Avi Greengart is the Research Director for Consumer Devices at Current Analysis (Mobile Phones, Connected Devices, and Digital Home). He also regularly writes for Slashgear, sporadically blogs at Home Theater View and Tweets far too often as @greengartAvi's expertise lies in understanding consumer electronics marketing, consumer behavior, and technology adoption patterns: where new technologies meet the mass market. 

 

 

Avi Greengart is an expert on the convergence of technology and entertainment: video, audio, computing, and wireless, how these are coming together, and what's likely to survive long enough to make a difference in your life.

Column #48 (6/8/03)

PDAs, Speaker Cables

Question:

I am looking into getting a new PDA to replace my Palm IIIe. I am not looking for anything fancy and don't want to spend more that $250. I've looked at the Sony Clie SJ33, the Palm Zire 71, and the Palm m515. I think the Clie has everything that I want. It can play MP3s (can't do it on the m515), I can view and edit Word and Excel (can't do that on the Zire 71) files and it operates on Palm OS so I can re-install some programs I have on my IIIe. Which one would you recommend?

If I have the Intellisynch software will I have a problem synching a Clie with Lotus Notes (we use it at work)? I really do not need the camera that comes with the Zire 71. Let me know if there is anything else or other models I should consider before I make a purchase Thanks in advance for your help.

AskAvi Replies:

All three are good choices, and all three can view and edit Microsoft Office documents with third party software such as DataViz Documents To Go.  Some PDAs simply come with this (or similar) software to already installed, but you can always add it to the Zire.

Among the many gizmos companies have sent me, I have one of the three you ask about, a Palm m515.  It's nice, but in today's market it's no longer special. I've played with the Sony; it has a higher resolution screen than the m515. A consideration you haven't mentioned is expansion capability - both Palms use Secure Digital (SD) memory cards, the Sony uses a MemoryStick. In general, SD is more common and less expensive, but if you have other products which use MemorySticks (examples: a Sony digital camera, some Samsung televisions), you'll be able to swap sticks between your various gizmos.  I'm not recommending against the Sony, but I would suggest auditioning the Zire 71 in person before making a decision - it has the best screen of the bunch, and uses the most up to date version of the Palm operating system.

To address your other issues:

bulletIntellisync supports Notes; it shouldn't make any difference which PDA you use it with.
bulletI've used several devices with integrated cameras; they're fun for a few minutes but aren't all that useful.
bulletSimilarly, using your Palm as an MP3 player is not nearly as useful as having an iPod or a small flash memory player..

Question:

What's the score on 'oxygen free' copper in home theater [speaker] cable?  My understanding is that the primary concern is the cross sectional area of the copper closely followed by the insulation material type.  I also believe that standard copper is 99.97% oxygen free (vs 99.99% for the more expensive cable sold for the purpose of Home Theatre cabling).  Can you clarify this please?

AskAvi Replies:

I covered cables way back in AskAvi Column 3.  As expected, when you say something - anything, really - about cables, you make enemies for life, and that column has been the subject of the usual A/V forum bashing (both pro and con, of course).  There are two basic cable religions:

bullet

Religion A's mantra is "if I can't measure it scientifically, and I can't do a scientifically valid double blind test and hear the difference, then there is no difference." 

bullet

Religion B's mantra is "if you experience it yourself, even without a double blind test, and it sounds better to you, then it sounds better to you." 

There is plenty of good research that shows humans are an easily suggestible species with lousy comparative hearing capabilities. However, there are few actual double blind scientific tests done on cables (it's expensive, and cable vendors aren't going to fund something that could make them look bad), so it's hard for the A guys to really stick it to the B guys. And it's a free country, so if the B guys hear something that sounds better to them - even if the A guys cry and scream that they're fooling themselves - they're free to enjoy their excessive disposable income by wasting it on expensive cables.  Did I say wasting?  I meant spending wisely.

OK, back to the question at hand.  Yes, cable thickness is critical to reducing signal loss over longer runs and insulation is critical in keeping interference out.  Im a market researcher, not a physicist, so I wont pretend to know you if a) youre right that standard copper wiring is already 99.97% oxygen-free, or b) if the extra .02% reduced oxygen content would affect conductance, inductance, capacitance, or technobabbelance in any measurable way, or if c) even if it did, whether the difference would be audible.  

Nonetheless, I personally recommend buying cabling intended for audio use (99.99x% oxygen-free) instead of regular copper wiring, even if the regular stuff is thick and well shielded.  Here's why: I have used standard copper lamp cord here in the U.S., and I have run into more than one batch which literally turned blackish in spots and dramatically reduced the amount of audible information getting over to the speakers.  What caused this?  Beats me probably poor quality control. But Ive never even heard of this happening with home theater grade cable from any source, whether inexpensive (Radio Shack, Acoustic Research), mid-priced (Monster Cable), or megabucks (insert your favorite religion here).

-avi

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