The handheld from Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palm Inc. garnered 32% of the votes, with 92 of the 288 people respondents in this category selecting the m505.
Voted next-best by Datamation.com and CIN readers was Compaq Computer Corp.'s iPAQ Pocket PC H3870, which scored 26% of the votes. Third was the Visor Edge by Handspring Inc., with 17% of the votes.
What puts the Palm m505 at the top of the heap?
Users like its silent alarms, expansion capability, the fact that it's less pixilated than other color Palms, and has USB or serial synching support.
Bruce and Marge Brown, in a review for PC Magazine, said "the Palm m505 isn't a perfect PDA but is easily the best Palm yet."
Compaq users do like their iPAQs, however. The iPAQ Pocket PC 3835 model, like the Palm, also has 65,000 colors and wireless connectivity options. Charles Parker, president of Parker Financial Advisors in Houston, has been using his for seven months. He especially likes the clear and easy-to-read display. "I have the backlight set to adjust brightness automatically, which is great," he said. "I keep over 1,000 contact addresses and phone numbers, plus all my tasks that are synched with my desktop (Microsoft) Outlook."
Overall, the market for these mobile devices is not as strong as that for the well-established laptop computer category, but even so, Gartner Dataquest estimates sharply rising U.S. sales, from 5.6 million in 2001 to 15.8 million in 2005.
What's the future hold for PDAs? More processing power, for one thing.
"We're seeing a lot of progress in the PDA market, with tremendous processing power in increasingly smaller devices," said Timothy M. McNamara, staff director for communications at the Consumer Electronics Association.
"We are (also) seeing much more functional combination devices than we have in previous years," he said. "Combination PDA/phones and handheld PC's (with a multitude of functions) are achieving design specifications that consumers find functional. Finally, the PDA has really branched outside of its roots in the corporate environment, and out to the general consumer in the mass marketplace. People of all ages are replacing their paper organizers with PDA devices that offer much more than just a calendar and address book."
Other products in this category that were rated by Datamation.com voters include the Palm m125 with 10% of the votes; the HP Jornada 568 from the Hewlett-Packard Co. with 9% and the CLIE PEG-T415 from Sony Corp. with about 6%.