We're sad to report that two items are missing from the Zodiac's feature list. Windows users don't get a conduit for synchronising with Microsoft Outlook; they have to buy an Intellisync conduit from Tapwave's online store. And there's no Mac support at all -- that's a bummer.
The 200MHz processor and the ATI Imageon graphics accelerator kept games and movies running smoothly in our tests. The video is highly compressed, so you shouldn't expect broadcast quality, but the Matrix Reloaded trailer looked pretty good and sounded excellent. Audio, in fact, is one of the Tapwave Zodiac's strong points. It's louder than other handhelds, through both the internal stereo speakers and our reference headphones. Again, the full-colour, half-VGA display impressed us, offering a bright, sharp image down to the smallest icons. That said, glare was sometimes a bit of a problem during our gameplay; to get a better view, we had to adjust the angle at which we held the device.
Spy Hunter showcases the Zodiac's superior 3D graphics.
For our graphics tests, we played premium games such as Spy Hunter, which retails for around £20. The Zodiac's large, high-resolution horizontal screen is ideal for handheld gaming, and the device turned in a performance clearly superior to that of the lower-resolution Game Boy Advance and Nokia N-Gage. But how many quality games will be created for the Zodiac platform? Tapwave has lined up a bevy of developers to adapt such familiar titles as Duke Nukem, Tomb Raider, and Neverwinter Nights, but few of these are scheduled for release before next year.
The Zodiac1 uses a high-capacity 1,540mAh lithium rechargeable battery. The same cell powers HP's Wi-Fi-oriented iPaq H4350, so we expected good battery life, and we got it. While not a match for the 10 hours of gameplay we got from the Game Boy Advance running on a single charge with the backlight on, the Zodiac's 4.5-hour video playback was almost twice as long as that of most Palm handhelds.
Additional editing by Guy Cocker