Palm M125 Brings Affordability to
by Jim Bray
Palm's newest handheld is an interesting bit of portable
When the $250 M125 was offered to me for review I got excited; I
hadn't played with a PIM (Personal Information Manager) for a couple of years,
so was curious to see what was new.
Its promise excited me, so I set it up, dumped my address book and
calendar into it, and got ready to rock.
I had the perfect test: Comdex. This annual trade show in Las
Vegas is full of appointments and contacts, and what better way to keep
everything together than with a Palm?
The M125 weighs only 5.1 ounces and is only about 5x3 inches big,
and less than an inch thick. Despite that, it contains all your important data
and you can enter more on the fly via its onscreen virtual keyboard or Graffiti
handwriting recognition language.
It isn't that easy to use on the fly, though. I found it a lot
easier to punch stuff in on my main computer's keyboard, then download it to
the Palm via its USB-connected cradle, than to poke around the Palm with the
plastic stylus. But that doesn't help you in the field.
You can get little keyboards, and newer interfaces are on the way
that will probably help to a certain extent, but for me -today- the interface
is unsatisfying. It isn't the Palm; it's the state of the technological art,
and it'll will undoubtedly get better over time.
Still, there's a lot to like, and a lot you can do. Besides
contacts and dates, you get a calculator, clock, notepad, memo pad and much
more. And with the new expansion slot you can add little card-based modules
that expand its capabilities. I tried two such PalmPak modules: a games one and
Travel Card, the latter of which was really handy on my trip to Vegas.
The Travel Card let me find all sorts of nifty information about
the city, including a couple of after hours entertainment options I'd been
meaning to try for a couple of years, but had never been able to find. The Palm
made that part easy.
The games would probably be okay if I were desperate for
entertainment, but their basic simplicity combined with the Palm's tiny,
monochrome (and non-lighted) LCD screen made me reach quickly for a good
And that really sums up my overall experience with the Palm M125.
Maybe it's just me, because I'm not a corporate warrior and my life isn't
complicated enough to need one of these tools, but I ended up leaving the M125
in my hotel room.
Here's what happened. The first day at the trade show I discovered
the post-September 11th reality that we were all being forced to empty our
pockets and go through metal detectors before being allowed onto the show
floor. So I had to dump the Palm, my cell phone, keys, pens, coins, whatever,
into a bin before going in, just like at the airport.
And while the M125 is very small, it still takes up the better
part of a pocket (you can keep it in your attaché case, but I wasn't
about to drag that around the trade show floor), which crowds out my reporter's
notebook, phone, business cards, etc. etc.
Once on the floor, I'd fire up the Palm to find my next
appointment, which also meant finding a well lit place, putting on my reading
glasses, and poking around the Palm with its plastic stylus. It wasn't really
difficult, but having to stop, put on my glasses, fire the thing up, and so, on
slowed me down considerably.
So that night back at the hotel I took a piece of paper and a pen
and transcribed all data I had in the Palm (including the location of the
NASCAR simulator!) onto a big sheet of paper, in large letters I could read
without my glasses.
A couple of folds later I had a pocket sized, though old tech,
Personal Information Manager I could read on the floor while I walked, that
took up even less space than the Palm, and that would pass through metal
detectors as easily as, well, Anthrax.
So while I suppose the Palm is a wonderful device (my best friend
loves his), and it definitely has marvelous capabilities, it obviously isn't
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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