LifeDrive - First Impression - Yawn, Ho-Hum

I attended a PalmOne preview of the new LifeDrive on May 19 at the local Boston Palm User Group. The presentation was conducted by PalmOne at selected cities to showcase the new LifeDrive. I attended the meeting after seeing Star Wars III on the biggest screen of the local AMC theater. My first impression of the LifeDrive is "Yawn, Ho-Hum"! I do not have a need for a 4GB microdrive, and there are no other new features worth my spending $500US! (I did enjoy Star Wars III though.)

Note: My comments in the following paragraphs were written immediately after seeing the Lifedrive at its introduction in May. A friend won the doorprize LifeDrive at the preview meeting. When he received the device in June, he asked me to review the device for the local PDA user group. After putting the LifeDrive through its paces for two weeks in June/July, I have not changed my original opinion outlined in the following paragraphs:

The good news is PalmOne finally has a device with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. Both the T3 and T5 should have had this feature. The screen quality seems to be about the same as the T3 and T5, which in my opinion is slightly lower in quality than the recent Windows Mobile devices.

The buzz on the net is the 4GB built-in Hitachi microdrive. For me, the microdrive is at best a "nice to have" feature. My T3, T5 and PPC's all have 1 GB SD cards and 1 GB is more than enough storage for me on a PDA. If I want to play music for a long duration, I'll use the iPod. Unless my next job involves demonstrating a product or service, I don't have a need for a 4 GB microdrive in my mobile device. I don't have many photos for personal use on my mobile device, and I would not bore my friends with MB's of vacation photos or other personal photos they would probably not have an interest in. Watching any video over 5 minutes in length at 480 x 320 resolution is not a turn-on for me, and the video conversion process from the PC seems to be cumbersome. Maybe, if I had a long commute by bus or train, I would think differently. However, I use the local transit system as my main transportation since I retired, and I have no desire to watch 480 x 320 video while riding the bus or subway.

Another feature is the ability to store your photos directly from a SD card to the LifeDrive's microdrive. That would be ok for a backup, but I certainly would not erase the SD card if I only had one copy, and that copy was on a hard drive. Hard drives fail, and remember Murphy's Law!

There seemed to be a noticeable delay while applications loaded from the hard drive. The only exception to the noticeable delay was if the applications had been recently used. The presenter did not have any details about cache size or use. I know that delay would be unacceptable for me on a regular basis because one of the main things I always liked about the Palm OS was the almost instantaneous program execution.

My biggest concern is has PalmOne solved the third party incompatibility problems I experienced with the T5, which resulted in my T5 becoming basically a paperweight. Unfortunately, the presenter was a marketing person, and not a technical employee. My compatibility question (and a lot of other tech questions) were not answered. PalmOne is again advertising persistent memory as a feature which means there could be a problem with my critical apps working properly. I am not going to spend $500US to find out if my critical apps would work with the LifeDrive.

I had hoped to have more positive words to write about the LifeDrive, but based on my mobile device needs, my initial impression was not very exciting. I have not totally ruled out purchasing a LifeDrive, but I am holding off on any purchase decision. I want to have more experience with application loading times, and most importantly, read vendor web sites and/or other reviews about third party app compatibility. I have learned from my T5 experience and will not make a similar mistake.

Your needs may be different and the LifeDrive may be the perfect mobile device for you. I do advise you to check the vendor websites for your critical apps to ensure the latest versions of your critical apps will work with the LifeDrive.

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