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Palm m505 Review Part II
By Ed Hardy
5/10/2001


Click for Larger Image This is part two of a two-part series on the new m505. If you haven't seen Part I yet, you should read it now. I'm not going to go over all the same territory again.

The Screen
There's no doubt about it, the screen on the m505 is controversial. Many complain bitterly about it while others are quite satisfied. If you haven't had a chance to see one for yourself, I might be able to help you predict which one of these groups you will be.

In general, people who have owned and loved a Prism or IIIc don't take to the m505. There is no doubt that the screen isn't as good as the ones on those larger models. That statement hits to the heart of the whole m505 screen issue. In order to get a better screen, you have to go to a larger model. It's almost a simple equation: larger device = better screen.

For some, this is a perfectly acceptable tradeoff. They are willing to accept a slightly larger handheld if that's what it takes to get the bright, vivid screen. These are the people who probably won't be happy with an m505.

Others, though, demand a small device and are satisfied with a good color screen. That's what the m505 provides, a good color screen. Not stunning, not awesome, good. But this requires judicious use of the side light.

As you've probably heard ad nauseam, the m505's screen is beautiful in full sunlight just as it is. In a regular office environment chock full of florescent lights the side light is optional. In any situation with less than fairly bright light the side light is necessary. But the screen looks great with the side light on in any situation.

There is no better way to try this out than with some image viewing applications. The m505 comes with PhotoSuite Mobile Edition. The images that come with this app are lame so I copied over some from my last vacation and some of Alyson Hannigan (Mmmm, Alyson Hannigan) and they looked great. Though I have to admit, I can't really tell the difference between images saved in 256 colors and 65 thousand.

Next I wanted to see what some movies looked like. I tried FireViewer and the movies looked good. I was worried there might be some latency like old passive matrix screens had but moving images are crisp and don't leave trails. By the way, the version of FireViewer I just downloaded had native support for the SD slot.

I also tried TealMovie but it wouldn't work. None of the movies I tried would play their video. I could hear the audio but the screen was blank.

The SD/MMC Slot
One great feature about the m505 that I think is getting lost in the rhubarb about the screen is the SD/MMC slot. It might have dropped completely off the radar if the Sony Clié users hadn't started asking if applications written for the Memory Stick would work with the SD slot. Lo and behold, they do.

I was concerned that the SD slot would be relegated to a few routine tasks for months until developers had a chance to write some good apps. I'm thrilled to find out that all the ones I've tried that were written for the MemStick have worked fine on the m505. I believe this is because Palm took much of the same code Sony used for expansion slot on the Clié and added it to OS 4 for its own expansion slot.

The default Launcher app gives you your basic expansion card functions. You can copy and delete applications but you can't move them, which is really a combined copy and delete. You also can't create subfolders. All applications on an SD card are in a special category in Launcher that appears when the card is inserted.

Palm also provides an application called Card Info that lists the basic info about the card that is inserted and allows it to be renamed and formatted.

Palm's implementation of the SD/MMC is a bit limited. Quite a few people have noticed a curious lack. While it is possible to copy databases from the card to RAM, it isn't possible to copy them back. Using the Copy function in the Launcher, databases like DOC files show up on SD cards but they don't show up on the Palm. So they can only be copied one way.

Fortunately, someone has stepped in to fill the gap. McFile is the freeware application I use to move databases around. It can move them back and forth from card to RAM, delete them, and even create subdirectories on the SD card, which the default Palm Launcher can't do. Basically, it reminds me of using the file explorer in Windows.

McFile shows us that by default SD cards place all the applications that are moved onto the card by the Launcher into a folder called, logically enough, Launcher. There is also one on there called Books that presumably PalmReader uses.

OS 4.0 does an OK job of allowing users to run apps on cards. Their solution isn't elegant but it works. When you open an app on a card it is copied into RAM then run from there. When you close it, the app is automatically deleted from RAM. This makes opening apps a bit slow and you can't open an app larger than your available RAM. The advantage is apps aren't slowed down by a lot of memory management tricks.

The same thing goes for opening databases. Applications will need to be rewritten to be able to find databases on expansion cards. Fortunately, many developers are working on this already. If you haven't read my article on this yet, you should.

Some users have called for a different method for doing memory management. This is especially true for people who want to open very large databases that are actually bigger than the m505's whole RAM. As a short-term solution for this you might consider MSMount, which is a system hack that allows just the parts of applications and databases that are necessary to be copied from the card into RAM.

MSMount was written for the Clié but it works fine on the m505. It is still a beta and it definitely slows down many functions of the Palm but if you need an 8 MB + database, it is a lifesaver. You can read more about it in this article.

An application that all m500 series users should consider is something to back your Palm up onto a card. McFile does this and BackupBuddyVFS is another option. I'm hoping to someday free my Palm totally from the PC and not being tied to it for backups is an important part of that.

As for the SD cards themselves, Palm sells them in various sizes up to 64 MB. One of the advantages of SD cards is that they can be locked. If you have some data you want to protect, you can load it onto an SD card, move the tiny locking bar on the left side (see photo) and put it in storage.

The cards that Palm sells pre-loaded with applications, like the games collection, are manufactured to be always locked. I'm not sure if you could cut out a notch in exactly the place and size to unlock it but I wouldn't recommend it. I certainly wouldn't try it with any SD card you couldn't afford to destroy because that's probably what would happen.

As for the differences between SD and MMC cards, right now there aren't a lot of them. In fact, the SD card is an offspring of the MMC card. I believe the security features on the SD cards I just talked about aren't available on MMC. As MMC cards are the older standard, they are a bit cheaper and you can get larger ones.

But the real difference is potential. Right now I think both transfer data at about the same speed but the SD Association is working to push their standard up to 20 Mbytes/sec and as large as 1 GB by 2003.

We'll all have to wait until this Fall at the earliest to see the SD input/output devices like modems and digital cameras. The SD Association is still approving the standard necessary. I'm sure Palm will put out an OS upgrade when this is finished and before any products reach market.

The Battery
I keep the bside light on my m505 on most of the time but I still get good battery life out of it. Yes, in a day of heavy use I can drain it dry but that's after many hours of heavy game playing. As I mentioned in my first article, I kept it on continuously the first day and it lasted for 7 hours before I got the first notice that it was running low on power. From that notice back to full power is almost exactly an hour in the cradle.

I had a few people ask for some battery statistics. At a full charge, it is at 4.20 volts. At the first warning it showed 3.76 volts. Doesn't really mean anything to me but they asked.

Incidentally, I did have one unpleasant charging experience. One night I plugged the Palm into the cradle. I got the beep and the light came on. But the next morning it hadn't charged at all. I plugged it back in and it started charging. Let's hope this isn't a regular occurrence.

The Serial Connection
I use an older PowerBook without USB so I had to order a serial cradle. Fortunately, this is one of the few peripherals that is available now. It came with everything I need to hook it up to my Mac, including the adapter to go from a PC serial port to a Mac serial port.

After a few days of use the loud snapping sound that the universal connector makes when the Palm is being removed has grown quieter. Actually, this never bothered me much. I take it as a sign that it is making a strong connection. As I'm planning to attach numerous peripherals here, I'm happy the connection seems to be tight.

I do wish the connector on the actual Palm had some kind of cover like my IIIx had. Today I was freaking out because I couldn't get my m505 to either charge or HotSync. Finally, I noticed that a small piece of tape from my pocket had covered part of the connector.

I'm only running parts of the latest version of the Palm desktop. I prefer Outlook Express as my desktop PIM so I don't even have the full Palm Desktop on my PowerBook. I just have the minimal needed to HotSync and install apps, run backups, that sort of thing. In any case, I've never had any problems with it.

Etcetera
I've run into a few apps that can't be deleted by any application. I copied them over on the the SD Card, then can't get them out of RAM. I'm really hoping Palm is working on OS 4.1 to clear up some of the problems.

I don't like the flip cover that comes with the m505 any more than I did at first. After a week, it still doesn't sit quite right on the Palm. It won't close all the way without a put of pressure. Third party manufacturers, are you listening? I'd like a smaller, lighter version that fits right.

I've got no strong opinions on the stylus because I stopped using it immediately. My SLIMpoint fits and that is what I use.

The audible alarms are louder than on my IIIx. I also like the vibratory one, though I wish it was a bit stronger.

A friend pointed out another OS quirk. The side light will turn itself off according to the settings for turning the unit off, even when in the cradle. I have my unit set to stay on in the cradle but the light ignores the setting. He confirmed it with Palm Tech Support who said there was no fix at this time.

The Conclusion
There's been a pointless argument going on in the Palm community for the last week in which people try to convince others that the device that is right for them is the one that is right for everyone. Every handheld makes tradeoffs. The IIIc and Prism gave up small size for a better screen. The m505 compromised its screen a bit to get smaller size. The other Palm models all make tradeoffs of one kind or another. It is up to us as consumers to pick the device that best matches our preferences. If other people make different choices, they aren't wrong. They are doing what is right for them.

If you value size and portability first and color second, than the m505 is probably right for you. If you absolutely demand a perfect screen and don't care what it takes to get it, you should look elsewhere.

p.s.
There is one device that has been conspicuously absent from this review, the Sony N710C that is scheduled to be released at the end of this month. I left it out because it is still unreleased so exactly what it's going to be like isn't yet known. Most especially, I haven't seen one so I refuse to make any judgements about it. Maybe it will be far better than all previous Palms including the m505, like the iPaq is clearly better than all previous Pocket PC devices. Maybe it won't. I don't have enough info to make what I consider an informed judgement.

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Palm Preorders

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 1:18:16 AM #
When will Palm ship the preorders they have on there website? I think it is the 10th but I dont know. Can anyone help?



RE: Palm Preorders
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 9:04:08 AM #
They started yesterday but not for everyone. Check your status: http://store.palm.com/orderstatus

RE: Palm Preorders
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 1:24:04 PM #
If you preordered a M505 from Staples, they should be in on the 20th if the store in your area does not already have them. Plus, from the 20-29 May if you buy a M505 you get a free ($159.00 value) business card reader. The Staples flier should be out this weekend with all the facts and the model number of the business card reader. My local store told me if you pre-ordered your M505 you will still get the free game card and the business card reader.

RE: Palm Preorders
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 4:59:10 PM #
I just received my m505 today from Palm. I ordered via the phone on the first day it was announced (but not at midnight -- more like 9-10am Eastern time)
Hope this helps.


RE: Palm Preorders
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 6:10:51 PM #
Frankly, I am a bit surprised that there are still so many people waiting for their M505 to arrive... especially those poor people ordered their units from Palm! My third M505 is on its way and I order it from Outpost.com last night!! I suggested you guys should try elsewhere rather then waste you time waiting for your unit to arrive from palm.com!

RE: Palm Preorders
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 6:17:11 PM #
got mine this morning. I ordered it the day it was announced on the web site. I live in Pittsburgh. Hope this helps


RE: Palm Preorders- accessories
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 11:14:33 PM #
I just got my Palm Slim Case directly from Palm.

Still on backorder are the seriel cable, 8MB backup card and Travel Recharger.



RE: Palm Preorders
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/11/2001 4:02:47 PM #
I received mine from palm on the 8th. I am in the camp that says size is better than awesome screen, given that I came from a very old III that I could hardly see anytime! It is way too cool.

To: Guy who knows about Staples
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/11/2001 4:16:35 PM #
Re that business card reader deal: Will that be given to people who pre-ordered online? Also, my expected delivery date is May 14. Is it really going to be May 20?

I'm so excited -- I can't wait to receive my m505, be sorely disappointed, and rush back to return it! What an exciting day it's going to be!!

McFile - Where?

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 9:12:12 AM #
Where can I find McFile? I've looked on PalmGear and it's not there.

RE: McFile - Where?
Ed @ 5/10/2001 9:37:20 AM #
http://www.muchy.com/review/mcfile.html

This page is in Japanese but don't worry about that. Click on the link near the top left labeled McFile 1.12.

---
News Editor
Palm Infocenter

RE: McFile - Where?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 9:39:24 AM #
RE: McFile - Where?
frox @ 5/10/2001 9:58:13 AM #
Thanks Ed, tha's exactly the file I am looking for ...

RE: McFile - Where?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 2:50:53 PM #
Do we install both files that come zipped McFile.prc and McFileEng.prc or just one of the files?

RE: McFile - Where?
Ed @ 5/10/2001 2:55:49 PM #
Just install McFileEng.prc The other is the Japanese version.

---
News Editor
Palm Infocenter
RE: McFile - Where?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/11/2001 12:18:04 PM #
Anyone know where to get instructions on using McFile in English?

RE: McFile - Where?
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/11/2001 1:27:57 PM #
I sometimes get a fatal exception using McFile. Any ideas?

Sony Review

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 9:07:05 AM #
Ed:
Great work as usual. I especially thought your comments about different pda's working for different people to be relevant with all the ranting and raving going on. When you are able to get your hands on the new Clie, please do a review and give us some detailed images on the size comparison between the 505 and the 710c. I'm one of those people who can live with a decent screen, but SIZE is my number one priority. That said, I still may switch to the 710c if it is a drop bigger than the 505 b/c it is packed with so many more features and seems much more impressive.
Thanks...

RE: Size Matters
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 9:33:44 AM #
If you want a size and screen quality comparison between the m505 and Clie at the same time, check out the link below. The other factors not indicated are the thicknesses between the PDAs and the weight. The Clie is both thicker and heavier.

http://www.pencomputing.com/palm/stest/m500vsN710C.html

RE: Sony Review
Ed @ 5/10/2001 9:40:11 AM #
I'm trying hard to get an N710C but Sony Electronics is such a huge corporation that I think I'm getting lost in the shuffle. I sent a request to their PR contact address but I never heard anything back. Does anyone have an "in" with Sony or even a contact phone number I could call? I would really like to write a review.

---
News Editor
Palm Infocenter
RE: Sony Review
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 9:46:41 AM #
>>I can't really tell the difference between images >>saved in 256 colors and 65 thousand.

If you can't see the diff, the Sony Clie can be really cool!!

RE: Sony Review
jsulmeyer @ 5/10/2001 10:37:11 AM #
I'd also like to know more about the Sony - especially whether or not the case is metal, like the m505, or plastic, like the old CLIE, which feels really cheap...

John

RE: Sony Review
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 11:06:30 AM #
Is the Sony screen a normal TFT screen such as the Prism? Or is it reflective like the m505?

RE: Sony Review
mikecane @ 5/10/2001 11:54:18 AM #
The CLIE N710C has a metal face and a plastic back.

RE: Sony Review
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 1:38:26 PM #
screen is reflective like the palm, but brighter.

RE: Sony Review
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 6:20:58 PM #
For size comparison... this will give you a good picture:

http://www.mypalmboy.com/IMG_0872_S.jpg


M505 Cradle Not Charging

I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 9:28:33 AM #
Ed:
I too experienced the lack of charging
behavior you did on the first night that I had the
M505. Before your review I thought that perhaps
the charging was intelligent in that it saw the
battery was charged at 80% capacity and didn't
"need" to be charged more. The next night I
charged it it worked as expected and charged
me up to 4.2 volts.

I'd be interested if anyone else has also
experienced this lack of charging behavior.
---
Doc Kinne
Ithaca, NY

RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
Ed @ 5/10/2001 9:44:34 AM #
There may be a bug in the software because my m505 also had about an 80% charge when it failed.

---
News Editor
Palm Infocenter
RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 10:45:56 AM #
The same thing happened to me, and I think the battery was pretty full at the time. It was in the charger for 8 hours with no change. In the morning, I took it out of the cradle, replaced it and it charged to full capacity in 15 minutes.

Will constant partial charging shorten my battery life? The manual says to charge it everyday, but I am wondering if I should try to let it run down in between charges. Not sure if it will develop a 'memory'.


RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
Snubolis @ 5/10/2001 12:28:30 PM #
Well the new m505 has a Lithium Polymer battery, a step above the Lithium Ion battery, and its supposed to be memory-free.

You only need to worry about "memory" on NiCad or NiMH batteries.

RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 1:52:05 PM #
I also had a charging problem today actually. I left it in the cradle overnight....used it for about 5 minutes total this morning and I was at 76%. Placed it back in the cradle and it took almost another 3 hours to get up to 100% charge at 4.20v. What's going on here?

RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 2:06:31 PM #
Keep in mind that although lithium batteries are memory free for the most part, they do have a limited number of charge/discharge cycles.
DO NOT charge your Palm everyday. Charge it only when it needs it b/c you will lengthen the battery life that way.

RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/10/2001 3:22:02 PM #
You guys are not giving me any confidence to go get a m50x. What do you think the problem is here? Did they rush the product? It's not like this is there first rechargeable device.

2c



RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
SilliconMan @ 5/10/2001 7:19:43 PM #
It is true that this is not the first Palm device to market from palm with rechargeable batteries, but it is the first with Lithium Polymer batteries. And BTW, I don't think this is a software issue...I think its actually a hardware defect from what I know.

Palming away.....
RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
palmman @ 5/14/2001 3:25:11 PM #
I have see a lot of complants about the 505 charging. Mine SAys it is it 100% Sometimes then goes down to 90%! I think it was not all the way charged in the first place and was still charging


--------
-Palmman
RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/25/2001 7:58:37 AM #
Am having many charging problems. Has anyone figured this out?. Charging is very inconsistant.

RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
I.M. Anonymous @ 7/26/2001 10:46:52 AM #
I too had a problem that it didn't charge but I don't think it had to do with how much battery life was left.

Has anyone used the new Kagi 9V charger? How long does it take to charge the M505? How many charges will you get out of a 9V battery?

RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/8/2001 4:38:24 PM #
Same problem.. my 505 was working fine in the morning going to work. Pop'd it up open in the evening on the way home.. Dead. Put it in the charger, refused to charger. Had to send it back to palm for a replacement.

RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/25/2001 12:21:27 PM #
I've had the same problem now for the last couple of days... cannot recharge but can sync... can any of you (Ed maybe?) tell me where can I find more info about this... I remember seeing on this site some article on how this problem was fixed, but I cannot find it now...

PLEASE HEEEEEEELP!!!

RE: M505 Cradle Not Charging
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/30/2001 10:41:23 AM #
I have the same experience.
I beleive the 80% battery index is because when the cradle just not charging, the LED was still consuming the battery power.

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