Posted on 17-May-2004 23:25 by James Shiell.
Filed under: Reviews
If you haven't heard about PalmOne's Zire 72 by now, you're probably dead. It's taken us a wee while to get hold of one, but we have. Was it worth the wait? I'm going to place my money on yes.
For those who don't read the latest releases while drooling with techno lust, the Zire72 is PalmOne's follow-up to the rather spiffing Zire71. The Z72 brings twice the memory (32Mb), a faster processor (Intel's new PXA270 at 312Mhz), a 1.2MP camera, voice recorder and a host of other refinements.
Best of all, it's looks great. The Z71 suffered a little from feeling cheap and plastic. And the little thumb stick was somewhat annoying. Luckily, both of these faults have gone the way of the Psion. There's now a nice rubbery finish to the unit, which grips well and doesn't pick up fingerprints the way the Z71 did. It fits nicely in one hand and feels very secure. There's now a full sized 5-way controller, and it's lovely to use. PalmOne have even added a SD card slot door, a long awaited feature only recently introduced to their handhelds. And they've got rid of the annoying protuberant voice recorder button on the T3 – it's now nicely recessed, so no more accidental recording. It's light (~140g, compared to 150g for the T3 without any cover) but doesn't come with any form of protection, so add a case into your budget. Having said that, it's done very well in my pocket all week, without any protection - just don't throw your keys in as well.
On the downside, the power button seems a little picky. It's also a little recessed and won't be hit be accident – PalmOne may be learning, at long last. As was the SD card slot, to the point that getting SD cards in took the use of fingernails. And it may have just been the review unit, but I did have card recognition problems – insert, get the nice beep, but the Palm wouldn't recognise it. Pop it out, try again, and it usually worked. There was also that terrible problem certain PalmOne devices (with the exception of the Tungsten Ts) suffer from – a cheap, horrible stylus. Solid plastic, which was a shame given the classy look of the device in general.
Tungsten T3 (left) and Zire 72
Tungsten T3 (top) and Zire 72
On the camera front, the funky slider of the Z71 is gone. While you no longer have to slide the camera out to use it, it does mean there's no dedicated shutter button, and the lens isn't protected - all the more reason for a case. The lack of a shutter button is kind of annoying, but you do get over it. The camera itself is a sprightly 1.2MP (that's 1280x960 pixel images). It's great if you've got good lighting, but give up now if you're thinking of low light photography. And there's no flash either. But never fear, for you can now natively record video via the camera, a task you needed 3rd party applications for with the Z71.
The screen is, as with all the new PalmOne screens, gorgeous. You can't dim it as much as the T3, which makes it a little bright at night, but that's the only fault I can find with it. As for the processor – it plays Sonic the Hedgehog (via GuineaPig) only slightly slower than my 400Mhz T3, a nicety of the new PXA270. Sound is very similar to that of the T3 – solid, but nothing particularly special.
The other big addition to the Z72 is Bluetooth support, previously only seen on the Tungsten T models. Personally, I'm hanging out for WiFi, but for those lucky enough to have a Bluetooth phone it's a godsend. And it's kind of fun to surf from using a BT access point. Which brings me to a major omission – they no longer seem to have the standard GSM phone driver (for either IrDA or Bluetooth). Hence my SE T300 wouldn't work – the choices were limited to the various brands for which drivers were supplied. I ended up beaming the driver across from my T3, but that's not a viable solution for most people. This seems a major oversight, given the very limited number of drivers supplied, and I would be very keen to see this rectified. Bad, bad PalmOne!
Finally, as with the Zire/Zire21/Zire32/Tungsten E, they've dropped the universal connector, replacing it with a USB sync cable and a charger. While it's nice to have an industry standard connector, it's kind of annoying to have to plug (or unplug) the 2 cables instead of just lifting the unit on and off the cradle. It also makes the lovely Palm thin keyboard unusable (as well as my overpriced travel kit). And worst of all – the USB cable just syncs, there's no charge capability.
But enough with the hardware – let's talk about all the shiny new software. First up is Media, the replacement for the PalmOne Photos application. This now handles videos from the Z72 in Windows Media format, as well as the standard image formats. It's also got a feature with was conspicuous in it's absence from the old Photos application – zoom. And a nice new album view is thrown in as well. Still not a replacement for some of the third party packages, but fine for the majority.
A nice (and again belated) feature PalmOne have thrown in is the ability to use photos from the Media application as a background for the launcher or the agenda screen, along with the ability to fade these backgrounds. However, oddly, you don't seem to be able to change the text colour to something appropriate for the image. PocketPC people will no doubt be laughing here, but they've also finally added photo support to the Contacts application (previously Address Book, but they're now using the more common Outlook terminology). I'd love to see this appear on the T3, but I won't be getting my hopes up. It is, of course, even more use with the attached camera.
Also included are VersaMail 2.7 and WebPro 3.5. VersaMail is a small update – better video, images and music attachment support. WebPro, however, adds a lovely feature – a zoom view. See the entire page laid out (in a somewhat pixelated manner) on the screen, and click on an area to zoom into something readable. It's great for those big, tabled pages, especially if you hate horizontal scrolling as much as I do.
And, unlike the Zire71, they've included Documents to Go 6 (standard). Word and Excel is a basic requirement for any handheld, and I was always surprised it never appeared on the Zire71.
The final gem in the package – the Messages application. Previously there was the standard SMS application, which, as you can possibly guess, sent SMSs. Now you can enjoy all the fun of MMS. Again, I can see this being most used with the camera, as I don't think I've ever encountered anyone using MMS for anything else. Feel free to correct me if you're a keen MMSer.
In conclusion – fantastic. What doesn't it have? The 320x480 screen that I love to pieces on my T3. Come on PalmOne – it's getting embarrassing to still have square screens in 2004. Given a big screen I might just have been tempted to buy. Otherwise though, I don't think you can go too far wrong at NZ$700. If you're prepared to give the T3's screen and memory a miss, this could just be the toy (or useful work tool) for you.