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5/18/2005
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Review: palmOne's LifeDrive

With a hard drive and business and multimedia apps, the LifeDrive boldly updates the idea of the PDA in a device that's strong . . . and a bit clumsy.

A few Internet ages ago when iPods were new, I bought a 20GB model, the biggest one Apple then offered. I filled it with data and files from my various computers and, every time I had a system crash, it saved the day. And, of course, it played all of my favorite songs (and still does to this day).


palmOne's LifeDrive
Click to Enlarge
That's exactly the kind of mobile power that palmOne is trying to provide with its new LifeDrive, which sports a built-in hard drive and both PDA and multimedia capabilities. This is a much more revolutionary device than we've come to expect from palmOne, which lately has stuck to relatively simple evolutionary changes in its Tungsten line of PDAs. The company deserves a lot of credit for this attempt to re-define the PDA and LifeDrive will, indeed, appeal to many users.

Still, at times, LifeDrive seems clumsy because it's trying to do too many things for too many people. It's not, for example, as simple and easy to use as a consumer device like the iPod. And in making LifeDrive a jack of all trades, palmOne made design and physical heft compromises. Plus, at $499, the price is hefty, meaning that if you only need a PDA, music player or external hard drive, you'd be better off going with the individual devices.

But its features do hit the target market of corporate executives, the digital elite, and anyone who needs a full-featured device in a small form-factor. And, if nothing else, it's a significant and fascinating first step toward a new type of mobile device.

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