Business and fun rolled into one

Now you can have your business functions and multimedia, too. PalmOne Inc.'s Zire line of handhelds was first developed with budget-conscious customers in mind. The features on the first models were basic, the displays monochrome, and the prices low.

But recently, company officials gave the Zires a boost with the introduction of the Zire 72 and 31. Both have color displays and multimedia features, but their prices are still affordable at $299 and $149 respectively.

Zire 72

You might not get much work done with the Zire 72 on your desk. You'll be too busy taking photos, making videos and listening to songs. At least we were when we tested the product, nearly forgetting that the device is also well-suited for business use.

This handheld is the first model from palmOne to feature video capture, although you'll need to purchase a separate memory expansion card to use this feature. Maximum video resolution is 320 x 240, and we were impressed with the clarity of the images, especially when viewed on the Zire 72's high-resolution 320 x 320 display.

The video interface is intuitive and easy to use, especially with the camera/

video shortcut button that takes you directly to these functions with one touch.

We were impressed with the amount of options offered for both still picture and video capture. There are settings for different types and levels of lighting and picture effects such as black-and-white or sepia.

The 1.2 megapixel camera offers a maximum resolution of 1,280 x 960, but you can select a lower resolution if needed.

The Zire 72 also lets you get your groove on with a built-in MP3 player. You can use headphones or play the music through the unit's speaker. But the audio doesn't end there: You can also record voice memos with the touch of a button on the side of the handheld.

When you need to get down to business, you can create and edit Microsoft Corp. Word and Excel-compatible files, in addition to viewing Adobe Systems Inc. Acrobat compatible files. You can also synchronize with Outlook for e-mail, calendar and contact information.

If you're tired of cables, consider using the device's Bluetooth wireless capability. If you have a Bluetooth-

enabled cell phone and an Internet service provider, you can use the phone as a modem to send and receive

e-mail, browse the Web and exchange Short Message Service/Multimedia Message Service messages.

For additional memory or applications, an expansion slot at the top of the handheld accepts MultiMedia Card, Secure Digital and Secure Digital I/O expansion cards.

Both the Zire 72 and Zire 31 connect to a desktop computer via a USB cable instead of a cradle.

Zire 31

The Zire 31 is a scaled-down cousin of the Zire 72 with a scaled-down price to match. It's designed for people who want to use it primarily for personal information management but also like a color screen and the ability to view photos and play music.

Affordable color does come with a price. The 160 x 160 resolution results in noticeable vertical lines, especially in lighter colors. Photos end up looking grainy, and when we tried to read an online book, the text was hard on our eyes after a few minutes.


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