Palm's latest entry into the handheld race is a budget PDA that's earmarked for the tech neophyte. While other manufacturers are adding more memory, larger screens, and faster processors, the Palm Zire has just 2MB of RAM; a small, monochrome screen with no backlight; and a relatively poky, 16MHz processor. Yes, the attractively designed Zire is about as basic as a Palm gets, but if you're looking for a no-frills personal organizer, it will certainly do the job--as long you're not trying to read the screen in a dimly lit place. Taking a page from Apple's design book, the Zire has a white-plastic design à la the iPod. According to Palm, when it comes to PDA design, white is the new black, and with the new color scheme, the Zire seems fresh--or at least different--from its predecessors. The unit's rounded edges; white bezel; and aqua-colored, gel protective cover make the device look simple and easy to use. At 4.4 by 2.9 by 0.6 inches and 3.8 ounces, the Zire is no smaller than other Palms, though it is lighter.
The Zire is no smaller than its Palm siblings.
However, its plastic casing makes it lighter.
The differences between the Zire and its Palm siblings extend beyond cosmetics. Palm has removed the To Do and Note keys and has brought the Contacts and Calendar buttons flush against the scroll controls, a layout that allows for easy, one-handed operation. Also gone is the Calculator key in the upper-right corner of the Graffiti area; it has been replaced by a customizable Favorites button that can be reassigned--as can all controls--through the Preferences menu.
The real innovation here is Palm's abandonment of the proprietary data connector. You now connect the PDA to your PC or Mac via a simple mini-USB cable and without a cradle. This is a positive step for a couple of reasons: you have one fewer item to lug around, and if you lose the cord, you can easily replace it without having to pay Palm $39.
Palm finally ditched its proprietary connector for a mini-USB one.
Though it looks neat, this cover flops around and catches on things.
The same USB connection also recharges the Zire's batteries. However, if you aren't near a computer, you can use the included AC adapter, which plugs into the top of the unit. This Palm's protective cover is irritating; not only does it flop around, it often accidentally activates the Zire when it's in your pocket or your backpack.
To say that the Zire, which also goes by the model number m150, is a no-frills PDA would be an understatement--this model is more like a blast from the past. With just 2MB of RAM, a 16MHz DragonBall EZ processor, and a 2.75-inch, monochrome screen, the Zire is practically on a par with a Palm III in the specs department. In fact, Palm's previous low-end PDA, the m105 has a more generous 8MB of RAM, though its screen and processor are the same as those of the Zire.