Oh Palm. You guys try so hard but always get trounced by iPhone and Android. It’s like you’re the Washington Generals of smartphones! But unlike the hapless generals, your two newest devices, the Pixi Plus and Pre Plus, are pretty decent with some admittedly awesome features. But how do the two stack up against each other? And more importantly, how the hell do you tell them apart? Here, let get-gadget give you the lowdown.
Palm’s Pixi Plus and Pre Plus look almost exactly like their Sprint cousins, yet a couple goodies have been added to warrant the “Plus” appelations. First, they’re both exclusive to Verizon. Palm finally crammed Wi-Fi support into the Pixi’s tiny chassis, a much needed addition.
Similarly, the Pre gains some considerable bumps to both its memory and storage capacity, making the already powerful device even more muscular.
Both phones also get a new mobile hotspot feature, which essentially lets users turn the phones’ 3G data connection (which is pretty fast thanks to Verizon’s network) into a Wi-Fi network that other devices can connect to.
Despite these new datacentric features (and a few minor design tweaks) both the Pixi and Pre behave like their former iterations.
While the Pre Plus has a nifty keyboard redesign, the Pixi Plus gets … a nifty Verizon sticker. There was already a lot to love in the Pixi’s original pocket-perfect form factor, so we can forgive Palm for playing it safe. The only setback to this strategy is that the minor foibles return, too. The slightly cramped keyboard is still an issue, and we’re still firm believers that the black bar located under the 2.6-inch display (which is reserved for minor navigation gestures) should be incorporated into the screen itself. That said, it’s a very compact device and its usefulness-to-size ratio outstrips that of most smartphones.
If you loved the cut of the original Pre’s jib, you won’t find much to quibble about with the new Verizon version. The smooth pebble form-factor returns, along with a 320 x 480 capacitive touchscreen and slide-out keypad. In fact, there are really only a handful subtle physical differences between the Plus and the original Sprint version. For one, Palm has ditched the physical Home key button and replaced it with the same touch-sensitive area as on the Pixi Plus. We quickly grew accustomed to using the swipable LED-backlit area, and the absence of a button arguably makes the Pre Plus look even slicker. Similarly, the Plus’ keypad has also undergone a slight revamp. In lieu of the gummy keys that graced the original Pre, Palm has bestowed the Plus’ keys with some much needed clickiness. The tactile feedback helps to a degree, but the keypad layout is still extremely cramped. If you’re after a pleasant typing experience, the Pixi pwns Pre pointedly.
Since Palm didn’t tweak anything under the hood, the Pixi maintains a lot of its original lustre. It has no problems navigating and multitasking within webOS, and still seems to be a smart implementation of the “smartphone light” concept. It doesn’t have nearly as much memory or processing power as the Pre Plus, but it still has enough horsepower to juggle gaming, multimedia and productivity with a modicum of grace. Though insane-in-the-mainframe multitasking can bring it to its knees (12-plus apps running simultaneously), it still manages to zip between tasks without more than the occasional brief “Loading” message.
While the Pre Plus’ exterior remains largely unchanged, you will notice a world of difference once you fire up the phone. Under its slick ebony surface, Palm has slipped in twice the memory (256 MB to 512 MB) and doubled the phone’s storage (now 16 GB). That translates into some crazy multitasking juju. We regularly had 25 or more apps running at once before getting the dreaded “too many cards” error or noticing any significant slowdown in performance. Bottom line? With more horsepower and storage, as well as a great network, the Pre remains the undisputed multitasking king.
Energy consumption is tricky on the Pixi Plus. Because it uses the same lithium-ion battery as the previous version, it racks up roughly the same talk time (4.75 hours) and can still endure extended multimedia playback. However, the biggest new feature is also the most power-hungry. Creating and using a mobile hotspot easily killed the battery within an hour. This made us question the practicality of that feature, but Palm’s inclusion of the sexy magnetic induction “Touchstone” charger eased that pain … a little. We were able to place the Pixi on this attractive power mat and have it fully amped up within a few hours.
What good is a multitasking beast if it’s constantly running out of juice? Like most smartphone manufacturers, Palm’s battery-life guidance is not really accurate. While the company gives 5.5 hours of talk time, and 350 hours in standby, we were hard pressed to squeeze a day out of the Pre Plus — even with moderate usage. And if you fire up useful new apps, like Palm’s Mobile Hotspot, expect that battery life to plummet even faster. As with the original Pre, carrying a second battery isn’t a bad idea.
Reviewed by Bryan Gardiner and Terrence Russell