Discussion: How Good is the m505's Screen?

It doesn't seem like a difficult question: "How Good is the m505's Screen?" But it doesn't appear to have a simple answer. Reviews of the device have been trickling out and all of them say the screen is either awesome or dismal. Which is it?

MSNBC compared the screen to that of a GameBoy Color and said it was dim even with the backlight on. But NewsBytes described the screen as "vivid". They can't both be correct.

PalmStation tried to answer this question by posting some pictures of a side-by-side comparison of an m505 and a IIIc taken under various conditions. Unfortunately, the shots taken indoors appear to have been taken with a flash, which totally skews the results.

Until now, one of most frequent complaints about color Palms is that they are unusable outside because the colors get washed out by the Sun. The m505 appears to have turned this problem on its ear. Most evidence seem to point to the m505 looking great outside and it is inside where the trouble starts.

Palm's own Knowledge Finder has a page with the slightly ominous title "Information on why the display on the m505 is not as bright as the display on a Palm IIIc" which says, in part:

    The Palm m505 uses a reflective screen, which greatly enhances its ability to be viewed in direct sunlight conditions. In fact, the greater the ambient lighting, the better the viewing experience.
This seems to hint that the m505's performance in less than full sunlight isn't going to be very good.

If it is necessary to keep the front light on whenever using the handheld indoors, how much is this going to affect battery life? Palm's Knowledge Finder only says that "The average user can expect approximately 3 weeks of use from a fully charged device."

No where does it explain how many hours a day is assumed in that approximation. The NewsBytes article mentioned earlier says that the m505's screen, "contrary to some reports, does not drain the batteries unduly." Whether this means with backlight on or off is just another thing that isn't clear.

It is possible that the answer to this question will always depend on whom you ask. Possibly, the screen will never satisfy users with very high expectations but will make the average user happy. We won't know until the m505 is shipping and thousands are able to judge for themselves.

If you have held an m505 in your hands, please chime in with an opinion on the screen. Also welcome are links to other reviews that mention the screen. -Ed

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I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2001 5:39:07 PM #
The NewsBytes story also had this interesting statement, quoted as in the story...

"Plans call for other machines in the M5xx series to ship later in the year."

That's interesting...

RE: hmmm
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2001 9:14:14 PM #
That is interesting. An easy guess would be a system that has some kind of integrated phone, or Palm VII type of connectivity.

RE: hmmm
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 2:27:41 AM #
Sure hope a 32MB mXXX model will be released. Not much to ask for :)

RE: hmmm
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 10:02:54 AM #
I doubt a 32MB mXXX will be released soon. They have the SD slot for memory expansion. So they will keep cost down and let user who need the extra memory pay for the expansion SD memory cards. The logical product next in line should be the successor to the VII series. Or a RIM pager competitor, as Palm is looking to the corporate sector as an area of growth and Blackberry Pagers are a hit with these professionals.

OT: m500 Replacements
Ed @ 3/24/2001 10:34:22 AM #
I noticed this too and I've been trying to decide what new features Palm could add to the m500 series before it gets upgraded to ARM chips next year. Yes, Palm will be coming out with a wireless model later this year but I think of that as part of a different series that will probably be called the m700. So will there be replacements/upgrades for the m500 models before the move to OS 5 and the new processor?

They said at PalmSource they wouldn't add built-in BlueTooth until next year but they might change their minds. They could release a 320x320 model. Certainly enough people are clamoring for one.

But something tells me the NewsBytes reporter may have misinterpreted something a Palm rep said. Palm is going to release a whole new generation of devices in a year. This change is going to be so profound that all current Palm models are going to be obsolete except to people who want a cheap, bare-bones PDA.

A nonARM-based m500 upgrade , if any, wouldn't be released within six months of the release of the m500 series. I can't imagine Palm spending a lot of R&D money to make a model that will be obsolete in just a few months. Heck, there are people now who are saying they aren't buying an m500/m505 because these new models are coming in a year.

Still, I'm curious about what functions people would like added to the m500 series that doesn't involve changing to OS 5. This eliminates changing the screen resolution in any way besides pixel doubling, I believe.

p.s. The humor of us already discussing Palm's next model when the latest ones haven't even been released yet hasn't escaped me.

Palm Infocenter

RE: hmmm
mikecane @ 3/24/2001 12:45:59 PM #
You have heard it from me first (and if you didn't, dammit, at least remember that *I* said it!) -- Palm will *not* release their ARMed Palms next year.

Think about this. The m505 I think will be a stunning success. All accounts so far point to that. The only threat is Pocket PC.

However, yesterday in Manhattan I was in three different retailers: CompUSA, J&R and Staples. All three had Palms and PPCs. In all three, I witnessed people buying *Palms*. Yes -- saturation point has not yet been reached, it seems (though I had expected it to).

Palm is going to look at their sales numbers this year (which, although down due to fear of recession, will still be gangbusters), and decide to squeeze some more milk out of this cash cow. They might even feel some pressure from Sony (who, if they do come to the US game, will do so late).

So, I would expect Palm to diddle with increased screen rez (thanks, Sony!) and SD doodads, instead of moving towards replacing their current base.

If they do decide to ship an ARMed unit, it will most likely be offered via web sales only as a "limited" item in order to get it into the hands of the very saavy -- as well as programmers who can port their work over.

Clip and save.

RE: hmmm
mengshi @ 3/24/2001 9:01:28 PM #
I don't agree. Palm needs to release an ARM-based unit within the next 2 years in order to win corporate customers (rather than private) that is the key to their long term survival. PPC already has a good corporate momentum going because of the perception that Palm is more suitable for personal rather than corporate use because of the obsolete processor etc etc.

What we may see is the features of M505 being quickly pushed down to the M300 / Palm III series level with the ARM-based unit taking over the m505 series.

As usual with Palm, this will probably not be a wholesale migration at first (witness the m105 still retaining the old connector despite being released so close to the m505) with the Dragonball and ARM-based unit coexisting - perhaps Dragonball unit marketted for personal use with corporate users steered towards the ARM units.

RE: hmmm
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/29/2001 7:53:53 PM #
Do you think they can make a 320 x 320 model without increasing the size of the m505?


I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2001 5:43:30 PM #
An Indoor, Non-Iluminated, Color screen has already been tackled by Nintendo. Anyone with any fears or worries need only take a look at a GameBoy Color indoors to know that whatever Palm has is going to be as good or better. And the GameBoy screen ain't bad, all things considered. I'm happy that Palm went down this road as it is very kind to its' batteries. The inclusion of a sidelight insures that you have the best viewing experience when needed or desireable. I am not worried and will sleep well tonight.

RE: Screen
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2001 6:58:04 PM #
I on the other hand am disappointed. I was fooled by the 65k colors and was very excited but believe that it will be more like the Ipaq. I do not like the Ipaq screen. The Ipaq screen is excellent in direct sunlight but the colors are drab and the sidelight is weak. 99% of the time I use my Palm indoors but I know there are users in Florida or other sunny states that use their Palms in their car our outdoors allot. It will be hard to please everyone until they are able to develop both of best worlds, however, If your going to make a color device then make it Vibrant, Rich, Full of color and worry about outdoor viewing second. They should have made the M500 geared for outdoor viewing and the color M505 geared toward the best color display available. I have a IIIc and pre-ordered the M505 mostly because of its size but also because of the 65K color screen. I would like to carry pictures of my family that will display good. The IIIc does not display pictures good enough for my tast, however, I like the screen for all the other applications. If the screen does not meet my expectations then I will return it to Palm.

RE: Screen
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/25/2001 9:16:19 AM #
The unit that you want might be a HS Visor Prism. 65k colors on the same TFT that you like with your IIIc. Price might come down in the next few weeks/months.

m505 at Game Developers Conference

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/23/2001 5:24:10 PM #
I had a chance to see an m505 at the Game Developers Conference in San Jose.

Initial, I was not impressed. The screen was not as bright as, say, an iPaq. It is, however, not as poor as a GameBoy. (By the way, I own neither an iPaq or a GameBoy -- I am going by my fleeting experience with them at various stores).

Upon spending more time with the m505, though I found that this screen is superior to the Palm V screen in several ways. In addition to being color, it is usable in more lighting conditions than a Palm V screen. In low office lighting conditions (i.e. the lights at GDC were dim compared to a normal offices), the screen is usable without a backlight but the colors appears somewhat drab (akin to GameBoy).

With a backlight, the colors stand out well - not as vibrant as a laptop TFT, mind you - but it looks nice when viewed straight-on. In the same lighting conditions, a Palm V with a backlight would appear as a gray-green mush.

I did not get a chance to see the screen in sunlight, but from what I saw, it appears that the sunlit screenshot on PalmStation is probably acurate.

In short, I think this color screen has a high 'usability' factor, and a low 'glitz' factor.

RE: m505 at Game Developers Conference
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 2:34:41 AM #
I want to know if the m505 screen has the same huge black spaces between pixels that the IIIc and the Prism have. Anyone know?

RE: m505 at Game Developers Conference
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 9:49:08 AM #
There was a post on Palmstation today from someone just coming back from CBIT in Hanover regarding the screen quality of both the 500 and the 505. Here is a small quote:

"Palm had both the m500 and m505 on display and to use. Both were very impressive. The m500 is a Vx with a SD slot - it felt the same size, looked similiar, but had a better, more readable screen.

The m505 is stunning, distinguiable from it's sibling by the metal buttons, it IS thicker than the 500/Vx but not so you would notice. The display is great and under the bright Show lights was much clearer and brighter than the IIIc, and the screen is lit from either side."

This is very encouraging but still begs the question of how the 505 will look in less well lit environments where most of us will use our Palms the majority of the time.

RE: m505 at Game Developers Conference
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/26/2001 5:50:27 PM #
I was at the GDC too and spent about 5 minutes with the m505. I have had a IIIc for about a year and compared them side by side. I found the 505 display poor in comparison. Though it shows up much better in sunlight, in standard indoor conditions, the IIIc is much clearer, brighter, and vivid. The 505 is very dark (even with backlight). The colors are flat.

The backlight has a major problem. On a IIIc, the whole image is evenly lit. On the 505, the light comes from the bottom and dims as it runs up the screen. Its like holding a flashlight at the bottom of a piece of paper. If the light was evenly distributed, it would be ok (though still flat colorwise). They should have had a light on both ends.

So, if you are choosing between a IIIc and 505, it depends on what you want. The IIIc has a much better display, but is almost unreadable in sunlight. The 505 looks fine outdoors (with muted colors) and is much smaller in size.

I was planning on upgrading to the 505, but after seeing the screen, I've decided to wait. The smaller size and expansion slot are not enough reason to upgrade at this time when I have to sacrifice on screen quality.

RE: m505 at Game Developers Conference
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/29/2001 5:24:42 PM #
See the latest pictures for yourselves at:
This may not be the brightest out there, but far from the dog many people imply they've. Also not, the unit is marked as a M505, which I haven't seen on other pictures.

RE: m505 at Game Developers Conference
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/19/2001 2:15:43 AM #
I saw and used a Palm M505 at a recent press conference and found the screen to be quite nice. I also have an iPaq and while it is possible to set the iPaq screen brightness to be much brighter than the Palm it is not feasable. Doing so would drain the batteries well before the day is over.

I found the M505 screen to be adequate and the overall design and strategy for doing what they did to be sound. I was a bit suprised that their "USB" support doesn't use a standard USB connection (lets re-invent the wheel) on the device and that nothing had been done to improve sound quality.

MSNBC is partly owned by Microsoft

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 12:49:04 AM #
It seem MSNBC is playing down the screen of m505. Nothing wrong with their views, each can have it's own assessment but at least it should have included a disclaimer the way CNET website do when writing articles about themselves or competitors. Have not see a 'live' m505, so will reserve judgment. Still I believe m505 will sell for its form factor and RAM expandability more than the color screen.

RE: MSNBC is partly owned by Microsoft
EGarrido @ 3/24/2001 7:12:10 AM #
My Global History teacher always stresses that you should first analyze the source of your information before you jump into the information itself. I didn't even think of following his advice when I read MSNBC's review. Yes, they should be a legit news business, but money, power, *and* ownership goes a long way.


RE: MSNBC is partly owned by Microsoft
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 10:50:28 AM #
I worked at Creative Labs a few years ago when the Voodoo 2 and Riva TNT graphics cards were
released. Creative and Diamond Multimedia released several nearly identical products, yet Diamond
consistently received higher ratings from CNet. Why?.... Simply because the Cnet graphics product
reviewer was feuding with the Creative Graphics Product Manager.

The same thing happened with a few of the magazines, like PC World. They gave lower reviews
because Creative would not sign long term advertising contracts while Diamond did.

So, take the media's opinion with a grain of salt. They will always claim objectivity, but if you dig
deep enough you will discover where their paychecks are really coming from. :)

RE: MSNBC is partly owned by Microsoft
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/25/2001 1:02:50 PM #
The color clie had a small fomr factor and expandability but it did not sell because the screen was so dim.

Same technology as colour SONY Clie?

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 12:49:17 PM #
I don't have access to a plam 505 but if it is using similar technology - reflective colour screen. Then it is correctly to claim it will certainly looks great in bright sunlight but not much so in less bright condition

Black Grid?

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 3:30:43 PM #
Don't see any talk about the black grid that the IIIC has. Does the m505 have it?

RE: Black Grid?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 9:44:35 PM #
Despite Palm's effort to improve on the color screen, the M505 still carries a 160x160 resolution, which is the the BIGGEST mistake. Unlike the PocketPC or the new Sony N700, there WILL be black grids clearly visible on the screen of the M505. It is not the number of colors or 16bit that matters, but the RESOLUTION. Anything that runs on 160x160 will reveal the black grids. Actually, the M505 will have exactly the SAME SCREEN as the Visor Prism. They both have 16bit, 65K colors, 160x160 resolution and runs on DragonBall 33MHz processor. This IS the biggest secret that Palm is trying to keep from the people. I predict that people will be very disappointed once the M505 hits the stand. Its sale will soon drop like the run, similar to the experiences of Palm IIIc and Visor Prism. Their failure is soley due to one reason: POOR RESOLUTION!.

RE: Black Grid?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 10:04:03 PM #
I hope you're not right but fear you are. I've got a Palm V (2mb) and have wanted to upgrade for at least a year for two reasons: more memory and color. But the screens on the IIIc and Prism do not appeal to me (nor does the boxiness of the Handspring models). In fact, the Casio EM-500 seems to have a better screen than the IIIc, although I do want to stick with the Palm platform. Now if only Sony would start selling the color CLIE in the US...

RE: Black Grid?
EGarrido @ 3/24/2001 11:14:50 PM #
Unfortunately, I think this would be a fair estimate that there still would be the black grid, although resolution doesn't have very much to do with it. The dot pitch is more important in this case. However, if the screen is still the same size as the IIIc, which it is, and there are the same number of pixels, where there are, that means the dot pitch should be the same. With that, I'd say there would still be a significant black grid to the screen.


RE: Black Grid?
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/25/2001 10:42:50 AM #
You guys are forgetting one very important aspect: the 505's screen is reflective, not the old TFT found on the IIIc. Why does this matter? Since the IIIc is constantly backlit, the grid naturally shows up (though the screen would benefit by having a tighter dot pitch). However, with the reflective screen on the 505, there is no need to constantly have the entire screen lit - just the areas that are in use. The 505 should show no more of a grid than the current greyscale devices.

Take a peek at a color GameBoy or a Compaq iPaq Pocket PC - both use reflective screens and neither show the dreaded black grid (while other small backlit systems - such as the old Lynx - do show a grid). Being a reflective screen makes all the difference.

Reflective + Backlight?

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 5:34:42 PM #
Maybe the 505 has a reflective screen like the gameboy, and supposidly the gameboy advanced, and it has a backlight like all the other palms, to increase the brightness to the level of the IIIc

RE: Reflective + Backlight?
Smartmoose @ 3/25/2001 4:02:50 PM #
Okay, here's some information from Palm's FAQ on their site which may answer many of the questions regarding the new screen technology in the m505 (available at: http://www.palm.com/support/m505/m505_faq.html )

Why is the display on my m505 is not as bright as the display on a Palm IIIc?
The display on the m505 utilizes a new technology in color screen display. Previous displays, like the Palm IIIc, use a transflective display technology (much like that on previous Palm models). The Palm m505 uses a reflective screen, which greatly enhances its ability to be viewed in direct sunlight conditions. In fact, the greater the ambient lighting, the better the viewing experience.

Can I increase the brightness of the display on the m505?
The display is equipped with a "front light" that is activated when the power button is held down for 2 seconds.

What is a front light?
A front light is similar to the backlight in other Palm handhelds. Its purpose is to enhance the screen in low light conditions. Instead of the illuminating the screen from behind the display like a backlight, it provides direct light to the front of the screen.

Why does the m505 have a front light instead of a backlight?
The m505 display is reflective and therefore requires direct light onto the screen in order to view the display.

The m505 manual only mentions a backlight. Is this a mistake?
No. The manual supplied on the CD that came with your m505 is used for both the m500 and the m505. In order to simplify the instructions, only the term backlight was used. The m500 is equipped with a backlight.

I would also recommend to anyone interested in the fine details of the m505 to check out the FAQ and to download the User's Guide and Quick Start Guide from Palm's support area (both in PDF format). Though they won't answer some of questions, it might cover quite a few.

Palm m505 Handbook (2.77MB PDF - Note: Very Large!)

Palm m505 Getting Started Guide (530KB PDF)

Pic from palmstation

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/24/2001 6:08:54 PM #
I was 1 of those who took the pic of the m505 and that was my IIIc beside it. I waf really impressed with the resolution. It was a bit dim indoors (we found no brightness control) but outdoors it was fantastic. I did not really see any black grids in between pixels. The screen is color gray when turned off. 20 mins with the m505 was not enough, I want my m505 now.
RE: Pic from palmstation
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/26/2001 9:16:06 AM #
Quoting Josh from "Blair Witch Project", wasn't that a full-of-s*** statement?

As it appears now, it was a Filipino Palm user group who reviewed the m500 and m505. Also, the points made about "no black grid" and the "20 mins" are untrue.

It's too bad having people telling lies like that alongside others who produce legitimate info. And only to get a rather dubious notoriety! Get a life!

RE: Pic from palmstation
I.M. Anonymous @ 4/3/2001 11:09:22 AM #
Are we a bit BITTER? I guess I don't see the need for such a hostile response to this post. Especially since you really don't say that you even TOUCHED a 505 yet.

More pictures here...

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/25/2001 12:36:03 PM #
There are several more pictures at PalmStation here:


There is also a much better quality photo here:


Palm m505 comparison review

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/26/2001 2:24:05 AM #
The guys who posted the "not-so-great" pics at PalmStation recently are actually from MaPalad, the Filipino Palm Users Group. They have just posted a more detailed comparison review at their website: http://www.mapalad.org/review_m505.htm.

[ No Subject ]

Dennis @ 3/27/2001 3:59:59 PM #
The Mapalad people reviewed the m505 which is a prepreduction model. So changes may have been made after. Open www.mapalad.org & check it

WSJ: Dim, Dark, and Dull

Ed @ 3/29/2001 10:56:41 AM #
The Wall Street Journal has weighed in on the m505's screen and the results aren't good:

    BUT THERE IS ONE big problem with Palm's new "m" series: the screen on the color model, the m505. It's so dim, dark and dull that I can't recommend spending the extra $50 to get it. At some angles, it's tough to tell the screen is even in color. And even with the backlight on, which helps a lot but eats battery power, the m505's screen looks pallid and weak compared with the color displays on Handspring's Visor Prism or Compaq's iPAQ Pocket PC.

    Palm says the m505 screen is based on cutting-edge color technology, and concedes it could have been much brighter. But Palm engineers deliberately dialed back the brightness to achieve great battery life. Palm still calls the result "brilliant color." I call it barely color. I agree that brightness must be balanced against battery life, but I think Palm went too far and should have at least included a control allowing users to brighten it.


Palm Infocenter
RE: WSJ: Dim, Dark, and Dull
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/29/2001 6:52:25 PM #
I have one of these Pre-Ordered so this screen discussion is important to me. I am wondering, if the engineers dialed back the "front light" for battery savings, might they be able to shift more power to that "front light" with a ROM upgrade if viewing is a persistent bug? This will be my first Palm, and I am not up on the engineering of these things. Surely someone else has a thought on this. If the screen is as see on geekvortex, I am not worried. I am also wondering if there is a difference between production, pre-production and prototype units, and which unit is a reviewer looking at. At least the one on geekvortex has the m505 logo on it.

RE: WSJ: Dim, Dark, and Dull
Ed @ 3/29/2001 8:39:39 PM #
> I am also wondering if there is a difference
> between production, pre-production and
> prototype units, and which unit is a reviewer
> looking at.

I've been considering this myself. I am still trying to figure out why the reviews vary so widely. Maybe Palm is testing the waters to see how people react to the screen set on different brightness levels. If this is true and anyone from palm is listening, WE WANT THE BRIGHTER SCREEN, even if it means sacrificing battery life.

Palm Infocenter

RE: WSJ: Dim, Dark, and Dull
I.M. Anonymous @ 3/31/2001 8:13:33 AM #
I have been in the Palm-IOL convention GeekVortex took pics of, actually I am the Editor of palm-IOL and I had allot of time to play with the new m505 in that room and in another occasion as well. What I can tell you is while it is true the screen isn't that bright as a Prism or a IIIc, it is very nice to look at, and colors looks OK on it.. I think the Mosberg review isn't positive because he refrained from using the sidelight (in the ipaq it turns on automatically so you don't have to choose). I found it funny he talks about angles of view' it isnt a notebook you don't do presentations on the palm and anyway the angles of view possible it better than the IIIc or Prism I checked.

Dont worry' when you see the screen your seld you will like it

m505 vs. Palm Vx clarity?

I.M. Anonymous @ 3/31/2001 12:04:08 PM #
I owned a Palm V and LOVED the machine like no other Palm I have ever owned (and I owned them all from the Pilot 5000 on.) I then gave my Palm V to my wife and purchased a Palm IIIc when it came out, and I still use it to this day. The clarity (readability whatever you want to call it...) of the Palm IIIc in any indoor lighting condition from bright to totally dark is miles ahead of a Palm V. Outside, of course, the screen disappears even in shadow. Despite my love of the IIIc screen I still terribly miss my Palm V because of the huge differance in size. Well on the first day it was offered I preordered the m505 and have followed these discussions on the screen with great intrest and have the following comments and questions to post:

1) I realize the screen will NOT be nearly as bright as my Palm IIIc, we just have to resign ourselves to this as technology to produce ultra bright reflective TFTs just isn't there yet.

2) I realize the screen has the huge advantage of being 100% useable in bright sunlight.

3)I realize this is the smallest color Palm or handheld in existance and that is THE BIG SELLING POINT.

BUT I have this question:

1) In indoor lighting (from bright offices to dim homes) how does the readability or clarity of the Palm m505 compare with the Palm V/Vx with and without the backlight on. I know the colors will wash out and may make the machine look almost B&W without the backlighting (frontlighting really) turned on but for readability of text etc. is it equal to the Palm Vx?

If so I am sold... I want my Palm V... with color. :-)

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