Test Driving the LifeDrive:

I've had my new LifeDrive for about thirty hours. It's a remarkable
device -- not perfect mind you -- but it's quite a little machine.

Look and Feel

The first thing you notice about the LifeDrive is the rounded corners.
Every corner on the LifeDrive, except for the Home and Files buttons
is rounded. The next thing you notice is the way the back of the unit
slopes inward. This feature makes the LifeDrive very comfortable to
hold -- more comfortable in fact than a lot of smaller, thinner

You might also notice that the LifeDrive feels rather warm in your
hands. That's the 4GB hard drive and huge battery churning away. In
fact, most of the LifeDrive's backplate is covered by air holes to
help cool the hard drive and battery. It never gets overly warm except
when it's recharging or rebooting but it will usually become at least
noticeably warm during normal use.

Life most PalmOS PDAs, the LifeDrive has four hard buttons and a
five-way directional pad. The layout of the piano key-like hard
buttons is a little unusual. Normally, you'd expect the hard buttons
to be lined up in an east/west fashion with two buttons on either side
of the d-pad. There are still two buttons on either side of the d-pad
on the LifeDrive but they are stacked on top of each other. This can
cause some confusion in applications like AvantGo which can remap the
buttons for their own use. The d-pad is probably one of the prettier
pieces of technology you'll see and functions flawlessly. It also
feels good when you press it with its gentle curves.

On the left side of the LifeDrive are the Voice Memo and Flip Screen
buttons. They are recessed to prevent accidental activation. The Voice
Memo is a little too difficult to press. (I've never had much use for
voice memos anyway but it's still annoying.) The Flip Screen button
which thankfully is easier to press, does just what its name implies.
It flips the screen from portrait to landscape mode. This was a task
which was previously handled by an icon on the command bar of PDAs
like the Tungsten T3 and T5.

The power button is a "three-way" button. If you slide it to the
right, it turns the LifeDrive on and off. But it you slide it to the
left, it "holds" the LifeDrive's current state and ignores all screen
taps and button presses. This is a great feature for a multimedia
device, since when you listen to music, it allows you to flip the
power button into the hold position, and slip it in your bag or pocket
without worrying about accidentally pressing a button when it
inevitably gets jostled around.

The LifeDrive uses the same springloaded stylus used by the
collapsible Tungsten T PDAs. It looks rather odd sitting in its silo
in one corner of the device which looks as if it has been cut away,
interrupting the otherwise beautiful curves of the LifeDrive.

On the bottom of the LifeDrive are the headphone jack, multiconnector,
and reset button. The multiconnector is the same connector used on the
Tungsten T5 and Treo 650. The most striking thing about it are the
delicate looking wires which look like they are far too easy to bend.
But T5 and 650 users can speak to this issue far better than I can.
The reset button hole is so wide that you can reset the LifeDrive with
your stylus -- no more annoying dismantling of your stylus when the
device crashes.

While the placement of the headphone jack hasn't been a problem for
me, I don't understand the wisdom of putting it on the bottom of the
machine. The only justification that I could think of for this was the
fact that putting the headphone jack on the bottom would encourage you
to put the LifeDrive upside down when you put it in your pocket. This
would allow you easier access to the d-pad which controls the volume
which would allow you to listen to music on your LifeDrive and adjust
the volume of the without removing it from your pocket. But that
doesn't make sense since you'd want to use the hold feature of the
power button to prevent accidental key presses which would negate any
advantage of putting the headphone jack on the bottom since you won't
normally be able to use the d-pad to adjust LifeDrive's volume.

The LifeDrive's screen is brighter than the Tungsten T5's screen but
not as bright as the screens on the Tungsten E or Treo 600.

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