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PDA Reviews

Palm Zire

PostedOctober 7, 2002, by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Disontinued: tthe Palm Z22 has replaced the Zire

In October 2002 Palm introduced a new entry level PDA called Zire. The Zire sells for $99, and is available in department stores along with consumer electronics outlets (online and bricks & mortar). The target audience is first-time and casual PDA users who want to replace their post-it notes and daytimers, but do not want lots of bundled software, the ability to work with MS Office documents, wireless and all those other advanced features. It is one of the smallest Palm PDAs to date, and has a high-gloss white front face and gray back and sides. It reminds me of the Apple iBook, and looks very cool in person. Also check out more powerful $99 Palm Zire 21 which was introduced on Oct. 1, 2003.

The Zire comes in a relatively compact plastic package, and includes a CD that has Palm Desktop Software, Pocket Mirror (for syncing to MS Outlook) and .pdf manuals. You'll also get a USB cable (not cradle) for syncing, a charger, a stylus and a somewhat translucent rubbery blue flip cover that actually looks nice on the unit.

Zire and included stuff

Above: Zire and all the goodies inside the package.



This ain't your uncle Enzo's Ferrari, but for $99, what did you expect? The Zire runs Palm OS 4.1 and has a 16 MHz Dragonball processor (same as the old Palm III). It has 2 megs of RAM (1.8 actually available to store programs and data) and 2 megs of ROM (not flash-upgradeable). 2 megs of RAM isn't much if you plan to buy and install Documents to Go (to work with MS Office files), a hearty selection of 3rd party software and games. But if you simply want to organize your life, then you'll find 2 megs is plenty enough to store an overwhelming number of contacts, appointments, to-do's and memos. There is no SD expansion slot, so you won't be able to add memory or Bluetooth. If you're looking for a faster processor and more memory (8 megs), check out the $99 Palm Zire 21, introduced Oct. 1, 2003.


The display is made of plastic, which means it's hard to break. It feels firm and Graffiti works well. The LCD is the standard 160 x 160 pixel size and it displays 16 shades of gray. While it's not overwhelmingly bright it is very sharp and contrasty. One sore point is that there is no backlighting! After 5 or more years of enjoying backlighting as a standard feature on Palm Inc. PDAs, it's hard to do without. What does this mean to you? You'll need to be in a well-lit area to see the screen as it does not supply any light itself.




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I am thrilled to see a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery in a PDA in this price range. It should last you up to 2 weeks of average use (look up a few contacts, appointments and etc. each day).


The Zire, unlike previous Palm PDAs, has the charging port and sync port at the top rather than bottom of the unit. The Zire has a mini-USB connector and comes with a mini-USB to USB sync cable.

Since there isn't a cradle with a HotSync button, you'll initiate a HotSync by pressing the silk screen Star button. Like all Palm brand PDAs, syncing works well. Since this is a USB-only device, you will need to be running Windows 98 or newer if you're a PC user. Mac users can use OS 9 or OS X. You can of course instead sync via the IR port if your computer has an IR port.

Where's the Buttons?

Palm OS PDAs come with 4 buttons plus the up and down buttons. The Zire gives you the up and down buttons plus a button for contacts and one for the calendar. What's missing? Buttons for the Memo Pad and To-do's. You can still get to these using the on-screen icons, so it's no big loss. However, there are a few games that require 4 buttons, and for those few, you'll be out of luck.


If you're looking for a budget PDA to eliminate some of the paper in your life, then this is definitely a good buy. It's very small and light, has all the features of Palm OS 4.1, looks cool and has a rechargeable battery. If you want to work with Word and Excel documents, play a lot of games or network via Bluetooth, then consider models one level up such as the Palm m125 or Sony Clié SL10. These cost around $150.



Display: Same as previous Palm models (160 x 160 pixels). 16 shades of gray and no backlighting.

Performance: 16 MHz Motorola Dragonball processor. 2 megs of RAM, 2 megs non-flash upgradeable ROM for OS.

Size: 4.4 x 2.9 x 0.6 in., 3.8 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker for alarms.

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Ion

Software: Palm OS 4.1 and the usual suite of Palm applications, including Address Book, Date Book, Clock, To Do List, Memo Pad and Calculator. No valued-added 3rd party software included. Palm Desktop for Windows and Mac included.

Modem: None included.


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