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Welcome back. This is Part 7 of a 10 part series on Choosing a PDA. Here’s a list of the top 10 things you should consider when choosing a PDA:
1 – Standalone PDA or all-in-one smartphone?
2 – Wireless connectivity?
3 – Touchscreen or non-touchscreen PDA?
4 – Graffiti or on-screen input or keyboard/keypad input?
5 – Palm, Pocket PC, Blackberry or other similar devices?
6 – Screen resolution
7 – Memory (RAM)
8 – Battery (life and removable or non-removable characteristics)
9 – Processing power (clock speed)
10 – Expandability and accessories
7 – Memory (RAM)
Memory, or more specifically when we’re discussing the PDA device, we are really talking about RAM (Random Access Memory). If you are somewhat familiar with computers, you may have heard that before. RAM or Random Access Memory on a PDA device is somewhat similar to RAM on a computer in that it is virtual memory storage that relies on a continuous trickle of electricity or power to keep or store the data.
For those who have owned a computer a few years ago, you may have been reminded time and time again to “save” your work every few minutes. The reason being, is that most of whatever you do on the computer is normally temporarily stored in RAM, which requires that same continuous trickle of electricity to keep that data stored. So, when you “save” something, you are actually doing a manual save of the data from the virtual RAM storage, to a physical storage, like a floppy disk (for those we remember those) or the computer’s hard drive. Once it’s physically saved, even if the power goes out, you will still have the data stored, well, at least whatever you saved onto the physical storage. That’s why it was important to remember to save frequently so that even if the power is cut, that you don’t have to lose everything you’ve worked on before the power went out.
The same applies to PDAs and the RAM memory in them. Most PDAs have at least some RAM storage. Others will support external flash memory storage via a flash memory card, like an SD (Secure Digital), mini-SD, Memory Stick, Compact Flash, xD, etc. They very much operate the same way, except they are in different sizes and offered by different manufacturers. They can be thought of as similar to floppy disks for computers. They are physical storage and data saved on it won’t easily or normally get wiped out when the power goes out. But data corruption and damage can still happen although that’s another story.
As with many things, the more RAM memory the PDA has, the better or more storage capability it can support. So, obviously a PDA that has 64MB of RAM built in, will offer more storage than that of a PDA with 32MB RAM. A few years earlier before Palm introduced the NVFS (Non-Volatile File System) devices, 64MB can be considered quite a lot of memory, especially with respect to Palm since a lot of programs barely even come close to touching 1 MB in size.
You can store a lot of different files in RAM. You can store programs, multimedia files, documents, and it’s easily and quickly accessible. Accessing files on the flash memory card is still going to be slower compared to accessing files in RAM. This applies to a computer as well as a PDA. RAM is volatile but it’s also fast.
Unfortunately, nowadays, most current Palm devices are NVFS devices and due to the way it’s designed, 64MB on an NVFS device isn’t the same as 64MB on a non-NVFS device because the NVFS devices now need to be loading into a special “window” called DBCache before it can be accessed by the programs. In the earlier days, everything was loaded in RAM and program can access it whenever they want. Also, the way it’s designed, data storage with regards to built in memory in NVFS does tend to move due to the continuous changes in space. So, unlike the older non-NVFS devices where the data storage stays in one place, this is not the case with storage in NVFS devices. Thus, when NVFS was first introduced, a lot of older Palm software programs would crash the newer devices because, suddenly, the data that the older Palm program was looking for, suddenly finds that it’s “gone” and the program doesn’t know wha to do. So it crashes.
The other thing to think about with regards to NVFS is that you will need quite a few Megabytes (MB) of freely accessible RAM in order for your device to function properly without crashing. With non-NVFS devices, you can still run your Palm on a little over 1MB free RAM. On an NVFS device, I think it’s closer to 5 or 6MB although I have never tested it or let it go down that much. Regardless, you can’t run with 1 or 2MB of free RAM on an NVFS device.
Without getting sidetracked into discussing NVFS, all you really need to know about RAM is that the more more there is, the better. NVFS is another very complicated subject that I don’t think I ever want to venture into (btw, I hate NVFS).
That’s the end of this part on memory (RAM). Please continue on to Part 8: Battery (life and removabile or non-removable characteristics)
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