Saturday, January 1, 2005

Six months later with the Tapwave Zodiac


By James Booth

You see everybody and their brother running reviews of the latest thing to come down the pike, and frequently these reviews hit the stands the same the day the product hits the shelves. But what about down the road? Rarely do you ever see anyone running a follow-up article on how the product continues to perform. Here at Computing Unplugged Magazine we believe in providing full-service reviews, so I offer here a "six month later" look at the Tapwave Zodiac.

Although we ran our review of the Zodiac in the August 2004 issue of Computing Unplugged Magazine, see, it's actually been six months that I've had this hybrid Palm OS device. So how has it performed in those six months? For the most part, pretty well. There've been a few bumps in the road, but I'm still basically happy with the device.

Bumps in the road? What kind of bumps, you ask? Well, over a period of two and a half months I had five different Zodiacs because of either hardware or quality control problems. Three of the devices, including my original one, had critical system failures that resulted in the device being unusable. A fourth had a dead pixel dead center in the display, which really isn't Tapwave's fault per se, and the fifth and final unit has functioned tip-top for the last three and a half months without a single crash.

I have to say the management staff at Tapwave was very helpful and accommodating in resolving the problems I had with my devices, allowing me to skirt the normal tech support/RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) cycle. Typically, a consumer would have to contact tech support, go through the standard troubleshooting attempts, be given an RMA number, and be required to return the defective unit before a replacement was issued.

Because of my contacts at Tapwave I was able to get replacement devices before I had to return mine. This was very nice for me, and I'm grateful to the Tapwave staff for assisting me in this manner, but the average consumer wouldn't have this option, would have had no end of problems, and would have been without their device for extended periods due to the back and forth shipping.

Clearly, for some time there were QA (Quality Assurance) problems at Tapwave. From what I've seen in various online communities, these problems seem to have thinned out by now. I would have thought that by the time I bought my unit, nine months after product launch, these problems would have been resolved, but obviously not.