A few months ago I was reading a copy of Writer’s Digest when I read a little clip about using a PDA as an alternative to carrying around a notebook. I fell in love with the idea immediately. Imagine a cell phone with all these features?
After begging for my wife’s permission to buy a PDA, I began the job of finding the right unit for my needs. I sat down and wrote down all my possible applications for a PDA. I’ll be the first to say the list was very short.
However, my primary reason for even considering a PDA was to help me keep my ideas together. Most of my best ideas come at night when I’m asleep and turning a light on to jot them down is risking a firm kick in the ribs from my wife. With the right PDA, writing at night can be done totally in the dark.
After a great deal of comparing prices and features, I purchased a Palm Zire 71. I’ve had my Zire 71 for a little over a week now and believe that I have made the right choice.
This little Palm is packed with features. Not only does it have a gorgeous 320x320-color screen and a generous 16-MB of memory; it also features a hidden digital camera.
The built in digital camera is a gadget lover’s dream. With a quick slide of the front panel, the camera is exposed allowing quick discrete photos. For a writer, this is a fantastic tool for capturing an image without being noticed. I have already begun photographing people and buildings to help with some of the descriptions in my stories.
The camera is capable of capturing images up to a resolution of 640x480 pixels.
Battery life on the Zire 71 is exceptional. I have used my unit for up to four days between charging and even then I still had over 50% of my battery remaining. During these four days I took over 100 photographs, played video games for a few hours and performed various other tasks.
If you haven’t used a Palm Pilot before, you will quickly find that the Zire 71 becomes the greatest assistant you could ever have. I have now begun to use my Zire 71 to track my appointments, grocery lists and workout statistics at the gym.
The handwriting recognition took less than ten minutes to become fairly proficient with. I still have difficulties with the letter X, but a quickly accessible visual on-screen keyboard is always available to help me through the rough spots.
For all its great features, the Zire 71 does have its issues. I have already found out first hand how a good thing can go terribly wrong.
For some reason, after being away from my PC for four days, I couldn’t synchronize my Zire 71 anymore. After nearly four hours of researching possible solutions on the Internet, I ended up resolving the problem by removing the drivers for my USB ports from my PC. When my machine rebooted, I was able to restore a connection to my Palm.
At one point I also lost the ability to take pictures with the digital camera. I fiddled with the settings for an hour and still had no idea why the camera was not working. At the end of this hour, my Palm froze in one of the preference screens and rebooted itself. When the screen returned, it asked if I wished to delete everything on the device. I chose no and suddenly everything was working perfectly again.
Overall I think this is a great Palm Pilot and offers some very nice features for the price. If you are technically savvy enough to deal with some of the quirks, this will be a great tool to help with your writing.
Palm offers this unit at $249 but a good bargain hunter can find one much cheaper on eBay.
Added: Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Reviewer: John Simpson
Related Link: Palm