Palm Zire 72
PalmOne's $299 Zire 72 was obviously the brainchild of a committee in which everybody got what they suggested. The slim, royal blue-and-silver device is so jam-packed with hardware and software features that it's the PDA for all reasons. For business, there are the usual Palm organizing apps, plus DataViz's Documents to Go for viewing and editing Microsoft Office documents and spreadsheets, Adobe Acrobat viewer for Palm, and other apps for recording voice memos and accessing the Web and e-mail. For leisure pursuits, there's a built-in camera that takes photos and videos with sound, plus a RealOne MP3 player and stereo headphone jack.
The Zire 72 feels lightning-fast: Tasks like syncing and downloading apps took just a few seconds, and screens refresh snappily, without the noticeable pause we've experienced with other Palm models. The rechargeable lithium polymer battery lasts for about a week's worth of use on one charge--even when the Bluetooth receiver is left on. Palm promises about 5 hours of uninterrupted MP3 music playback per charge. Of course, taking photos and video will consume battery life faster--as will viewing your creations on the Zire's bright, dazzling color screen.
Voice memos are easy to record and play back on the Zire's monaural speaker, which sounds more like FM radio than AM--we didn't hear any static from it. You could play MP3s through the speaker, but they sound much better coming through a pair of stereo headphones (a port for that purpose is on top of the unit). You'll have to supply your own headphones, though; they're not included.
The Zire 72's Bluetooth port instantly recognized my Canon i80 printer, but would not connect until we supplied a security passkey. Only by digging into the Zire 72's manual on the software CD could I find the passkey. (Tip: The default Bluetooth device pass code is 0000.) That done, wirelessly printing from the Palm via Bluetooth was a snap, as was data syncing without the USB cable.
The 1.2-megapixel camera has a 2X digital zoom, and its lens is mounted on the back of the unit. It takes fairly sharp photos as large as 1280 by 960 pixels. Alas, its shutter lag time is one to two seconds. It's off-putting at first, but once you learn to compensate for the slowness (by holding the PDA still until you hear and see that the shot's been taken) you can get fine pictures. Without a cover, the camera lens would seem to be unprotected, but it's recessed to prevent abrasion, and unlike with many other Palms, a case is included in the package.
The RealOne MP3 player has a dedicated button on the front panel, which is new in this hardware design. Using the player was simple, but you can't use the music player at all without an SD memory card (you also need one to take photos and videos).
Considering the many features packed into its diminutive chassis and its snappy performance, the Zire 72 is a bargain at $299.
Michael S. Lasky
Palm Zire 72