The Zire 71 isn't a business tool. It's not even a straight forward personal organiser. Palm is targeting the ears of Sony's CLIÉ range, the new PDA boasts not only a headphone jack for MP3 player use, but also a 640 x 480 camera.
The camera is ingeniously hidden behind the metal backplate. To activate, you simply slide down the backplate to reveal the lens, the screen becoming a viewfinder. You can save photos to the memory – 12.7MB before you start loading programs – or to an SD/MMC card that slips into the top-mounted slot.
Upon synchronising with your PC, the photos can automatically be placed in a folder on the hard disk. Don't expect phenomenal results, though. Colours are washed out and, not surprisingly, the lack of flash is limiting. Still, the results are fine for emailing and now, of course, you'll always have a camera with you.
The inevitable drawback is size, the Zire 71 weighs 148g and is 16.5mm deep – gone are the days of the sleek Vx. To protect the screen, you'll need to use the case, adding a further 10mm to the bulk and bringing the weight to 191g.
Mind you, the screen is worth protecting. Its 320 x 320 pixels are brightly lit and text is easy to read. With a 16-bit specification, we hoped colours would look natural, but it struggles with skin tones. This was again true when playing back video, but at least there were no dropped frames.
There are also some other imperfections. The stylus feels cheap and doesn't fit the reset button. Also, there's no light to indicate whether it's charging or not, sometimes losing connection with the docking cradle so you think it's charging when it isn't. Finally, the five-way navigator is a little fiddly.
But, in Palm's defence, it does includes a docking station, and let's not forget the aggressive price – Sony take note. With solid battery life in our tests, lasting for almost four hours over several days, the Zire 71 is one extremely attractive PDA.