Single page Print

Kicking up the resolution
The 330 is the first Palm-based handheld to offer a high-resolution greyscale screen. Measuring in at a QVGA resolution of 240x320, the 330 pumps out 16 shades of grey. The 330's greyscale display raises an interesting question: do you need color for a PDA? Color has been offered in a few handhelds, most notably high-end PocketPCs, Handspring's Prism, and Palm's IIIc and m505. All of these devices, while offering colored goodness on the screen, suffer dearly in the battery life department as a result.

Being focused on business, HandEra has apparently decided that a higher resolution greyscale with its longer battery life is the better option. I would tend to agree with them here. While one can argue the need (or want) for color on a handheld device, a business user is likely to be far more concerned with the device's battery life. Color is a nice addition, no doubt, but in some instances, the tradeoff of significantly reduced battery life isn't worth it. The 330 will have an advantage in those instances.

For a greyscale screen, the 330's display looks pretty good. While the traditional Palm 160x160 screen is readable enough for the vast majority of applications, the 330's crisp 240x320 is certainly a step up. The 330 also has a neat little trick up its sleeve: the user can choose to orient some programs horizontally, rather than vertically, on the display. This trick is great for working on things like spreadsheets.

One minor problem with a higher resolution display is displaying programs optimized for the traditional 160x160 Palm standard screen. HandEra offers several workarounds for this incompatibility until developers update their software. First, you have the option of simply stretching whatever software you use to fit the higher resolution screen. This works well, for the most part, but can get mixed up on moving graphics and games. Other options include displaying the application in a 160x160 window in the top left corner or in the center of the screen. These methods aren't that great, because they make the display area quite small. However, it's an acceptable price to pay since few applications require it.

While the high resolution nature of HandEra's screen is new, the backlight is a little retro. It's similar to the one in the old Palm III. Whether you prefer it to backlights found on newer Palm-based models is really a matter of personal preference, though.

Graffiti pad begone
While the resolution of the 330's screen is certainly something you'll notice, the screen's most useful feature is its Graffiti pop-up area. Since the beginning of time, Palm-based devices have had a static Graffiti area that essentially steals 1/4 of the available screen real estate. You can't get rid of this Graffiti area, which is basically useless unless you're inputting text. This is the biggest problem I have with Palm-based devices, and it seems that it has irked HandEra too, because they've gone and fixed it.

Instead of locking you in with a static Graffiti area, the 330 has a dynamic pop-up. This new Graffiti area is identical in appearance and functionality to ones in other Palm-based devices, but you can make it disappear to free up some screen space. It's about time! People will always be craving more screen real estate with handheld devices, and static Graffiti pads rob devices of precious pixels.

The dynamic Graffiti pad is about more than saving screen space, though. Because it's a part of the display, the pad can now trace your stylus strokes right onto the screen to give you a visual representation of your Graffiti entry. This is not only a great learning tool for Graffiti (you can get software that will let you write Graffiti to the screen, but this is the only way to have the Graffiti strokes appear on your Graffiti pad), it's also a nice addition for seasoned Graffiti users. The tracing gives you visual confirmation of letters even before the handheld writes them to the screen so you know when you've drawn one correctly. Furthermore, you can now see where your Graffiti strokes conflict with one another, and make adjustments for faster writing.

The dynamic nature of the Graffiti pad also has a nice benefit for those who use the pop-up keyboard. This keyboard, which is actually quite handy for entering a lot of numbers into spreadsheets quickly, usually appears above static Graffiti pads on the screen, where it eats up even more screen real estate, leaving precious little room for the actual applications. The 330's dynamic Graffiti pad, however, doesn't have this problem. Instead of the pop-up keyboard appearing on top of the Graffiti pad, it replaces it. The keyboard doesn't take up any extra room, and an unused Graffiti pad isn't sitting there just taking up more space.

I still easily prefer auxiliary keyboards for text entry into handheld devices, but the 330 does the best job I've seen when it comes to Graffiti on a Palm-based device. Hopefully, the 330's innovations will become standard in the next round of Palm-based PDAs. Until then, however, HandEra is the only place to get these slick features.