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Palm Pixi Plus review: Palm Pixi Plus

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7.0

Palm Pixi Plus

The Good

For a compact, entry-level smartphone, the Palm Pixi Plus offers a good number of features including Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth, and GPS, as well as the benefits that come from running Palm WebOS. The Pixi Plus' camera now can record video and easily edit it--unlike its predecessor.

The Bad

The Pixi Plus can be sluggish. The phone has a smaller display and keyboard. AT&T doesn't offer the Palm Mobile Hotspot utility.

The Bottom Line

The Palm Pixi Plus isn't fancy or powerful, but it offers first-time smartphone buyers a nice range of features and ease of use at an affordable price.

The Palm Pixi Plus finally joins its bigger, more powerful sibling, the Palm Pre Plus, at AT&T on June 6. Much like Verizon's variant, the petite device isn't a powerhouse, but it has a nice set of features and reasonable price of $49.99 with a two-year contract to make a good choice for first-time smartphone users. Since the AT&T Palm Pixi Plus shares so many similarities with the Verizon model, we'll focus mostly on the differences as well as the phone's performance in this review. For additional information about the smartphone's design and features, please read our full review of the Palm Pixi Plus for Verizon Wireless. For more details about Palm WebOS, check out our review of the Palm Pre for Sprint.

Design
When you look at the Palm Pixi Plus, you can understand where it gets its name. Petite and light at 4.37 inches tall by 2.17 inches wide by 0.43 inch thick and 3.26 ounces, the smartphone is great for carrying around day to day and fits nicely in the palm of your hand; however, there are some trade-offs to its compact size. Its 2.63-inch touch screen is small, so you can't see as much at a glance and viewing Web pages and text on it can strain your eyes. Fortunately, the display has pinch-to-zoom support. The Pixi Plus' keyboard is cramped, but with some time, you can learn to type comfortably on it. Still, users will large thumbs definitely want to take the smartphone for a test drive to see if they can live with the keyboard.


AT&T will offer the Palm Pixi Plus in blue in addition to black.

According to AT&T, it will offer the Palm Pixi Plus in blue (online only) or black, and will ship the phone with an AC charger, a USB cable, and reference material. Unlike with the Palm Pre Plus, AT&T will not offer a free Touchstone dock with the purchase of the phone, so you will need to buy the accessory as well as a compatible inductive back cover separately. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.

Features
Though the Palm Pixi Plus is best suited for first-time smartphone buyers, it doesn't mean the smartphone skimps on the features. The handset ships running WebOS 1.4, so you're getting the operating system's latest features such as video recording and editing, and, of course, you get all of the capabilities we've come to love about WebOS, including the Deck of Cards multitasking function, Synergy, and Palm's notification system.

The Pixi Plus also ships with a number of personal information management and productivity apps, including Documents to Go for viewing Microsoft Office files, a PDF reader, a memo pad, a task list, a clock/alarm clock, and a calculator. You can purchase and download additional apps from the Palm App Catalog and though it's not as robust as the iTunes App Store or Android Market, you should be able to find something to fit your needs. If not, you could always try the homebrew app route. The Pixi Plus offers 8GB of internal memory, with about 7GB available to the user.

Now, as with the Palm Pre Plus, the big difference between the Verizon version of the Palm Pixi Plus and the AT&T version is that the latter has a UMTS radio and support for several AT&T services, including AT&T Navigator, Yellow Pages Mobile, and can access to the carrier's nationwide Wi-Fi hot spots. The latter is in lieu of the Palm Mobile Hotspot utility that's available for the Verizon WebOS devices that lets you turn your smartphone into a mobile router. We'd love it if the hot spot utility was available for AT&T's Palm devices, but considering the nature of the Pixi Plus and its target, this is less of an issue that it is with the Pre Plus.


The Pixi's 2-megapixel camera took some rather dreary indoor shots.

Other goodies include Bluetooth 2.1, a music player, access to the Amazon MP3 store, a dedicated YouTube player, and a 2-megapixel camera. The camera's picture quality is mediocre. Though objects in photos came out clear, a slightly grayish tone gave pictures a dreary quality. Video quality was also OK, and we love how easy it is to edit videos. However, when it plays video clips, we notice it has a small popping noise at the beginning of each video--strange.

Performance
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz; UMTS/HSDPA) Palm Pixi Plus in New York using AT&T service and call its call quality was mixed. On our end, calls sounded fine with little to no background noise or voice distortion and plenty of volume. However, our callers experience was completely different. Some complained of low volume and echoing, while others said that our voices sounded muffled. A couple of times, we tried calling back from a different spot, which slightly improved the situation; however, our callers still said there was a bit of background hissing. The Pixi Plus' speakerphone quality was pretty much what we expected--slightly hollow but clear and with just enough volume to hear callers in louder environments. We had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth Headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

We had fairly good 3G coverage throughout Manhattan, though there were spots where the signal dropped to one or two bars. However, its data speeds were respectable; CNET's full Web site loaded in 25 seconds, while CNN's and ESPN's sites loaded in 8 seconds and 13 seconds, respectively. YouTube videos took a few seconds to load, but played back without interruption.

The Palm Pixi Plus is powered by a 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7627 processor, but it's definitely not the fastest smartphone on the block. Though it can handle working in multiple applications at once, there are definite lags when launching apps. That aside, we didn't run into any major performance issues during our testing period.

The Palm Pixi Plus is powered by a 1,150mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5.5 hours and up to 14.5 days of standby time. The Pixi Plus was able to beat the rated talk time by half an hour in our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Pixi Plus has a digital SAR rating of 1.43 watts per kilogram and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M3/T3.

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7.0

Palm Pixi Plus

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7