Palm Inc. today introduced two new models, the Zire 71 and the Tungsten C, which break new ground in the Palm OS world. The $299 Zire 71 is the first mid-range model to include a digital camera, and to use Palm OS 5, while the Tungsten C is the first Palm OS model to include integrated Wi-Fi wireless networking.
For a $299 handheld, the Zire 71 boasts an impressive list of features. It has a 320-by-320 pixel, transflective color screen, a built-in digital camera, and runs on the latest version of the Palm OS.
The Zire 71 is a far cry from the $99 Zire introduced by Palm back in October, which could confuse some people. Basically, the Zire line is not, as some assumed, Palm’s entry-level line of handhelds. Rather, it’s Palm’s consumer focused line. Likewise, the Tungsten line isn’t just high-end devices, but rather Palm’s enterprise targeted handhelds.
Until now, Palm has let Sony take the lead in the multimedia arena. However, that’s now changed with the Zire 71. Palm has, in effect, thrown down the gauntlet by offering a reasonably priced handheld with a built-in digital camera.
The camera can take color pictures as big as 320-by-480 pixels. The auto-focus lens is on the back of the handheld and is covered by a sliding door. It also comes with a new app called Palm Photos that displays images taken by the camera, or loaded from the user’s desktop as well.
The Zire 71 handles audio and video playback, as well. It comes with the RealOne Mobile Player which can play music in MP3 and Real Audio formats. According to Palm, this model can play music with the screen blacked out for 5 hours on a single charge. It has a built-in mono speaker and standard-sized headphone jack for playing music in stereo. The handheld does not come with a pair of headphones and an SD or MMC card is required to store the audio files.
In addition, the Zire 71 comes with the Kinoma Player for showing video. Even better, it comes with a registered version of Kinoma Producer, which runs on a Windows desktop and can convert files in other formats to Kinoma format.
The Zire 71 is one of the first handhelds to run Palm OS 5.2. The major change in this new version of the operating system is it uses Graffiti 2, which more closely follows the standard method of drawing letters and numbers than the original Graffiti. Another new feature is support for Themes, which change the color scheme used by the operating system and applications.
The Zire 71 uses a Texas Instruments OMAP processor running at 144 MHz and comes with 16 MB of RAM, of which 13 MB is available to the user.
Physically, the Zire 71 is 4.5 by 2.9 by 0.67 inches. It weighs 5.3 ounces. Most of the casing is plastic but a sliding back panel, which protects the camera, is metal.
It has a directional pad on its front that is different in design from the one on the company’s other models. This one looks more like a joystick. This handheld also includes an SD/MMC card slot on its top for storing additional files and applications. This slot has SDIO support. This model uses the Palm Universal Connector, so it is compatible with a wide variety of accessories already available, like keyboards, cradles, cables, and more.
The Zire 71 will go on sale today in retail stores and directly from Palm.
For years, Palm OS handhelds have lagged behind Pocket PCs in features. The Tungsten C puts the Palm OS back at the cutting edge. It offers a 400 MHz processor, 64 MB of RAM, and built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking, as well as a high-resolution, color screen and an integrated miniature keyboard.
The Tungsten C runs on the new 400 MHz Intel XScale PXA255 processor, the fastest processor currently available for handhelds. This chip includes the new 200 MHz bus for increased performance and uses significantly less power than its predecessor.
Palm and PalmSource recently announced that they had found a way to break through the limitation that had held Palm OS models to 16 MB of RAM for so long. The Tungsten C is the first model to take advantage of this, as it includes 64 MB, of which 51 MB is available to the user.
Possibly the most significant new feature on this handheld is that it has high-speed wireless networking built in. Wi-Fi, or Wireless Fidelity, offers data transfer speeds of up to 11 MB per second over a maximum range of 300 feet. Networks can be set up at home or offices and an increasing number of coffee shops and other businesses offer Wi-Fi access.
The Tungsten C has been primarily designed for corporate users and corporations are nervous about using Wi-Fi because it is so insecure. That’s why this handheld has an integrated VPN client that is compatible with the Microsoft Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP).
The Tungsten C looks quite similar to another Palm model, the Tungsten W. However, unlike the Tungsten W, this new one doesn’t need an external antenna. It is 4.8 by 3.07 by .65 inches and 6.3 ounces.
Both models do include a small keyboard. However, users of the Tungsten C have the option of entering text with the new Graffiti 2. Changing a preference allows users to write anywhere on the screen. The Tungsten C includes Graffiti 2 because it runs Palm OS 5.2.1, the latest version of this operating system.
Though it isn’t its focus, this model does offer some multimedia functions. Like the Zire 71, it comes with Kinoma Player for showing video and a registered version of Kinoma Producer. However, it is weaker in audio capabilities than the Zire 71. Both have built-in mono speakers but the Tungsten C’s headphone jack is also mono, not stereo. This is probably why it doesn’t come with the RealOne Player, though this is free download.
Though it may be weak in audio, it does have a 320-by-320 pixel, transflective screen that can display 16-bit color. To take advatntage of this, Palm has included Palm Photos 1.0, an application for displaying images.
The Tungsten C will be available in limited quantities and only in some stores until about May 5, when it will be more widely available. It sells for $500.
Brighthand has a preliminary review of this model from Ed Hardy. A full review will be available in a few days.