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Palm Zire 71

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 at it.

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 PDA.

Palm Zire 71

The Zire 71 with slider closed

Palm Zire 71

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.

Palm Zire Z71

Back of the Zire 71 with slider open and camera lens exposed




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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 buttons.

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.

Zire sample photo

Indoors, illuminated by a sliding glass window

Zire sample photo

Outdoors, sunny day

Click on an image to see the full sized, unaltered image

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 fans.

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.

Kinoma Videos

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.

SD Slot

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.


Pro: 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.



Display: Backlit, high res 320 x 320 pixel color transflective display with 16 bit, 65,000 colors.

Performance: 144 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP310 ARM family processor. 16 megs of RAM (13 available to the user). Non-upgradeable ROM.

Size: height: 4.5", 2.9" wide, 0.67 inches thick. 5.3 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker. Stereo 3.5mm standard audio jack for headphones. Supports alarm sounds and LED alerts.

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer, 900 mAh. Not user replaceable.

Software: Palm 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.

Expansion: SD Slot supporting SDIO.


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