A New Breed of PDA

PalmOne's new LifeDrive could be just the ticket if you're tired of carrying a laptop on the road. We put it to the test.
If you need to take your files on the road or need to transfer them to other computers quickly and easily, then the LifeDrive, a new type of PDA from PalmOne, could be exactly what you need. In fact, if you travel with a laptop more for its storage capacity rather than its computing capability, you may be able to replace it with a LifeDrive.

The device includes a 4GB hard drive, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless networking and, at 4.76x2.87x 0.74 inches and just 6.8 ounces, LifeDrive is a lot easier to carry than a laptop. It fits easily in a jacket pocket or purse.

It also does most of the light computing tasks you're probably using your laptop for now when traveling. LifeDrive lets you store and organize contacts, track expenses, send and receive e-mail and instant messages, browse the Web (over a Wi-Fi connection), make handwritten or spoken notes and keep yourself entertained with videos and music.

If you add a wireless keyboard -- PalmOne has one, but others also work with it -- you can even type large volumes of text in the DocumentsToGo version of Microsoft Word.

This is just part of what you can do with the pre-loaded applications. You'll find that most of the manyPalmOne applications you can download from sites such as Handango also work on the LifeDrive.

The $500 price tag may seem a bit high. Music players with 4GB hard drives cost far less, but then LifeDrive does a lot more than play MP3 tunes. Its one big drawback as a PDA: no phone capability.

Some people will reject LifeDrive because it has no telephony capability, but while I admire smartphones that work on cellular networks and also include many of the applications shipped with LifeDrive, I'm not sure it's essential to have one device that does everything.

If you carried a LifeDrive plus a tiny cell phone, they would take up little more pocket space than a single PDA-style smartphone -- and probably offer more flexibility. If the phone had Bluetooth capability, you could even dial phone numbers on it from the LifeDrive Contacts list.

A Full LoadM/b>

PalmOne claims that you can use the LifeDrive to carry all your files with you all the time, including music, photos and video. This may seem like an overstatement. When your desktop PC has a 250GB hard drive, 4GB doesn't sound like that much. But LifeDrive holds a surprising amount.

According to the company, LifeDrive can hold 300 songs, two hours of video, 1,000 photos ''and more''. We were skeptical until we started doing the math.

Three hundred three-minute MP3 songs each ripped at 128 kilobits per second (Kbps) takes up 900MB. A thousand photos taken on a three-megapixel camera use up another gigabyte of storage. A thousand Word documents at an average of 50KB each will take up a mere 50MB. Throw in 10 PowerPoint presentations at 5MB each, and you're up to 2GB. Can you fit two hours of video into the remaining 2GB? You probably can, though it wouldn't be very good quality.

The LifeDrive's expansion card slot takes both SD (Secure Digital) and MultiMedia Card (MMC) format memory cards for even more storage capacity. SD cards come in sizes up to 1GB and MMC in sizes up to 128MB.

This article was first published on SmallBusinessComputing.com. To read the full article, click here.






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