Friday, March 01, 2002

Palm Vx Review

Well, a little over 2 years ago, I decided to take the leap and get a PDA (Personal Data Assistant). At the time, there were two popular types available: the Palm Pilot or Windows CE devices. Both variants did basically the same thing: keep track of calendar, tasks, email, and memos, sync with Outlook, and be portable. The only thing was that the CE Devices were color, played MP3's, and looked sharper.

After much debate, I saved my hard earned pennies and purchased an HP Jornada 430se. It was much thicker then a Palm Pilot (almost an inch thick), but it doubled as an MP3 player and had some nice perks. The problems were its bulky size, slow speed, and its tendency to lock-up (it wouldn't be Microsoft if it didn't do this).

I used it for about a year and boxed it. Now, 2 years later, I decided again to get a PDA. I'd setup many newer Pocket PC devices and many Palm Pilots, so I knew what was out there. After more debate, plus a great price after Thanksgiving, I decided on the Palm Vx. This isn't the newest model of Palms, but it's the thinnest Palm available and has the biggest screen. It also has 8 Megs of memory, which for a Palm is a lot.
After getting this little booger out of its package and connecting it to my desktop, Chapura's Pocket Mirror installed with no problems. Since I use Outlook XP, I chose Custom and didn't install the Expense or Palm Desktop components. In about 5 minutes, I was syncing and ready to go.

Thought I'd helped many users with their Palms, this was my first time to really play with one for an extended amount of time. The more I used this thing the more I liked it. Granted, the black text on grey background was a far cry from my old Jornada, but it was easier to read outside, its internal lithium ion batteries charged on its own and lasted forever (the Jornada 430 lasted maybe 1-2 hours at most), and it was very stable.
I immediately downloaded AvantGo and started syncing channels and off-line content. I also went to Mapquest and downloaded some maps to common-traveled places. Everything went smooth.

Beaming is also a synch. A co-worker and I beamed games and contacts back and forth between my Vx and his M100. This was much easier then the way Windows CE did it.

The first hitch I ran into was one Sunday when I pulled it out to check some dates, it acted very funky. The scroll buttons scrolled two pages at a time and it wouldn't turn off once I turned it on. The next day, I called Best Buy and they said they had no more in stock, so I started playing with it in hopes that I could resolve the issue myself. After tinkering with it, I found that the contrast button had become hung down. After unwegging this, all worked fine.

Another problem that might arise with Office XP users and Office 2000 users who have installed the latest security patches is that Outlook now thinks that eveything is a virus. Whenever you sync your Palm with Outlook, a nice window comes up asking your permission for it to sync. This makes network syncs impossible and requires you to be logged in, sitting at the console for a sync to take place. And if you compose an email on your Palm, a second window comes up asking if you really want this email to be sent on your behalf. These are great security features, but Microsoft has no way of turning them off. My solution was going back to Outlook 2000 with no security patches.

Some have asked me why I want with this Palm Pilot over the new M series. For the most part, I don't like the new series. They have smaller screens, some are made of plastic and feel too fragile, and they just don't look as sharp as the older series. Also, you can do virtually everything on the older ones that the new ones do with some software upgrades.

My suggestion when shopping for a Palm Pilot is not to rush out and purchase an M505 (the latest model). Since most of the Palm Pilots do virtually the same thing, I'd suggest an older model with a bigger screen. If you do need the features which the newer M series offer, I'd suggest getting an M105 or higher. The M100 only has 2 Megs of memory with no native email support. If you do decide to go with an older Palm, I'd avoid the Palms with only 2 megs of Ram, like the III and V (the IIIx and Vx have 8 megs of Ram). Also, the Palm VII has the wireless component and this is way too expensive for most users.

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