The lower-end models emphasized price — Palm's original Zire model was the first PDA under $100 from a major manufacturer — and the higher-end models emphasized multimedia capacity, including features like cameras and audio playback functions suitable for listening to MP3s.
The Palm Zire and Palm Zire 21 were inexpensive and are differentiated from the rest of Palm's line by having monochrome screens without backlighting, having only two quickbuttons instead of four, and a traditional up/down navigation button instead of a 5-Way Navigator, though both of these entry-level models are lightweight (3.8oz or 108g), sporting a white front with a matte gray plastic back.
The Zire, released in the fourth quarter of 2002 (also known as the m150), is the handheld responsible for starting the value-conscious handheld craze. It sported only 2MB On-Handheld RAM, a 16MHz Motorola DragonBall EZ processor, and Palm OS 4.1.x. The Zire was superseded by the Zire 21 at the release of the "First Breed of PIM Plus Handhelds" on fourth quarter 2003.
The Zire 21, released at the same time as the Tungsten T3 and Tungsten E, sported an improved PIM suite (known as the Palm PIM Plus), a 126MHz TI OMAP311 ARM-Compliant Processor, 8MB On-Handheld RAM, and Palm OS 5.2.1.
Neither the Zire nor the Zire 21 had SD/SDIO/MMC expansion, which was vehemently shunned by venerable handheld aficionados. As of August 2005, both of these handhelds had been discontinued, making the Palm Zire 31 the entry-level Palm-branded PDA citing a strong demand for color.
The Zire 21 was capable of displaying PDF files using the free Adobe Reader for Palm OS version 3. Like most palm handhelds, text from the PDF file could be copied and pasted into other applications such as Memo Pad, greatly enhancing the utility of this cheap device. It was capable of, in effect, acting as a portable word processor, albeit a very basic one.
The Palm Zire 31 was a budget multimedia-oriented device. While the display was still 160×160, it was now color; it had twice the RAM of the Zire 21 (16 MiB, 13.8 MiB usable), a 200MHz PXA255 processor, SD/SDIO/MMC expansion slot, Palm OS 5.2.8, 3.5mm stereo headphones jack and a 5-way navigator pad, though the Zire 31 still only had 2 quickbuttons, as opposed to the standard 4 on the mid-range Zire 71/72 models. The ROM included RealOne Player giving the device some digital audio player capabilities and a photo album application. It didn't have a direct successor—the newer Palm Z22 was more akin to the Zire 21, albeit having the same 160×160 pixel CSTN 4096-color display as the Zire 31. While Zire 31 had the ability to play video (video player not included), the experience was limited by the maximum SD/MMC card size limit (1GiB), the poor screen resolution, color depth and passive matrix display technology.
The Z22 was a successor of Zire 21, but without the "Zire" moniker. Released October 12, 2005, it was available for $149.95 USD as of July 2010. It had a CSTN 4096 color 160×160 display, but featured 32MB NVRAM (20MB available to user) using NVFS, a Samsung 200MHz processor, and Palm OS Garnet 5.4 operation system. Its weight was 3.4 oz (96g). Included in the box were cables for syncing with a computer via USB, and for charging from a wall outlet, Palm Desktop software for Mac and Windows, and a screen protector to apply if desired.
The Palm Zire 71 was PalmOne's first attempt at a PDA with a built-in digital camera. It was introduced on April 23, 2003. At the time of its release, the Zire 71 was the highest-end model of the Zire brand, sporting a 144MHz TI OMAP310 Processor, 16MB On-Handheld Memory (13MB usable), 320×320 TFT 16-Bit Color Screen, Palm OS 5.2.1, and a VGA-Quality Camera (300K Pixel with 640×480 support). It also featured a small joystick for quick navigation. Audio playback capability was possible with the inclusion of a SD card slot, and a Palm version of RealPlayer was included. To counter the slow file transfer rate for uploading songs to the device, Palm offered an MP3 playback kit including a memory card writer. Its introduction price was $299, but later was reduced to $249 shortly before it was replaced by the Zire 72. The 71 still had advantages over the 72, as the camera was constantly protected by a shell on the 71, and it had a PalmOne "Universal Connector".
The Zire 71 did not ship with any wireless capabilities other than the infrared port. Wi-fi capability could be added to the Zire 71 via the SD slot. Only one Wi-Fi/SD card, SanDisk model SDWSDB-000-A10M, was reported to work with Zire 71. Wireless capabilities could also be added through the use of a folding portfolio, such as the Enfora Wireless LAN Portfolio.
Certain users found issues with the sensitivity of the device's joystick, which on certain devices was prone to powering up the PDA inside pockets, bags, and other containers, thus draining the batteries. The recommended utilities for the Palm Zire 71 (and all other Palm-branded PDA users as well) addressing the in-pocket power-up problem are
Alternatively, one could simply lessen the frequency of this occurring by inserting the PDA into its case top first (so that the joystick is at the wider end of the pocket). Additionally, after many cycles of opening and closing the camera, the small cable that connected the halves of the device could fracture, leading to a loss of hotsync ability, and eventually being rendered unable to charge the device.
The Palm Zire 72 was an upgraded version of Palm Zire 71. New features included Bluetooth, voice recording, and video capture with sound. The joystick was removed and replaced with a recessed pad similar to that of the Tungsten models, and the camera was upgraded from 0.3 to 1.2 megapixel. The Zire 72 had 32MB on-handheld RAM (25MB usable) instead of 16MB, a 312MHz Intel PXA270 Processor instead of a TI OMAP Processor, and weighed 4.8oz as opposed to 5.3oz for the Zire 71. This model featured the newer PIM apps, like the E, T3, and Z22 Models. The Zire 72 was available in two models. The standard Zire 72 had a bright blue painted body with silver back. The Zire 72 Special Edition was an all-silver model.
The Zire 72, while it had more features than the Zire 71, was hit with a lot of criticism and friction over time. Some users reported problems with the camera: the camera lens was not covered, the camera didn't work in low-light conditions, and broken pixels were common. (Third-party cases included a lens cover.) The screen quality, while good, was not as brilliant as the Palm Zire 71. Many users complained of the blue paint chipping and peeling after moderate use.
|Name||Zire||Zire 21||Z22||Zire 31||Zire 71||Zire 72|
|Weight||3.8 oz (109 g)||3.4 oz (96 g)||4.1 oz (116 g)||5.3 oz (150 g)||4.8 oz (136 g)|
|RAM size: total/available/Non-volatile||2/1.8 Mb/No||8/7 Mb/No||32/24.6 Mb/Yes||16/13.8 Mb/No||16/13 Mb/No||32/25 Mb/No|
|Display||LCD, b/w, 16 gray levels||STN passive matrix, color, 12 bit||TFT active matrix, color, 16 bit|
|Processor||Motorola DragonBall EZ||TI OMAP311||Samsung||Intel Xscale PXA255 (ARM v.5TE)||TI OMAP311||Intel PXA270|
|Processor frequency||16 MHz||126 MHz||200 MHz||144 MHz||320 MHz|
|Palm OS version||4.1||5.2.1||Garnet 5.4||5.2.8||5.2.1||5.2.8|
|Audio output||None||Speaker||Headset Jack + Speaker|
|Multimedia capabilities||No||MP3 player||MP3 player, video player|
|Additional features and devices||No||Camera (640*480, 0.3 Megapixel, covered, photo), 5-way joystick||Camera (1280*960, 1.2 Megapixel, uncovered, photo and video), microphone and voice recording capability, Bluetooth|
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