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Review: Palm Zire m150

Rewriting the PDA rules

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VERDICT: It may not have much built-in memory or the fastest processor, but this is a well-built, light and stylish PDA. An absolute bargain at £77.

Sony, HP and Handspring had better take note - Palm has just re-written the PDA rules. Just in time for Christmas, it's unleashed a stylish, lightweight and fully-featured PDA that blasts the sub-£100 opposition away.

Palm Zire m150

The first broken rule is the design. The Zire could have been made by Apple, with a clean, white fascia uncluttered by buttons. Only the Calendar and Address Book buttons survive, along with the vital up and down keys. This will cause a problem with third-party apps that assume the lost buttons' existence, but otherwise simply makes the Zire easier for the first-time Palm buyer to use.

Another sign that Palm is targeting the less demanding user is the specification. Forget 66MHz processors and 16MB of RAM - the Zire includes a mere 16MHz chip and 2MB of memory. And there's no memory slot for adding more.

The slower processor means that the Zire seems slightly leisurely compared to a new Sony CLIÉ, say, but if you just want a simple organiser the Zire's specification is fine. The lack of a memory slot also helps Palm keep the Zire to a respectable 14mm thick, and it's actually the lightest Palm ever - it weighs just 106g.

The screen itself is easy to read, whether in bright sunlight or in subdued, office conditions. It's mono, of course, and there's no backlight, but what do you expect for £77? Also note the lack of a docking cradle. Instead, the Zire uses a USB cable for hooking up to your PC, and a separate power supply for recharging the battery.

For yes, the m150 doesn't use AAA batteries, instead relying on an internal lithium-ion unit. We know this is anathema to many people, but so long as you take the power supply with you on longer journeys, it's a great solution. We used the Zire intensively for several days, and there was still no sign of the battery running dry.

So would we recommend it? Well, power users will be frustrated by the lack of memory and should wait to see what Palm produces under its newly announced Tungsten brand. But for everyone else, the Zire is an absolute bargain. Buy it. ®

SPECIFICATIONS

16MHz Dragonball processor, 2MB of RAM, 4MB of ROM, 160 x 160 pixel 16-greyscale TFT (46 x 46mm), rechargeable lithium-ion battery, USB cable, PalmOS 4, Palm Desktop 4.1. Dimensions: 73 x 14 x 109mm. Weight: 106g. © PCPro.co.uk

Second Opinion

ZDNET UK Palm’s inexpensive and ultra-basic Zire lowers the entry-level bar for handhelds. However, the price needs to drop even further if it's to become a compelling purchase for first-time buyers.

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