What's hot: Great OS, excellent web browser, extremely affordable smartphone.
What's not: Tiny keyboard.
Reviewed June 17, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The Palm Pixi has been around the proverbial carrier block a few times and now Palm has both their webOS smartphones, the Pre and Pixi, on all but America’s 4th largest carrier. AT&T is the latest to join the party, and like Verizon they offer the “Plus” versions of the Pixi and Pre. What does the Plus get you vs. the original Pixi on Sprint, who held an exclusive on both models for 6 months? The Plus adds WiFi. The AT&T version of the Pixi Plus is virtually identical to the Verizon version we reviewed here. It runs Palm’s new webOS, a very likeable Linux-based smartphone OS (and likely soon a tablet and printer OS thanks to HP’s acquisition of Palm) and has a full QWERTY keyboard. The Pixi’s form factor should appeal to Palm Centro users looking to upgrade, and webOS’ full multitasking and visually appealing UI put the Pixi leagues ahead of the atavistic Centro.
The Pixi has a 320 x 400 pixel capacitive touch screen, 8 gigs of internal storage (but no expansion card slot), a 2 megapixel camera, WiFi 802.11b/g, Bluetooth and a GPS. That’s fairly standard stuff for a smartphone, though the camera is low end by 2010 and even 2009 standards. The Pixi Plus’ biggest enemy isn’t the iPhone 3GS but rather than Palm Pre Plus on AT&T that offers 3D gaming, a faster CPU, a more vibrant higher resolution display, a better camera and a subjectively more attractive design. While the Pre and Pixi’s pricing is close on some carriers, the Pixi has an advantage on AT&T where it’s $49, while the Pre Plus is $149 with contract. If you’re looking to get into webOS, or want a very affordable and modern smartphone rather than a texting feature phone, the Pixi Plus is a great pick. Keep in mind that it does require the more expensive smartphone data plan vs. AT&T’s cheaper feature phone data plans. If you’re into web surfing, the Pixi Plus is certainly worth it. Palm’s Webkit browser is one of the best on the market and it easily beats any feature phone and current BlackBerry browser.
What webOS does have in common with the BlackBerry is extensive email support and it adds on an uncanny ability to sync contacts and PIM data from a variety of sources. This feature is called Synergy and the Pixi can sync data and get email from multiple MS Exchange accounts, Google Gmail/contacts/calendar, Facebook and more. It manages to do this without creating a mire of duplicates in your address book—sweet.
Beyond its Linux underpinnings, webOS reminds us of Android thanks to a superb notification system. You’ll never wonder about missed calls, alerts, status updates and new email again. They all appear clearly yet unobtrusively on the home screen. If you’ve ever used a BlackBerry and wondered “why is that darned red LED flashing this time?!”, you’ll appreciate improved notifications.
Unlike the AT&T Palm Pre Plus, the Pixi doesn't come with the Touchstone charging back that was optional on other carriers. Nor is there a promotion that throws in a free Touchstone charger for the Pixi Plus. In case you're absolutely new to the Pre and Pixi, the Touchstone charger is a desktop charger that works with a compatible phone back cover to charge the phone when you lay it on the charger. Palm offers a healthy selection of colorful backs for the Pixi and you can order these from Palm's website.
Battery life is a weak spot for Palm's webOS phones. While the Pixi Plus outlasts the Pre Plus thanks to a less powerful CPU and lack of a high end graphics chip, it still needs charging every day with heavy use. If you're moving up from a texting feature phone, don't expect to go 3 days on a charge if you use the phone heavily.
The optional Palm Touchstone charger. Just lay the Pixi on top of the Touchstone to charge.
While the Pixi on Sprint and even the Pixi Plus easily bogged down when we reviewed them, several webOS updates and tweaks in the past 6 months have yielded a spritely Pixi Plus on AT&T. It's not a lightening-fast smartphone but it's not unbearably slow. Given the capable Qualcomm MSM7627 CPU with a max clock speed of 600MHz, it shouldn't be slow. WebOS is a full-featured and demanding smartphone OS though, so it craves speed. Unlike the Pre Plus, the Pixi Plus doesn't have a serious companion 3D GPU for gaming, though Palm promises 3D software support for the Pixi soon (the Pre simply rocks for 3D gaming and there's a wide selection of tier one games available).
As with the Verizon Pixi Plus, WiFi, Bluetooth and the music player all work well and are easy to use. The GPS on the AT&T Pixi Plus works very well, getting a fix indoors and keeping up with location info and directions in AT&T Navigator powered by TeleNav and working well with the pre-installed Google Maps.
If you're looking to move up from a texting feature phone, the Palm Pixi Plus is an excellent choice. It's fun and easy to use, yet it's powerful with a full featured Webkit browser that supports pinch zooming (Flash is coming but isn't here yet), Synergy for syncing contact info from multiple sources, strong email support that includes multiple MS Exchange accounts and a very good music player. If you're upgrading from a Palm OS phone like the Centro, the Pixi Plus is a leap into modernity and even those moving from an older Windows Mobile QWERTY bar phone will appreciate a fully finger-friendly and modern OS with a great user interface. It's hard to beat Palm's intuitive multi-tasking using the card metaphor too. While we'd choose the Pre Plus hands down over the Pixi, if you're on a budget or prefer QWERTY-bar phones or simply detest moving parts like sliders, the Pixi is a viable alternative.
Phone:GSM quad band world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz. 3G HSDPA 3.6 Mbps on AT&T's 850/1900MHz bands.
Camera:2.0 MP with LED flash.
GPS: Has GPS that works with VZ Navigator and Google Maps.
in speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Has ringer silencer switch.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo.
Software: Palm web OS. Messaging (SMS, Google Talk and AIM), web browser, email, photo viewer, video player, tasks, memos, music player, Google Maps, YouTube player, Amazon MP3, VZ Navigator, calculator, MS Office document viewer, PDF viewer, clock and App Catalog.