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Palm m500 and m505

Pair of PDAs

Review Palm set the benchmark for keyboard-free PDAs with the introduction of the PalmPilot. Since then, competition from innovative developers such as Handspring has left the original design looking tired. With its latest devices, however, Palm proves that it's still got what it takes to trounce the competition and keep its customers happy.

The m500 series consists of two new models: the m500 and m505. The difference between the two is simply that the m505 offers a colour screen, while the m500 has a monochrome display. Both add all the features users have been asking for, plus a few extras to keep them ahead of the game.

The basic hardware is much the same as the competition. Both use the 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ processor, twinned with 8MB of RAM - the same spec as Handspring's VisorEdge.

Palm m500The first change you'll notice from the previous top-end Palm, the Vx, is the new 'arctic mist' silver-blue livery, and the curvier design. But as Palm products have never been behind the curve in the looks stakes, where users really wanted to see improvements was with the technology.

Handspring has long offered fast USB synchronisation and Springboard expansion, while Palm users were stuck with slow serial synchronisation and no expansion method. It's in these two areas that the m500 series makes some huge leaps forward. First of all, Palm has finally ditched serial in favour of USB. Both the m500 and the m505 come with a USB HotSync cradle, which also serves to recharge the lithium-ion polymer battery. Existing Palm users will notice a real improvement in synchronisation times as USB is capable of transferring data at 12Mbps while serial can only manage 0.1Mbps.

Palm has taken another leaf out of Handspring's book by offering an expansion slot. This time, however, instead of copying the competition it has gone one better. The closest competitor - the VisorEdge from Handspring - uses an unwieldy expansion method, which requires you to remove the cover from the screen and add an adapter before you can plug in a Springboard module.

Palm, on the other hand, has equipped the m500 series with an expansion slot that takes SD (secure digital) or MMC (multimedia card) media, meaning it can be neatly hidden in the Palm, keeping both models under 1.5cm thick.

The m500 series has another lead over its competitors as it comes preloaded with Palm OS 4.0. This adds native USB support, 16-bit colour support for the m505, the ability to dial direct from the address book via a mobile phone, an alert manager and time zone support. It also comes with the Mobile Internet Kit preinstalled, plus Documents to Go 3.0 and MGI PhotoSuite Mobile Edition.

With all this software to play with a good screen is essential. The m505 sports a 16-bit colour screen, which is vibrant and sharp – ideal for displaying images and graphics. Palm hasn't stinted on quality when it comes to the m500 either, as it uses a crystal-clear high-contrast monochrome 160x160 screen.

With these new additions you'd expect the devices to pack in some extra weight. But, at 99g, the m500 is 15g lighter than the Palm Vx and 37g less than the VisorEdge. The m505 is heavier at 128g, but still 30 per cent lighter than Palm's other colour palmtop, the IIIc.

Palm has done it again, coming up with PDAs to beat all comers. With the m505 winning our Best Buy award and its mono sibling stealing the number three slot, Palm looks ready to dominate the charts again. ®


Price: £340 (m505)
Contact: 020 7365 9820


Processor: 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ
Flash ROM: 4MB
Screen: 16-bit colour (m505), monochrome (m500)
Battery: lithium-ion polymer
Dimensions: 114x79x12.7mm
Weight: 128g (m505), 99g (m500)

All details correct at time of publication.

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