite gadget. This month, we put the latest and greatest of the Palm-sized PCs, the Philips Nino 300, as shown in Figure A, against the Palm III, strictly from a hardware perspective. You may be surprised by the results.

FIGURE A

This is the new Philips Nino 300. (click for larger image)

Speeds and feeds

The reigning champion, weighing in at six ounces and 4.7 inches tall, is the Palm III device. Powered by twin AAA alkaline batteries with no backup, the Palm III runs on the Motorola MC68328 Dragonball processor. This is a 32-bit 16Mhz energy-efficient CPU based on the venerable but aging 68000, which can address up to 4GB of theoretical physical memory. The Palm III device has 2MB of flash memory for holding the 1.2MB Palm OS version 3, plus 2MB of SRAM for running and storing Palm OS applications and user data. There are no expansion slots for additional memory; the entire bank of system memory plus the Flash RAM has to be replaced if you want more SRAM, which is currently only offered through a single vendor, TRG. Additional peripherals such as modems and GPS units can be attached via the Palm III's HotSync port at the base.

The contender, weighing in at nearly eight ounces and towering over the Palm III at 5.3 inches, is the European-engineered Philips Nino 300. The Nino is powered by either an included rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride battery, or by two AA alkaline batteries. The Nino has a backup 5-year lithium cell which saves the state of the system configuration and memory should the unit lose power. The Nino runs on a 75Mhz Philips-designed PR31700 RISC CPU based on the SGI/MIPS R3000A, which can address up to 4GB of physical memory. The Nino 300 has 4MB of Flash ROM for storing the bulging Windows CE OS, plus 4MB or 8MB of RAM for running and storing Windows CE applications and user data. The Nino has a industry-standard CompactFlash slot for memory expansion cards, which are available from several vendors, and CompactFlash peripherals such as wireless modems, pager cards and Ethernet cards. The PR31700 has a built-in 19.2KBPS software modem, which is used through a modem adapter module, sold separately.