capsule review

PalmModem Connectivity Kit

If you're like most Palm power users, you've put most of your life in your Palm device. In fact, there are times when you travel with your PowerBook just so you can synchronize data with your Palm. But now there's a device that weighs less than three ounces that will let you leave that six-pound behemoth back at the office: the $99 PalmModem.

About two inches tall and weighing under three ounces, the PalmModem is only slightly wider and thicker than a Palm device. It snaps onto any model of the original Palm, Palm III, or Palm VI. (The Palm V Modem is also available for $169.) The modem is powered by two pre-installed AAA batteries, which Palm claims will last for over five hours, or more than 100 HotSync operations. Although we would prefer that the PalmModem get its power from the Palm itself, the batteries lasted for several months of regular use, so changing them was only a minor inconvenience.

Attaching the PalmModem to any Palm model is easy. It clips firmly to the bottom of any original Palm, Palm III, or Palm VII. To release the clips, you can simply hold down the buttons on either side of the modem. One convenient feature is that you can leave the modem attached without draining its batteries, since the modem only uses power while a connection is made. When the batteries are nearly exhausted, the PalmModem beeps every minute to warn you to finish your current connection and change batteries; after that, you have several minutes to finish your current HotSync operation.

Modem synchronization takes only a few simple steps. The PalmModem does not require any special software, and there are no confusing switches or lights.

You might be tempted to use the PalmModem with third-party e-mail clients and Web browsers. Although the combination does work, you'll be disappointed with the current limitations of Internet connectivity on the Palm platform. Web browsers are rudimentary at best, and longer e-mail messages will clog the PalmModem's 14.4Kbps connection. (A 33.6Kbps version has just been released.) We had good results using AvantGo for Palm-specific Web content because AvantGo's proxy servers transmit virtually graphics-free content. If you want to use your Palm device just to get basic information like stock quotes, news, and movie listings, AvantGo and the PalmModem are a terrific combination.

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Simple, small, and lightweight
    • Batteries last several months

    Cons

    • Requires AAA batteries
    • Only 14.4Kbps
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