The front of the Zire 31 features three buttons and a four-way rocker-pad with a central button. To the far left is the power button, next to that is a quick launch button for the calendar app and to the far right is another one that launches the contacts application. When the Zire 31 is switched off, the centre button in the rocker-pad brings up the clock, while when the device is switched on it acts as a select button. The pad itself works just like the arrow keys on a keyboard and allows you to move around in the OS and the applications.
As with previous Palm devices there are four shortcut buttons next to the graffiti area that give you quick access to the home view, the pull down menu, HotSync and search. If you look very carefully right next to the home short cut there is a tiny clock icon that gives you access to the clock. Likewise on the opposite side next to the HotSync shortcut there is another tiny icon that allows you to control the contrast and the brightness. The brightness can only be adjusted between low and high, rather than allowing the user to manually set it to any level through a slider.
Due to the fast processor and the colour display, battery life will not be as good from the Zire 31 as the Zire 21, but a good 3-4 days of use should not be a problem and palmOne quotes up to a week’s battery life. This is of course very dependant on what kind of applications you’re running and how much you use the Zire 31.
Overall the Zire 31 is a decent enough PDA as long as you’re not too demanding. The biggest drawback is the display, as the low resolution and 8bit colour depth takes a lot of the shine off the product as a whole. Looking beyond the display the Zire 31 is going to have a tough time competing with the cheaper Sony models like the Clié PEG-TJ25, but the lower price of the Zire 31 will attract some customers. The ability to play mp3 files will also persuade some away from the budget Sony model that lacks this feature.
So is it worth investing in the Zire 31? Well, that depends on your needs and if you’re happy to use a PalmOS device, but as far as low cost PDAs go the Zire 31 offers good value for money. If you don’t need mp3 playback it might be worth paying a little bit more for the Sony and getting a better screen and more stylish design. But if you like the idea of listening to music on your PDA and not spending a fortune, the Zire 31 is a tempting proposition.
The Zire 31 brings the colour PDA one step closer to the sub £100 price point. It is well featured for the money, but the low quality display will put some buyers off.