A recent Washington Post profile about technology critic Walt Mossberg caught my attention. In it, the Wall Street Journal columnist admits that he keeps a pile of gadgets he’s evaluating in a “locked space called The Vault.”
I’ve never met Walt, although his tenure as a tech writer began about the same time I was hired at Dow Jones (I fled Wall Street in 1992 because I was bored of covering the stock market). But I know we’ve got at least one other thing in common: The Vault.
Mine isn’t really a vault. It’s more like a closet, packed with tech toys, gadgets, and laptop computers that companies lend me. After last week’s story about gizmo junkie Doug Jensen – not to mention a frantic call from an NEC publicist asking me when a review of the company’s MobilePro 880 would appear – I thought it might be a good idea to unlock the closet.
Here’s what I found:
The NEC MobilePro 880: Getting used to Windows CE – think “Palm” meets “Windows” – is one thing. But trying to move any significant amount of data from your PC to this wannabe PDA is quite another. I liked this gadget’s almost 10-inch color screen and its keyboard put that of other personal digital assistants to shame. If NEC can keep the MobilePro’s weight in the 2.6 pound range and can evolve it for a few more generations (think smaller, faster and wireless) then I’ll be the first to shell out the $1,000-some it will cost.
Acer TravelMate 736: I’ve already threatened to write about this laptop, and now I’m making good on it. It’s a great computer, supercharged with a wicked-fast Pentium III processor and all the memory that Windows ME could ever want. One of the features I liked best was the touchpad that eliminates a lot of unnecessary tapping and scratching. The ersatz mouse isn’t easy to get used to, but once you can use it, you’ll never want to go back to the clicker on your old portable. I wasn’t happy with the TravelMate’s weight (close to seven pounds) which made it more of a desktop replacement than a laptop and left me wondering if its name is all that deserved. Price: about $2,600.
The Sprint NP1000: In a previous column about wireless e-mail, I sang the praises of the gorgeous NP1000, and I don’t see any reason to stop now. At about $300, I think it’s worth every penny. The same can’t be said for Sprint’s PCS service in cities such as Washington, D.C. where your signal often spontaneously fades (even out in the open). So while the NP1000 gets high marks, the network itself rates a gentleman’s “C.” Put differently, I wouldn’t try anything mission-critical from one of Sprint’s digital phones in DC. Coverage in other places, such as San Francisco and Chicago, rated only slightly better.
RIM 850: This is one of the devices that I’ve used since the first day eLink sent it to me. Technically, it wasn’t in the closet, but next to my other PC, charging. The RIM is a far more elegant way to send and receive e-mail than a cellular phone – or even another PDA – and it weighs only about five ounces. I’m not about to believe the manufacturer’s promise that you can get 30 words a minute typing on its microscopic keyboard, but I can make assurances about its reliability: the RIM hasn’t failed me yet. Price: $360 plus about $60 for unlimited monthly usage. They’ll have to pry this evaluation unit out of my cold, dead hands.
eRunner: This column has covered the conflict between paper-based and electronic organizers, but now there’s a way to have both. Day Runner’s new eRunner line of planners offers space for your cellular phone or personal digital assistant, plus room for any business cards and fiber-based material that a traveler can collect on a trip (such as tickets, itineraries or receipts). The eRunners retail for between $25 and $100. Day Runner was kind enough to send me two versions of the planner, and they both did a disappearing act in no time. Seems I’m not the only one in the office who needs a place to organize all of his gadgets.
Tomorrow I’ll be calling FedEx and sending most of these toys back to the manufacturers. And my closet will once again be empty, meaning that I’ll have no more cool gadgets to carry around with me on my next trip. Call it a late spring-cleaning in Elliott’s office.
What should I fill it with? What kinds of gizmos do you want to read about? Are there any laptops, palmtops or even desktops that you’d like to get the story on?