Hands-on with the Verizon Palm Pixi Plus

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Three months after debuting on Sprint, the unfortunately named Pixi has put on a fresh pair of wings and flown over to Verizon with the still-unfortunate-name Pixi Plus. However, while the Pixi Plus is packing a few more perks than its predecessor, including Wi-Fi and Mobile HotSpot capabilities, it’s not a radical update. Verizon is even matching the Sprint Palm Pixi’s $99.99 price tag.

Read on for our initial impressions, plenty of pictures and the first tests of Palm’s Mobile HotSpot.

Design

On the outside the Pixi Plus is identical to the original Pixi– a thin, black candy bar device with a rubberized backplate, 2.6-inch screen, and a touch strip below the screen illuminated by a thin white horizontal line in the center. It’s a barely noticeable feather-weight at 3.26 ounces and 0.43-inches thin, with a surprisingly roomy keyboard that we were able to instantly click away on at BlackBerry Curve-like speeds. The original Pixi was available with five interchangeable artist-designed backplates. In addition to those five, Palm has added Touchstone-compatible solid color backplates in pink, orange, blue, and green for $19.99 each.

The Pixi Plus comes with a black rubberized cover, which we were easily able to pull away from the edges of the device to expose the battery. We wonder if users who regularly switch out the backplates might have problems with the seal around the device staying tight. The rubberized plate comes up on the sides of the Pixi Plus and made the micro USB port nearly impossible to open. The rubber instantly snapped back on us.

Performance

Like its predecessor and its big brother Pre, the Pixi Plus runs Palm webOS, which emphasizes the ability to multitask. It is a whiz at running multiple programs at once, but it doesn’t take long for the device to become overwhelmed. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen a noticeable speed bump in the Pixi Plus. While it’s not exactly slow, we have found ourselves pressing the Download button in the App Catalog a few times before it actually responds. It’s definitely not the capacitive touchscreen, as it responds with a satisfying screen ripple with each finger touch.

On the bright side, the new Palm Mobile Hotspot app worked great. Setting it up took almost no effort. We simply downloaded the app, created a password, restarted the phone and opened the app. Our MacBook Pro instantly found the hotspot and connected without a problem. We were able to watch a clip from Hulu of “The Daily Show” on the laptop while composing an email on the Pixi Plus. Although the Hulu clip stuttered when we tried to access nytimes.com from the Pixi Plus’ browser, we were able to make a phone call while still streaming Hulu without a problem. Pricing has not been officially announced for the tethering plan, but it will probably be an additional $40 a month.

Where’s Facebook?

Considering webOS’s tight integration with Facebook we were really surprised the Facebook for Palm app didn’t come preloaded on the Pixi Plus, as it was included on the original Pixi. Verizon does include its VZ Navigator. Amazon MP3, Google MappsDoc View, PDF View, and, of course, Palm’s App Catalog all come preloaded as well.

Initial Verdict

Overall, the Pixi Plus is not a giant-leap forward, but it’s a solid update, particularly for someone who’s looking for their first smartphone. We wish Palm would have given the Pixi Plus the processing power of the Pre Plus, but, aesthetically and ergonomically, the Pixi Plus is hard to beat.

Look for our full review of the Palm Pixi Plus on Verizon soon.

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