This little device has every comm link except a phone

This little device has every comm link except a phone

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

PageWriter 2000X has a full keyboard, but it's easiest to type using just your thumbs. Priced at $395, it provides constant wireless access through SkyTel service.

Outside the dedicated audience for Palm handhelds, the personal digital assistant market has yet to take off in a big way. But Motorola Inc.'s PageWriter 2000X has the potential to make PDAs mainstream.

The PageWriter with SkyTel service just might be the perfect marriage between PDA and pager. At about 7 ounces, the PageWriter is a little bigger than a standard pager, but its functions are close to amazing.

There's even a QWERTY keyboard. Though it's nowhere close to full-size, I could key in complex e-mail messages quickly using the 50 keys. The trick is not to type as a touch-typist would but to rest the device in your palms and type with your thumbs. It sounds awkward but works well.

The PageWriter has a 2.25- by 1.5-inch monochrome LCD screen with backlighting for the screen and keys. I checked and sent messages outdoors at night without problems.

This is truly a multiuse device:

  • It acts as a regular full-text pager.

  • It exchanges pages with other PageWriter users.

  • It exchanges e-mail with any e-mail address.

  • It stores and retrieves contact information.

  • It schedules events and appointment reminders.

  • It stores text notes.

  • It creates task and to-do lists.

  • It even plays a couple of games, including blackjack.

Given the small form factor and the constant wireless access, the PageWriter could give real competition to far larger PDAs such as palmtops and handhelds.

One weakness, however, is PC synchronization. Starfish Software Inc. of Scotts Valley, Calif., has a TrueSync program for the Motorola pager, but it's not included with the unit. I hope the PageWriter version does a better job than the software on the Rex Pro I reviewed last week [GCN, Sept. 6, Page 1].

Motorola did include a small application for basic PC interfacing. I transferred all e-mail addresses for my contacts with relative ease, although I found the directions lacking when it came to importing data in the appropriate format.

Week-long power

The PageWriter docks in a small bay that connects to the PC's serial port. The dock base also serves as a recharger for the nickel-metal hydride battery, which has a long life. I kept the pager on for close to a week without needing a recharge.

The dock base also has space to recharge a spare battery.

At $395, the PageWriter 2000X might be pricey, but its functionality puts it in the same ballpark as other PDAs. Of course, it does cost $24.95 more per month for nationwide coverage from SkyTel Communications Inc. of Jackson, Miss. But the convenience might be worth it.

Short of a cellular phone, the PageWriter with SkyTel service packs most major communications functions. A user can stay connected around the clock.

Box Score ''''''''

PageWriter 2000X

PDA-pager combination

Motorola Inc., Schaumburg, Ill.;

tel. 800-548-9954

Price: $395 for pager, $24.95 a month for nationwide SkyTel service

+ Easy to use

+ Complete QWERTY keyboard

- No password security

Real-life requirements:

For PC synchronization, Windows 9x or NT, Pentium processor, 32M of RAM, 2M of free storage, available serial port

Say you're not close to a phone, your cell phone isn't working and you need to get in touch with a colleague who does not have e-mail or a pager. Type in your message and send it. SkyTel will convert the text to speech and call your colleague's telephone number. My editor called the voice 'a little creepy,' but it works and is easily understood even without pauses for commas and periods.

You navigate the device via the NavDisc, a round button with up, down, left and right arrows to active areas. The PageWriter has Tab and Enter buttons. Sometimes navigation gets tedious, but it's no worse than on any other miniature device.

The 4.5M of memory for the Flex operating system and software can be upgraded if necessary via the docking station. And if you don't want to waste space with games or other applications, you simply remove them.

One thing the PageWriter lacks is security; it should have password protection to prevent access to stored information.

The PageWriter 2000X and SkyTel service are a winning combination. If the synchronization software works well, the device could become indispensable for users who seek a constant connection to the workplace but want to forgo bulky hardware.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.