AT&T Palm Pixi Plus Review 31
Read our original Palm Pixi Review
The Palm Pixi Plus on AT&T is Palm's best hardware to date, the tiny little phone has a size and feel that impresses. That incredibly thin and small package includes an unfortunate tradeoff, however, for most users it is simply too slow and underpowered when compared to the Palm Pre Plus.
We've had the AT&T Palm Pixi Plus here at PreCentral HQ for a couple of days now. It will be released to the masses on June 6th for $49.99 after contract and rebates. If you're familiar with webOS, you know that you're looking at here is virtually identical to the Palm Pixi Plus on Verizon and the Sprint Palm Pixi.
The difference between the Pixi and the Pixi Plus is that the Pixi Plus has WiFi, an essential addition for webOS. Unlike the Verizon Pixi Plus, the AT&T version does not include the ability to download Mobile Hotpot and use the Pixi for tethering, though AT&T's announced data plan changes give us hope that this may be an option in the future.
More impressions after the break
As we laid out in the opening paragraph, if you don't include the relatively underpowered processor and under-utilized graphics chip, the Pixi Plus is probably our favorite webOS device, even granting that it has a smaller screen and poorer camera than the Palm Pre.
The keyboard is, as it has always been on the Pixi, practically a revelation. Despite being about as tiny as we can realistically imagine a full QWERTY keyboard to be, it's very usable. Since the keys are very 'clicky,' we actually find it to be a better keyboard than what's available on the Palm Pre / Pre Plus.
The Pixi Plus sadly does not come with a Touchstone-compatible back cover, but you can upgrade to one or purchase a designer cover (we still haven't seen new ones since Palm released them) or a colored-back cover for the Pixi.
The camera on the Pixi Plus also takes a terminally long time to load and once it does, the photos from its 2mp sensor are sub-par. Sound from the speaker is good, but a little quieter than I'd prefer. Battery life is typical for webOS, which is to say you can get through a full day with light use.
In short, the hardware on the Pixi Plus is pretty great with a handful of tradeoffs. It feels solid, light, and basically disappears in your pocket. The physical hardware of the Pixi is, of course, not the whole story. So let's get technical.
Pixi Plus vs Pre Plus, spec breakdown:
|Pre Plus||TI OMAP 3430, 600MHz + SGX530 for graphics||512mg RAM, 16g storage||320x480||Slide-out, slightly mushy||3.2mp with extended depth of field||3D gaming|
|Pixi Plus||Qualcomm MSM7627 + Adreno 200 for graphics||256mb RAM + 8g storage||320x400||Always available, very clicky||2mp||3D gaming coming soon|
As you can see from the table above and in our original post on the hardware differences between the Pre and Pixi, you're making quite a lot of compromises by going with the Pixi Plus instead of the Pre Plus. The result of those less-powerful processors and reduced RAM is a device that slows down radically when you start to load more than a handful of cards at once. The device slows to a near standstill when you have more than 8 cards loaded; in fact it became so unresponsive that I gave up trying to see how many cards it would take before I got the "Too Many Cards" error.
We do have some hope that the Pixi Plus will see some significant speed improvements later this year, when Palm is expected to release an important webOS update that will speed up the underpinnings of the OS. We also expect that 3D gaming will come to the Pixi Plus in a matter of weeks as a smaller webOS update, 1.4.5, should be arriving soon. Both the main processor and graphics processor are technically capable of punching out more speed, too, so we definitely intend on revisiting the Pixi again after these updates.
All that said, so long as you are careful to only load a few cards at once, the Pixi is usable. The Pixi is definitely targeted at first-time smartphone buyers and so long as these consumers don't overtax the Pixi's slim resources, I expect they will enjoy the device.
In terms of software, there are no significant additions here, although AT&T's YPMobile mapping software is included out of the box in addition to Google Maps. AT&T Navigator is also on-board, but requires a $9.99 a month fee to use.
We're definitely ready for Palm to release some new hardware on the high end instead of the low end. Palm had success going straight for the low end with the original Centro and perhaps has done alright with the Pixi. To our minds, however, Palm (and soon HP) needs to admit that what worked then probably won't work in the future. It's been a year since Apple and AT&T dropped the price of the iPhone 3G down to $99 and the message to the market is as clear today as it was then: today's high-end smartphone is tomorrow's low-end smartphone.
We adore the Pixi's hardware so much that it's almost tragic: we want to love, use, and recommend this phone as a viable alternative to the Palm Pre Plus. Unfortunately, until Palm can improve webOS to the point where it can run efficiently on the Pixi Plus's processor, we have to recommend that most people go for the Palm Pre Plus. If getting a tiny smartphone is your first priority, by all means consider the Pixi Plus, but be ready to accept some slowdowns. Once you accept that caveat, the Pixi is a fun and inexpensive choice for first time smartphone buyers.