More On the Tapwave Zodiac

UPDATED Tapwave ZodiacFirm details and a new video on the upcoming Tapwave Zodiac are now out. The Palm OS handheld gaming device is set to be launched at the DEMO mobile conference on September 17th.

The Tapwave Zodiac will officially be unviled at the Demo Mobile Conference (September 17- 19) in La Jolla, California. The company will begin to take pre-orders on Sept 17th, and expects to start shipping in October. There will be two versions, a 32MB model will cost $299 and a higher end model with 128 MB of RAM will sell for $399.

The Zodiac will be based on Palm OS 5.2 and will feature a 3.8 inch diagonal 480 x 320 pixel screen, analog joystick navigation with integrated triggers and buttons, 3D graphics acceleration, stereo sound and Bluetooth for multiplayer wireless gaming. It will have two SDIO expansion slots for memory expansion, games and accessories such as a digital camera. Internally it will run a i.MX1 Motorola ARM9 Processor, and has ATI® Imageon graphics accelerator and Yamaha audio component. The unit will be powered by dual lithium batteries, said to last for 16 hours.

Tapwave ZodiacThe Zodiac will focus on mobile gaming but will also feature audio and video abilities. The device will also be able to run the already vast library of Palm OS software and PIM apps.

Tapwave has created a comprehensive program to attract and support a broad range of developers and publishers from the professional video game industry and the Palm OS community. Tapwave is will launch with a number of premier video game titles from companies like Activision, Infogrames, Midway, and others.

It will launch with between 15-20 games optimized for it including, "Neverwinter Nights," "Tony Hawk", "Spyhunter" and "Doom II." Games will also be sold on SD cards for $29.95. has a video featuring a close look at the Zodiac.

Tapwave's leadership team includes the original engineering executives from Palm (e.g., the first VP of Engineering from Palm and her successor), lead marketing strategist from Palm and HP (PCs), and an executive producer from Electronic Arts.

Tapwave Zodiac Audio MP3 playerPalmInfocenter has launched a new forum messageboard dedicated to the Tapwave Zodiac.

UPDATE Thanks to PIC reader, Tony Changho for sending in high resolution scan of the Zodiac. The image appears in the October 2003 issue of Wired Magazine.

Thanks to the many that sent it tips.

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wireless gaming

Gar @ 9/5/2003 1:20:57 PM #
It looks like a lot of the game hardware folks are banking on the player to player gaming. This unit is not built around the idea like the Nokia and Sony devices are... but it's there.
How popular do you think this will become? Could you save your settings from one game played to another to pick up where you left off with the other head to head you did? Never knowing who you are playing against on the bus. :-)

My wife has to sell a lot of candles ( to buy her new Palm.
RE: wireless gaming
killah fury @ 9/5/2003 1:51:05 PM #
Wow. It looks like a neat little machine...

It's a bit expensive when compared to the GameBoy SP though... and the GameBoy Advance 2 is not far away... so it's going to be tough for Tapwave, but the very best of luck to them.

No more UX
izadwen @ 9/5/2003 1:52:03 PM #
Well I know that I am a finicky buyer, but the Zodiac has definitly caught my attention. To think I was going to spend $600 for a ux40! Now I can have this for gaming and a TE for work at the same price.

RE: wireless gaming
TTrules @ 9/5/2003 1:58:14 PM #
This thing looks really cool. And it's one good deal, too. I have yet to see a hendheld with bluetooth, 128 mbs of memory and inhanced audio and video capabilities for only $400.

One Palm to rule them all!


RE: wireless gaming
hoodoo @ 9/5/2003 3:11:56 PM #
Izadwen said: "Now I can have this for gaming and a TE for work at the same price."

Why would you need a T|E? This Zodiac thingie wouldn't look that ridiculous in the office. (at least I think)

At any rate, the Z71 is toast.

More pics here

Scott R @ 9/5/2003 2:03:02 PM #
In case anyone's interested, I also wrote up an "article" about the Tapwave and have included a few more photos, including some screenshots of games and the UI. Nothing new to anyone who has been following the Tapwave developments closely, but may be beneficial to others. You can find it here:
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Phantom Strike pics
arielb @ 9/5/2003 5:11:00 PM #
RE: More pics here
Spell @ 9/5/2003 8:17:22 PM #
Up close and personal pic in the 10/2003 issue of WIRED, page 83. Scant details on the specs, but a good looking photograph of the hardware head-on and 3/4 view.

Why get the 128MB model?

Scott R @ 9/5/2003 2:05:22 PM #
One thing I'm curious about...why would you get the 128MB model? Sure, a device with the Zodiac's specs and 128MB of memory at $400 is a decent deal, but what does it really buy you over just getting the 32MB model for $300 and a 256MB SD card, and still having $20 or more left?

I could see the argument if the Zodiac only had one SDIO slot, since you might want to keep it free for Wi-Fi or something else, but since it has two SDIO slots, I'd imagine that most would be using one of them for memory anyway.

The only other thought would be if the 128MB model actually runs apps directly within that memory, but I don't think that's the case.
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RE: Why get the 128MB model?
markgm @ 9/5/2003 2:14:38 PM #
I kinda think it would use the 128 as palms use the 8/16 they have nowadays. If not, I agree with you, I don't see why one would want to get the 128 model. But I have to say, they are doing what other companies aren't, and that's giving consumers options. If they had a 32MB model people would complain that they don't have one with more RAM. To me, this device reminds me of the one that got me started on the Palm OS, the Handspring Visor. It's revolutionary, offers the features I want, and is a good price. I was glad to see in the cnet video that the device makes use of SDIO devices which are already on the market. I guess I'm still a little bitter about the stripped down CF slot on the Clie's. If this thing is as small as it seems to be, it might be a replacement to my NX80.

RE: Why get the 128MB model?
kevdo @ 9/5/2003 2:18:33 PM #
Well, my Zire 71's RAM (16 MB) is 100% full and I can imagine any Tapwave games would be even bigger than traditional Palm apps (given the higher res, etc.). So, I'd imagine burning through 32 MB real easily

Tapwave indicated downloadable games in addition to SD games would be available. Even if not, 128 mb would allow more room for other Palm programs I don't have space for now.

-Kevin Crossman

RE: Why get the 128MB model?
Scott R @ 9/5/2003 2:47:27 PM #
"Tapwave indicated downloadable games in addition to SD games would be available. Even if not, 128 mb would allow more room for other Palm programs I don't have space for now."

Yes, but as I said, for that $100 price difference you could have a 32MB device + 256MB storage card and still have money left over.

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RE: Why get the 128MB model?
arielb @ 9/5/2003 3:01:23 PM #
PalmOS does support 128 megs so I assume you can have games that require a lot of heap space. And of course you'd have the dual expansion and bluetooth built in. It has a lot of potential thats for sure

RE: Why get the 128MB model?
hoodoo @ 9/5/2003 3:15:26 PM #
The SDIO is still storage, if I recall correctly, so you still would need room to load the games into RAM. Probably at least 16mb as a guess? Plus all youse guys would have MP3s loaded up as well.

RE: Why get the 128MB model?
tim_s @ 9/5/2003 8:19:06 PM #
If it's conventional Palm RAM, that 128MB will be useless for MP3s - they'll still need to live in VFS storage.

RE: Why get the 128MB model?
Wollombi @ 9/5/2003 8:24:04 PM #
Four points:

1.) There is no such thing as too much RAM.

2.) While it does have dual SDIO slots, it sounds like most games will be on SD cards, and if you want to play on a network, you may want a 802.11 card in the other slot. In this scenario, both slots would be used up already.

3.) It is faster to access applications in internal memory than on the card, and apps accessed from the card still need to be loaded into RAM. In any of these scenarios, more RAM is a good idea, especially with apps and games growing in size lately.

4.) Did I mention that there's no such thing as too much RAM?


"They're smoking crack."
-Linus Torvalds on SCO group's copyright claims against Linux-

RE: Why get the 128MB model?
margerum @ 9/5/2003 9:02:43 PM #
storage memory and heap are the same memory physically. The heap is just a fixed amount and the rest will be devoted to storage. Thats why the 16mb sony only have 11 mb available. They reserver 5 mb of it for heap.

RE: Why get the 128MB model?
Edward Green @ 9/6/2003 9:18:34 AM #
Wish list for PalmOS 6:

Dynamic Heap Allocation.

I assume OS 6 has a 'real' file system, although I think the Run in Place OS5 model works well - when apps support SD cards .... and many still fail to check the SD card for Data files meaning PowerRun is required. If OS 6 needs it then dynamic Ramdisk (like the UX but userdefinable) would be neat.

Something like the Zodiac 128 I would like to Have 16Mb heap for Netfront, 32Mb for Apps / runspace and the rest for MP3's and MPEG 4 video.

I wonder if one of our resident developers can tell us if the OS could be hacked in 5 to do this sort of thing? One of the reasons I havent grabbed a TT2 is that I would like to run a Netfront browser which requires at least 5Mb, ideally more, or Heap Ram.

Edward Green

RE: Why get the 128MB model?
arielb @ 9/7/2003 3:03:11 AM #
RE: Why get the 128MB model?
somas1 @ 9/7/2003 1:56:56 PM #
There may be advantages to 128 MB of ram in the future but in the short term it serves to attract spec geeks. A spec geek looks at a 64 MB ipaq and will see only the tungsten C as a real Palm OS competitor. You can never convince these people that a 32 MB Palm will be the equal of a 128 MB PPC. Tapwave can't be critized for not providing enough ram with their 128 MB model.

RE: Why get the 128MB model?
xelnaga8080 @ 9/8/2003 8:58:39 AM #
I think the 128 is definately a good idea. I'll bet those games either play in internal ram or on the special sd card, but probably not from generic SD storage. This would meen copying it back and forth between the card and the handheld. If those games are at least 4-5mb (and I'm guessing thats minimal) a peice, then that is a slow, slow process. Besides, I don't think I would have a problem burning through 128mb, even with an SD card. I like lots of programs.

"Life is a Cookie"

Palm Universal Connector?

palmhiker @ 9/5/2003 3:36:56 PM #
Does anyone know for sure yet if this device has a Palm Universal Connector?

This seems like a great replacement for just the PDA, games aside, but only if it allowed me to leverage the UC accessories I already own.

RE: Palm Universal Connector?
helf @ 9/5/2003 3:43:57 PM #
it doesnt.. was confirmed on brighthand. And I don't know why everyone wants the UC so badly. The way this unit is shaped any accessories would be awkward..

RE: Palm Universal Connector?
arielb @ 9/5/2003 5:09:13 PM #
ooo good point there

RE: Palm Universal Connector?
Scott R @ 9/5/2003 7:28:07 PM #
"And I don't know why everyone wants the UC so badly. The way this unit is shaped any accessories would be awkward."

The big one for me would be support for the XT keyboard. Using this device in landscape mode with a full-size keyboard would be great for taking notes, word processing, etc.

Beyond that, even just support for existing sync cables, etc. would have made it worthwhile.

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RE: Palm Universal Connector?
somas1 @ 9/7/2003 2:02:44 PM #
Why is it that folding bluetooth keyboards are not being made? I thought for sure that the integrated bluetooth on the tungsten models would result in 3rd party bluetooth keyboards.

RE: Palm Universal Connector?
Timothy Rapson @ 9/7/2003 2:15:22 PM #
Stowaways latest is an IR folding keyboard. It offers 90% of the functionality of a Blue Tooth and can be used with the 99% of PDAs out there that don't have blue tooth.

But, I wonder too. Where are the blue tooth ANYTHINGS? I would not pay 10 cents extra for a blue tooth PDA right now.

Now that was just plain mean - apologize to Bluetoothless.
The Ugly Truth @ 9/7/2003 3:36:38 PM #
But, I wonder too. Where are the blue tooth ANYTHINGS? I would not pay 10 cents extra for a blue tooth PDA right now.

You hurt Bluetoothless' feelings.

Sometimes the truth just isn't pretty™

RE: Palm Universal Connector?
hkklife @ 9/8/2003 2:40:27 PM #
I personally think BT will end up on the technology scrap-heap in the not-too distant future, right next to the Virtual Boy, the Newton, and Microsoft's Bob-heralded "technologies" that failed to deliver on at least a handful of essential features.

I've experienced nothing but headaches and hollow promises at trying to ever do anything with BT aside from a simple T|T and T68 pairing.

Bluetoothless Vs. Bob
The Ugly Truth @ 9/11/2003 11:59:43 PM #
"I knew Bob and Bluetoothless is no Bob."
- The President

Bluetooth is very good for making copies of my 8-tracks onto my Digital Compact Cassettes. Studies by Dr. Rube Goldberg of MIT in the mid-1990s also showed Bluetooth has enormous potential as a method of controlling home entertainment devices like televisions. Unfoutunately, until the price of Bluetooth PDA + Bluetooth card + Bluetooth receiver = the $10 price of a universal remote it was concluded that the devices would never achieve market acceptance.

Sometimes the truth just isn't pretty™


arielb @ 9/5/2003 3:25:26 PM #
there are a lot of people who want what nobody delivered: 320x480 with landscape, virtual grafitti, no slider and no bulky extra keyboard. I bet a lot of people were interested in the Garmin ique but then realized the GPS came at a cost
People wanted dual slots but while Sony offers compact flash in some models, it's in a half hearted way. And we all know what happened to Handera. And 128 megs? wow. I don't know why Sony still is so stingy with the memory.
Bluetooth is standard the way it should be.
and last but not least: real games! no more puzzle games originally designed for Palm V's!
And amazingly it looks very Palm-like so yes, you can take it to a business meeting to check out your spreadsheets. I bet a lot of people will buy it just for that

RE: nice
volcanopele @ 9/5/2003 4:14:41 PM #
I am considering getting the Zodiac not because of the great games that will come out for it, but because it has the best specs of any device out there (though it lacks wifi, this can be rectificed with the forthcoming Sandisk Wifi SDIO card). Not only that, but the price is reasonable. I would never buy a gaming device at that price but when thought of as a great PDA with great games, the price is easily justifiable.

RE: But When Its Released....
Tungstenman @ 9/5/2003 5:24:06 PM #
But when its released, the specs will be a thing of the past, like the zire 71. The Zire 71 had all of the specs of the T|T, and a camera. But it was a low end model. I bele that the specs will only be average on the release date, like the zire 71 specs were averge, but USED to be good in the past, like as good as the T|T

A Palm in one hand is worth 2 PocketPCs
: )
-Steve B.
RE: nice
RSC @ 9/5/2003 6:52:51 PM #
I will by one the moment it has built in WiFi (bluetooth is fine, but I would prefer a small BT card in a SD slot rather than a gargantuan WiFi one...)

I suspect they already have plans for a future device with built-in WiFi, though...everyone knows it will be everywhere in the future (not just Starbucks, Airports, and McD's)

RE: nice
Scott R @ 9/5/2003 7:31:28 PM #
"I am considering getting the Zodiac not because of the great games that will come out for it, but because it has the best specs of any device out there (though it lacks wifi, this can be rectificed with the forthcoming Sandisk Wifi SDIO card)."

In case you weren't aware, the SDIO Wi-Fi card is out now. See:

However, Palm OS5 support is still "forthcoming."

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RE: nice
Scott R @ 9/5/2003 7:33:21 PM #
"But when its released, the specs will be a thing of the past, like the zire 71."

You do realize that this is coming out within about a month, right? The only other Palm OS devices that are out (or coming soon) that have similar specs are the much higher priced Sony UX40/UX50 and the palmOne TT3. The Sonys have some nice advantages such as a camera (though not great quality), the thumbboard, and built-in Wi-Fi (on the UX50) but, as I said, is a lot more expensive and doesn't support portrait mode. The TT3 is very nice as well, but looks like it will probably offer a bit less than the Zodiac at a somewhat higher price. Its main advantage is the more compact size.

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RE: nice
Timothy Rapson @ 9/5/2003 8:33:00 PM #

That was the best recap of the situation of the Zodiac and it's competition I have read anywhere in hundreds of post on all sorts of sites. Well said.

RE: nice
MJGunn @ 9/5/2003 10:43:10 PM #
Don't forget extremely good battery life to go with all those features......just have to see how big it ends up being.

RE: nice
arielb @ 9/6/2003 9:03:46 PM #
specs thing of the past? yes I wish! I wish they'd be standard features! but people have been screaming for a a tablet pda with virtual grafiti since handera! And don't forget the dual slots

Where is the video

digilaw @ 9/5/2003 5:46:02 PM #
Has it moved? I can't seem to find it.

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