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Which is the best gaming PDA? Page 3: WindowsCE

The second leading group of PDAs are those running WindowsCE. There are two very distinct versions, Palm-sized PCs that are similar to the PalmPilot, and Handheld PCs with a keyboard.


Palm-sized PC      


There are several different models of Palm-sized PCs to choose from. The leaders are the HP Jornada 430 and the Casio E-105. Both feature an excellent 240x320 screen with 16-bit color, running at about 133 MHz. The specs seem great for a handheld gaming unit, but unfortunately the design wasnít meant for games. Most Palm-sized PCs only have a few buttons on the side, so the input is pretty much limited to the stylus. While this may be fine for some games, most action games need the cursor keys. The Casio E-105 was the first to feature a cursor key on the front which works great for games, but so far the developer has to specifically program for the E-105.


Handheld PC        


The Handheld PCs can be thought of as a mini laptop. A prime example is the older HP 600LX. It has a 640x240 touch screen with 256 colors, and a little keyboard. The half-sized screen doesnít really work well for games, but at least it has a keyboard. HPCs arenít really that portable though, and the HPC Pro is quickly replacing them. The HP Jornada 820 is a HPC Pro device with an amazing 640x480 screen at 256 colors, with a keyboard and touchpad. But with dimensions of 9.7x7.0x1.3" and weighing 2.5 lbs, it is more like a laptop than anything else. In fact, the Toshiba Libretto is smaller, weighs less, and runs Windows 95.


Both the Palm-sized PC and Handheld PC suffer from one major drawback: lack of developer support. In the past few years, there have been three major versions of WindowsCE and several different waves of devices. End users as well as developers are surely becoming frustrated that after a year a device is obsolete and no longer in production. The differences between Palm-sized PCs and HPCs mean that most developers choose to only produce software for one platform. Further complicating things is that different manufacturers use different processors, either MIPS or SH3, meaning separate versions of software must be maintained. Even the new Jornada 820 uses a StrongArm RISC processor, meaning it canít run any existing CE software unless it's recompiled.


That's not to say there aren't any good games for WindowsCE... Some are pretty amazing, but they are few and far between. One prime example of what the HPC is capable of is ShadowGate Classic.

This is an amazing game that closely follows the original PC version. They did a great job of supporting every possible HPC configuration: grayscale and color support, for MIPS, SH3, SH4, and ARM processors.

Hasbro Interactive has published a number of classic board games for both the Palm-sized PC and HPC, such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and Slingo. They are all commercial quality games, but lack support for color Palm-sized PCs. These games are a testimony of the broad retail distribution and publicity that can come with a major game publisher.



There are not many independent developers for WindowsCE, but one that stands out from the crowd is Jimmy. Great action games in full color, and even a full port of Doom. You will notice, however, that only a few devices are actually supported. 


When the smoke clears and the manufacturers can settle on one standard device, I am sure that more developers will support WindowsCE. While there is no doubt that WindowsCE systems are far superior technologically to PalmOS, the whole WindowsCE market seems very fragmented and the lack of support is frustrating. The capabilities of these devices suggest that they might make excellent gaming platforms, but the developer support is simply not there.

Page 4: Conclusion >>

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