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Faded color against competition (updated... final consumer unit, memory expansion details, and screen hack)

Pros color screen, expansion slot, slim profile, sleek look, Li-Ion battery, OS4
Cons color screen, lack of SD/MMC cards, Universal Connector
Recommended it? No
The Bottom Line:  Biggest draw is color screen which is somewhat disappointing. Priced for high-end users. If color unimportant, m500 is slightly better deal than the m505. Read on for other palm options.
Only recently I put up a review on the Palm m500. I found out just a few days ago that a friend was going to have a m505 to review for a few days. I now had the chance to look at the m505 before I received the one I preordered at Amazon.com for $350 (after coupons, rebates, and gift certificates of course! Remember that 10% Amazon coupon in March 2001.). I now recently received my preorder...

What can I say...

The color screen isn't what I hoped it would be.

The m505 is the color slimline model from Palm with several minor and a few major new features. First of all, the m500 and m505 have many similarities. If you read my m500 review or those of quasar or RichBoston (both of them wrote excellent reviews on the m500 and m505) you're likely to be reading descriptions of most of the main features of the m505.

My review of the m500
http://yusakugo.epinions.com/content_17605234308

What is the extra $50 for over the m500?

Well, the major overall difference between the m500 and the m505 is the color screen. The m505 is capable of displaying 65,000 colors on its little LCD. Sounds impressive to you... doesn't it. Well, the problem with the display is that the colors seem washed out and very dull. At times, you could barely notice that the color was there. The colors looked good to me in a dim room or in a dark room with the backlight on. (The backlight for the m505 seem to be lights from the left and right of the LCD screen.) Best situation was in the bright sunlight... I could very clearly see the details on the screen with decent color. My friend and I still need to experiment with this. As from the review unit, I didn't see any way of increasing the brightness of the screen. It looks as if the washed out and dull colors were meant to save battery power. Maybe someone will find a hack to that in the future (assuming that the limitations aren't all hardware based). With the final consumer unit in my hands, the color was a bit brighter than the review unit I first saw several weeks ago. The color is easily seen but still pales in comparison to the Palm IIIc and Handspring Visor Prism. The Prism has the most robust color of the three. The only palm unit that outdoes these three is the Sony Clie-S500 model (only available in Asia to my knowledge). The color on that unit is pure Palm color heaven! I hope this translates to the American version dubbed the Clie-N710.

The m505 is noticably heavier than the m500 but not by a great deal. It is heavier than my Palm Vx but not uncomfortably so. The unit seemed to fit my friend's Palm V/Vx hard case with little problem (then again, my friend's hard case isn't all in great shape to begin with... now that I realized the part that slides into the groove was broken short). However, the curved sides and flare at the top of the unit will make it difficult to say whether most Palm V/Vx cases will fit the m505 unit. The m505 is also slightly thicker than the m500 and V/Vx units so that can pose another problem with accessories. On closer inspection, I noticed that the m505 has shorter side grooves than the m500 and the V and Vx palms. The V/Vx styli are a bit longer than the groove and for many Palm V/Vx cases don't fit very well if they utilize the groove to stay on the Palm m505. The Palm 500 has a longer groove for styli and cases but the groove is still shorter than the V/Vx side grooves.

That out of the way, we can just about repeat the features you can find on the m500

Rinse, Wash, and Repeat... whoops, that a description of other features of the m500... I mean m505

Although adding a few new tricks over the Palm III series, V series, m100, and m105, the Palm m505 is still at heart an organizer with a very flexible OS in Palm OS 4.0. The m505 and m500 share the share software bundles and inner processing power. The m505 runs with a DragonBall Vz processor running at 33MHz and contains 8 MB of memory and 4 MB of flash memory (which holds the OS). As quasar has pointed out to me (also contained in his review of the m500 and m505), the OS takes up 2.5 MB of flash memory leaving 1.5MB unused. If you access this, the Palm m505 (and m500) contain a total of over 9 MB of usable memory (you never get to use the full 8 MB of regular memory). That's a pretty good deal as far as Palm organizers are concerned.

You also have the addition of the Secure Digital (SD)/MultiMedia Card (MMC) slot to the left of the IR port on the top of the unit. You also have the new Universal Connector which takes the place of the old cradle connector as well. Needless to say, your Palm V/Vx accessories do not fit into this connector.

The power button is in the same location as in the Palm V/Vx. However, the button has a translucent white color since it acts as an LED for some of the new features in Palm OS 4.0. The LED can flash when you've set an alarm. I suppose clever programmers can use the LED in other things like games and stuff. The Palm m505 and m500 can support vibration for alarms as well. The vibration seemed close in strength to a Dual Shock Playstation joypad.

Software wise, you get the standard Clock and NotePad applications with an enhanced DateBook and Address book (mostly to utilize color). The Clock is accessed by pressing the up scroll button (like the m100 and m105 Palms) or tapping the new clock icon on the grafitti area. It's a nice feature to have. You also get licensed versions of Documents to Go v3.0, MGI Photosuite, AvantGo, Pocket Mirror, Palm Reader, Palm AOL, and an advanced calculator (as compared to the older Palm calculator). The Documents to Go (basic Word and Excel editing) and MGI Photosuite (for picture files) do give the Palm m505 some great added value (at least $40 in software savings)

Secure Digital/MultiMedia Card slot

The Secure Digital (SD)/MultiMedia Card (MMC) slot is a major new addition to the Palm m500/m505 series. However, both SD and MMC cards are lacking at this time. Palm is offering a few SD and MMC cards on their site which are little more than programs on an MMC card or 16 MB SD for additional memory or backup card. Supposedly, SD is supposed to have a very fast transfer rate as compared to MMC. However, I'm still learning about SD and the only other company that I'm aware of using SD is Panasonic. Panasonic has a 64 MB SD available and SanDisk makes a 64MB card (Amazon sells 64 MB SD cards for $137! 32 MB SD is $80. 16 MB SD not by Palm is as low as $35. I bought my SD card for $105 for a 64MB version.). Panasonic is utilizing the SD card for their MP3 players (3 products so far) at the moment and plans to have other audio/video devices that utilize the card as well. The MMC cards only come up to 64 MB ($87 at Amazon.com) currently although SanDisk is listing a 128 MB MultiMedia Card on its web site that will be released soon. MMC common use is in MP3 players and a few (and I mean very few) digital video cameras. Popular MP3 players using the MMC card are Nike PSAPlay MP3 players and the Compaq iPAQ MP3 player. Otherwise, at this time, SD and MMC are both only good for increasing the memory size of your Palm m500/m505 unit. I am assuming that this will change quickly over the next year. One thing to note is that Panasonic is strongly backing SD and has planned almost 10 products that utilize SD media over the next 1-2 years.

Now, how good is using the MMC card. You can directly install programs and place files on the card... However, programs like PhotoSuite can read files on the MMC or SD card. Programs with specific databases do not work off the MMC card (TrueTerm language translator does not work). Other programs still require internal memory to write their various small datafiles on. Single file applications have the least problems with the expansion slot and can be run directly off the card (I am unsure whether the program is copied into the internal memory... I put enough files to decrease my internal memory to 30k and I am still running the larger 100k+ files on the MMC card and SD cards. One problem with MMC card is the slow access/transfer rate. The 16 MB SD card had much faster access/transfer rates than the MMC however. I am still waiting for my 64 MB SD card to see how this performs.

Read my review on what you should know about the m500/m505 MMC/SD slot:
http://yusakugo.epinions.com/content_1600168068

Universal Connector = Universal Ripoff

IF you read my Palm m500 review, you already know my feelings toward the new Palm Universal Connector port. If you didn't read my m500 review, I'll repeat those comments here.

This upsets me as a consumer. None of the Palm V or Vx devices are compatible with the m500 and m505. There is no accessory upgrade path. You are forced to buy new equipment for your brand new state of the art Palm unit. That can get very expensive to repurchase equipment I already have. Supposedly the universal connector will last two years. The V series lasted a wee bit longer than that... several years actually.

Conclusions

I am somewhat disappointed with the m505. This is mostly due to the rather weak showing of the color LCD. The final production units were some improvement over the review unit I first played with but the brightness of the LCD still leaves much to be desired. I am hoping that the m505 has some software control that can be hacked into to improve the brightness. The screen is decent but still falls behind the IIIc and the Visor Prism. All of these units couldn't compare to the Sony CLIE-S500 unit that a cousin of mine had bought on a recent trip to Hong Kong.

What is the m505 great for then? The memory expansion! I have 16 and 64 MB MMC cards and a 16 MB SD card, which work with only the problems I listed above. To be able to run around with a 72 MB Palm is very useful to me.

I cannot recommend this unit over the m500 or the Visor Edge because of the shortcomings of the LCD, especially if color is not a priority on the Palm. As with the m500 and Visor Edge, I can't recommend any of these units unless you max out 8 MB of memory and need expansion options. If memory expansion is not a goal and 8 MB are more than enough for you, I would suggest the Palm Vx unit for $299 MSRP ($239 is the lowest I've seen on the web), the Visor Platinum for $299 (there is an additional $50 rebate on the unit now!) or the Visor Deluxe for $199. Also, I would recommend the Palm IIIxe if you can still find it for prices as low as $129-149. All of these units have 8 MB and utilize the stable Palm OS 3.x. Another thing to note is that Sony is releasing a new CLIE... the N710 model. I've seen the Japanese version that was released a month or so ago (S500) and the color screen is the brightest of the Palm units with excellent color reproduction as well (for the Palm units). The N710 will also play back MP3 on top of that. The new Sony unit is definitely one to watch. Another competitor is the HandEra 330. This company was known as TRG Pro, who produced a Palm unit that accepted Compact Flash cards. Many people declared the TRG Pro Palm unit the best produced up to this point in time... and it was hard to argue this fact. The HandEra 330 will has a higher res screen with collapsible Graffiti area. It also has a SD/MMC slot and a Compact Flash slot. You will also note miniture speakers and a port for an AC adapter! You can utilize 4 AAA batteries or the optional Lith-Ion battery pack. The HandEra is definitely another unit to watch out for!

If you must get the latest Palm PDA, I would look at the m500 and Visor Edge first... that or wait for the Sony CLIE-N710 or the nice looking HandEra 330 (company used to be TRGPro).

You can read my Visor Edge review here
http://yusakugo.epinions.com/content_18116349572

You can read my m500 review here
http://yusakugo.epinions.com/content_17605234308

Purchasing over the web, check out my review on ebates.com to get extra discounts on some on-line stores.
http://yusakugo.epinions.com/content_11868081796

I'm going to see if I can get my hands on any of that Panasonic SD equipment to play with. Be nice to know how the SD format performs. I'm also preordering a HandEra 330 unit as well. A good friend plans to get the Sony CLIE-N710 so hopefully I can review that unit soon.

Read my review on the Body Glove Palm V/Vx case and how to attach use it on your Palm m500/m505!
http://yusakugo.epinions.com/content_24678272644

Find out what cases and other accessories can be reused with the Palm m505 from this review:
http://yusakugo.epinions.com/content_1585291396

This is supposedly the screen hack for non-US made m505s, please use link below (since greater than and less than signs can only be used for HTML coding in reviews)...

groups.google.com/
groups?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&ic=1&th=d59534a52aac9bf3,28&seekm=tfb9aupopujb62%40corp.supernews.com#p

Palmstation reports that the hack is a hoax though... I haven't noticed any difference when I tried it. Sigh...

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