Splash Clock
Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: SplashData, Inc., go to the web site
Requires: Supports all handhelds running Palm OS 3.5 or later, runs best on 16-bit color devices, 281KB of free memory; not compatible with Tungsten C
MSRP: $9.95

Small utilities abound for Palm OS devices. From the rude and ridiculous to the absolutely sublime, there are literally thousands from which to choose. SplashClock is a simple program which effectively turns your color PDA into a desk clock with a background slide show. What's the point you ask? Why bother? Well for one thing, anybody who uses a PDA at home or at work no longer needs to give up space for desk clocks, family picture frames and related personal detritus.

SplashClock is simple enough to install and use. After it synchronizes onto your PDA, tap it, then go into the Preferences dialog to configure the program. There are settings for the clock Format - choose from 6 different clock styles, 3 clock sizes, 3 screen positions and a huge number of clock colors; Images - select or deselect any of the images stored on your PDA or expansion card; and Slideshow - select slide display order (random or fixed), duration of display for each slide and whether or not to automatically run the clock and slide show while the PDA is cradled.

Image formats usable in SplashClock are restricted to JPEG (stored on external memory cards) and SplashData's own SplashPhoto PDB images (stored on internal or external memory). The company's SplashPhoto product is available separately and appears to be a superb Palm OS and Pocket PC image viewer (it won Handeld Computing's Best Product of 2002 award). We tried a version which did an excellent job of converting images for use with SplashClock. The SplashClock program will work with all of the newer Palm OS color displays: standard (160x160), Hi-Res (320x320) and Hi-Res+ (320x480). The software also supports 8-bit, 12-bit and 16-bit color depths. We tried SplashClock on a Palm Zire 71, a Sony PEG-N760C, a Palm M515 and a Palm M130. Best results came from the 16-bit displays and the gorgeous screen on our Palm Zire 71 and the decent screen on the Sony PEG-N760C. The somewhat limited color depth of the M130 is hard on JPEG and SplashPhoto formats. The Palm M515 screen just doesn't stand up to the Zire 71 (in fact, very few screens compare well to the Zire 71).

We had a blast playing a few Nora Jones MP3 tracks in the background (using RealOne for Palm on the Zire 71) while the slideshow and clock were running on the screen. Very cool (multimedia anyone?), albeit aided and abetted by the powerful ARM processor which crunches all the data smoothly enough to allow this sort of multitasking under PalmOS 5.1. Try it yourself. Just remember to set the auto-off duration to 3 minutes, or better still, place the PDA on the cradle which will allow SplashClock to keep the PDA on.

Cons: SplashClock could be the perfect travel utility if it was bulked up with an alarm function. This is a glaring omission - the product is crying out for an alarm function. There are only 6 clock styles from which to choose. We'd like to see at least a dozen more, plus some variation in hands (spade, sword, baton, etc.), numerals (Roman, Arabic variations, bar marker selections) and clock shape (tonneau, square, rectangular, pillow). If you're going to do a clock, get into a bit of clock and watch design! How about a strategic partnership with Rolex, Cartier, PP, Breitling, IWC or Tag to emulate some of their amazing dial designs? Too expensive a relationship maybe? Well then how about Timex (Ironman Triathlon), Casio (G-Shock) or Citizen (a Skyhawk or Navihawk face would be terrific) along with some of the functionality of those designs. Of course, SplashData probably couldn't sell the software for $9.95, but you never know until you try?

Pros: Pull the clock opacity setting back to 10% and SplashClock turns into a very competent digital picture frame for your desktop or a quickie slide viewer. As long as your PDA is charging in its cradle, why not make it work as a desk clock or photo album too? No delays when running JPEG slide shows because the image decoding seems to take place in the background, which makes for very smooth operation. If you're showing off some photos, nobody's attention will wander while the JPEGs unpack. For $9.95, what the heck - go for it. Recommended.

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