Last week we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the two mainstream styles of computer; the laptop and the PC. The third, and possibly more restrictive alternative would be to use a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) however the mobile telecoms industry has recently presented a fourth option for those wanting to do their work on the move in the form of the Nokia 9210 Communicator.

I’ll forgive those of you who haven’t heard of this product before because as stated, the product series is a fairly new concept and the newest model of the Communicator that I am going to review today is only a couple of weeks old and therefore it has been specially provided to me by the guys at the Carphone Warehouse in Torquay.

So what is the Nokia Communicator? Quite simply it is very much like a PDA combined with a mobile phone. For those of you slightly unsure as to what a PDA is, you may remember we’ve looked at a PDA in the past in the form of the Compaq iPAQ. Essentially, they allow the user to perform many of the tasks laptops are commonly used for but instead of a 3kg machine, PDA’s tend to typically weigh around the 200g mark and therefore can easily be carried in a shirt pocket. For Nokia to combine a mobile phone and PDA into one unit is an incredibly good idea; rather than carrying around two separate devices, you only require one which instantly eliminates a number of problems connected with the separate mobile phone and PDA combo.

Most obvious, there is the matter of weight; although bulky for a mobile phone, the Nokia Communicator excels when it comes to being a compact PDA. Compare the weight and size of this unit to a mobile phone and a PDA together and you’ll soon notice the difference especially when you consider that if you were to take this unit on the road with you, it wouldn’t be necessary to carry around two chargers, two carry cases, all the connecting cables etc.

In addition, to send an e-mail or a fax using a standard PDA and Mobile phone would require you to link the two together via either a cable or Infra-Red connection. Using the two together eliminates this problem. The Communicator is able to browse the Internet, use WAP services and to send e-mails or faxes by using your mobile phone account without requiring any additional connections.

Now without further footing the Communicator squarely against a PDA and mobile phone combination, I’m going to cover exactly what this equipment has to offer so that you can make your own minds up.
When you first get the Communicator out of the box, the unit is ‘closed’ meaning that you can use it as a standard mobile phone with its own separate Dot Matrix display. When the machine starts to get impressive however is when you actually flip open the phone revealing a large crystal clear backlit TFT display which promptly springs into life. Since the Communicator comes with a free Digital Camera, you are able to transfer them onto this device to really take advantage of this screen by viewing them in an impressive 4096 colours. The camera itself is capable of storing 12 image before being downloaded onto the Communicator at which point they can be either stored in it’s internal memory, or sent by fax, e-mail or via the in built Infra-Red port or supplied Data Cable to transfer it on to a PC.

In terms of compatibility, the Communicator uses the Symbian Graphical User Interface which is capable of supporting Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats as well as a full HTML Internet browser with Java support, therefore ensuring that the majority of documents that you use on your PC can be taken to the road. So that you stay up to date, additional software can be loaded on to the machine if required.

Other helpful features include a Dictaphone function for taking down memos in voice format, a comprehensive calendar to store any appointments and a video player for short movie clips as well as a host of other useful features.

In terms of small niggles with the machine, I would have liked the display to have been touch screen however to incorporate this technology into the 244 gramme box would have possibly been near impossible. In addition, the current price of £499 could be out of the reach of some people however I don’t feel that this could be avoided when you consider the amount of research and development that has to take place in order to get a PDA and mobile phone to exist as one unit and to also to function with the included digital colour camera. The Nokia Communicator can currently be bought as part of a contract mobile phone deal available on BT Cellnet, Vodafone and hopefully shortly on Orange.

Again my thanks go to the Carphone Warehouse for allowing me to try out this exciting new piece of technology and I hope that this and last weeks articles have given you an insight in to the number of solutions that are available for working on the move.

As always, I endeavour to ensure that all information that I give on the products reviewed is 100% accurate although please check specific features yourself before purchase.

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