Taking a look at the EM 500, the similarities between it and
Casio's earlier E 115 Pocket PC become quite apparent. Along the top of the unit
is the stereo headphone jack (perfect for listening to MP3's), MMC slot, stylus
holder, and status lights to indicate charging state and alarms. One nice catch
is that the MMC slot is protected by a rubber flap, so the chances of dust or
other stray objects entering the slot is minimized. Along the left hand side,
you'll find the AC adapter connector, the power button, a scroll wheel, the
voice recorder button, and the infrared lens. The IR lens' location seems a bit
out of place in my opinion. So many other units have their IR port at the top of
the device, which makes more sense when using it to beam data.
front lies the active matrix display. As mentioned in the specifications, the
LCD is very bright, and supports a vivid 65,536 colors. As with most active
matrix LCD's however, the display is virtually useless in bright sunlight, which
is a consideration that needs to be taken into effect if the device will be used
in such lighting. A solution to this is to use a semi reflective display similar
to that found on Compaq's iPaq device, where it will use ambient light if
available, and switch on a backlight only when needed). Even still, in areas
with little to average lighting, the display on the EM 500 was very pleasing to
the eye, and very comfortable to work with for long periods of time. Below the
display you'll also find a 4 way control pad and three quick start buttons
(useful for launching your favorite applications.
The bottom of the unit
features the connector to plug the USB cable into. Unlike the aforementioned MMC
slot protection, this connector is only covered by a small plastic cover that is
easily removed. Once removed however, it is extremely easy to misplace. A rubber
flap, or even a plastic door would have been a wiser choice for Casio here.
Below this connector is a small opening just large enough for the stylus. This
is used for removing the battery cover. Simply poke the stylus tip into this
hole, and the battery cover pops up.
This brings us to the back of the EM
500, where you'll find the main battery and backup battery. It is in this regard
that Casio is leagues above the competition. Rather than rely on an integrated
rechargeable battery as most hand helds with color displays do, Casio has
thoughtfully included both a removable Lithium Ion battery and coin cell backup
battery (CR 2032). Why is this important? Firstly, any rechargeable battery will
eventually lose its ability to maintain a charge.
When this happens
with the EM 500's battery, you can simply order a new one from Casio and
continue using the device. Other units would need to be sent out for repair.
Having the backup battery ensures that data in the device won't be lost when the
main battery dies. This is very handy when you haven't synchronized information
in a while, and is something that every PDA manufacturer should think of. If
inexpensive $30 electronic organizers have this feature, then I certainly think
a $400 PDA should too.
All in all, the EM 500 has a well thought out
design. Controls are in an intuitive layout (save for the infrared lens), the
display is top notch, and the use of removable main and backup batteries is long
overdue in the PDA market. Let's just hope others can learn from Casio's