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Handhelds Wireless Networking

Best Wi-Fi Portable Browsing Device? 426

Posted by timothy
from the deep-in-the-stacks-desire-mounts dept.
foxxo writes "I'm a library worker, so I get lots of questions about our collection when I'm out in the stacks. I'd love to be able to access our online catalog and give patrons more comprehensive guidance without directing them to the reference desk. What options are available for a portable device with Wi-Fi connectivity, full-featured Web browsing, and (most importantly) no cellphone-style activation and service fees? Size is important, too; I need something I can carry in my pocket, not a micro-notebook with full keyboard. (And I am a library worker, so low cost is key!)" One device that sounds interesting in this category is the GiiNii Movit (not yet released, but shown off at CES). What can you recommend that's out there now?
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Best Wi-Fi Portable Browsing Device?

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  • Nokia n810 (Score:5, Informative)

    by murph (16036) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:07PM (#27115967) Homepage

    No recurring fees, I just picked one up for $222.

    • Re:Nokia n810 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kamokazi (1080091) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:14PM (#27116049)
      Seconded. Very nice device, and has a physical keyboard, unlike the other one likely to get mentioned a lot.
      • Re:Nokia n810 (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fm6 (162816) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:18PM (#27116075) Homepage Journal

        Somebody who's just pulling up information might not want a keyboard. In which case the N800 makes more sense.

        • Re:Nokia n810 (Score:5, Informative)

          by bluephone (200451) <[gro.snortceletnrub] [ta] [yerg]> on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:23PM (#27116121) Homepage Journal
          Except the N810 is smaller than the N800, has 2GB of storage built in, and the kb slides out like many cell phones for text message addicts. It's an incredible package.
          • Re:Nokia n810 (Score:5, Informative)

            by despisethesun (880261) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:01PM (#27116407)
            The N800 also has the advantage of taking regular SDHC cards, rather than the miniSD used in the N810. The full size ones are cheaper, and the N800 can hold 2 of them. And they can be set up as part of the root file system, if you're technically inclined. Plus miniSD cards can be a pain to find in decent capacities, they're kind of the red-headed stepchild of the SD family.

            The on screen keyboard on the N800 is not bad either. Obviously not as good as a physical kb but more than adequate. It's tough to go wrong either way, though, as they're both excellent devices. Definitely the best handhelds available for their purpose.

            (Typed out on my N800. :)
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by rtb61 (674572)

            Keyboard or nor keyboard, not really the driver in the most appropriate selection. The main driver is how do you comfortably carry the device. Leaving the counter, carrying books, walking around the stacks tidying up etc. So obviously the most useful and cost effective device will be a typical netbook, getting it to the spot where it will be used, keeping in charged up between uses are the problem to be solved.

            So small enough to fit comfortable in a pocket will end up generally speaking to small to be re

            • Re:Nokia n810 (Score:5, Informative)

              by despisethesun (880261) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:29PM (#27116619)
              You've clearly never actually used one of the Nokia tablets. They're plenty usable at their size and they fit easily in a pocket. I've gotten a lot more mileage out of mine than I expected when I bought it, and it's become an indispensable tool for managing the network at work. They are, without a doubt, exactly what foxxo was asking for.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by supernova_hq (1014429)

            How has nobody in this thread mentioned the N810's built in GPS? Nothing says "I know where wifi is" than a list of geo-coords to back it up!

            Not to mention that the built in map program has a list of Gizmo (paid) wifi spots. There is also osm2go that allows you to edit osm maps (adding wifi spots, etc) on the fly in the field

        • Re:Nokia n810 (Score:5, Insightful)

          by kabloom (755503) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:27PM (#27116143) Homepage

          A librarian is probably querying a lot, not just pulling up information from predefined bookmarks. I'm sure a keyboard will be greatly appreciated.

      • Re:Nokia n810 (Score:5, Informative)

        by monopole (44023) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:48PM (#27116301)

        Amen to that. I've got the 770, n800 and an n810. The n810 wins out for this app due to the keyboard, and the size which is small enough to put in your breast pocket or in a belt holster. WiFi is good and the display is fantastic. Onboard GPS sucks but otherwise an excellent device.

        Boot time is a bit long, but power management is sufficient to leave on for a long time.
         

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:01PM (#27116403) Homepage Journal

          or in a belt holster.

          That's a good look.

          Nothing says "sex appeal" like a portable WiFi browsing device in a belt holster.

          But there's no law that says everyone has to get laid, so go ahead. Be bold.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:23PM (#27116571)

            Is that the internet in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

          • by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @09:34PM (#27117061)

            I would jump any woman wearing a WiFi browsing device in a belt holster in a second.

            Oh, I see what you mean. Nevermind.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 09, 2009 @01:04AM (#27118215)
            Dude... this is a librarian we're talking about.

            All this means is she has to take off the belt holster before removing her glasses as the backlighting glistens playfully off her hair while she shakes it out in slow motion and two, maybe three blouse buttons come mysteriously undone revealing ample cleavage before the protagonist realizes that it wasn't actually the popular girl (whom, by the way the librarian had hatched a wacky plot to get the protagonist a date with, which turned out allright but in the end unsatisfying) he was in love with, but the librarian he was best friends with since they were six who everyone only THOUGHT was ugly because... umm... she wore glasses and kept her hair up in a bun. Bonus points if the chorus to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" [youtube.com] is playing, but it would probably be something corny like this song [youtube.com].

            Sheez. Haven't you ever seen a movie?
        • The keyboard on the n810 is almost perfectly flat with a hairline space between keys. Hitting multiple keys is extremely easy, and it is necessary to look at the keys while carefully clicking with my fingernails. The thumbboard on my Tungsten C is a fraction of the size, but far more useful. Even the popup stylus keyboard on the 770 is less trouble. The 770 automatically goes into suspend when the metal cover is flipped back on - unlike the slide button on the n810 that can get triggered accidentally - and
    • Re:Nokia n810 (Score:4, Informative)

      by itomato (91092) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @10:11PM (#27117287)

      With the n810 you can have the best of everything (almost):

      - Full Debian installation, including GTK and KDE apps
      - Android
      - Newton OS via Einstein
      - Any platform where an emulator is available for ARM
      - Bluetooth, WiFi, Webcam, Skype, built-in GPS (lousy)

      All in all, it sounds like the ultimate development package. The major downside is the speed. Application response is a good 10% slower than it should be. A second negative point might be the GPS performance, which is widely reported to be weak, which I can attest to first hand, It's kind of fragile, and doesn't respond well to gravity checks, but the slide-out keyboard and brilliant flip-out stand/finger sling make it usable in a wide variety of situations - standing at a bar, sitting down, plus it comes with a novel vehicle mount. I assume the developers counted on the use of the device in its fulle GPS capacity. No doubt, it would be awesome, but it's just not quite there..

      Fifteenthed.

  • Low Cost? (Score:4, Informative)

    by icebike (68054) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:08PM (#27115971)

    iPhone or iPod touch, assuming what you want to access is browser based.
    Low price? Not so much, but if you have one anyway... Or were looking for a tax write off this might be the way to go.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      The poster did say nothing with a monthly fee.

      Since the library certainly has Wi-Fi already, the iPod Touch is a good possibility, unless he wants to input any queries on a regular basis.

      I love my Touch but I prefer real buttons to the virtual ones.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mochan_s (536939)

      I think the iPod touch keyboard is really bad. Trying to enter an search string in iPod touch would be a nightmare.

      I think one of those slide phones with querty keyboard would be much better. I'm sure there are ones with wifi.

      • by quickOnTheUptake (1450889) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @10:15PM (#27117305)
        I'm trying to figure out how someone manages to misspell "qwerty"?
  • My Nokia N-800 isn't bad. It's pocket-sized and has a decent web browser. I've switched now to an Android G1, so I don't know about recent developments. You do have to use the stylus to use the keyboard though. I've heard that the newer model has a pop-out keyboard, so that might be better.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by despisethesun (880261)
      If you click the centre button on the dpad when the cursor is in a text field, it brings up a larger, more thumb-friendly on screen keyboard. Much nicer when typing more than a few words, such as for a slashdot reply.
  • iPod Touch (Score:5, Informative)

    by erayd (1131355) * on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:10PM (#27115989)
    Gotta say the cheapest iPod touch is probably going to be a good bet here, particularly as it's a wifi-only device; you don't have to buy a whole cellphone at the same time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      iPod Touch (or else, Sony Mylo)

      1. $229 new from Apple, or you can get it cheaper used on eBay, Craigslist, etc.

      2. The screen is large and has great resolution.

      3. Contrary to what other commenters have said, the iPod Touch / iPhone browser is excellent. Very easy to use, and renders web pages very well. Even pages with a lot of Javascript work just fine. While true that it does not support Flash, I think that is fine - especially for the use you describe. Most importantly, it allows for very quick navigatio

      • Re:iPod Touch (Score:5, Informative)

        by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris.beau@org> on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:01PM (#27116413)

        > 1. $229 new from Apple, or you can get it cheaper used on eBay, Craigslist, etc.

        Yea and an N810 is $259 and a lot more usable AS A WEB BROWSER. Yes the iPod is probably a better music player but that wasn't the question.

        > 2. The screen is large and has great resolution.

        No. 480x320 is NOT high resolution. Few non mobile phone optimized pages are going to display on that. The N8x0 series has 800x480. Do the math. Hopefully Apple fanbois can still do simple X > Y type reasoning.

        > 4. Someone (you) could write a dedicated iPhone/iPod Touch App that does just what you want

        And the Nokia runs Mameo, a Linux based open platform. Besides writing a full GTK app you can program something up in one of the SIMPLE SCRIPTING LANGUAGES THAT APPLE FORBIDS. And you don't need to get anything signed by Apple before passing it around. So your point was?

        > 5. It's here to stay.

        Because we all know Nokia is tettering on the brink of insolvency.

        > Alternative: Sony Mylo

        Discontinued, no replacement mentioned. You really should LOOK at a URL before you post it. But it really looked like an interesting product, hope Sony does get around to refreshing the line.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I dislike Apple for the most part, but I have to comment on #'s 1 and 2.

          1.It's actually got a very good web browser.

          2. If I understand correctly, it's the PPI that makes the Ipod Touch's screen so clear, not the resolution. I've owned one, and I was VERY pleasantly surprised by how clear things were on it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Warll (1211492)
            @2: Correct, which is why the Nokia_N810's will look clearer, 225 > 163.
        • Re:iPod Touch (Score:4, Informative)

          by foo fighter (151863) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:11PM (#27117765) Homepage

          It's pretty clear you have never seriously used the iPod Touch for web surfing. I dispute your implication that it offers an inferior web browsing experience.

          Its 480x320 display is bright and clear. It's web browser is fantastic. I have never wished for or looked for the mobile version of a web site while using it. Its keyboard is good enough to let me enter this post.

          It's also important to recognize that the iPod Touch is much smaller than an n-series: about 20% shorter, 20% skinnier, 40% thinner, and 45% lighter. I often forget my iPod touch is in my pocket when going through security. When I evaluated the n800 i gave up trying to walk with it in my pocket.

          The merits of either platform are open to debate. I find the Mobile OS X platform to match my needs, but the submitter should look at both before making a decision.

          P.S. You come across as much of an immature fanboy as the gp. Please take the level of vitriol and sarcasm down a couple notches.

      • Re:iPod Touch (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:11PM (#27116491)

        6. It has a decent camera.

        There is no camera. Only the iPhone has a camera.

        The camera is a lie.

    • by kilodelta (843627)
      The only thing is the power consumption of the wireless access. You can't leave it running constantly. That said, it takes maybe two or three seconds for the iPod Touch to sync up with a known network.

      Just a few clicks and you're good. How much is the 16GB Touch now? I paid $299 for mine.
  • Sony PSP... (Score:4, Informative)

    by powerlinekid (442532) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:10PM (#27116001)

    Surprisingly its my PSP that I usually break out in situations where I need to browse the web but can't be at the computer. Yes its a game system but the wifi\browser are fairly decent if you can live without WPA2. I'm not too sure what else is out there, but a PSP can be purchased in the $150 to $200 range.

  • Define 'portable'? (Score:5, Informative)

    by fractoid (1076465) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:12PM (#27116029) Homepage
    For sitting in a wifi coffee shop, I'd say my Eee 900 is a great compromise. Then again, having watched my friend playing with his iPhone I'd have to say that, for ultraportable / ultraconvenient / always with you access, the iPhone (or iPod touch) are probably the best you can get.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by EvanED (569694)

      "Define 'portable'"? Is "I need something I can carry in my pocket, not a micro-notebook with full keyboard" (FTFS) enough of a definition?

      • by fractoid (1076465)
        Wait, there's a summary? O.o

        But seriously - it depends what they want to do. An iPhone/iPod Touch is great for reading mail but anything smaller than the Eee is absolutely useless for entering any more text than you'd put in an SMS. If you want something that's ultra-convenient apart from input, I don't think you can beat the iPhone style devices.
  • refurb ipod touch (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:22PM (#27116115) Homepage Journal
    A refub 1st gen iPod touch might be a good bet. As long as there is a wifi connection, it will be able to browse. Under $200.

    On another note, I think this is where Amazon really missed the market for the Kindle. If it had wifi, and had a web browser, then the kindle would be one of the greatest pieces of hardware on the market, and perfect for this type of application. Of course if it had wifi, then Amazon would certainly lose revenue on book sales and would not be able to pay the cell phone bill that currently allows wireless delivery.

    In any case, there are a number of option out there, but wifi without cell phone there is no choice, and most other options are twice the price fo the touch.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Web surfing and particularly flash web surfing takes up a bit of CPU, so I reckon this is why ipod tough etc. don't have flash. How does the N810/800 go with flash games etc.? I reckon the Kindle would crumble before most web pages when the bloody flashing adds start playing.
    • by kabloom (755503)

      You're wrong when you say there's no choice for Wifi without a cell phone. There's the N810, and all sorts of netbooks.

  • by ckblackm (1137057) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:27PM (#27116141)
    http://openpandora.org/index.php [openpandora.org]

    http://openpandora.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com]

    ... since I ordered one.. :-)

  • Used HTC MDA (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:28PM (#27116149) Homepage

    should be available cheap, put on the opera mobile browser
    and you are all set to go.

  • TMobile G1 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nephroth (586753) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:32PM (#27116199)
    I absolutely love mine. The browser is excellent for a mobile device, the hardware is robust, and the physical keyboard/trackball makes browsing a breeze. The browser supports java, and will also soon support flash, you really can't ask for more.
  • iPod Touch. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrCrassic (994046) <deprecated&ema,il> on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:41PM (#27116259) Journal
    if there is one device that has absolutely nailed the portable web browsing category, it's the iPhone. I've used Blackberry devices, Windows Mobile smartphones, a bit of Symbian and Palm, and nothing could render most of the web as good as Portable Safari has been able to.

    Additionally, they can be found for under $200.
  • Yay Wikipedia (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:49PM (#27116303)

    Just found this on wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handhelds_with_WiFi_connectivity

  • by Freedom Bug (86180) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @07:49PM (#27116309) Homepage

    I have a Nokia N810, and think the 800 pixel wide screen is its killer feature. With an 800 pixel screen you can run any web site and not be stuck in the "mobile ghetto".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by itomato (91092)

      Plus you can zoom back to 80% for really expansive sites, or in to 120% for narrow/small ones.

  • I own a nokia 770 and it works quite nicely for simple browsing, I can imagine it would be just fine for a simple library webpage. they can picked up for not too much if you keep your eyes open on ebay, around $50 maybe. The only problem with it is having to use the stylus for the keyboard. If that isn't acceptable to you, then the ipodtouch is probably your best bet with it's better on-screen keyboard.

  • by mcspoo (933106) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:02PM (#27116421) Homepage
    Think the question missed an important point: does she want to be able to search from a web-enabled OPAC or does she need to use Windows in order to access a ILS system? As an example: Sirsi uses software called "Workflows" to access the actual ILS (Integrated Library System) in order to search the catalog, place, holds, order items, etc. The only approved OS's for this software is Windows XP (and Vista... just barely). This discludes just about any Android or Linux enabled device, but her mileage may vary by what ILS her library relies upon. If that's the case, then you can find examples of this at libraries around the nation. As an example, South Lyon Library in MI has "Roaming Reference" capability through the use of Tablets. Some of the newer Netbooks are likely more than capable as well, if not quite as portable.
  • by CAOgdin (984672) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:04PM (#27116429)
    Put in a cheap WiFi Router in the Library (set for 802.11b only; the Palm can do 802.11g), and WEP for security (if you must; why not let others use the same database?). Cost: About $35 Now, buy a used Palm Tungsten C from eBay (about $75), and make sure the seller guarantees the WiFi will work (many don't). Now you have, for roughly $125, your own link to the network, and no further monthly expenses. I've got lots of clients where we do this; I use my Tungsten with those system almost every day.
  • Zaurus? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dr_dank (472072) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:10PM (#27116479) Homepage Journal

    I've got a Sharp Zaurus 6000 that has all of the features you're looking for: built-in wifi, a physical keyboard, and a sharp and bright touchscreen. The later zauruses might be even better with the clamshell design and better battery life. The only drawback is that they're not as easy to find since Sharp discontinued selling them in the US.

    If you don't mind getting the WiFi from a compactflash wifi adapter instead of being build-in, the older 5500's turn up frequently for a reasonable price.

  • by zippthorne (748122) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:11PM (#27116487) Journal

    I'm surprised no one's suggested Kindle yet. From what I've read, it would fit a few use cases.

  • by russg (64596) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @08:27PM (#27116601) Homepage

    Have a look at the Archos devices. You can pickup some of the older models with Wifi as refurbished.
    My Archos 5 is my, surf, watch movies, store data, listen to music, and play games device. The current 5 and 7 are called "Internet Media Tablets".
    With Opera as the browser and flash support its really a nice internet experience for a small device.

  • by sootman (158191) on Sunday March 08, 2009 @11:21PM (#27117809) Homepage Journal

    ... because, unlike the Nokia, you probably know someone who owns a touch or an iPhone and you can test it before buying! Or, if the online resources are web-accessible (as opposed to only available in the library) you can just go to an Apple store (if there's one nearby) and check one out there. Not that I have anything against the Nokia, but there's no reason to buy something sight-unseen if you don't have to. If it looks like the iPod won't work for you, you can consider alternatives. The Nokia tablets have larger screens but the iPod's pan-and-zoom system works pretty well and its small size is great.

  • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Monday March 09, 2009 @09:16AM (#27120803)

    "I'm a library worker, so I get lots of questions about our collection when I'm out in the stacks. I'd love to be able to access our online catalog and give patrons more comprehensive guidance without directing them to the reference desk."

    Okay, but how does your supervisor feel about that idea?

    A reference librarian's entire job is to help patrons find relevant information, and they had to earn a graduate degree in the field in order to get that job. A "library worker", who has been tasked with re-shelving books in the stacks, is not a capable substitute. Even if he/she has a wifi-enabled PDA.

    I've worked as a page myself, I know that patrons will always approach the first member of the library staff they spot. But when somebody has a reference question, the only appropriate response is to direct them to a reference librarian for assistance

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