ZDNet Editors' Choice

Palm Zire 71

Summary: Palm finally has a well-priced handheld that can go head-to-head with Sony's mid-range CLIEs.

  • Editors' rating:
    8.0
  • User rating:
    0.0
  • RRP:
    USD $249.00
    GBP £245.00

Pros

  • Runs Palm OS 5.2.1
  • slick design
  • high-resolution screen
  • fast processor
  • built-in camera
  • MP3 support
  • expansion slot.

Cons

  • No Bluetooth
  • OS isn't upgradeable.

Many Palm fans were disappointed by the original Zire, a monochrome unit that offered a measly 2MB of memory and was targeted at first-time users. But Palm aficionados will be a lot more satisfied with the impressive Zire 71, which has a sweet screen, a built-in camera, MP3 support and a Secure Digital (SD) expansion slot -- all for a reasonable £245 (inc. VAT). The question is, should you choose to carry it over Sony's current mid-range CLIE offerings? The answer: yes.

Design
We actually thought the original Zire was fairly slick-looking except for the so-last-decade monochrome screen. The 71 has that same stylised look, but it's adorned with a blue instead of a white motif, with a touch of Apple influence in the mix. Just as important, this handheld simply feels solid in your hand -- there's nothing chintzy about the unit, which weighs in at 150g. That's not superlight, but this Zire is relatively compact (7.4cm by 11.4cm by 1.7cm), especially for one that features a built-in camera. Thankfully, Palm has equipped the Zire 71 with a high-resolution, 320 by 320-pixel, transflective 65,536-colour display – something that was lacking in some of the company’s early colour units and that left them a step behind the colour CLIEs. Palm has also gone with a new joystick-like navigational button; this takes a little getting used to, but we grew to like it. There's no side scroll wheel -- in fact, there are no buttons on the sides of the unit, so you don't have to worry about inadvertently pressing one. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the design is the integration of the camera. To activate it, you simply slide the blue-coloured portion of the device upward to reveal the shutter-release button (the lens is on the back of the handheld). We can't say how the mechanism will hold up over several months of usage, but again, the unit appears to be well built and fairly rugged. The 71 comes with an attractive black protective carrying case and a cradle. As noted, unlike the original Zire, this model has an SD slot at the top of the device, as well as a stereo headphone jack and a tiny mono speaker on the back of the unit. The lithium-polymer rechargeable battery is not removable, but users will be able to add accessories via the Palm Universal Connector. Rumour has it that a compatible sled with Wi-Fi capabilities is in the works.

Features
From a features standpoint, the Zire 71 is well appointed. Running on a zippy 144MHz Texas Instruments OMAP processor and Palm OS 5.2.1, it ships with 16MB of on-board memory, 13MB of which are usable. All the standard Palm OS features are here (Address Book, Date Book, To Do List and so on), along with Graffiti 2, Palm Photos, Palm Reader, RealOne Mobile Player for music files, Kinoma Video Player and Producer for video with sound, and Adobe Acrobat Reader for Palm OS. On the included CD, you get the latest versions of VersaMail and Audible Player, the latter of which requires a subscription to listen to audiobooks, newspaper and other content. VersaMail isn't that interesting or useful unless you have a wireless option. An SDIO Bluetooth card, which fits in the SD expansion slot, is already available. The built-in camera takes images with a maximum resolution of 640 by 480 pixels. Although the pictures can't compare to the 2-megapixel shots that Sony's high-end NZ90 takes, they're acceptable for emailing or viewing on the device. With nothing else installed on the unit, the built-in memory can store up to 200 photos, but if you plan on using the 71's multimedia capabilities, you'll need to invest in at least a 64MB memory card. If you have a Windows PC, you can use the Quick Install application to load the Zire with music files, video clips and applications. Palm also supports Mac connectivity, but the applicable version of Quick Install isn't available yet. Even so, the installation scheme on Macs isn't too arduous.

Performance
The Zire 71’s 144MHz OMAP processor may not be the fastest available in Palm-based handhelds, but it keeps things moving along smoothly. Palm included a couple of movie trailers that we ran using Kinoma Video Player. All in all, we were pleased with the playback results, although the video was highly compressed and slightly choppy -- don’t expect broadcast quality. The sound for the Men in Black II trailer was solid, and the only gripe we had about MP3 playback was that the device wasn't quite loud enough for listening in noisy environments. Again, the 65,536-colour, 320 by 320-pixel screen is impressive, offering a bright, sharp image down to the smallest icons. As far as the camera goes, the only real issue is keeping your subjects -- and your own hand -- still while shooting; this unit just doesn't cope well with movement. It also helps to shoot in well-lit areas, although we were able to get plenty of decent shots indoors, even without a flash. To reiterate, you can expect to email images or show them off on the device itself, but not print them out for display in the family photo album. Battery life was respectable. Palm says you can get up to 5 hours of MP3 playback or a week's worth of ‘normal’ use from one full charge; our tests indicate these numbers are on the spot. With the screen brightness set at the halfway point, the Zire 71 played video for a decent 5 hours and 6 minutes on one charge. And when playing MP3s with the backlight off, the unit held up for nearly 12 hours before the music stopped.

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Display
Color Depth 16-bit (64K colors)
Processor
Processor Clock Speed 144 MHz
Memory
Supported Flash Memory Cards SD Memory Card
Multimedia
Audio Speaker
Supported Digital Audio Formats MP3
Input Device
Type 5-way navigation button, touch-screen
Software
Preloaded Software Address Book, Adobe Acrobat Reader for Palm OS, AudiblePlayer, Clock, Date Book, Expense, HotSync, Kinoma Player, Kinoma Producer, Memo Pad, Note Pad, Palm Photos, Palm Reader, Palm VersaMail 2.5, Phone Link Update, Photo Viewer, Prefs, RealOne Player, SMS, Security, Solitaire, To Do List, World clock, powerOne Calculator
System Requirements for PC Connection
OS Required Apple MacOS 9.1 or later, Apple MacOS X 10.1.2 or later, Microsoft Windows 2000 / XP, Microsoft Windows 98/ME, Microsoft Windows NT 4.0
Expansion and Connectivity
Expansion Slots 1 x SD Memory Card
Interfaces 1 x headphones
1 x dock
1
Connectivity Devices docking cradle
Dimensions & Weight
Width 2.9 in
Depth 0.7 in
Height 4.5 in
Weight 2.70

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Reviews

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.