Seems the mantra of the ‘cheap and low tech' Zire range, from PalmOne, is a refrain no longer being sung. The latest Zire, the 72, has features to challenge the Tungsten range, and is certainly well worth looking at more closely before decisions are made about which PalmOne to buy.

Whether it's the built in camera, or speaker or expansion slot or headphones jack there are plenty of reasons to salivate before even turning the thing on. The body follows suit with the earlier Zire's lines and shapes, although the plastic has given way to a more robust metal chassis. The navigation quick keys on the front have been remodelled to resemble the Tungsten E, and fit better with the sleeker profile. The addition of a new key on the top left of the body offers even easier one-handed operation than before and comes pre-set to activate the voice recorder function.

Turn the 72 on and you are confronted with a 16-bit 320x320 TFT screen capable of 65,000 colours. Under the hood you have a 312MHz Intel PXA270 processor running the latest version of the Palm OS, 5.2.8. Battery life seems inexhaustible or the model I had to review had a broken indicator, but there was defiantly a twang of the Duracell bunny to this baby.

Much like the latest in the Clie range, from Sony, this device seems predisposed to the ‘snap-share and listen' sector of society. The reverse of the body houses a 1.2 Megapixel camera surrounded by a respectably loud micro-speaker for playback of MP3's and audio clips. The camera certainly offers a good breadth of settings but the lens is a little too flush with the body and thus prone to collecting dirt and the low light image pick-up is dreadful. In a direct competition with the built in camera on Sharps new GX30, the Zire was left at the starting line. That said, in the right conditions the camera functions acceptably, and the Media viewer software makes seeing and sharing those images a doddle.

The RealOne MP3 functions, fair much better. Transferring onto the device has been greatly eased by the accompanying desktop software that allows ‘drag n' drop' of compatible files, even allowing you to chose the destination on the device to store them to. Internal memory is a 24Mb but the multi-card slot on the top, accepting Secure Digital, MMC and SDIO, will allow you to super-size the memory and store a vast number of songs and images.

The Bluetooth connectivity seems primarily designed for devices to enable wireless connection to the web. The 3 core presets being mobiles, LAN's and PC's. In the case of configuration to a mobile, the set-up wizard seemed to lack real depth to the mobile models it recognised, and while I appreciate you cannot cater for all the Bluetooth phones on the market the selection was a little poor. In theory an expanded list can be downloaded from the PalmOne website, but this still failed to provide software for the Nokia 6600 I happened to be using. If, or once, you get the 72 connected, you can use it to dial numbers, send SMS, MMS and e-mail, and browse the web using the Web Pro 3.5.

Other features of note, are the free copy of Last Of the Mohicans that arrives to be perused at your leisure via the surprisingly useable PalmReader software. So is the fact that you are supplied with software for both Windows and Mac OS, showing that true deZire conquers all boundaries.

Verdict

Overall, it's a lovely handheld machine. The Palm Zire 72's sleek, light, action packed and functional. It's a shame that there is no desktop cradle to sit it up on to be admired by the maddened crowds as you feel the mini-USB socket for direct-sync is a little demeaning. Nevertheless a lovely way to arrange your work, rest and play.