palmOne Zire 72 ReviewBy: Ryan Kairer
April 28th, 2004
The palmOne Zire 72 is palmOne's latest model in the consumer Zire line with a heavy emphasis on multimedia. The handheld brings built in bluetooth wireless, new features, enhanced software and many other improvements over its predecessor the Zire 71.
The Zire 72 looks much like a traditional handheld, with its square display and silkscreen input area. The Zire 72 does not share the sliding mechanism found on the 71. The camera is now always exposed on a slightly raised portion on the back of the device. It also has a new application button layout and a tungsten like 5-way navigator. The new Zire 72 and Zire 31 are also the first handhelds to be launched with the palmOne logo.
The casing is predominately made of plastic. The handheld has an attractive blue color, that is unofficially called "Zapphire." The blue sides of the handheld are a new rubbery like paint that has a very good, non slip gripping quality. The unique rubbery finish is a "next-generation" Velecron finish from PPG Industries, the Zire 72 is one of the first commercial products to use it.
On the top of the handheld from right to left is a clear green LED for alarms and indicates charging, that unfortunately does not turn off when fully charged. On the immediate top is the SD expansion slot with a built in dust cover, the IR window, power buttons and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. The right hand side holds the exposed stylus silo, while the left is smooth with a small flush button which is set to activate and launch the voice recorder.
The back of the Zire 72 contains the Camera sensor, speaker and microphone all encased behind a aluminum metallic mesh plating. Below that is a sticker full of serial numbers and logos. The bottom of the unit has a small center protrusion that contains the mini-USB port and the separate power connection.
The included stylus is a solid black and plastic. It is a decent thickness and weight, but is nothing fancy. The small reset button on the back is large enough to be conveniently activated with the stylus tip. palmOne does not include a cradle. Since this unit lacks the Universal Connector, separate mini-USB and charging cables are provided. A soft felt slip case is included in the box, while it may prevent exterior scratches it does not offer much protection.
The Zire 72 runs Palm OS 5.2.8 and uses the new 312MHz Intel PXA270 processor. The processor automatically manages voltage and frequency changes for additional power savings. It includes 32MB of RAM (24MB user-available), double the amount of the Zire 71. The memory expansion slot accepts MMC, SD and SDIO cards.
The processor is pretty snappy and has good multimedia performance. In my standard torture test, I was able to surf the web over Bluetooth while listening to a mp3 in the background with no noticeable slowdown.
The display is a square 320x320 pixel transflective TFT color display that supports over 65,000 colors. The display is very bright and quite vivid, even at lower brightness levels. The display is the same type as the highly praised screens found on the Zire 71 and Tungsten C. The colors are accurate with excellent contrast and viewing angles and is consistently backlit without any shadows or bright spots. It has an on-screen slider to set the backlight brightness. The screen fades and slightly washes out in direct sunlight, but is still useable. The screen has a neat little fade out effect when it is turned off.
The Zire 72 has rear mounted built in 1.2 megapixel digital camera. The camera can capture images in up to 1280x920 resolution and has a 2x digital zoom. The camera can also capture videos at up to 320x240 resolution with audio. The camera can be launched from the dedicated application button. The camera app can be controlled one handed with the 5-way navigator, and photos are snapped by pressing in the center button.
The camera has automatic and customizable controls for white balance, low light, contrast, brightness, saturation and sharpness. There are also 3 photo effects, black & white, Sepia and Blue. Pictures can automatically be saved to photo albums to either the handheld memory or an SD card. Pictures taken at the maximum resolution are roughly around 450K file size per photo.
The quality of the photos is much better than its predecessor and many of the current VGA cameras built into handhelds and phones today, though it likely won't replace your dedicated camera. The new camera will take much larger and more detailed photos which is better for printing. The main problem with the new sensor is that colors seem dimmed and washed out and certain objects will tend to be fuzzy and out of focus. palmOne includes a neat new feature that lets you draw or write over a photo and then save it before syncing or emailing it. Below are a few full size, unedited photos taken with the Zire 72 in various conditions.
The Zire 72 has built in bluetooth for wireless networking. The Bluetooth software has been updated to make setting up connections to a mobile phone, computer or access point much easier. With Bluetooth you can dial out contacts from your address book, send and receive files, sms and photos wirelessly, hotsync, and connect to the internet from a bluetooth mobile phone, computer or a bluetooth access point. The software was able to automatically configure itself to recognize my Sony Ericsson T610 and use it's GPRS connection without any complicated setup.
A new Bluetooth icon is available in the launcher, which acts as a shortcut to the Bluetooth preferences and connection controls. A small Bluetooth logo now appears beside the battery meter in the main launcher when Bluetooth is turned on. palmOne has also added a Bluetooth shortcut to the command bar, so you can jump to the Bluetooth prefs from any application.
The Zire 72 has a rear mounted speaker in the metal mesh below the camera lens. The speaker is quite loud and mp3's and voice memos sound very clear, though most will opt for using headphones (not included) for listening to music. For listening to music files, the Zire 72 ships with the RealOne player. The microphone is also hidden behind the rear grill, which is used for the voice and movie recorder.
Even with the updated audio and speaker capabilities, palmOne is still using the same DateBook alarm sounds that debuted on the original Pilot 1000. While there are many third party replacements, these are so very overdue for an update!
The 72 has a 950mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery. According to the palmOne specs, assuming normal usage (~30 minutes of use a day) the battery life will be about one week. For continuous MP3 playing, the battery life will be about five hours. I found I was able to get about 5 hours off of a full charge, with heavy camera and bluetooth use. More typical use may yield a longer battery life.
|Size & Weight:||4.6 in. x 2.95 in. x 0.67 in. (116 x 75 x 17 mm); 4.8 oz (136 g)|
|Processor:||312MHz Intel PXA270; Palm OS 5.2.8|
|Memory:||32MB RAM; (24MB user accessible)|
|Screen:||320x320 pixel; 65k-color; transflective back-lit|
|Audio:||stereo headset jack; rear speaker|
|Power:||Rechargable LiIon Poly (950 mAh)|
|Connectivity:||mini-USB cable, SDIO, IrDA, Bluetooth (v1.1)|
Updated PIM apps
The Zire 72 inlcudes the new palmOne updated PIM suite that debuted on the Tungsten T3. The suite has a number of enhancements over the standard Palm OS PIM applications. First of all you may be confused at first because all of the names have changed. DateBook is now Calendar, Address is now Contacts, To Do List is Tasks, and Memo Pad is now Memos. The changes were made based on user feedback and research and also to more closely resemble Microsoft Outlook.
Calendar sports a redesigned Agenda View that lists your most recent upcoming appointments, tasks due and email. New on the 72 is the ability to select a background image for the agenda view. It can use any of the photos taken with the camera or added to the handheld. You can now assign colors to different categories, appointment location details and a new year view. Palm also made it possible to have events spanning midnight, separate calendar support and the ability to beam multiple appointments and categories.
Contacts has a number of visual and structural improvements. You can now have multiple contact addresses, such as work, home, other. The are new contact fields for more phone numbers, email addresses, website and instant messaging accounts. There are now nine custom fields and a new birthday field, that will keep track and remind you before an approaching birthday (Palm calls this the marriage saving feature). The Zire 72 also adds the ability to assign a picture to a contact taken with the camera.
Memos and Tasks
Many will rejoice that you can now have memos larger than 4k, the new app has a 32k maximum memo size. They have also added repeating tasks and new views for To Do items.
The main application launcher also shares the new ability to add a background image behind the program icons. You can select a camera image, or select any image file from the Media application. There is a build in control to fade an image for better blending visibility.
One the desktop side of things, palmOne includes their Quick Install program for Windows. Quick Install simplifies installing programs and converting documents and photos for handheld use. Users simply drag zip files, prc application files, photos, videos and even MS office files into the app and it will preform the necessary conversion and install the the files on the next hotsync. The software CD includes the Palm Desktop for windows and Mac as well as the palmOne Outlook Conduit.
Documents to Go
palmOne bundles the latest version of Documents to Go standard edition on the CD for Microsoft office compatibility. Docs to Go 6 supports native Microsoft Word and Excel files, no conversion is necessary. You can use files received from Email, Bluetooth or and SD card.
The Zire 72 includes Web Pro v3.5 for web browsing and VersaMail v2.7 for email. VersaMail is an excellent email application that supports both POP3 and IMAP mail servers. Web Pro is a proxy and proxyless web browser. It does a good job of rendering most websites and seems a bit faster than its earlier versions. palmOne also includes a single Media application that handles both photos and movies. Also on the CD are versions of palmOne Messages (sms/mms), Expense, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Solitaire, PalmReader, powerOne personal calculator, Audible player and a Java J2ME runtime.
The Zire 72 is a fun excellent multimedia machine and power organizer with a great screen. It improves upon and corrects a number of issues and shortcomings with the Zire 71. The new top of the line Zire has a lot to offer hardware wise with an excellent balance of quality software.
RATING: 8 / 10
|Design:||Stylish Attractive Design|
|Features:||Pictures, Movies , Voice, Wireless|
|Screen:||Vibrant, Bright Display|
|Battery:||Standard Battery Life|
|Value:||Good Feature Mix|
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