A hard drive in your palm

PalmOne's LifeDrive has put almost everything you'd want from a notebook - document editing, e-mail access, and plenty of storage - into a package not much larger than a typical early MP3 player.

At its heart, the LifeDrive is a PalmOS 5.4 PDA offering the same controls, expansion slots, and basic applications you'd expect from a Tungsten or Treo. The downside: it's too big to fit easily into a pocket, and too small storage wise to qualify as a substitute for a video or MP3 player.

The "Drive" in the LifeDrive is a built-in 4GB Microdrive from Hitachi, which can hold a full slate of contacts, documents, photos, videos and music.

Software includes Exchange ActiveSync, for checking Outlook e-mail, and Documents To Go, for document editing. Built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as a beautiful 320x480-pixel colour display, round out the package.

With that crisp, colourful screen, the LifeDrive should excel as a video player. However, while the clips I watched looked decent, playback was not completely smooth.

As an MP3 player, music sounded quite good, though the headphone jack is awkwardly located on the bottom of the device. An app called PTunes lets you organise and play MP3s.

Camera Companion is where the LifeDrive really shines. This program turns the device into a storage repository for your digital photos, one that's much lighter than a laptop.

Verdict That's the LifeDrive's most useful role: filling in for your laptop in a pinch, even though it's not equipped with a finger keyboard or built-in phone... for now at least.

Palmone Lifedrive

Price: $899 Vendor: palmOne Phone: 1800 350 535 URL: www.palmone.com/au Specifications: 4GB hard drive; 320X480 65K colour display (portrait and landscape orientation): Bluetooth: 802.11b Wi-Fi: 416Mhz Xscale processor: 16MB ROM; built in microphone and voice recorder button: 3.5mm headphone jack; SD/SDIO/MMC expansion cards and peripherals via multi-connector support; 192.8g; 12.1X7.3X1.9cm

Preproduction model, not rated.

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Eric Dahl

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