Considering buying a Zaurus or an iPAQ? I own one of each, and they're both really cool. Both of them have strengths and weaknesses, and I've put down some random thoughts and impressions here, on the off chance that it might be helpful.
I've mostly used them for game-playing, with a little bit of productivity stuff mixed in (email, browsing, appointments). About half the stuff here is Wyvern-specific.
The two devices use the Insignia Jeode Java Virtual Machine. The Zaurus runs Linux, and the PocketPC runs Windows CE, so there are some differences in the JVM implementations, and some of them affect the game.
As for model numbers, I have the Sharp Zaurus 5500SL, and the Compaq iPAQ 3835.
The hardware configurations are pretty similar:
the Zaurus has a hardware keyboard built into the li.
the iPAQ has a speaker and can play music. The Zaurus only has a headphone port.
the iPAQ has a much brighter screen, but the Zaurus screen is clearer and crisper, with more faithful color rendering. The iPAQ screen looks blurry by comparison.
the Zaurus has a built-in Compact Flash slot, while you have to buy an expensive add-on holder for CF for the iPAQ
the Zaurus has a short, awkward stylus. The iPAQ's is fine.
the iPAQ direction pad is awful. It doesn't have the same resistance for left/right vs. up/down, and it's really hard to press directly inward on it. It's also hard to tell which direction you pressed.
the Zaurus direction pad is great, with a nice click in each direction, and a round button in the middle for inward presses. This is important for playing Wyvern, so it's worth mentioning.
the iPAQ has an annoyingly short USB connector from the cradle to your PC.
the iPAQ looks a bit nicer — the Zaurus is sort of square and plain. The iPAQ also feels a bit more rugged, although that could just be the styling.
Overall, I think the Zaurus has nicer hardware, except for the darker screen and the lack of a speaker.
Software differences (just my opinions):
the Zaurus comes with several great games built in. The PocketPC only has Solitaire. Ugh.
the Zaurus has nice handwriting recognition. I couldn't find any on the iPAQ, although it may have it as an add-on. However, you never need to use it because the software keyboard is so good.
the Zaurus makes much better use of the status bar at the bottom of the screen. It has a battery monitor, a clock, a card-slot indicator, running-application buttons, and more. The iPAQ has a clock and a keyboard.
the Zaurus gives more screen space to applications because its title bars, scrollbars, and status bar take up less room.
the Zaurus has a nicer user interface, in my opinion. It takes fewer taps to get to where you want to go, and the whole thing just looks slick. The PocketPC is fairly old and clunky-looking: it still basically has the Windows 3.1 look and feel from 10 years ago.
the iPAQ has free, high-quality Windows/Exchange connectivity, and the synchronization software is much better. You can buy software to do Exchange connectivity for the Zaurus.
the iPAQ has many more applications available (e.g. on Handango).
If you could only buy one or the other, it's not going to be an easy choice. They're about the same price, and they each have strong points and weak points.
And now to the bugs. There are tons of them, but a few of them are worth calling out, because they affect the playability of the game:
The Zaurus JVM has the worst text-area widget on the planet. It doesn't support word wrap, can't scroll reliably to the bottom, and has synchronization problems when appending to it rapidly. It's essentially unusable.
Fortunately, I was able to write my own replacement that supports color text, does scrolling properly, and can even draw a background image.
The startup sequence for Wyvern is much slower on the iPAQ:
loading the app takes about 4 seconds on the Zaurus, and 15 seconds on the iPAQ
connecting to the game takes about 8 seconds on the Zaurus, and 25 seconds on the iPAQ
I have no idea why the iPAQ version is so painfully slow to start up. The application is the same, and the JVM is from the same vendor. The runtime performance seems about the same on both. The only detectable difference is that the Zaurus uses Linux and the iPAQ uses Windows.
The Zaurus has many show-stopper bugs in its Java AWT implementation. Dialogs sometimes come up incredibly tiny; many widgets don't fire actions when they're supposed to; popup windows don't stay in front of the parent or move with the parent; popup menus draw offscreen... there are many, many bugs. Horrible ones. It was really hard to get the game working with all these limitations.
I don't know if this is caused by QTopia bugs or the JVM implementation, but QTopia C++ apps seem to work fine.
In contrast, the widgets on the iPAQ version seem to work perfectly — at least the ones I've used.
the iPAQ doesn't actually have Java bundled with it — you have to install it from the CD that comes with the device.
the iPAQ appears to require that you start up with a console. Weird. However, it's useful for Wyvern, since you can print out messages, so the user doesn't think it's crashed during the 15-second startup time.
So overall, the iPAQ version is more stable, but it's got a slower startup time. We were able to work around most of the Zaurus JVM bugs, so both of them are good Wyvern client platforms.
At the end of the day — I like both of them a lot. I've focused mostly on the negatives, but they're both incredibly cool, and I always have trouble deciding which one I'm going to take with me to work.
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