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Palm m505 ReviewBy Ed Hardy
Also, it still has the infamous black grid between all the pixels, though it might be better described as a gray grid. It isn't anything like as bad as it is on some other color Palms.
But the news isn't all bad. The colors are great and, in general, the screen is perfectly viewable with the sidelight on. I suspect I'm going to have the sidelight on pretty much all the time. To take care of this, I downloaded GlowHack, which has the sidelight on by default. It can be turned off by holding the power button down.
I copied some pictures into PhotoSuite, which comes with the m505, and they looked great. Don't trust the ones that come with PhotoSuite; their picture quality isn't very good.
If you had problems with previous color models because they washed out in sunlight, you will love the m505. It's screen only looks better as the ambient light gets stronger. It never looked better than at noon today outside in a parking lot.
Just to make sure I touch all the bases, I'll say that the m505 has a reflective screen that displays 65,000 colors. The sidelight lights up the Graffiti area.
It is very difficult to properly show a handheld's screen in a photograph. Despite what we may think, what the camera sees and what we see are very different things. That said, I have a couple of pictures in which I'll try to show you what I'm seeing.
In the picture on the left, you can see the m505 outside in direct sunlight. Click the image for a larger version. In the picture on the right, you can see an m505 and IIIe side by side with no lighting besides what is coming in the window.
I want to thank James Gunter for taking these pictures. I don't have a decent digital camera and he was kind enough to volunteer.
The SD/MMC Slot
When an SD card card is inserted into the m505, it automatically wakes up. In the default Launcher application a new category is created named the same name as the SD card and all the applications on the card are listed. Databases are not shown.
The m505 doesn't directly run applications off an SD card but it pretends to. When an application on an SD card is tapped on, it is automatically copied into RAM and run from there. This takes a second or so, depending on the size of the app. The app runs normally from RAM. When the app is exited, it is deleted from RAM.
It probably works the same way for MMC cards but I am doing this testing with an SD card so that is all I can say for sure.
Palm applications will have to be modified by their developers to be able to use the expansion slot to store their files. Unless they are, the application simply doesn't have any way to access the contents of the card. The apps that were bundled with the m505, Documents to Go and PhotoSuite, have been so modified. The default Launcher doesn't seem to have any way to move files, only applications.
So far, that seems like a decent lifespan to me, considering on a normal day I use my Palm less than a hour, some days much less. I'll report back later on how long it took to run the battery completely flat.
The vibrating alarm is a nice addition for anyone who doesn't want everyone in a meeting to know he just got reminded of something. I guess I'm not the person the flashing LED alarm was created for. I don't think I'd notice it under any circumstances.
The type of alarm is set globally. If you say you want a vibrating alarm, all your alarms will vibrate. I'd like to be able to set which type of alarm I get for each event. For example, I'd like to be reminded that David Letterman is coming on with a silent vibrating alarm so it doesn't wake up my wife. But the next morning I want a nice loud reminder of my 9:00 am meeting.
Alarms have a snooze button which is always for 5 minutes. During the snooze delay, a small asterisk blinks in the upper lefthand corner of all apps.
The Body and Stylus
I wish I understood why Palm made the left channel slot smaller than the right. I can't see a reason for this. I feel sorry for all left handed Palm users because this is really going to inconvenience them.
In any case, the stylus will now only fit in the right channel slot, the flip cover will only fit in the left. While my SLIMpoint stylus replacement will fit in the stylus slot, the one from my IIIx will not; it's too thick.
The m505 holds its stylus really tightly. Really, really tightly. I darn near bent my thumbnail back getting it out the first time. Still, everyone who has every lost a stylus this way should be happy. And I'm sure it will loosen up with frequent use.
The stylus itself has a metal shaft with a plastic top and bottom. It has a handy reset pin under the top.
The Flip Cover
I do like the fact that the flip cover can fold around all the way around to the back. This was one of the few things I really didn't like about my IIIx.
The expensive-looking leather flip cover goes well with the expensive Palm. However, it is a bit thick and heavy for what it does. I'd prefer a nice light plastic one that weighs half as much. It would also be nice if someone made one that had some SD card holders in it. I predict a busy market for third parties selling replacements.
The Universal Connector
On the bottom rear of the m505, where on previous models was a serial port, is the new USB port. OK, it isn't actually a real USB port but it isn't exactly a serial port any more either. I'm not sure what to call it. Palm handily solves this problem by never referring to it at all in their rather sketchy in-box documentation. Anyway, just on either side of it are some small clips that must be intended to help hold clip-on peripherals.
The other part of the Universal Connector is two small intentions on the middle back of the m505 clearly intended for clip-on devices to use to attach themselves to the handheld.
Near the USB plug at the end of a long cord is a power plug where the cradle is plugged into the wall. This gives sufficient room for the cradle to be able to reach both the computer and a wall socket.
I wish I could tell you if the m505 HotSynced any faster than its predecessors with its new USB cradle but I don't have a USB port on my computer. Until I can get my hands on a serial cradle I'm going to have to depend on the infrared port on my trusty PowerBook.
Update: Be sure to read Part II of this review, which is a much more in-depth look at the m505.
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