Review: The Palm Z22 - Macenstein

Review: The Palm Z22

Posted by Brain-in-a-Jar

I remember the first time I saw the Apple Newton. It was sitting in a case at my local department store. I remember being amazed by the cute little icons, the portability and handwriting recognition (it may not have gotten the words right, but darn it, I could write on the screen!) It even made sounds via a tiny, tinny pc-type speaker. There are even web sites hosted on Newtons. Years later, the really dorky among us rue the day Apple stopped making those wonder-machines, and speculate constantly about their return. But until that glorious day arrives, the Mac Faithful will have to put up with “inferior� (if far more functional and affordable) organizers from companies other than Apple. Palm has consistently delivered feature-rich handhelds for the unorganized masses, and has just pushed affordability to a new high (or is it a new low?) with their new Z22 Handheld.

First Impressions

When I first opened the Palm Z22 I was impressed by its size (though a little thick by today’s standards, its dimensions make it fit rather comfortably in the palm of your hand, long the promise of, well, Palm. My first glance at the less-than-high-res screen, however, felt like a blast from the past (I’ve been using high-res Clies since having a backlight was a big deal.) “Calm down�, I told myself, “the thing costs 99 bucks, they had to save the money somewhere�.

I then set about clearing my schedule for the evening, anticipating the hours I’d be spending trying to get the thing to play nice with my Powerbook. Apple may have been first off the block with the Newton, but they have since fallen way behind of the pack in terms of native support for PDAs. Using a handheld organizer with a Mac has become something of a contact sport. iSync makes things a little better, but still requires Palm’s software to be installed in order to sync with Apple’s built-in apps. And Palm Desktop has had a way of seizing up every couple dot updates and requiring rather complicated workarounds or third party solutions. So when my fully charged Z22 popped up an alarm telling me not to forget to install the software, I had to shoot back a sarcastic reply.

Mac Compatibility

It would appear, with the latest version of Palm desktop for Mac, Palm has finally gotten all its ducks in a row. The only hint that Palm isn’t a primarily Mac company is that the installation disc doesn’t contain a true installer, just the palm.pkg file (however, just like official Apple products, there is no UN-installer either). In any case, I ran the installer and after a quick restart… It worked. No missing files, goofy errors. Hit the sync soft button and it syncs with the included Palm Desktop software. The integration between the Z22 and the desktop software works fine, just as you would expect. And if you’ve never used Apple’s excellent address book or iCal software, you would be all set. However, if you’re like most OS X users and rely on Address Book and iCal to keep your life organized, you’ll need to use Apple’s iSync. iSync effectively acts as a bridge between your Address Book and iCal and the Palm HotSync software. Where this was once a tough-to-find download on the Apple website, the version of iSync included with Tiger is waiting to do the job, complete with simple step-by-step instructions on configuration.

Not all is perfect in iSync-land, however. While the Contacts program on the Z22 offers many more options than older versions (including pictures and multiple addresses for contacts) these will not sync with Address Book. The Z22 ignores photos in Address Book and will copy only a work address for a contact (or, if there is only a home address stored, it will copy that address and label it “work�.) This is quite frustrating in an organizer aimed at the non-professional user. The Calendar program supports multiple categories of engagements, but will not share these with iCal, instead lumping all events together into it’s “Unfiled� category. These problems can be remedied with Mark / Space’s just-released Missing Sync 5 for Palm OS which works by ignoring Palm Desktop and iSync completely.


For the small size (and price) of the Z22, Palm has managed to pack an impressive amount of punch. While not expandable, the 20 MBs of user-accessible internal memory is many times the size included in high-end models just a couple years ago. And for a unit that doesn’t have MP3 capabilities, there’s plenty of room for new applications and screen-sized (160 by 160 pixels) photos. The included Addit software downloads customizable news and entertainment content every time you sync, keeping you up-to-date on the go, even if you’re not quite as up-to-date as your Blackberry-toting friends. Addit also lets you browse lists of popular Palm software, and choose ones you’d like installed next time you connect to your desktop. Expense software makes it easy to record your purchases as you make them. This is a much-welcome standard application, which should have been around as long as Contacts and Calendar.
The low point of the unit is, without question, the screen. Aside from the low resolution, I noticed that bright areas tend to “crawl� or flicker, even on the demo images included by Palm. This is annoying, but for 99 bucks, probably not a deal-breaker. The backlight is bright enough to make the screen readable in just about every lighting situation, and if it was a trade-off, Palm made the right choice. The screen’s surface and small Graffiti area made the handwriting-recognition frustrating at times, but the included screen protector and option to toggle Graffiti recognition anywhere on the screen made a world of difference.


I have my qualms about the Z22, but at a $99 price point, it proves surprisingly usable and full featured. Many of my issues are not so much with the Z22 itself, as they are with the experience of connecting any handheld to the Mac in general. If you’ve had a PDA before, this isn’t the device to upgrade to, but if you’re someone looking to finally make the jump to digital organization, the Z22 is a steal. It seems most of the bugs of Mac compatibility have finally been worked out, and while some of the integration isn’t there, I can’t really fault Palm for it. It’s more the place of a third-party app developer, like Mark / Space. Barring that, I think the current “Mac PDA� experience is about as good as it’s gonna get for the Mac community until Steve Jobs graces us with a new High-Def, Wireless NewtonPod.

Rating 7.5 out of 10
Price $99 (US)

• price
• Ease of use/installation

• Low Res Screen
• Compatibility less than perfect

3 Responses to “Review: The Palm Z22”
  1. Wolfman Mac says:

    WOW. that is cheap.
    I remember spending over $300 for something that sucked compared to that.
    Well, that’s progress for ya!

  2. Softball Equipment says:

    What about the previous post? I think that’s an important note as well.

  3. Simon Art says:

    I wonder how you have managed to sync the Z22 via isync ?
    It does not work with my Powerbook G4 Mac Os X 10.4.11.
    When I follow the dialgog of isync, I always get the error message: “Palm Os Hot Sync Manager is not installed correctly or has not been opened yet.” Which is not the case.
    When I follow the step-by-step instruction that appears after clicking on the question mark at the left bottom of the above mentioned dialog, this error continues to show up.
    Is there some special hint one has to know to get this thing working ?

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