By Chuong Nguyen | December 2, 2009 12:07 PM
The Palm Pixi is an interesting consumer for Palm. It is a device that will attract both consumers and many geeks who love the front-facing QWERTY keyboard in a slim and narrow–but usable–form factor, however the device comes with its own compromises and Palm did a great job on making a svelte device that was both affordable and easy to use on Sprint’s Now Network.
The Pixi is a gorgeous device and is a marvel to look at it, from its sleek form factor to its glossy black front with island keys. Palm took it to heart to balance the design between geek chic and fashion conscious–Palm will also make artistic back covers that are compatible with its optional Touchstone back as well for the artsy crowd. The construction of the device, although at a lower price point, feels more solid than the sliding mechanism on its bigger brother the Palm Pre, which also runs webOS. However, despite a more solid construction, the Pixi does compromise a bit on screen protection as the Pre’s LCD panel is enclosed in a hard plastic casing while the Pixi’s touchscreen is only protected by a thin plastic film on top. Moreover, the Pixi’s screen is slightly smaller and has less vertical pixels than the Pre’s at 2.63 inches with a resolution of 320 X 400 v 320 X 480 on the Pre’s 3.2 inches.
Additionally, the Pre felt a bit faster with a newer ARM Cortex chip at its heart, but the Pixi will perform well for new smartphone owners who do not need to multi-task as hard–and that is the Pixi’s demographics anyways. The compromise there is that some Pre owners will prefer the Pixi’s form factor and may be a bit disappointed by some slight lag. In reality, the lag didn’t bother me in many tasks as there is some lag as well in the Pre. The biggest concern–with webOS and also on the Pre–is the handling of emails. Although the Pixi allows new users to effortlessly set up emails, switching between emails took some time and the lag may not be acceptable to BlackBerry users who are used to a more speedy way of switching between email messages, let alone switching between email accounts.
The Pixi also eschews WiFi, which at the low entry point Palm must feel is a higher end feature reserved for the flagship Pre.
The Pixi was released a few weeks ago for $99 with a two-year agreement on Sprint after rebates. The device could be had for a bit cheaper through retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon.com.
In conclusion, despite its compromises, the Pixi is a great device for the market it targets. As a more demanding smartphone user, I had wished that the Pixi came with the Pre’s guts and wonder why Palm didn’t target me with that form factor and attractive industrial design. The intelligent Touchstone accessory ($70 for the back and Touchstone dock charger) makes the Pixi a standout among dull, me-too entries in the crowded smartphone space and proves that Palm can deliver its ease of use. It is definitely one of my favorite devices for this Holiday season and I can see Palm attracting first-time smartphone buyers with such a capable, gorgeous device. As such, I am awarding it my Editor’s Choice as a Chuong’s Pick.