Reviewing the Palm Lifedrive

by Volker Weber

Since I am currently not really trusting my Treo 650 I have played a bit more with the Lifedrive. My experience so far is quite a mixed bag.

It starts with the design and look and feel of the device. I like the looks but it is quite large and heavy. Definitely not for the shirt pocket. In this respect it falls into the Newton trap. A wee bit too large to have it with you all the time. This is now the fate of many PDAs though. People have a phone that can sync with the desktop and thus have all their phone numbers in their pockets already. There is not so many people who also use the calendar, and if they do they will most likely do the calendar in Outlook and also sync that with the phone.

So the Livedrive has to be more than the ordinary PDA. And indeed it is. You get a whole lot of storage and at first I thought, I would never fill it up. I am supposed to have all my personal files on it, but that does not really work with a Mac. Most of the Lifedrive software only runs on a PC. I can use the plain old Hotsync and I can put the device into drive mode and hook it up to the USB port as an expensive external drive. Actually the LiveDrive sucks as an external drive. You could fit a 2.5" drive into the same size, spare the delicate screen, get 80 instead of 4 gig and still save 70%. Plus, the LiveDrive needs this superspecial Palm cable. Leave it behind and you are stuck.

Now look at this:


What happened? TomTom happened. You can just copy your maps to the drive without fiddling with SD cards. And you don't have to juggle them. Just drop them on.

Now we found something the LiveDrive can do and the ordinary PDA can't. Sort of. Because you can get a Tungsten T3 off eBay and then drop a 2 gig SD card in and you come pretty close. But there is another thing that only the LifeDrive has: WLAN. This is actually my quickest way to check up on email. Press the "favorite program" button in the lower right hand corner and launch Versamail. Hit "Get" and it connects to my WLAN and downloads all new mail. In a matter of seconds. Since the LiveDrive is currently the only Palm with built-in Wifi, you can only substitute with an external SD card on the Tungsten, which means you have to take out the 2 gig SD card I just mentioned. Or you could use a PocketPC. ;-)

Battery life is very good. I have not timed it, but I can use it a few days without worrying. And then it recharges really quickly. The only downsides so far are: There is no phone in the LiveDrive, it is quite big, and ... it is dog slow. Everything you do spins up the harddrive and then you need to wait for the data to be read into main memory. Which slows things down everywhere. Switching programs, entering addresses into TomTom, ... everything.

As I said, a very mixed bag.


What would you recommend if asked about a WLAN-enabled PDA? A Palm with expansion card or a PocketPC?

Sascha Carlin, 2005-08-08

I would always chose the built-in WLAn over an expansion card, no matter whether is a Palm or a PocketPC. I have recommended a PocketPC over a Palm+Wifi-card before and I think Michael is quite happy with the Dell Axim.

At that time there was no Palm PDA with Wifi besides the outdated Tungsten C. I find it very strange that Palm released the T5 without WLAN. The Lifedrive is basically a T5 plus WLAn and than bogged down by the slow harddrive. How slow? A T3 reboots in 8 seconds (I have no T5, so I cannot comment on that). The Livedrive takes 88 seconds (1:28 min) to reboot. That is longer than a fresh install of Windows XP.

You can add Wifi to the T5, but then you have a card sticking out of the top end. If you want built-in Wifi, you want a PocketPC. Or maybe a Nokia 9500.

Volker Weber, 2005-08-08

>Since I am currently not really trusting my Treo 650

Could you please provide more details on that topic.


Olaf Boerner, 2005-08-08

Could you please read the site? ;-)

Volker Weber, 2005-08-08

Thank you Volker for your comment. Kind of anticipated your answer. Is there any good enough reason for Palm not to integrate WiFi? After strolling by the displays of MM and PM I was a bit disappointed and somehow could not believe there was no Palm with WiFi, let alone the Livedrive. BTW, as far as I can remeber there was a Tungsten W or so which had WiFi built in, but it vanished from Palms site. I think I will stick to my m525 for now. My only incentive to buy a new Palm would have been WiFi.

Smart Phones really don't thrill me. Always use the tool that does the job best. A smart phone is too big to be a neat phone and therefore doesn't qualify.

Sascha Carlin, 2005-08-08

@Sascha: I had the same thoughts as you some months ago when I was looking for a new PDA. Having had Palms some for years I looked for a new Palm with WiFi first ... and did not find one.

A Smartphone was also no alternative and after some discussions with vowe I looked at the Dell Axim X30 and finally got it some days later. Since then I am very satisfied with the device. The built-in WiFi and Bluetooth works very good and I did find a PocketPC replacement for all my loved Palm tools.

The only disadavantages so far:

WiFi is VERY power consuming and the device needs to be rebooted as often as my old Win95 PC in the past (that is something I was not used to from my Palm...)

Michael Urspringer, 2005-08-08

@Michael: You describe very exactly why I did not go for a PocketPC so far. In late 2004 I could test one for a few days (also a Dell, but don't nail me down to tell you the model). It was much more consuming in terms of power and rebooted two to three times a day.

Of course, when having things like WLAN or BT PDAs' power supply won't last as long, and I accept that. But having to restart it a few times a day is not OK.

Be it so or so, right now I have to worry much more about getting a new bed than buying any gadets ;)

Sascha Carlin, 2005-08-09

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