MobileInfocenter
axxPac
by AMS

Contact Info:
axxpac@ams-fl.com
URL: www.ams-fl.com

PalmInfoCenter.com Bottom Line:

The Price:
$79.00 US excluding VAT

The Pros:
  • Doesn't change the dimensions of the unit
  • Very easy to install and set up
  • Fast and Works! No problems with the software whatsoever
  • Cheap!

The Cons:
  • Driver software still "beta"; could use some GUI enhancements
  • Can't run applications directly from SmartMedia at the present time
  • I can't buy it today!! ;-)

PalmInfoCenter.com Ratings*:
Design:
Cost/benefit:
Coolness:
Overall:

*Maximum Rating is FIVE (5) InfoPalms



Palm Infocenter.com Pick!
axxPac Review
By Robert Zach
3/22/2000
Part 1 Part 2

If you are a true Palm fan you may remember that when Palm Computing announced the Palm IIIx they briefly touted the "Open Feature Connector" ability of the new unit.

As we now know, this was simply the existing Palm OS/memory board now emptied (and slightly modified) by moving the OS Flash and system memory off to the main system board. This move by 3Com enabled the Palm platform to now be expandable.

3Com talked about modems, memory, peripherals but none materialized UNTIL NOW!

The axxPac, from AMS in Germany, is a SmartMedia interface mounted completely internal to the Palm IIIx in the open connector slot.

For $79 AMS provides the axxPac® extension module, a 3½" disk with an application to transfer databases (PRCs/PDBs) between SmartMedia and the Palm, a color matching modified rear casing with a slot for card access to the module, and a manual (for the record, my unit did not include a manual).

It is my understanding that AMS will provide optional SmartMedia cards with the unit for an additional cost. The unit itself will be available for general consumers, directly through the website, by the end of March.

SmartMedia cards are supported in 4, 8, 16, and 32MB sizes, and supposedly 64MB support is in the works!

As mentioned I didn't have manual but installing the device was very simple with a few quick steps: Just back up your Palm (just in case), remove the four screws on the back of the Palm IIIx, peel off the back casing, slide the module into the open slot, and close up the unit with the provided slotted back. That's it!

Here's what that looks like, card installed, new slotted back, and 8MB SmartMedia card pictured:

The install doesn't even require you to remove batteries, although when dealing with delicate electronic circuitry it's probably a good idea, and you won't lose any data.

As you can see below, only a slight protrusion is noticeable after the upgrade is performed. The unit still fits in the cases I have, and if not the card is so thin and small it can be removed and tucked away neatly.


The module itself is very compact and fits inside the unit nicely. With the new, slightly modified, slotted back in place it's almost if 3Com MADE the Palm IIIx to be "hackable" like this. It's a very neat and perfect package all together.

My unit did have a small problem with scratching the SmartMedia card as it went in and out of the module. AMS has informed that a small change to the opening has eliminated this in production units.

On a design note, the SmartMedia module is actually installed in such a fashion as to cover the reset button on the main board. But, the detail-oriented engineers at AMS actually thought of that too. With the card removed from the module the reset button is accessible. Look closely at the back side picture of the module below, and you'll see that it was designed with a hole right through it to allow you to still hit reset ;-)



Read on for Part 2 -The axxPac software >>

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Why I cannt to print whole review ?

BrAtKo @ 3/22/2000 7:00:00 AM #
Brrr...

I could view print version of first part but not of the second part ;(((

RE: Why I cannt to print whole review ?
Ryan @ 3/22/2000 10:07:29 AM #
I'm sorry I had to create the second part of the review as a "static page." I will put a note in my todo list to write a new print article function. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Ryan
webmaster@palminfocenter.com

access database from the card

Joe @ 3/22/2000 6:55:49 AM #
I would like to thank Robert for such an extensive review. I am also a "power" user in medical field. The database I use can be as large as 4.2 mb (Merck Manual). It would make "exchange" of database very very difficult as IIIx only have 4 + mb. If Merck Manual can only be access from Palm Ram, I can either only use Merck Manual without other programs or the other way around. I unerstand that there is no way to access program from smartmedia card yet, but what about database. Can I access database stored in smardmedia from the program which is running in Ram?

On suggestion for AMS. In order to gain popularity for medical users, there has to be a way to access large size database from the card.

RE: access database from the card
hutch @ 3/22/2000 2:58:16 PM #
It's possible to expand the memory in the
Palm IIIx by replacing the memory chip.
This can be done by someone skilled in solder
and circuit board, but I wouldn't advise the
average user to do this.

Instead, there are a few companies which will
do this change for you, for approximately $100.
(I don't have the url for them at hand but you
can find them listed if you look around.)

RE: access database from the card
Dave @ 3/24/2000 9:42:45 AM #
TRG has the best method for upgrading the RAM in the Palm IIIx. They have two different
boards to choose from and neither one voids your warranty like doing it yourself would.
RE: access database from the card
Silent Reporter.... @ 4/28/2000 11:34:54 AM #
Hold on to your hat for about two months, then get a TRGpro. Full access coming soon (if you search around a little, you can confirm this) and they you'll be able to access the 340MB IBM Microdrive!

TRG Pro

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/22/2000 8:19:17 AM #
How does the axpac compare with the TRG Pro? The latter costs $329 with 8mb ram but no compact flash card and has some compactflash-compatible peripherals available. TRG is in beta on an extension allowing running programs from flash.
RE: TRG Pro
Henry Kong @ 3/22/2000 8:40:10 AM #
This is at best a stop gap for Palm III owners
nothing like the elegant TRGpro
with the well placed out-of-the-way CF
and now with software in final beta test
to run programs seamlessly

I dont think I will ever get used
to the smart card sticking out like that
it's like walking around with a knife
stuck to your back

read my reviews on trgpro and compact flash
at www.spug.org
or my web page at
http://members.tripodasia.com.sg/ppcoc/" CLASS=NEWS TARGET=_NEW>http://members.tripodasia.com.sg/ppcoc/

Which of the Palms are compatible?

Jonathan @ 3/22/2000 9:00:45 AM #
I thought the Axxpac could only be used for the IIIx, but one of the pictures in the review shows a SmartMedia card sticking out of a Palm III...What's the final word?
RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
mikecane@wildmail.com @ 3/22/2000 9:48:07 AM #
Yes, will it work with a Palm III?! And what version of the PalmOS? I have a III that would gain a longer life if it could use this! mc
RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
Ryan @ 3/22/2000 9:56:52 AM #
Only the IIIx can use the axxPac because of the "open connector slot" the Palm III does have this slot, but there is a card in it that the OS sits on. The picture does look like it says Palm III, I'll have to ask Rob about that!
RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
Robert Zach @ 3/22/2000 10:20:28 AM #
IIIx ONLY...based in part for some of the reasons that are in the review.

I have many Palms (10) and Visors...and various stages of beta testing. I had a beta IIIx before the release, that's why it has a III logo on it not IIIx...but it IS a IIIx. ;-)

Sorry for the confusion.

RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
Kris @ 3/22/2000 9:51:10 PM #
I assume it'll work with a IIIxe as well???
RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
Alex @ 3/22/2000 10:09:04 PM #
No it wont because the slot has been removed from the IIIxe,
only a IIIx has this free slot :(
RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2000 12:40:57 PM #
Too bad the IIIxe can't use it. You think there could be a version for it someday ?
RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
Chris @ 5/16/2000 10:34:02 AM #
How about the Palm IIIxe ? Is it also compatible?
RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
Chris @ 5/16/2000 10:35:38 AM #
If the slot is just a hole in the case? And the mother bord is the same. You can pay a IIIx case from www.gethightech.com . It's an idea. I hope it works.
RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
Chris @ 5/16/2000 10:35:38 AM #
If the slot is just a hole in the case? And the mother bord is the same. You can pay a IIIx case from www.gethightech.com . It's an idea. I hope it works.
RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/25/2001 8:01:23 PM #
IIIXe is compatable, but only if you purchase the appropriate kit (which includes the
socket which you then have to solder in place yourself) The upgrade of the IIIXe is not an
upgrade I would recommend for those inexperienced in soldering of extremly fine connections,
and it takes a very fine tip on the iron (unless you have access to tips designed for SMD chips).
I just upgraded my IIIXe last night, and am pleased with the result, though soldering while using
a 10x loupe is not one of my favorite passtimes ;-).
Michael.

RE: Which of the Palms are compatible?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/18/2001 12:22:17 PM #
Does domebody know ow to upgrade palm VIIx?
at least up to 12Mb?
any ideas are welcome
Can you please write me at hellen0125@yahoo.com

Dimensions and Flash

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/22/2000 11:51:30 AM #
You mentioned that there was a modified back cover included.
Does this cover change the dimensions of the palm iiix at all
or does it simply have a slot on the side now? I'm wondering
if it will still fit into my Minstrel III cradle.

Also, does the axxPac application install itself into
the palm's flash? Is it flash compatible? If so, you
could backup your whole palm onto a smartmedia card and
not worry about losing your applications if you're ever
forced to do a hard reset. axxPac would still be in flash
and you could restore everything from the smartmedia card.

RE: Dimensions and Flash
Robert Zach @ 3/22/2000 10:03:32 PM #
Correct, it des not change the dimensions at all, it simply adds a slot.

I did not try the application in flash.

RE: Dimensions and Flash
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/25/2001 8:07:05 PM #
The Axxpac application will run from flash.
Michael.

Does Smartmedia Protrude?

Jay @ 3/22/2000 12:11:13 PM #
Does the Smartmedia card protrude from the IIIx case when fully inserted? All the pictures shown seem to indicate that the card cannot be fully inserted into the socket.
RE: Does Smartmedia Protrude?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/22/2000 9:35:00 PM #
From an earlier review at http://www.gadgetmad.com" CLASS=NEWS TARGET=_NEW>http://www.gadgetmad.com the axxPac protrudes 4mm from the side of the casing.
RE: Does Smartmedia Protrude?
Robert Zach @ 3/26/2000 8:51:22 AM #
In all of the pictures showing the card in the slot, it IS fully inserted into the module. It does protrude about 4mm from the side on the IIIx, exactly as Gadgetmad indicated in his review. It don't find this intrusive at all, and simply remove the card for storage in a case.

What about the IIIc

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2000 12:06:09 AM #
Can the Axxpac be used with the IIIc???
If not, is there a IIIc version in the works???
RE: What about the IIIc
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2000 9:56:05 AM #
The IIIc does not have a slot for it.
Is there no way to increase the memory in the IIIc?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2000 5:29:43 PM #
Is there any way to increase the memory in the palm IIIc? I'm a medical student and some of the books for the palm are huge (ie 4.5 megs for one book). If the IIIc has no slot, is there any possibility for increasing its memory?

Memory on the IIIx

Will Stillwell @ 3/23/2000 9:51:44 AM #
STNE Corporation can take your Palm IIIx to 8mb, and you can STILL use the Axxpac...

http://www.stnecorp.com" CLASS=NEWS>http://www.stnecorp.com

More than memories?

BG @ 3/23/2000 12:31:21 PM #
Are there smart cards other than memory cards...like
modems?
RE: More than memories?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2000 9:47:01 AM #
No. SmartMedia is very limited to memory only.

Available options for the IIIx Exp. Slot

Brooke Wheeler @ 3/23/2000 2:31:19 PM #
The review stated that the axxPac is the only device available for the expansion slot on the IIIx. This is incorrect: TRG makes a memory expansion card for the IIIx that adds 4 more megabytes of RAM. This has been available for some time now. I have one and it works great. (Anyone interested in a used 4mb memory card? )
RE: Available options for the IIIx Exp. Slot
Robert Zach @ 3/25/2000 12:20:50 PM #
Thank you for pointing this out. You are absolutely correct. In fact, I own a TRG expansion board. It is an EXCELLENT piece of hardware as well. This however, and the TRGpro itself seem to me to be better options simply due to the "unlimited" expandability.
RE: Available options for the IIIx Exp. Slot
Ron Elkins @ 4/11/2000 4:23:40 PM #
I am interested in a used TRG Expansion board, at a good price, of course.

rtelkins@hotmail.com

Data Access

Power User @ 3/25/2000 6:32:29 AM #
I'm not sure you answered the last reader's question concerning accessing datafiles from the smart media card. I too own a IIIx, but find that 8meg leaves me wanting for space. Is it possible to access data files directly from the smart media card if the program files already exist on Palm RAM? Yes, maybe in the future, or no?


Does the TRG Pro unit already has this ability? The ability to read files directly from add-on memory cards is, in my opinion, the deciding feature for the majority of potential buyers.

UPDATE!!! : RE: Data Access
Robert Zach @ 3/25/2000 12:23:15 PM #
Here's some more information I got from the manufacturer:

From: "Holger Grube"
To: "Robert A. Zach"
Subject: AW: AW: AW: AxxPac
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2000 08:17:45 +0100

Rob,

the current software development to split the axxPac sw in two parts (library + apps) will be finish in around two weeks. Then, we will have the mentioned library available to give any interested people the chance to develop sw using direct access to the smart media. After that, we will do a further development to allow direct execution of Palm apps from the smart media.

We will inform you about any news.

Regards,
Holger

Where to order?

Smev @ 4/8/2000 8:11:17 PM #
Where can I order this? I live in canada.
RE: Where to order?
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/9/2000 10:01:41 AM #
I live in Taiwan
the same question I want to know
RE: Where to order?
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/11/2000 4:12:29 PM #
I'm confused. Why would someone living in Taiwan want to know about being able to order in canada?
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