Special Features

Processors: Why do you care
By: Dave - July 7, 2001

With your desktop computer, a processors is the heart of the computer even though there are many other components that cause your computer to go faster.  Just because you have the fastest Intel or AMD chip on the market, doesn't mean your computer will immediately be fast...though it will help.  With a PDA, your processors is not only the central processing unit for the device, it determines many things about your device, not to mention how and what it will run.  

One of the major things your processor does it determine how fast your device will run.  Really it doesn't "decide", but it sets the speed limit for your device.  A processors speed is determined by how many calculations it can do every seconds.  The speed you read on a box for your device or computer is measured in megahertz (MHz), which is the frequency (the number of) of the calculations.  It really goes a little further then that, but sufficed to say, 1MHz is very slow while 1000MHz (or 1GHz) is very fast.  PDA's processors very in speed from 16MHz to over 206MHz.  If you could have one PDA in one hand with a 16MHz processor and another in the other hand with a 206MHz processor, each running the same thing, you would see the difference easily.  

On your desktop you probably either run Windows, Linux, or the Mac OS (Operating System).  Each is a GUI (Graphical User Interface) that takes approximately the same amount of system recourses*.  Because of this, when using each, with the same system setup, you will see little speed difference.  On your PDA, you probably run (or will run) Windows CE or Palm OS.  Unlike desktop OS's, these two that run on PDA's are very different.  Windows CE is much like a scaled down Windows OS.  It uses a lot of resources and requires a much faster processors.  The Palm OS is more of a supped-up organizer that requires very little processor usage to accomplish the simple tasks it was make to complete.  This is one of the reasons why when comparing PDA's, you see a large difference in the Palm OS processors vs. the Windows CE processors.

There is one other thing you should know, and care about, processors in PDA's.  Palm OS devices currently only use Motorola processors.  Each runs the same basic way allowing for all Palm OS apps to run on any PDA with the Palm OS and that processor.  Windows CE is drastically different.  Currently there are three types of Windows CE compatible processors.  StrongARM, SH3 and MIPS.  Each runs a different way and since Microsoft never made a common executable format (a format for all software to be complied into to run on all processors), you have be careful what software you download.  Only some software will run on some devices.

Though you might not think you care about processors in your PDA's, you really do.  These chip really decide what you can do with your device, and what you can use with your device.  When you buy a PDA, make sure to notice what processor it has.  It could help elevate some headaches later on when you find software won't run or isn't running correctly.


* Yes, I understand there are some recourse management differences.  Some people might feel that "approximately" is really not the right word to use.  Sorry.

Feel free to email me about your own PDA, questions, comments, articles, rumors, and reviews.  I can be reached at dave@davespda.com.