Burney's Legal Tech Reviews – Burney's Gadgets for Legal Pros: Review of PalmOne's Zire 72

Brett Burney is the Legal Technology Support Coordinator at Thompson Hine in Cleveland, Ohio. He regularly reviews products for Law.com’s Automated Lawyer and Law Office Computing Magazine. Feel free to e-mail Brett with your legal technology questions .

PalmOne recently released two new models in their Zire line and since the power of Palm still maintains a slight lead in the PDA world, I thought it would be good to take a look at the new offerings. Of the two new models – the Zire 72 and Zire 31 – I’ve decided to focus on the 72 since it is geared a little more towards the professional world.

One Palm to Rule them All

The Zire line has been enormously successful for palmOne, selling millions of units in record time. The Zire 72 builds on the success of the 71 model. It adds several great functions like a camera and a faster processor but still remains very affordable and is an excellent “starter” PDA.

I Can’t Drive … 55

In my opinion, the biggest improvement with the Zire 72 is speed – the new model boasts a 312 MHz Intel processor which does a fantastic job of handing both regular applications and multi-media software.

The Zire 72 also runs Palm OS 5.2.8 which runs very well on the beefed-up processor.

You get 32 Megabytes (MB) of RAM in the Zire 72 but only 24 MB of that is available for you to fill up since the rest is used by the operating system.

You’ll definitely need more storage capacity at some time in your PDA life so I would highly recommend purchasing an SD memory card as soon as possible. The Zire 72’s SD slot can accept regular SD memory cards, MMC memory cards, and even the SDIO multi-function cards when necessary.

What a Pretty Palm

The only thing about using the Zire 72 a “professional tool” is that it may look a little “unconventional” at first glance. I personally think the unit looks slick and polished, but I can see where a seasoned professional may not want to carry a metallic blue device into a boardroom.

Holding the Zire 72 may change your mind, however. The plastic casing feels slightly rubbery which means that it has a great grip to it.

The back of the device is silver. The back also houses the camera lens, which is encased in an interesting piece of grill. The speaker and microphone also live inside the grill.

Punching a Palm

The Zire 72 sports a 5-way navigational pad at the bottom of the device which I found very helpful. Instead of scrolling and selecting items with my stylus all the time, the navigational pad allowed me to do the same thing. I like using both hands to get to where I’m going.

Buttons for the Calendar, Contacts, Camera, and Music Player are on both sides of the navigational pad. You can customize all of these as you please.

You’ll find a few other shortcut buttons on the Graffiti 2 area of the unit.

The Future is Bright

I was remarkably impressed with the Zire 72’s screen the first moment I turned it on. The colors were sharp and bright. The resolution was crisp and clear.

It’s a good thing that palmOne included a 320×320 screen on the Zire 72, because that’s what you need for good looking pictures and videos.

While the camera is certainly a long way in quality from the digital cameras of today, the 1.2 megapixel, 2x digital zoom lens is excellent for a PDA.

And not only can you take pictures with the camera, you can record short videos as well. And while you won’t film your daughter’s wedding with it or anything, it’s perfect to catch those memorable moments that always happen on the side.

If you plan on using the Zire 72 to take pictures and video, you definitely need a memory card to store everything, including music. These will run you $30 to $100 depending on how big of a card you get. Bigger is better in this area so you won’t run out of space anytime soon.

The Zire 72 comes with the RealOne Player which I think does an amazing and simple job of playing your MP3 tracks. If you have an SD memory card that’s big enough to hold several songs, you can forfeit a separate MP3 player altogether. The sound output on the Zire 72 is incredible – the speaker sounds great.

The Helpful Palm

The Zire 72 is a helpful assistant. It now sports a voice recorder button on it’s left side that allows you to record quick notes to yourself which you can access later. One thing I really like is that you can set an alarm and have your voice memo auto-play when it goes off. You can have the Zire 72 remind you about something in your own voice instead of simply beeping or vibrating.

The old names of DateBook, Address, and To Do List have now been renamed Calendar, Contacts, and Tasks respectively. This sounds a lot like Microsoft Outlook. And that’s a good thing since the Zire 72 interacts even better with Outlook than it did before.

A new view that I really like in the Calendar is the “Agenda” view. You can see your upcoming appointments and tasks at a glance, and even customize the picture that appears as the background.

You can now beam multiple appointments and categories which can save a lot of laborious tapping.

Software To Go

In addition to the great improvements in the calendar and contact functions, palmOne updated their Web browser. The new Web Pro application offers three different views to navigate Web pages.

Even better, palmOne included Documents To Go 6.0 Standard Edition from Dataviz with the Zire 72. Documents To Go is a leading software suite that allows you to work with Microsoft Word and Excel documents. Kudos to palmOne for including this in the package.

Last, but not least, is the new Bluetooth connection utility. The Zire 72 has Bluetooth built-in which means it can link up with your Bluetooth enabled phone to surf or grab e-mail. The Zire 72 can also Hotsync with your Bluetooth-ready PC or print to a Bluetooth printer. The provided utility makes it a snap to set up a connection.


The only real bummer I see with the Zire 72 is that it doesn’t have a Palm universal connector. I can see why palmOne wanted to cut a few corners and leave it off, but I just keep thinking about all the Palm users that have purchased universal connector accessories over the years – they’re out of luck hooking them up to the Zire 72.

On the other hand, the Zire 72 does sport an easy-to-use USB adapter that simply plugs into the bottom of the device. You don’t get a cradle, just a cord.

The Zire 72 is a wonderful PDA for a professional that has never had a PDA before but wants to jump into the digital waters. If you’re a more advanced user, you might want to lean toward the Tungsten line or a Treo. But the Zire 72 provides all the seriousness and fun that someone would need when they’re just getting into the world of PDAs.

P.S. on Palms…

And if you are in that group that is seriously thinking about getting the Zire 72 for your first PDA, I’d like to recommend a few websites and places to visit to get more info on what you can use on your new Palm.

First, this is a great read on using your Palm in a legal practice – http://www.palmsource.com/interests/legal.

Next, you can view palmOne’s own list of legal-related software and applications at http://tinyurl.com/33bpp.

Another great page for software is http://www.nyls.edu/pages/420.asp.

Lastly, always check Jeff Beard’s blog, LawTechGuru.com. Jeff is one of the only gentlemen that I know has used a Palm as his “primary computer” and you can usually find lots of great and interesting information on his blog about using Palms in the legal world. Plus, he’s always happy to talk about what he uses on his Palm.

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