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Palm Pixi Hands On: The Smaller Pre With A Better Keyboard and No Wi-Fi

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The Palm Pixi is just what you'd get when you ask your engineers to take the Pre, keep as much stuff as possible, but make it smaller. It's a keyboarded candybar (with webOS), but it loses some vitals like Wi-Fi.

The Details

The important bits: It still runs webOS, still has a keyboard, still only for Sprint (for now) and can pretty much do everything the bigger Pre can do. There's no Wi-Fi, but GPS and the accelerometer are still there. The Pixi is slightly lighter than the Pre, losing a lot of weight from not having to slide itself out to reveal a keyboard, but has a little bit of a lobotomized brain. Palm wouldn't get into details, but you can make out from the hints and insinuations that the CPU and the RAM were less of what you'd get with the Pre.


What you'd miss the most is the 80 pixels they had to shave off because of the smaller display. At 2.63 inches, all the Pixi can handle is a 320x400 resolution. This translates into more work for developers, who need to somehow manage two different resolution sizes as well hardware different specs if you want your app to run on both phones. Oh, and there's a 2-megapixel camera as opposed to the Pre's 3-megapixel camera.


Hands-on Impressions

The Pixi's handlers didn't give people a chance to manhandle the phone very much, despite my attempts at charming them by both showering and brushing my teeth beforehand, so the impressions are limited to some typing, some navigating and a lot of eyeballing. What I saw was good. It's the same OS, so you can do everything you could do before, but the ball is replaced by a touch "area"—the same area you'd use for the off-screen forward and back gestures before. Just tap it and you get the same effect as the Pre. And in all the apps I saw there wasn't a huge difference in speed between the two devices.

What's most surprising is that even though the keyboard is technically smaller on the Pixi than on the Pre, each key is more raised because there's no sliding lid to maintain clearance of. So even though the keys are slightly different and smaller, I was able to thumb out words faster and with fewer errors than before. High five.

Overall, it's definitely slimmer, lighter and more pocketable than the Pre. It has almost all the same features—no Wi-Fi won't affect your ability to download apps or music—so you're not missing on that much stuff if for some reason you choose the Pixi over the Pre. But when asked about whether or not you can run the same number of apps simultaneously, multitasking, as on the Pre, I was once again met with what amounted to "no comment." Think of it like a less pricey computer.


What's To Come

Palm is targeting the Pixi at the cheap man segment, the person for which $200 or $150 is too much for a phone, but something a little less is just right. (This person also wouldn't recognize that any difference would be dwarfed by the monthly phone bill anyway, but that's neither here nor there.) No concrete details on the price, but it's definitely going to be less than the $150 of the Pre.


There was no concrete launch date yet, but Palm's aiming for sometime "before the Holidays". The Pixi will come loaded with a native Facebook app as well as Synergy integration with LinkedIn and Yahoo. For those of you who like customized backplates, there will be a limited edition run of five artist-designed Touchstone-compatible backs just for you, provided you're among the people who order the limited edition backplates in time.