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Palm m130

Color screen, rechargeable battery round out m100 series

by Shawn Barnett

March 4, 12:01 am

Color comes to Palm's entry-level handheld line with the m130, replacing the aging Palm IIIc. Sharing most features with the m125, the new device adds rechargeability as well as its nice color screen. Because it employs an STN display, the m125 is affordable color that also works well indoors or out.

Dimensionally it is identical to the m125, and maintains compatibility with the m100 line's changeable faceplates, as well as with Universal connector sleds and SD peripherals and memory cards. The unit comes with a shiny new silver and blue metallic faceplate that is handsome enough that most will not likely replace it. The rubbery flip lid is more durable, though too much flexing near the lid's window is liable to pop the less-flexible plastic window out of the frame. Many won't keep the lid for long anyway.

As with other m100 devices, with the lid closed you can press the up arrow for a quick view of the date and time through this little window. For once users won't have to squint to see it in shade, since the relatively bright backlit screen glows nicely through the window.


As I mentioned the screen is Trans-reflective STN, which stands for SuperTwist Nematic, meaning that it's an old technology screen that is not normally as bright or vibrant as the standard backlit TFT we see on notebooks. As we know, however, TFT doesn't work at all outdoors, and reflective TFT, as seen in the m515 and Compaq iPAQ isn't as vibrant as standard TFT, so it turns out that there's a market for STN again after all these years. It has good color, produces a reasonably bright image, works outdoors in direct sunlight (not well, but data is indeed retrievable with relative ease), and it doesn't cost as much as reflective TFT.

The only drawback to STN is refresh speed. Action games like Zap!2000 are difficult to play, since fast moving objects like bullets and lasers are harder to see. Anything that moves quickly is ghosted onscreen, so ironically, the first color device targeted at young people won't be the platform of choice for handheld gaming.

Games like Bejeweled are excellent on the m130 though. The vivid colors make pattern recognition even easier than playing on the m515 with its nice reflective TFT. I can tell, because all my highest scores are on the m130. (Bejeweled scores on the m515 are lower, then the lowest scores are on the i705 with its monochrome screen--turns out color does matter for some things.)

The m130 displays an impressive 65K colors, just like it's big brother m515. It comes with a nice complement of software, including Documents to Go, MGI PhotoSuite Mobile Edition, Palm Reader, MultiMail SE, and AvantGo, among others. It also runs Palm OS 4.1 and has a Motorola Dragonball 33MHz with 8MB RAM.

In a practical sense, the m130 is so capable that it comes down to stylistic preference and the weight of your wallet whether you choose the m130 or the m515. Were there no m515 and only the m505 to compare with, the m130 would be the hands down winner. But since the m515 has double the RAM, it does have a slight edge to justify the higher price, in addition to the faster-responding reflective TFT screen. The m130 is a worthy contender though, and an excellent device for those fond of the m100 form factor and attracted to the US$279 price tag.

-Shawn Barnett

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