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HandEra 330 review:

HandEra 330

  • 1
Typical Price: £285.00
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The Good High-resolution screen; virtual Graffiti area; CompactFlash and SD memory card slots; jog dial; optional rechargeable battery.

The Bad High-res screen causes problems with some apps; slow serial cradle connection and no USB; cheap-looking design.

The Bottom Line The 330's features answer many criticisms of Palm devices, but its quirky screen and large size sap its appeal.

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CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall

Review Sections

The engineers at HandEra worked overtime packing this new Palm OS PDA with clever features, including a great high-resolution screen and both CompactFlash and SD memory card slots. The HandEra 330 has much to recommend it. However, it's also rather large and heavy, which may dissuade a lot of people. And some of its most clever design features won't work with your favorite third-party applications either. The engineers at HandEra worked overtime packing this new Palm OS PDA with clever features, including a great high-resolution screen and both CompactFlash and SD memory card slots. The HandEra 330 has much to recommend it. However, it's also rather large and heavy, which may dissuade a lot of people. And some of its most clever design features won't work with your favorite third-party applications either.

Silver-plated plastic
The 330's silver-and-black color scheme may appeal to Oakland Raiders fans, but the plastic-silver bezel on the front looks and feels cheap. Otherwise, the 330's case is virtually identical to that of the now-discontinued Palm III series. The important differences are on the back and include a battery compartment that holds four AAA batteries or an optional rechargeable battery (there's a little jack on the side of the 330 for plugging in the charger), a large but deeply recessed reset button that you can trigger with the point of the stylus instead of a paper clip, and a control that is practically identical to the jog dial/button on the Sony's CLIE PEG-N710C.

Along the top of the device, there are slots for both Type II CompactFlash and Secure Digital (SD) cards. Though the SD slot is good primarily for memory, you can use the CompactFlash slot for memory storage cards, including the 1GB IBM Microdrive, as well as for modems, Ethernet adapters, digital cameras, and so on. Having both card slots is a definite advantage. On the bottom of the device, the 330 uses the same connector as the Palm III series, so all the existing peripherals, such as the Kodak PalmPix digital camera and the Rand McNally StreetFinder GPS will work with this new handheld. Though we are admittedly disappointed to find the same Palm III-series serial cradle in the box rather than a USB model.

High-res screen
HandEra incorporated two of the best features of the Pocket PC into the 330: a high-resolution (240x320 pixel), monochrome screen and a Graffiti writing area that you can collapse with a touch of the stylus to free up more screen real estate. The 3.75-inch (diagonal) screen is second only to that of the RIM 957 in terms of clarity and contrast. However, few applications can take advantage of the screen space freed up by the collapsible Graffiti area. If this model fails to become popular, it's questionable how many developers will actually modify their software to take advantage of this feature. The 330 also had a hard time adapting to the graphics of games such as Dreadling and Race Fever. The games appeared very dark and blurry and were virtually unplayable, whereas on the CLIE's screen, which measures 320x320 pixels, there was no such trouble.

But this screen is a great idea, if an imperfectly implemented one. A large selection of software comes preloaded on the 330 to show off how useful it can be and includes a document reader that lets you read text in landscape mode. And that's not all the software you'll find in this package; there's also the CardPro (for copying files to and from storage cards), Voice Pad (a voice recorder that works with the unit's built-in microphone), and Backup. However, HandEra didn't include its AutoCF program, which makes it easy to run applications that are stored on the CompactFlash card. Instead you must manually copy the files into the device's 8MB of system RAM.

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