Noah (angelbob) wrote,

I've used my Palm Zire71 heavily for a couple of months now and I feel pretty comfortable judging it by now. Overall, I like it. The built-in camera has been more useful than I'd expected, and while it's not very high quality, it works great for taking random pics to post on the web. I carry the camera everywhere, which is a massive bonus regardless of quality.

And the display is absolutely gorgeous. Bright, high resolution, bright colors, good blackpoint. The display is what sold me on getting a new modern spiffy color device instead of whatever was cheap but still had a decent-sized black and white display. Even with the battery concerns, I still can't bring myself to regret it.

The processor, one of the new ARM ones, is fast. It burns battery faster than a Dragonball, but it's pretty gratifying to realize that almost no modern app will slow it down significantly. I'm sure app writers are working on changing that even now. Still, the processor is really good.

It comes with 16MB of memory, and reads flash cards. That means I can take a lot of pictures. That's the only real reason that much memory is useful (even these days, 13MB of apps is a lot!), but it means I can do things like carry pictures of all my friends around with me on my Palm. That's kinda cool.

On to the bad points:

The Zire71 absolutely needs a hard case. It comes with a relatively soft leather case. Several design decisions were made that make the Zire almost unusable, even with a stiff leather case. It needs an actual rigid case around it to (for instance) keep the five-way joystick from being depressed, turning your Palm on in your pocket, running down your batteries, running apps at random and checking off your To Do List items (yes, all of those have happened to me, each four times or more). The hard case is just not optional. I've used the RhinoSkin one, it's generally quite nice, and the company has a really good reputation.

Palm put Jot onto the Zire71 instead of Graffiti, probably as a result of the long-running Xerox lawsuit. I can't comment on the legal ramifications, but from a human factors standpoint I consider that a mistake.

Jot is basically like graffiti, though it's multistroke for a lot of common symbols. There's nothing wrong with that. Jot does several common symbols in slightly more intuitive ways, and that's probably a very slight edge in learning Jot compared to graffiti. In the end, though, that difference is small enough not to much matter. The two are quite similar, and most symbols are the same in both.

Unfortunately, Jot is a lot more sensitive to differences in pressure (or perhaps the Zire screen is?) which makes it difficult to write more involved symbols like a "e" or an "m" correctly. Instead, larger symbols tend to turn into multiple simpler symbols, such as an "e" becoming two "c"s. The idea of having upper-case characters written on the line between the letter and number sides is clever, but it's also very error-prone -- try writing two "L"s (each is just a single vertical line) so that they each span that line. And some of the multicharacter stuff just blows. For instance, as far as I know, there's no way to quickly write an "L" and then a space. A space is written as a horizontal line, and an "L" followed by a horizontal line makes a "T". So I have to write an L, pause for a bit, and then write a space. Very annoying.

Plus Jot is prone to do more scribbling if you put the Palm in your pocket, or something rubs it, or you otherwise get noise on the graffiti pad. But I'm currently just considering that part of why the hard case is absolutely mandatory. A Zire71 is basically unusable without a hard case, at least in the long term.

The Zire71 is rechargeable, and I like that. But seriously, what ever happened to batterly life? I really liked changing the batteries every three to six weeks. Having to recharge the Zire71 every four days, even with its very pretty display, is getting demoralizing.

Overall, it's a good device. Overall, it's not as incredibly cool as, say, a Palm V. It just feels clunkier, and it wasn't designed with the slickness or the grace of some of the older devices, nor does it have the solidity and bulletproof feel that they did. But it's a good serviceable device. I'm still on the Palm bandwagon for awhile here.

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