The n311 is powered by a Samsung S3C2440 processor clocked at 400 MHz – series-mate the n310 is based on a 300MHz version of the same chip. There’s a massive 128MB of Flash memory – although only about 80MB of this is available to the user – and 64MB of system memory. There’s also built in 802.11b wireless networking. Our early review sample at times wouldn't stay connected, but this is meant to have been resolved in retail versions, Acer claimed. It’s a shame that Acer didn’t managed to squeeze in 802.11g support as well, since this offers far greater compatibility and faster transfer speeds. Finally there’s Bluetooth 1.2 on board, but there doesn’t appear to be any support for stereo headsets.
The supplied docking cradle can charge a second battery, which might be a good thing to invest in if you’re going to spend some time away from the cradle, as you can’t connect the supplied charger to the n311 directly. There's an optional adaptor you can buy that allows you to use the charger without the cradle, but this is something that really should’ve been supplied in the box.
There are two USB ports on the cradle, one mini USB port that's used for connecting the PDA to a PC for syncing – this won’t charge the PDA – and a standard USB port. The neat trick here is USB host functionality, which means that you can use a USB keyboard or a USB flash drive – I had problems with a 4GB USB key, but a 1GB model worked fine.
The cradle can be used vertically and, rather unusually, in horizontal mode as well - just use WIndows Mobile 5.0's screen orientation control on the Today screen. Oddly enough, Windows Media Player displays video the opposite way around, so you’d end up watching it upside-down if you kept the PDA in the cradle. WMV video content played back smoothly on the n311, but I can’t say that DivX content did. I tried several different DivX files, but all of them ended up with jerky video playback and the sound out of sync. This is rather disappointing considering the fairly fast processor.
At least Acer provides a fairly generous warranty. It runs for two years with the first year being world-wide, though you have to send the PDA back to Acer if something goes wrong. The price is also a rather attractive £235, but you can still get a subsidised smart phone for less than half the price of the n311.
The Acer n311 is a feature-rich PDA with a large, high-resolution screen which is easy to work with and easy to read. The review sample had some minor issues that Acer has hopefully resolved in the retail product. The price is rather good for a PDA, but expensive compared to what you can buy a very good smart phone for these days. ®