Tapwave is now shipping the Zodiac, a gaming-oriented handheld that runs the Palm OS. The company began taking orders for this last month.
There are two versions of this device. One with 32 MB of RAM costs $299 and is called the Zodiac 1. A second, with 128 MB of memory, costs $399 and is named the Zodiac 2. Both run Palm OS 5.2 on a 200 MHz Motorola .MX1 ARM-based processor.
The main focus of this handheld is playing games and it comes bundled with two. Stunt Car Extreme allows the player to navigate hills, jumps, and obstacles in a 3-D racing game. Acid Solitaire is a handheld version of the classic Solitaire card game.
A number of games are are available now, including SpyHunter, and more are expected later. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, Phantom Strike, Commodore 64 Classics, and Doom II are expected in November, while Duke Nukem Mobile, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, Neverwinter Nights, and others are expected next year. The prices for these games range from $19.99 to $29.99.
Of course, the Zodiac is able to play the very large number of games already available for the Palm OS.
To allow users to play games head-to-head, the Zodiac includes Bluetooth short-range wireless networking. Almost all of the games that have already been announced that were specially written for this device will support this. Bluetooth can also be use to wirelessly connect this handheld to a mobile phone for Internet access.
The Zodiac sports two SD slots, one of which supports SDIO, allowing it to use peripherals, like wireless networking cards, that plug into SD slots.
The Zodiac’s 320-by-480 pixel screen offers both portrait and landscape modes. This transflective display is 3.8 inches when measured diagonally and offers 16-bit color. It has an ATI Imageon graphics accelerator and uses the the Fathammer X-Forge 3D Game Engine.
The casing is 5.6 inches wide, 3.1 inches tall, and .55 inches thick (143 x 79 x 14 mm). It weighs 6.3 ounces (179 g). The Zodiac 1 is slate grey, while the Zodiac 2 is charcoal grey. Neither version comes with a cradle, but one can be purchased for $20.