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Palm Z22 Disappoints

A Quick Look at Palm's Z22

The latest slim-line Palm, the Z22, is so close to looking like a large iPod that you initially get excited. But this isn't the Zire 31, the breakthrough product for Palm that marries an MP3 player with a PDA/Organizer. The Z22 has the looks but not the brains. And oddly, marketing the unit at women on the go is misplaced, unless all they are interested in is a fashion accessory and not much more.

Yes, the software supporting the unit is easy to install. It also comes with slimmed-down cables and no need for the bulky hot synch cradles of the old Palms. Yes, it is small enough to fit in a pocket and has a nice design. But looks alone aren't enough, baby.

The Z22 is a step up from the Z21 for the same $99 price. It comes with a color screen (an upgrade from the Z21's grey scale) and as such has the ability to view photos. It has more storage, about 20 MB of usable memory, versus the 7 MB on the Z21 and 14 MB that is usable on the Z31. What is not included is the Z31's support for playing your music files.

The most noticeable difference with the Z22 is the button layout, something that is very new to the Zire/Z series of smaller PDAs. There are a series of three buttons under the screen and writing area: the left button brings up your appointments, the right one your contacts. The middle one is a scroll button that can go up, down, right and left, depending on the application you are running.

The photo transfer software is just the same old Palm applet that moves programs over to the unit. The Palm OS sorts out what is a program and what is a photo and can display some nice slideshows, just like the iPod Photo. The difference is that you can't open up Windows Explorer or Finder and browse the file system directly - you have to use the app.

This hasn't changed much since Palms were still part of US Robotics, and it is high time to have a more transparent means of moving information. Indeed, what is missing is the ability to use the static RAM of the Palm as a portable hard drive available from the desktop, like many of the MP3 players that are currently available. Palm isn't completely asleep at the wheel. As Barry Gerber points out in his review of the upscale Palm TX, you can transfer images to the TX using an SD memory card. With that device you can even view images directly from the SD card.

The Palm Z22 accessorized. Unlike Apple with its easily scratched Nano, Palm is ready with cases for the Z22.

We tested the new Palm on both Windows and Macintosh desktops, and it synchronized its contacts with both Outlook and the usual Palm desktop applications without any trouble. The software required reboots on both computers before it was fully loaded, but otherwise worked well.

So what is the big deal, you say? The ability to view photos, a smaller and more attractive package for the same low price of less capable units? Save your money, and buy something more expensive and more capable. We think this one misses the mark.