---------- ---------- PC Pro Realworld Computing: Paul Lynch - PDAs

Franklin Electronic Publishing's REX PC Companion

ultra compact data display tool, best used alongside a Pilot
256K REX-3 GBP 129, 256K REX-3-DS with Docking Station GBP 169
Franklin Electronic Publishers (United Kingdom), tel: 01932 891025
PC Card read only data storage with LCD display, calendar, contacts, to do list, memos and clocks. Supplied with TrueSync Information Manager
3.375" x 2.125" x .125", 1.4 oz, uses 2 CR2025 batteries.


The REX is a very small data storage device, the same size as a type II PC Card, that slots into a laptop computer to download data for display on its remarkably clear LCD. The design is by Phillipe Kahn's Starfish Software, manufactured by Citizen in Japan, and marketed by the Rolodex Electronics division of Franklin Electronic Publishing.

On the top surface of the PC Card is a 160 x 98 pixel (9 x 30 characters) LCD (2.2 x 1.4), with a column of five buttons to its right to control all the functions of the REX. Two CR2025 3V batteries fit into the opposite end of the card from the connector, and should last for six months. When inserted into a laptop's PC Card slot, it appears as a RAM card to the PC. The LCD is very crisp and clear, but has no backlight and is not touch sensitive. Two models are available: the smaller REX-1, with 64K that can hold about 750 records, and the REX-3, at 256K or 3,000 records. The REX-3 is also available with a docking cradle for users who don't have PC Card slots. A leather case is included.

All control of the REX is by the buttons, which require a firm press to operate. Pressing any of the buttons will turn on the REX. The buttons are, from top to bottom: a house, which takes you back a level in the menu structure, and can be used to turn off the REX; a page icon, which displays extra information on the currently selected item if available; a circular select icon that descends the menu tree; and two directional buttons, one pointing up and to the left, the other down and to the right.

The opening screen shows six images, one each for the calendar, contacts, to do list, memos, world clock and preferences applications, and also showing the current data and time. Pressing the page button reveals the owner information.

The only place where data can be entered into the REX is from the preferences application. This controls time and date formats, alarm and key click sounds, automatic shut off time (1, 3 or 5 minutes) and the password lock. The password can be any combination of five key presses. Extra information in the preferences application includes the amount of free memory left on your REX.

The calendar displays appointments in three different displays: per day, per week, or per month. Appointments are shown as downloaded from a PC. As well as a short title that shows in the day view, appointments can have more detailed notes and a reminder alarm. Alarms can sound a buzzer on the card, or can just display an alert message, which is only visible from the home menu screen.

Contacts uses a system of index tabs for you to reach any given card relatively quickly. The card format is controlled by the PC software, and is flexible allowing you to use it for any indexable data.

The to do list due dates and allows you to mark an item as done. However, this can't be read back onto your PC software.

The memo software allows you to store a large number of documents and browse them quickly. Because of the clarity of the screen, it is easier to read an electronic book on the REX than on most other PDAs. One disadvantage compared with the PalmPilot is that memos can't be grouped into categories.

TrueSync Information Manager
TrueSync Information Manager

REX is supplied with the Truesync Information Manager, a cut down version of Sidekick that is compatible with Sidekick 98, which also includes a TrueSync module. Also separately available is TrueSync 98, which includes import from Outlook, Schedule+, ACT! and Organizer. TIM acts as a standalone application for entering data to use with REX, in much the same way as the Pilot Desktop. Be aware that there are some important patches to solve memory leaks available on the Starfish web site.

REX is a convenient small device for people who rely on PC PIMs (Personal Information Managers), who don't want to get to grips with Graffiti on a PalmPilot, and who don't want the added bulk of a Windows CE machine or Psion Series 5. However, you will need to make extra purchases to get the most out of it: a cradle if you don't have a PC with PC Card slots, and either TrueSync 98 or SideKick 98 to synchronise with your existing data.

Starfish Software


Words and design by:
Paul Lynch
Last updated: March 31, 1998

[PDA Columns | Home Page | Company]