by Dr. Rob Reilly
Joining the World of the Palm Pilot Users
Personal Data Assistants (PDA), sometimes referred to as 'Palm Pilots' are probably familiar to you--well you may not have touched one but you may be aware that they seem to be the next techno-gizmo to make life easier (or at least more efficient). But perhaps you don't own one for one reason or another. So let me offer a brief synopsis of what a PDA does.
A typical PDA has a color screen, can send and receive e-mail, has a to-do list, an address book, a memo pad, an appointment calendar, an alarm clock (also serves to notify you of various appointments/scheduled tasks). A PDA can also run Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel. And, yes, it can runs games!
If you have been toying with the idea of buying a PDA and the price was just too steep, or, it just seemed that a PDA may have a steeper learning curve than you're comfortable with, and, as a result you have decided against buying one, then Palm's Zire may be a product that you'll be interested in. Palm Inc. has created a PDA that is now in the 'impulse buy' category for most people--$99 at Staples and Best Buy, etc. but you can get a bargain at Amazon.Com where it's priced at $79.99. And…by the way, it's a good product. It seems to me that Palm Inc. is willing to do anything to get your business--and that's not a bad thing.
It may be true that Palm Inc. put the Zire on the market to lure you into buying their product. It may be true that Palm Inc. wants you to use their product with the hope that once you experience the simplicity of the Zire's organization you won't want to go to a competitor when you need to buy a more powerful PDA. All this may be true, but 'so what'! If you eventually buy a higher-end PDA, that's fine; if you elect to stay with the Zire, that's fine too. The Zire may be just what you need--it may be just 'right' for your needs where a higher-end PDA may be overkill for you. Laptop magazine supports this notion. They note that "the Zire is not just a stepping stone" to the next, more powerful (and more expensive) Palm PDA. The Zire is a solid PDA; it will satisfy the needs of many that purchase it.
The Zire is 4.4" x 2.9" x .6" and weighs just under 4 ounces. It has an attractive design. According to Laptop magazine, it has a "clean white and gray design, more than a little reminiscent of a kitchen appliance." It has all the basic features of a high-end PDA: an address book, a calculator, a clock/alarm clock, a date book, an expense log, a memo pad, and a to-do list. The Zire also has a rechargeable power source, which is a blessing; this was once an exclusive feature of the high-end PDA. The Zire has the standard user interface--the Zire screen looks just like the one on a high-end PDA. The Zire does not have the 4 hot buttons that is typical in high-end PDA. This may prove to be a 'negative' to a seasoned PDA user who lives-and-dies by the standard 4-button PDA, however a first-time user may not notice this.
The Zire has most of the features that the more expensive PDAs possess, but, of course, these features are scaled back.
According to the review by Amazon.Com it's "small, light, and compact, the Palm Zire handheld is a great PDA for anyone looking for a basic electronic personal information manager to help organize their tasks, meetings, and contacts."
Patricia Atherly states that: "Getting started with the Zire is simple, making it ideal for people who are new to the world of handheld devices. We were up and running within 20 minutes of opening the package. As part of our setup, we synced the Zire with Microsoft Outlook. Initially, we had to try twice before we could successfully sync our data, but have been able to sync data flawlessly ever since. All of our contacts and scheduled meetings transferred effortlessly, and we quickly came to depend on the Zire to tell us where and when we had to be at a given time. However, with only a 2 MB storage capability, this handheld won't hold a huge amount of data….While not a powerful handheld, the Zire is worth considering if you're looking for a way to keep your tasks, contacts, and meetings organized. It performs those tasks wonderfully, and is priced affordably."
- Mac and PC compatible -- you can store (backup/hot sync) the data from the Zire onto either a Mac or a PC. Connecting a cable from the Zire to a port on your Mac or PC does this. Then it's just a matter of tapping on (a handheld term that is similar to the computer term 'click on') the 'Hot Sync' icon on the Zire and the data is sent from the Zire to the PC.
- Inexpensive and attractive -- the Zire can be purchased in most technology stores (e.g., Staples) for $99. It is also available on for a bit less; the lowest price I could find was $79.99 (e.g., Amazon.Com)
- Easy to set up and use
- Comes with a rechargeable battery -- a definite plus.
- The basic specs are that of the old Palm III (but that's not all that bad--the Palm III standards were satisfactory to complete many tasks)
- Only 2 MB of memory (but that's sufficient for all but power-users)
- No expansion slots
- Separate cables for charging and HotSynching can be annoying
- Palm OS 4.1 instead of the new Palm OS 5
- No backlight
- Flimsy screen cover
- No cradle -- this is not a real issue as it does not seem all that important that the PDA be perched in a cool looking stand while it recharges or does a 'hot sync' (sending data to a PC for storage/backup)
Laptop magazine states that the Zire "has a worthy design…and by the time any of its omissions start to bother you, you will be ready for a higher-powered Palm anyway--which we suspect was the point all along," Laptop magazine gives the Zire 3 out of a possible 5 stars. Handheld Computing magazine gives the Zire a B- rating.
Handheld Computing advises that "the Zire has quirks, but is still a good entry-level PDA."
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