The case is a very eye-pleasing silvery blue, with a metallic-chrome backplate. Despite it’s looks, the back is not metal, just silver plastic. It’s extremely solid, and feels pretty good in the hand. A little slippery maybe, but otherwise great. The weight is about right, not too heavy not too light. The buttons are nice too, with a pretty good tactile response and audible click.
The screen is very nice. High-res, transflective, and BRIGHT. Colors are great on it. There’s no option to turn off the backlight, but you can adjust it. On the highest setting, it’s roughly comparable to the highest setting on my Axim. Battery life seems good, but I’m still running tests.
System specs are pretty close to the Tungsten T, with a 144 MHz OMAP ARM processor, and 13 of the 16 MB of RAM available to the user. I can’t compare to other OS 5 models, but this thing is snappy. It blows right through applications which choked my old m505.
The camera is a typical integrated camera, fuzzy in practice, but the photos look pretty nice on the Z. It seems to be of the fixed-focus kind, but at least they were nice enough to include the focal length printed on the enclosure. The sliding mechanism doesn’t feel cheap at all, very durable feeling.
Contrary to some reports, the Z71 does not have a voice recorder, just the stereo headphone jack and speaker. Both perform satisfactorily, and the speaker even outpaced my expectations in volume a bit.
The mini-joystick is a little odd, but it works fine once you get used to it. It seems to behave in the same ways as other Palm 5-way directional controllers. Game playing might be a little awkward though.
There’s something wrong with the cradle I got. It’s the same basic kind that’s been in use since the release of the Universal Connector, but it’s a lot lighter than my m505’s older cradle, and it doesn’t let the Zire ‘seat’ right. It’ll wiggle back and forth, and doesn’t connect solidly. It’s definitely the cradle, since I swapped out the Z71 and the m505 and the problem persisted on the new cradle, but the old one works perfectly. It’s possible that I simply got a malformed or defective cradle. I’ll be investigating this further.
The included protective case is a typical cheap plastic and cardboard giveaway that can’t even hold the Z without triggering the ‘in’ direction on the joystick. Worthless, since it will keep the Zire turned on whenever it’s in the case.
The Z71 looks like a contender despite some lackluster accessories. I can’t wait to give it a real workout. The Zire 71 retails for $299, but already some merchants are offering minor discounts and free shipping. Pricing details and full specs.