Palm IIIc

The latest, greatest addition to the 3Com Palm family, the Palm IIIc sports a 256-colour active-matrix screen that's much brighter and more readable than displays on previous monochrome units. At $899, the Palm IIIc costs more than any of its siblings, and it is slightly larger and noticeably heavier.

Better power

You'll no longer be able to buy replacement batteries at any corner store: the IIIc, like the svelte Palm V and Palm Vx, uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery instead of the AAAs that power other Palm IIIs and older Palms. 3Com estimates that the IIIc can go only two weeks between charges, compared with four weeks for the Palm V. (Other Palm IIIs run about six weeks before the AAAs must be replaced.)Users who frequently sync their Palms with desktop PIMs may not mind the battery-life hit: like the Palm Vs, the IIIc recharges during synchronisation, with power coming from an AC adapter that's hooked up to the HotSync cradle's serial port plug.

The IIIc's software bundle includes a backgammon game and a calculator with colour-coded keys. A photo album app has a desktop component for converting images to Palm's proprietary compressed file format before you transfer them to the Palm IIIc. Images on the 160x160pixel display are bright and easily viewed. The size is right, too: the sample images included in the shipping unit occupy less than 50KB each. Of course, multiple images can soak up memory quickly. Fortunately, however, the IIIc packs 8MB of memory - twice as much as the Palm IIIx and four times more than most other models.

You'll soon be able to use the IIIc to take pictures, too: Kodak's $349 PalmPix digital camera (see April PC World's Gadgets & Gizmos section in Backbytes, page 188) will snap onto the Palm IIIc's HotSync port to let you take pictures on the fly - a feature insurance adjusters and realtors might like.

New Palm tricks

Colour is the central innovation of the IIIc, but it's not the only one. The device also boasts Palm OS 3.5, an incremental upgrade that delivers several useful tweaks. A new Agenda view for the Datebook lists your appointments and to-do items for the day. You can quickly duplicate address entries (useful if you want to add contact info for several people from the same company). You can access drop-down menus within Palm apps by tapping the top of the screen (before, you had to tap an icon at the bottom to see the menu bar).

You now have the ability to password-protect individual entries such as memos or appointments, access context-sensitive command strokes by tapping new icons at the bottom of the screen, and set up snooze alarms. The upgrade supports fast HotSync speeds and hot-syncing via the infrared port.

This new Palm - and price cuts in older devices - address the competition. Windows CE palmtops began sporting colour screens a year ago, but they're heavier than the IIIc. Handspring's Palm OS-based Visor made a splash last autumn by under-cutting the Palm's prices while incorporating some of the improvements Palm has just added, such as extra memory, the sharp-looking off-black case and the Agenda view. (Handspring plans to ship Visor locally in the second half of this year.)The IIIc and IIIxe should satisfy Palm aficionados who had been eyeing competitors' innovations with envy - and who have deep enough pockets to satisfy their every gadget urge. For owners of other recent Palms - unless they work with photos in the field, need extra memory, or want a more readable screen - neither the IIIc nor the IIIxe is a must-have (especially since a free OS upgrade to version 3.5 is coming for most Palm IIIs and both Palm Vs). Still, it's comforting to know that even with a PDA market share in excess of 75 per cent, the people at Palm aren't taking their loyal following for granted.

Palm IIIc Handheld Computer

Price: $839

Phone: 1800 350 535

URL: www.palm.com.au

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