Posted April 23, 2003, by Lisa
Gade, Editor in Chief
Discontinued: the palm Zire
72 replaced the Zire 71 on
April 28, 2004.
The first words that come to mind when playing
with the Palm Zire 71 are cool, neat and fun. Just what Palm had
in mind when they designed the Zire 71, an affordable new PDA with
an integrated digital camera. But the 71 is about more than just
good looks and fun snapshots: it runs the latest version of Palm
OS, has a Texas Instruments ARM family processor running at a zippy
144 MHz and can handle all the PDA functions you care to throw
The Zire has a mid-blue metallic finish on the
front and the back looks like polished stainless steel or chrome.
I can't tell if the back is actually made of metal, but the front
is hard plastic. It fits nicely in the hand and is light. Looks
are subjective, but I'd say this is a very hip and attractive looking
The Zire 71 with slider closed
The Zire 71 with slider open
Horsepower and Battery Life
The Zire 71 runs Palm OS 5.2.1 and a TI OMAP310
144 MHz processor which is the same speed as the processor used
in the Tungsten T. It's got 16
megs of RAM, 13 of which are available to the user. The recently
released Sega games for the Tungsten T also run on the Zire 71.
The unit is responsive and fast in all tasks, and Palm OS 5 suits
the 71's multimedia capabilities.
Battery life is pretty good for a PDA with a
built-in camera (digicams like to eat batteries). The rechargeable
900 mAh Lithium Polymer battery is not user replaceable. I took
30 640 x 480 pictures, saving them both to a card (which should
use a little more juice) and internal memory and the battery meter
dropped only about 10%, which is quite good and means you can take
your Zire on a trip and likely take all the photos you want during
a day's outing without running out of power.
Back of the Zire 71 with slider
open and camera lens exposed
The Zire 71and the simultaneously released Tungsten
C are the first Palm brand PDAs to have transflective screens.
The Zire's screen is bright, nicely color saturated and doesn't have
any color bias (no color tint). While not as bright as the best of
the transflectives (iPAQ 3900 series and 5450)
it is plenty bright when brightness is set to the midway point. It's
head and shoulders above the Tungsten T, which looks dim and has a
pinkish color cast in comparison. All in all, this is a great screen
to have for showing off those digital photos you'll be shooting!
The Zire 71 has a VGA digital camera capable
of taking photos up to 640 x 480 resolution. To take pictures,
you'll slide the front face of the Zire upward to reveal the
camera lens on the upper rear of the unit (see illustration).
The slider mechanism feels solid and works smoothly. It's quite
a nice design since it protects the lens, and for those of you
who like to take stealth pictures, no one will know you've got
a camera until you slide open the PDA.
Whether the unit is on or off, when you slide
it open the PDA turns on and automatically launches the camera
application. When the slider is open, you can't switch to other
applications using the hardware buttons or Graffiti silk screen
The camera application has options to select
image size (640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels), save
to pix handheld or SD card, turn date stamping on or off, and
turn the shutter sound on and off. Under advanced options, you
can set the white balance (Automatic, Fluorescent, Indoors and
Sunlight), set the contrast using a slider with 5 positions,
and use Auto brightness or set it yourself using a slider. That's
a decent set of options for a VGA digicam built into a PDA.
How are the pictures? Not bad! While the camera
doesn't meter light as well as the Sony
NX73V and misses details in backgrounds and low light areas
of a shot, it's certainly good for the price and doesn't have
a noticeable color bias. The pictures aren't razor sharp and
do show aliasing, but again for an integrated digicam in a $299
PDA the pix are decent. Check out the sample images below, taken
on auto settings at 640 x 480 resolution.
Indoors, illuminated by a sliding glass
Outdoors, sunny day
Click on an image to see the full sized, unaltered
Changes to Palm Desktop
The Windows version of Palm Desktop is enhanced
to support image syncing. On the left side of the screen alongside
with the Date, Address and etc. icons you'll see a Palm Photos
icon. Clicking on this icon will bring up large thumbnails of images
stored on your Palm that have been synced to the desktop. Even
photos saved to SD cards will be synced to your desktop and you
can view them here as well (though you'll have to manually add
them to the thumbnails page). Palm Photos offers some basic image
editing functionality as well: you can rotate images 90 degrees,
crop them, zoom, adjust for red-eye (though since there's no flash,
you likely won't see red-eye in your images), and automatically
adjust brightness, color balance and contrast using the Enhance
function. There's even a preview pane, so you can see how images
downloaded to Palm Desktop will look on your Zire 71. The user
interface is very friendly and intuitive, as we've come to expect
from Palm. Keep in mind that photos are saved to your hard drive
under the My Pictures folder in the My Documents folder, so even
if you delete them from your Zire or from Palm Desktop, you'll
have a copy on your hard drive.
Also new with this version of Palm Desktop is
an improved Palm Quick Install tool, which is a much friendlier
version of the old Palm install application. You can even drag
and drop files onto the Quick Install window to install them to
your Palm. The window is divided into two panes, one for internal
memory and one for expansion cards. Very nice!
MP3 Player and Audio
The Zire 71 supports polyphonic audio and has
a standard stereo headphone jack (3.5mm) on the top of the unit.
It comes with Audible Player (Windows only) for you audio book
You can play MP3s using the included Real Player
for Palm. Likely you won't use the mono speaker on the back of
the unit to listen to music, but sound out of the headphones is
quite nice, though not as good as the Cliés.
If you want to put MP3 files on your Palm (or more likely its expansion
memory card), you'll drag the files to the Quick Install window.
Copying files to the expansion card using Palm Quick Install takes
a very long time (3 minutes for a 4.8 meg 128k encoded song). I
suggest you use an external card reader to get audio files on the
Palm's SD card if you have more than a couple to transfer. Palm
will be releasing an MP3 kit for the 71 which includes a card reader,
a 64 meg SD card and earbud headphones.
Want to watch some videos? The Zire comes with
Kinoma Player for Palm and a special version of Kinoma Producer
for the desktop. This app allows you to take MPEG-1, Quicktime,
AVI and DV videos and turn them into .prc files that the Palm can
play. While the files created by Kinoma aren't as high quality
as the originals, and show some blockiness, overall they look good
and are relatively small in terms of file size. If you want to
upgrade to the full version of Kinoma Producer in order to rip
movies at higher audio and video quality or do batch conversions,
you can upgrade for $29.99.
The Zire 71 has an SD slot that can accommodate
SD and MMC memory storage cards as well as SDIO cards.
The Universal Connector and Connecting Accessories
The Zire 71, like recent m series Palms and the
Tungsten family, has a universal connector which attaches to the
cradle for syncing, and to accessories such as modems and keyboards.
Most universal connector accessories should work with the Zire
71, including the Palm keyboard and modem.
The USB cradle is the same as other m series
models such as the m515 and the Tungsten T. The power adapter plugs
into the cradle's cable so you'll charge the PDA by placing it
in the cradle. An serial cradle is available separately if your
computer doesn't have USB ports.
If you're an IR sync and beam fan, you'll be
happy to know the Zire 71has an IR port that played well with our
notebooks and other Palm OS PDAs here in the office.
Graffiti 2 and Navigation
The Zire 71 and the Tungsten C are also the first
Palm OS PDAs to ship with Graffiti 2. How does it compare to the
old Graffiti? Certainly better. Instead of learning the original
Graffiti alphabet, you'll enter characters in a more natural way,
similar to the way you'd write them on paper. The Graffiti area
looks the same as on previous models, and you'll enter text on
the left, numbers on the right just as with the original Graffiti.
If you want to write capital letters, you'll write your characters
on the divider line in the center of the Graffiti area. You can
also turn on the option to write anywhere on the screen if you'd
rather not be limited to the Graffiti area. Since the Graffiti
area isn't virtual like the Sony Clié NX
and NZ PDAs (you can't collapse it to gain screen real estate)
I'm not sure how attractive the write anywhere feature is.
The Zire has a 5 way navigation button that some
folks describe as a nipple. It's thin and smaller than an eraser
point, but works surprisingly well for something so tiny. Pressing
down on the navigation button is equivalent to the action button,
and you'll do that to return from a picture view to thumbnail view
in the Photo application. In the home screen, you can press down
on the button, then push it in the desired direction to move through
your icons, and you can launch an app by pressing down on the button
once you've moved to the desired icon.
There's a lot to like here for the price: VGA integrated digicam,
MP3 player, Palm OS 5.2.1 and Graffiti 2. The high res transflective
display is very good and is just what the doctor ordered for viewing
photos and videos. The PDA is fast and user friendly. Compatible
with existing Palm universal connector accessories. Con: Camera
pictures aren't that sharp and show aliasing and the MP3 player
doesn't sound quite as good as Sony Clié models and Pocket
PCs. Then again, you do get a camera, MP3 player and transflective
high res display for only $299, so I won't complain loudly about
these! The battery is not user replaceable. It takes a long time
to copy MP3 files to the SD card using Palm Quick Install. Documents
To Go is not included, but for the price, that's forgivable.
high res 320 x 320 pixel color transflective display
with 16 bit, 65,000 colors.
MHz Texas Instruments OMAP310 ARM family processor.
16 megs of RAM (13 available to the user). Non-upgradeable
4.5", 2.9" wide, 0.67 inches thick. 5.3
in speaker. Stereo
3.5mm standard audio jack for headphones. Supports alarm
sounds and LED alerts.
Rechargeable Lithium Polymer, 900 mAh. Not user replaceable.
OS 5.2.1. Includes the usual suite of Palm applications,
including Address Book, Date Book, World Clock, To
Do List, Memo Pad, Calculator, Palm Reader, VersaMail
2.5, SMS app and Photo app. A generous bundle of
3rd party apps including Chapura Pocket Mirror 3.1
(for syncing to Outlook on Windows), Handmark's Solitaire,
Kinoma Player and Producer for Palm Inc., powerOne
Personal Calculator, Audible Player (Windows), Acrobat
Reader for Palm and more. Palm Desktop for Windows
and Mac included. Windows version enhanced to support
photo syncing and has a new Quick Install tool.