With the release of the Palm IIIx, 3Com continues to stick with the tried-and-true formula that has made Palm devices so successful, providing incremental but significant improvements to its flagship handheld product. Though the Palm IIIx may lack the sex appeal of the Palm V or the breakthrough functionality of the wireless Palm VII, its practical features-such as a great screen and expansion capabilities-will make it the mainstream handheld of choice for some time to come.
The IIIx is fully compatible with the range of add-ons for the Palm III, including modems, styli and cases. This compatibility makes it a better bet if you're already more heavily invested in the Palm platform than the Palm V, which requires all new peripherals and accessories.
There are a few minor changes as well. It is now easier to hear alarms, because the speaker in the Palm IIIx is much louder than the one in the Palm III. The silk-screened icons have been changed: The text underneath the icons is gone, and the applications icon is now a "home," which better represents the purpose of the Palm's main screen. Changes to the software are also minimal. Running the same 3.1 operating system as the Palm V, the Palm IIIx includes a new Welcome application that helps users set up their devices and a Graffiti training application.
This is new
Under the hood, the Palm IIIx has a new CPU, the Motorola Dragon Ball EZ, which provides about a 10 percent speed improvement over its already snappy predecessor. Although it isn't apparent to the user, 3Com also provides an internal slot that can be used for memory upgrades, pager cards and other enhancements.
The Palm IIIx offers the most bang for the buck of any Palm device. You get a greatly improved screen with a golden cast that, while not quite as good as the one on the Palm V, is more readable under different lighting conditions. The resolution is still 160 by 160, but the contrast is dramatically improved. The backlighting is the most controversial element of the new screen and takes some getting used to. Instead of lighting up the entire screen with a greenish glow, it reverses it so that letters and icons appear green on a black background-a godsend in a darkened room.
The Palm IIIx is the most expandable Palm device released to date. Memory is doubled to 4 megabytes, enough to store 12,000 addresses, five years of appointments, 3,000 to-do items, 3,000 memos and 400 e-mail messages. Since almost no one has that amount of data, the extra memory will more likely be useful for sales reps who like to take their organizers to the max with extra applications and Web content.
The Palm IIIx lists for $369. Formore information, contact 3Com at www.3com.com or (408) 326-5000.
The Palm V
The ultraslim Palm V comes housed in a sexy metallic case.
While the Palm V retains the core values that made its predecessors popular, it expands on them in ways that make this the most desirable Palm machine yet. Its miniscule size, razor-sharp screen and easy-to-use battery put the Palm V in a class by itself.
The Palm V is only 4.5 by 3.1 by 0.4 inches thick and weighs only four ounces-much smaller than its predecessors. Instead of the gray plastic of earlier Palms, it's made of anodized aluminum in an attractive platinum shade.
One thoughtful touch is the inclusion of stylus wells on both sides of the unit, making it suitable for both righties and lefties. You can insert an included leather cover into whichever well isn't being used by the stylus. The cover wraps completely around the unit-a huge improvement over the plastic cover that comes with the Palm III.
The Palm V has the sharpest, highest contrast screen ever seen on a handheld computer. It's still 160 by 160 monochrome but is easy to read both indoors and in bright sunlight. Sporting the same reverse backlighting as the Palm IIIx, the Palm V shows green text and icons on a black background. The contrast wheel has been replaced with software contrast controls accessed by pushing a button on the top of the device.
This is New
The Palm V doesn't take AAA batteries, and its internal lithium-ion battery is charged in the cradle. While you can't just run into a convenience store for a replacement, you'll never have to buy batteries again. And, as long as you keep the unit in its cradle when you're at your desk, you'll never have to worry about battery life either. Palm rates the battery at three to four weeks of use.
The Palm V still has just 2 megabytes of RAM, and the many accessories available for earlier Palm devices are completely incompatible. However, expect developers in the Palm community to quickly provide solutions to these problems. 3Com offers a 33.6 modem for the device which, when attached, makes it the same size as a Palm III. TRG's FlashPro is an ingenious software-only approach that stores applications in the unused portion of flash memory reserved for future system upgrades. An additional 824K is available with FlashPro installed. If that still isn't enough, a company called Electronic Fast Integration Group will upgrade your Palm V to a whopping 8 megabytes.
The Palm V lists for $449. For more information, you can contact 3Com at www.3com.com or (408) 326-5000.