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Maestro plays a PDA tune

Maestro plays a PDA tune

With the release of Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 specification, which raised the bar for Windows PDA performance, Toshiba decided the time was right to break in to the PDA market with a sleek device called the e570. Audiovox then rebranded Toshiba's model under its own label as the Maestro PDA1032C. It is the exact same product as the e570 but with half as much RAM (32MB instead of the e570's 64MB). We evaluated the Maestro and found it to be a capable PDA, but with a few quirks that make competing models a stronger choice.

Similar to other Pocket PC 2002 PDAs, the Maestro is slimmer and lighter than its Windows CE predecessors. Its 206MHz Intel StrongArm CPUs, 16-bit colour displays, slots for memory and I/O cards (one CompactFlash and one SecureDigital), infrared ports, and USB sync interfaces match the specs of other Pocket PC 2002 devices. The device's front-panel layout is uniquely simple and elegant: A straight row of four function buttons is split by a round directional pad.

The Maestro feels good in the hand, thanks in part to strips of rubberised trim on the sides. But the unit's design comes up short in some key respects. Its reflective, front-lit LCD screen isn't nearly as bright and readable as the backlit screen on Hewlett-Packard's Jornada. And there is no replaceable coin-cell backup battery to guard against data loss.

Other Pocket PC 2002 devices have fingertip scroll buttons or jog wheels along the left edge that make them easier to operate one-handed (such as looking up a contact while using the phone). The Maestro lacks this, and it cannot be removed from the supplied USB cradle with one hand. To its credit, the device's top-loading memory and I/O slots are readily accessible. Cards insert easily and the hinged plastic cover does not interfere with card I/O connectors.

The bundle includes an attractive leather case, a modem cord for Audiovox cordless phones, and Microsoft Outlook 2002/ActiveSync software.

The bottom line

Audiovox Maestro

PDA1032C Business Case: This Pocket PC 2002 device, a rebranding of Toshiba's e570, boasts a fast CPU, colour display, memory and I/O slots, and fast USB PC synchronisation, expanding the scope of mobile applications available to travellers.

Technology Case: The top-loading CompactFlash and SecureDigital slots are a big plus, but the Maestro has some frustrating design shortcomings.

Pros:

+ Top-loading memory card slots.

+ Simple, elegant front-panel layout.

+ Leather case included

Cons:

- No side-mounted directional controls.

- No replaceable backup battery.

- Low-contrast display.

Cost: $A1062.00.

Platform(s): Synchronises with PCs running 32-bit editions of Windows.www.audiovox.com.


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