Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
Palm Zire 31
- The price
- The 160 x 160 screen, no non-volatile memory
The Zire 31 is a no-frills handheld for those on a budget.
Price$ 229.00 (AUD)
The Zire range of handhelds was launched by Palm to cater for those who require a basic organiser without the bells, whistles and hefty price tags of more upmarket PDAs.
The Zire 31 fits neatly into this category. It's just about as basic a PDA as you can get--it doesn't have an in-built camera, recorder, FM tuner or support for document editing, nor does it have Bluetooth or Wi-Fi functions.
The most disappointing thing about the Zire 31 was the 160 x 160 STN LCD. Unlike some other Palm devices, such as Treo 650 with its gorgeous 320 x 320 TFT LCD, the colour screen on the Zire 31 was dark, shadowy and indistinct.
Like most Palm units, the Zire 31 supports handwriting recognition using Graffiti 2 software, which allows you to write on any part of the screen. Under the input area there is a five-way navigation button and two shortcut buttons for quick access to the Calendar and Contacts applications.
The expansion slot of the Zire 31 is positioned at the top of the device and accepts SD, SDIO and MMC cards. You can view and synchronise photos directly from these cards, as well as play MP3s.
Running version 5.2.8 of Palm OS, the interface of the Zire 31 is fast and easy to use, even for beginners. The Zire 31 ships with an Intel ARM 200MHz processor and we found no problems with speed. The Zire 31 measures 112 x 74 x 16mm and is about the same height as a mobile phone but almost twice the width. At only 116g, it's light and compact enough to carry around easily.
The Zire 31 includes organiser features such as a calendar, contacts management, task lists and memos. It also has basic extras such as a notepad, calculator and expenses applications. You can view photos on the Zire 31 and set them as wallpaper or add photos to individual contacts. The Zire 31 doesn't support any kind of document editing in popular formats such as Microsoft Word or Excel, but you can buy extra software to transfer email from Microsoft Outlook onto the device.
We found MP3 playback to be surprisingly clear. The Zire has a small speaker at the rear and a convenient standard 3.5mm headphone jack.
Transferring data to the Zire 31 was a breeze with the included HotSync software. The Zire 31 connects to a PC using a mini USB cable (not a cradle) and the unit automatically synchronises as soon as it is connected. This is important as, unlike more recent models, the Zire 31 doesn't ship with non-volatile memory, meaning that if the battery is completely drained, then all data in the unit would be lost.
Battery life on the Zire 31 was average. Used only as an organiser, you could get away with not charging for a few days, but the MP3 functions drain battery life away rather quickly.
At just over $200 at the time of writing, the Zire 31 is very basic organiser with no standout features. If you are looking for a Palm device and your budget extends further, we recommend you take a look at the Palm Zire 72, which has many additional multimedia options.
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