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Palm m505

Saturday 28th July, 2001

To confirm its return to form, and its lead in the PDA design stakes, Palm has released its flagship product, the m505. Like its m500 sibling (see Reviews, 15 June 2001, p30), it features a slightly revised form factor over its predecessor, the Vx.

The m505 is slightly smaller and stouter than the Vx. The case is more bevelled, with a blue-grey tint that matches the background colour of the inactive screen. Gone is the green plastic start-up button: in its place is a translucent button which acts as both a charging indicator - it glows green when it’s in the cradle - and as an additional alarm.

There’s a new colour scheme - the buttons are silver and the writing panel is reversed out white-on-grey. The scroll button has been replaced by two separate up and down buttons and there’s no contrast button at the top. The real fun, though, is hidden away at the back.

The m505, like the m500, is expandable. At the top edge of the screen there’s a small, 2cm slot called the Secure Digital (SD) slot. This will accept SD cards and Multimedia Cards. Each card is about the same size as a stamp, but there are already 32Mb memory expansion cards available for boosting the built-in 8Mb. Techies will note that the Palm is no longer ‘stuck’ together: the back is secured with screws, making user upgrades a possibility.

The back has two seating slots for securely locating external devices that plug into the connector at the base -there are already third-party announcements concerning modems, digital cameras and Bluetooth communication modules. Of course, the reason for this is that the connector on the m505 is smaller than that on the Vx, which means that if you’re upgrading your Palm, then your peripherals will need to be changed as well.

Get connected

Palm hasn’t changed the connector out of spite. The HotSync cradle that doubles as synching connector and battery recharger has also been redesigned. The internal Lithium-Ion battery remains the same, but the second big change with the m505 is that USB synchronisation comes as standard. Instead of having to faff around with USB-to-serial adaptors, your Palm cable plugs directly into a USB port. You also benefit from the speed boost: the old serial connection had a limit at 0.25Mbits/sec, while USB tops out at 12Mbits/sec.

Talking of speed, the m505 uses the new 33MHz Motorola VZ processor, which runs twice as fast as the 16MHz processor at the heart of the Vx. In use, of course, the mileage varies, but it is nippier.

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, the m505 also comes with a colour screen. Having dealt with the Visor’s PDA’s expansion and USB synching abilities, the m505 comes with a glorious 65,536 colours (that’s 16-bit) like its IIIc sibling.

When you turn it on, the first thing you notice is the screen seems slightly smaller than that on the Vx. There’s also no way to change the contrast setting as on the m500 or Vx. However, the image is very crisp and the colours, either in a well-lit room or with the backlight on, are about the same level as a PowerBook with the brightness set to about a third.

Third-party software developers are now providing decent software for colour Palm-based PDAs. Charting and GPS/GIS applications are probably top of the list in terms of professional use, but there’s an impressive selection of good-quality games available for anyone who wants to while away those dull bus journeys.

The m505 also ships with a decent bundle of software. As well as the built-in applications (Date Book, Address Book, To Do List, Memo Pad, Note Pad and Clock),two accompanying CDs provide the MultiMail SE email application, Palm Reader, MGI PhotoSuite for viewing images, AvantGo’s Web reader and DataViz Documents To Go for reading Word and Excel files.

The software bundle also includes the updated Palm OS 4.0, SMS messaging, Web clipping direct dial for mobile phones via infrared, support for time-zone switching (so your alarms take account of when and where you set them) and alternative alarm options (including, wait for it, a vibrate option).

Looking good

This may be the top-of-the-line model - its pricing certainly makes the case - but its size, colour support, connectivity options and general expandability make it an attractive alternative to lugging a PowerBook around. Or, for those who don’t need to work on Photoshop documents on the train, having a PowerBook at all.

In fact, the pricing of the m505 is interesting. At a street price of £399.00, it is only £70 more than its m500 sibling. You’d suspect that having shelled out around 300 quid, most users would probably go the extra mile and get the colour version. Which leaves upgrade-hungry Vx owners with one question. Who do you like enough to give your old Palm to?


The size, colour support, connectivity options and general expandability make it an attractive alternative to lugging a PowerBook around

Get Further Info
Rating 5
Manufacturer Palm Computing
Pros Colour + SD expansion slot + USB synchronisation
Cons No contrast control
Price 339.57
Originally Published MacUser, Volume: 17, Issue: 14, p