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Hand-Helds

Little Palm m105 Has Small Price, Big Improvements

Stylish curves make it fit the hand better and give it a more youthful look than previous models.

April 12, 2001|MARK A. KELLNER | mark@kellner2000.com

When E.F. Schumacher proclaimed "Small Is Beautiful" in his 1973 book, he was talking about economic theory, not personal digital assistants. That said, I think Schumacher would have liked the m105 hand-held from Palm.

Certainly, he'd appreciate the small price relative to other Palm units: The m105 retails for $199, which is $150 to $200 less than similarly powerful Palm PDAs. The device is about four-fifths the size of a Palm III. Though thicker than a Palm Vx, it's stylish in its own way: Its curves make it fit a hand more easily and give it a more youthful look.

There are other style points as well: $20 will buy you one of 19 faceplates to snap onto your m105, whether it's the classy "burl wood" (think Lexus) or the kicky "tangerine twist" (think 1960s mod), or just about anything else you'd want. The faceplates make it easy for them to stand out in a crowd, much like snap-on covers for cell phones.

Also nice is a feature picked up from the earlier m100: Press on the top scroll button and a clock application displays the date and time briefly on the screen. Yes, that used to be the function of a pocket watch, but did your great-grandfather's Wittenauer have 8 megabytes of RAM?

The main improvement in the m105 from last year's m100 is the RAM upgrade. The m105 has 8 MB versus the 2 MB of its predecessor.

The memory should be enough for many users' needs. (Those needing more RAM can opt for the soon-to-arrive m500 and its flash memory option.)

In operation, the m105 functions much like the regular Palm hand-helds. The clock application is nice; so is a feature in the note software that enables users to handwrite notes that can be stored on the device and transferred to a desktop PC. Unlike devices running Microsoft's Pocket PC platform, however, there's no built-in recognition engine.

Also bundled with the m105 is software to make it into a phone dialer, working with phones that have an infrared port to transfer information; manufacturers supporting this feature include Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola. Other makers, including Kyocera, Samsung and Sanyo, can hook up via special cables.

Neither is as slick as the integration of the Palm operating system into devices such as Kyocera's SmartPhone, or the Handspring VisorPhone add-on module, but the feature might be appealing to some.

Along with dialing the phone, the software enables users to send SMS (short message service) messages to other users and to use Palm-compatible "Web clipping" applications to get information from some Internet sites.

If all that's not enough, the m105 includes America Online for the Palm OS, which gives Palm m105 users and AOL members access to AOL Mail, AOL Instant Messenger and personalized "buddy lists."

The only other aesthetic improvement is the docking cradle, which looks better than its forerunners but is still a serial port hookup instead of a Universal Serial Bus connection. As I said last week about Hewlett-Packard's Jornada 525, a USB hookup for these devices would be better.

Otherwise, I like the m105. It's not for everyone (except maybe if the button-down types get the burl wood faceplate), but it's a nice little package at a heck of a good price.

*

Mark A. Kellner is editor at large for Government Computer News.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Skinny

Palm m105

www.palm.com/products/palmm105

Price: $199

Manufacturer: Palm Inc.

Operating system: Palm OS 3.5

Battery Life: Two AAA batteries last up to two months

Memory: 8 MB of RAM

Weight: 4.4 ounces

Software: Palm HotSync Mail, Palm Mobile Internet Kit, AOL for Palm OS and AvantGo's Web Channel Manager

The good: A smal, light package that finally bumps up the baby Palm model to a respectable 8 MB of RAM

The bad: Serial port connector is way clunky

Bottom line: How can you beat $199 for this sleek little package?

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