Hardware

Palm m130: Give your users a great color PDA that won't break the bank

Recommend Palm's new m130 to your users who need an affordably priced color PDA with great features. Its 160x160-pixel backlit display, rechargeable lithium ion batteries, and easy expandability make this PDA well worth the price.


By Colin Duwe

(03/04/02)

The m130 delivers all the features that you want in a Palm PDA—including a color screen—for a price that doesn't break the bank. The screen is a tad small, but if you can forgive that shortcoming and you have good eyesight, this model looks pretty attractive. Find out why CNET rated the Palm m130 seven out of 10, and then check out the latest prices at CNET Shopper.com.

Cool colors
The m130's standout feature is its color, transflective STN screen (see Figure A), but it's very small—just two inches across. The 160x160-pixel display has a backlight with two brightness settings for indoor use. It also reflects ambient light so that you can read it outdoors, although it's not as easy to read in bright sunlight as the reflective TFT screen on Sony's CLIE PEG-N610CV. Sony's PDA also has a larger, higher-resolution display, so fonts and icons are smoother and more legible. But we'll forgive those shortcomings because at $279, the m130 is significantly less expensive than the Sony.

Figure A
The bottom line: The m130 is a really good color PDA for the price.


In most other ways, the m130 is identical to the monochrome m125. They both come with a two-toned faceplate and a rubberized screen cover with a little window. Inside, there's a 33-MHz DragonBall VZ processor, Palm OS 4.1, and 8 MB of RAM for storing contacts, a calendar, other information, and extra applications. But unlike other m100-series devices, the m130 has a rechargeable lithium ion battery, which Palm says can power the PDA for about a week between charges (you just drop it into the included USB HotSync cradle to juice it up). However, that estimate seems a bit optimistic since we drained the battery in four days of normal use (40 minutes per day) in our tests.

As far as expandability goes, like the m125, the m130 gives you a card slot for adding more RAM (it accepts both MultiMedia Memory and Secure Digital cards) or the recently announced Bluetooth SD card. The m130 will work with all accessories—such as keyboards and digital cameras—made for Palm m500-series models because it's equipped with the same universal connector.

Pleasing performance
We were pleasantly surprised by this little PDA's performance. We worried that the passive-matrix screen might limit its game-playing ability compared to models with active-matrix screens. But we couldn't see much difference between the m130 and a Sony CLIE PEG-N610CV on the first-person shooter game Serious Sam. And since it has the same processor as all other current Palm OS devices, you won't be able to notice a difference in its number-crunching abilities. If you considered the m125 but worried that you couldn't read the small screen, the m130 is a better choice because its display provides better contrast, making it easier on the eyes.

You'll find all the standard Palm applications, such as Date Book, Address Book, and Note Pad, installed on the m130. And it comes with Palm Desktop software for both the PC and the Mac. To sweeten the deal, Palm has thrown in Documents To Go 4.0, which lets you work with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other documents on your Palm. To show off the color screen, you get MGI's PhotoSuite Mobile Edition, which can display JPEGs and small, silent video clips. There's also software to help you connect your Palm to the Internet via your cell phone and Palm's MultiMail SE e-mail application.

Palm provides the standard one-year warranty. If you run into trouble, the company's Web site has lots of support documentation and an online chat feature. There's also e-mail and telephone support, although the phone call is on your dime.

The m130 fills an important gap in Palm's product line, providing a reasonably priced handheld with a color screen. We do wish that the screen were larger, but at $279, Palm seems to have hit upon just the right price to make this model especially appealing to students and more budget-minded consumers looking for an easy-to-use color PDA. Click here to find the best price on a Palm m130 at CNET Shopper.com.

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