Editor's Corner: PalmOne LifeDrive Review

If you're a Palm fan, you probably know all the specs by now: a 4GB Hitachi Microdrive, Bluetooth and, finally, built-in WiFi. PalmOne was kind enough to lend me a LifeDrive to review and I can now vouch that all the expected features work pretty much as advertised. I was able to download my email at a cafe and open an attached Word document and copy photos from my digital camera to the LifeDrive's hard drive. I was actually quite impressed with the simple and intuitive picture manager included on the device.

If you're using a Palm device today, then the advantages of a 4GB hard drive are obvious: finally you can keep all your eBooks on one device (and pictures, Word documents, etc.). And the LifeDrive is a perfectly serviceable MP3 and video player as well (whoever had the device before me was kind enough to leave a copy of The Lion King on it). Of course, if you're a typical technophile, 4GB is not nearly enough for your MP3s, let alone your videos. Waiting for the hard drive to spin up also caused a slight periodic lag while playing games or navigating through the LifeDrive's files. The constant use of hard drive also results in less-than-stellar battery life. Another issue is that the LifeDrive is a bit hefty. At 6.8 oz and 3/4" thick, it's no RAZR.

Some Palm fans have complained that the LifeDrive tries to do too much. For example, the iPod is a better MP3 player and many handhelds support WiFi. Others think it doesn't go far enough and think the LifeDrive might as well be a cell phone, too. Still, the LifeDrive is a pretty cool device that does what it does pretty well. I think the biggest obstacle to its success is the price: $499 is a bit steep for an organizer, even if it does play The Lion King. - Eli

P.S. Don't take my word for it: here are LifeDrive reviews in PC Magazine, BusinessWeek, and The New York Times.