The Pixi's perfect for social networking, thanks to its Qwerty keyboard and messaging features. It handles multiple email accounts beautifully -- everything from Outlook to Gmail -- and, because the phone supports 'push' email, you'll get messages as they arrive, rather than waiting for your inbox to update itself.
The Palm App Catalogue is almost empty compared to the iPhone's App Store or the Android Market, but there's still a good official Facebook app, a choice of Twitter apps and a bundle of other social-networking options. The Web browser is small but perfectly formed, so if there isn't an app for your particular need, you can always get the information online.
We had no trouble getting connected with the built-in Wi-Fi or the speedy HSDPA, which gives faster Web surfing over 3G.
Time for tunage
The Pixi is a good choice for music and video fans, thanks to its decent screen, standard 3.5mm headphone jack and 8GB of on-board storage. Unfortunately, there's no expansion slot, so you can't add a memory card to pump up the storage.
It's quick and easy to pop your tunes on to the Pixi because it's supported by most music programs -- we tested it with MediaMonkey and syncing was effortless. The music player is attractive and easy to use, but there aren't any music controls except volume on the outside of the phone, or on the hands-free headset that comes with it. When the phone is locked though, a mini player shows on the screen, so you don't have to tap too much to control what's playing.
If you'd rather make your own films, the 2-megapixel camera also shoots video, with an LED photo light for those moody night shoots. There's a simple editor to help you top and tail your clips, and when you're done you can upload your oeuvre to Facebook or YouTube, as well as distribute it by email and MMS. You shouldn't expect HD quality from this little camera, but the user interface is just as smooth and well thought-out as the Pixi's other features.
Like the Pre, the Pixi gulps rather than sips battery, especially if you're on the Web a good deal. Palm admits the Pixi will probably need a charge every day, but it has included an inductive back on the phone, so you can charge it easily on the wireless Touchstone charger -- although that's not included and starts at a hefty £50.
You can also charge the Pixi using a normal microUSB cable, which you'll also need to sync the phone with your music. The cover on the USB port is a pain to pry off, but just think of the cash you're saving on the Touchstone.
The Palm Pixi Plus has most of the software features of the Palm Pre, but with a smaller screen and slower processor, we can't hold it up as a competitor to the iPhone or the HTC Desire. Thankfully, its low price puts it gently but firmly up against the BlackBerry Curve 8520, and it can definitely punch its weight in this class. (The 8520 is the same price as the Pixi on O2, although you can find it cheaper on other networks.) If you're not too bothered about having a Qwerty, the HTC Legend is faster and has a bigger screen -- and it's available for around £20 a month.
Although we like the 8520's speed and dedicated music keys, we think the Pixi wins out thanks to its touchscreen, 3G support, better browser and fresh webOS software. It's a pity that it's so sluggish at times -- and its app store is still abysmal -- but if you have the patience, the Pixi is worthy of your pocket space.
Edited by Nick Hide