The wait is over. palmOne's golden egg has finally hatched, and the LifeDrive is here. The firstborn in the company's new Mobile Manager line, the LifeDrive is the first handheld to have an integrated hard drive -- 4GB, to be exact -- for all your storage needs, and lo and behold, this baby finally has built-in Wi-Fi.
Like the HP iPaq rx3715, the LifeDrive aims to converge productivity and digital entertainment into one slick device, and overall, it does it well. It lets you store and work on your Microsoft Office files, check email, surf the Web, listen to music and organise your photos, to name just a few capabilities. While these features are impressive, at a costly £330, the LifeDrive isn't necessarily going to shift a lot of units. The idea of PDAs as portable media devices is just starting to take off, and though the palmOne LifeDrive is sure to garner lots of interest, only hardcore gadget hounds or early adopters may be willing to part with that kind of cash.
Chock-full of features, it's no surprise that the palmOne LifeDrive is larger and noticeably heavier (73 by 121 by 19mm; 193g) than the company's earlier endeavours. Still, it won't take up too much room in your bag and it feels solid in your hands and has a stylish silver casing to boot. The LifeDrive's 94mm (3.7-inch) screen grabs your attention with sharp, crisp text and images, thanks to its 320x480-pixel resolution. Plus, colours jump out at you, as it displays 65,000 hues. Unfortunately, as with many PDAs, the screen looks washed out in direct sunlight.
Below the LCD, you'll find four ample shortcut keys to Home, Files, Media and one unassigned application. They can be customised to open different applications, and they surround a five-way navigation toggle with a central Select button. All the controls are easy to manipulate, but you have to press the OK key square in the middle firmly; otherwise, it acts like one of the directional keys. On the left side, you'll find a voice recorder button and a very handy key that lets you switch between Portrait and Landscape modes. The top of the LifeDrive is home to the SDIO/MMC expansion slot, the power/hold switch and the infrared port, while the 3.5mm audio jack (which accepts Walkman-style headphones), the multiconnector and the power adaptor connection sit at the bottom. We found the headphone jack's placement to be odd, but when we asked palmOne about this, the company said it simply ran out of room. It's definitely not a deal breaker, just a minor design quirk.
Extra goodies packaged with the LifeDrive are kept to a minimum. You get a protective sleeve, an AC adaptor, user guides and installation CDs, and a USB sync cable with palmOne's multiconnector, which allows for one-touch HotSync operations. The LifeDrive is palmOne's first device to support USB 2.0. You can also purchase optional accessories from palmOne, including a desktop cradle, a travel charger and the company's Universal Wireless keyboard.