Palm got a lot of people excited earlier in the year with the release of their Palm Pre touchscreen slider. Now, they're following it up with a slimmer, more affordable smartphone, the Palm Pixi, which features the same exciting webOS that brought them back into everyone's consciousness.
Rather than a successor to the Pre, the new handset is actually a lower-tier release. In fact, you can think of it as an entry-level version of the original webOS smartphone, bringing a few less features to the table.
Physically, the Pixi is smaller and lighter than the Pre, being Palm's slimmest handheld device to date. Both build and feel in the hand are actually better than the Pre, a direct result of ditching both the sliding keyboard and the glossy finish. Do note that Palm will be selling it with a number of custom back covers, such as in the above photo.
With a 2.63-inch capacitive touchscreen, display real estate is an obvious tradeoff. It's bright and sharp, but the screen can feel a little too cluttered at times. It continues to support multi-touch and comes with an "invisible" gesture bar right below the screen. The keyboard, surprisingly enough, is extremely comfortable to use, despite the decidedly tinier keys.
As a phone, the Pixi managed clear calls with plenty of volume. Speakerphone conversations sounded a little hollow, but allowed for plenty of loudness. System performance is slower than the Pre and, if you've used the previous device with any regularity, you'll notice the delays. It's not half as bad as when working with a Windows Mobile handset though, so it's still great. Battery has a rated life of over 5 hours, which should be good for at least a couple days or more of regular use.
The entire suite of webOS' functionality stays intact here, so you get the same social-friendly, multi-tasking environment as Pre users enjoy (for more on this, check out our Palm Pre review). On the features end, you'll quickly notice two things: the lack of Wi-Fi and a less-powerful camera. Since this is Palm's entry-level device, the camera can be forgiven. But, Wi-Fi? Come on.
It comes with the usual suite of webOS apps, including a read-only version of Documents To Go, a PDF reader and Sprint's bevy of streaming content services. Support for App Catalog remains intact, although the 350-strong inventory doesn't really whet anyone's appetite all that much.
All the usual smartphone accoutrements come here, including various calling options, extensive messaging support, stereo Bluetooth and a GPS. Multimedia capabilities remain the same as the Pre, with support for a respectable amount of audio and video formats, along with very good streaming movies (way better than 90% of smartphones around). The smaller screen makes enjoying videos a little tough, though. It comes with 8GB of internal storage with no expansion slot. Performance for the 2.0 megapixel camera is about average for similarly-configured handsets, though editing options are virtually non-existent.
Overall, the Palm Pixi sounds like an exciting entry-level smartphone, with an attractive $99 price point (with a two-year contract). Heavy messaging users will love the extensive support, along with the excellent QWERTY keyboard. Multimedia actually remains a strength, despite the reduced screen size.
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