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Palm m130 Review
Brett_Tabke




msg:932311
 8:03 am on Apr 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

Palm m130

by Brett Tabke March 30, 2001

Is it Palms new flag ship product?

The Palm m130 is Palms newest full color handheld. The m130 extends the 100 series line into new areas with a new price-to-performance ratio unmatched by competitors. It is the lowest priced full color Palm OS based PDA available.

Despite a street price of $270 usd, this is a full featured fully expandable Palm PDA. In many respects, it superceedes Palms previous high end offerings. Despite some bells and whistles of the more expensive Palms, I believe this is the defacto Palm standard bearer that will carry Palm into the future.


The Decision to Buy

Coming to the decision to buy the m130, was a process of elimination based on my needs. With the wide array of PDAs available, it was by no means an easy decision.

Why a PDA?

I needed a PDA to get mobile "list data" such as address book, todo, and a calendar. Any functions that a PDA could do after that, were just perks. Although the current rage is wireless this-and-that, I had no real need or desire for mobile web browsering. Having the 130 now for a couple weeks hasn't really changed that opinion. I think after a couple years of cell phone use, and the complete frustration of using a wap based browsing, that it soured my whole outlook on small device browsing. However, the fact that I can view primative web pages with the PDA is certainly a plus. I've found myself using html pages on the pda with a regularity I'd not forseen.

Color Perks?

I wanted a color. It's a perk I know, but I think the color units are easier to read. It also allows a certain amount of graphics from spreadsheets and websites to be used. If I'd not gotten color, I assume I would use the device much less just from an enjoyment factor.

Rechargeable Battery?

I also noticed, that the lower end PDA's do not include builtin rechargable batteries. Who wants to worry about swapping out batteries? The lower end 100 Palm series requires you to swap A size batteries within 1 minute or lose your precious data that isn't backed up. A recharable battery was a must.

Price Range?

If you go any higher than $300, you are into an area where I felt it was cheaper to get a small subnotebook laptop to get a full featured machine. It came down to a choice between a top end laptop and a pda -- or a lower end pda AND a laptop. So I got both the Palm and will be getting another Laptop shortly.

Why Palm?

I felt confident buying a Palm brand PDA based on their history with handhelds. The Operating System used by Palm is fully mature with thousands of software packages available.


The m130 Hardware Specs

Inside the case, the m130 consists of:
  • 33mhz Dragonball VZ processor by Motorola
  • Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard expansion slot for expansion ram and other addons
  • Universal cradle/sync connector
  • 16-bit transflective backlit color LCD capable of 65,536 colors colors (160 pix x 160 pix)
  • 8MB Static RAM, 4MB ROM
  • Rechargeable Lithium Ion battery
  • IrDA (infa red) Transmitter/Receiver for "beaming"
  • Universal Sync Connector is capable of USB/RS232
  • Flash Rom is not upgradeable, but the OS is flushed out and v .1 stable
  • Swappable face plate
  • It weights 5.4 oz
  • Size: height 4.8in x wide 3.1in x deep 0.9in


In the Box

Palm m130 comes with the following bits and peices in the box:
  • Palm m130 handheld
  • USB based charging and sync cradle
  • Removable flip-lid
  • Plastic Stylus (pointer)
  • AC adapter (plugs into USB cord)
  • Palm Desktop Windows Software CD
  • Getting Started Guide with brief manual (real manual is a PDF on cd)
  • Extra Software CD
  • Spam : Accessories Catalog, Solutions Guide, and the registration card (but you can reg online)


The Software

The 130 comes with version 4.1 of Palms PDA operating system.
  • Standard Palm Organizers:
    • Date Book,
    • Address Book,
    • To Do List,
    • Memo Pad,
    • Note Pad,
    • Alarm Clock
  • Palm for Windows Desktop:
    • All of the above have counterparts on the Windows desktop side for syncing and backup.
  • Extra CD software includes:
    • AvantGo Web Channel Manager
    • DataViz Documents to Go
    • MGI PhotoSuite Mobile Edition
    • Palm Reader for eBooks

Test Drive

On the outside, the m130 has a plastic flip cover with a see through window. You press the one exposed button with the unit off, and the screen lights up with the time showing through the little window.

The m130's has a fiarly bright display screen. It has two backlight settings and a contrast adjustment. Although I had to have the contrast adjusted nearly to the stop for my preference indoors, color transflective STN screen is very crisp.

At 160x160 pixels, you are not going to watch Gone With The Wind on it. However, the included photo suit software makes viewing small avi and mpegs marginally passable.

The Cradle:
The cradle that comes with the m130 is obviously a generic one intended for several of the Palm handhelds. Connecting the m130 to the cradle is not easy. Between the connector and the base noted by the arrow in the picture on the right, there is about a 1/4inch gap. Even after the m130 is resting firmly in the cradle, if feels like it isn't inserted properly. Putting the m130 in the cradle is akin to balancing a ball on a broom stick. It can be done, but not without some extra effort.

The biggest concern for me, is that you have to gently rock the m130 a bit to get it to line up and seat properly. Rocking hot cartridge style connectors with open live pins is NEVER a good thing to do. I hope Palm got the static discharge problems fixed, because rocking a a cartridge to seat it, means crossed connections and static discharge. Hopefully, the large Ferite bead style static protector (large block on cable in 2nd picture from top) on the cradle cable will be enough.

Having used thousands cartridges and connectors for 20 years, this is one of the poorest designs I have ever seen. Combining that with the fact that there are no guide rails, slots or even visual clues, means you will have to pick up the cradle and "eyeball" the connection to get it right. It is double whammy since the cradle and Palm are black and hard to see.

On the other hand, when you remove the m130 from the cradle, it does so with a crisp easy snap.

I sumise that the cradle and/or connector on the handheld will be the first thing that wears out on the m130. For that reason, I will probably opt for the IrDA interface or grab a BlueTooth card to beam sync the handheld.

Operating System

The 130 runs on Palms v4.1 OS. After several years and versions, the Palm OS has becaome very stable, and bullet proof. I've run 100+ applications through it in the first few weeks and have not seen the system malfunction yet. Palm has certainly flushed out the OS as a modern stable and secure OS.

One thing I was surpised by, was that the desktop portion of the software was so complete. The desk top package has the exact equivalents of what is on the handheld. When you "sync" the handheld to the desktop, it makes a local backup copy of your databases. You can also enter data in the desktop to be sent to the handheld.

There are dozens of reviews of the Palm OS floating around the net.

Expansion

The m130 comes with Palms dual expansion capabilities. One the left side of the Palm is a slot for a Smart Media Card (SMC). SMC cards come in flavors of Ram Expansion and other small devices. At the right is a picture of a 32meg SMC expansion card with some coins over it to show it's tiny size.

Unfortunatly, the Palm line of computers does not support Compact Flash memory cards.
(yes mivox, I'm suffering Visor envy which has CF adapters available)

On the bottom of the 130 is another expansion connector. Normally, this is just used to connect the handheld to its cradle. There are a few 3rd party options such as modems, gps units, and printers that use the connector for various expansion capabilities.

A 32meg SMC expansion card was the first thing I purchase for the m130. It pays to shop around because smc cards are dropping hard and fast. 128meg cards can befound for around $50 now.

A Palm BlueTooth card is available for the 130. http://www.palm.com/products/accessories/expansioncards/bluetooth/

Conclusion

So far, despite the cradle problem, it has been thumbs up. The low cost with full color has made this an extremely enjoyable purchase.

After I finished writing the above, I though there was kinda light for a good review. Fact is, I've not had it long enough to make any lasting impressions other than those mentioned. I'll come back and update this in a few months after I've had it with a status report.

 

Brett_Tabke




msg:932312
 10:53 am on Apr 3, 2002 (gmt 0)

For discussion about the m130, please start a new thread.
I'll come back and update this palm article in a few months.

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