PyroPro MP3 Player Review


Product Requirements:
Palm V/Vx
PyroMic.prc        37k
PyroPlayer.prc    132k
PyroPower.prc    22k
PyroProFile.prc   65k
Windows 98, 2000, ME
Free USB and serial port

Can we all agree that Palm, Inc. is pretty much the creator of the handheld
PDA as we know it today? They came first and several others have followed in
their footsteps. Now, what do the Handspring Visor, Sony Clie, and even Pocket
PCs have that Palm, Inc. devices don’t have? Come on, think about it… Yup, an
MP3 player! The Handspring Visor has a couple MP3 player Springboards, the new
Sony Clie 710c has a built in MP3 player and of course so do all Pocket PCs. So,
what is a Palm owner to do when they want to listen to tunes? Up till now,
they’ve been pretty much out of luck. But that’s changed since PocketPyro’s  Porteson for the Palm m100 and the PyroPro for the Palm V/Vx
have become available. This is a review of the PyroPro.

The PyroPro is a snap-on sled for the Palm V or Vx that adds mass storage, audio, and power management features to the Palm PDA.

Hardware Specs:

256 MB of internal flash memory
CD Quality stereo headphone output
Digital voice recorder (PC WAV format)
USB  interface to PC
Serial hotsync interface to PC
3 seconds per megabyte data transfer rate
Supports MP3, WMA, and AAC audio encoding (MP3 supported bit rates from 16kbps
to 320kbps, WMA supported bitrates from 5kbps to 192kbps)
ID3 Tag Support to display artist name, song title, etc.
Based on 160 MIPS programmable Digital Signal Processor  (DragonThunder DSP Engine)
25 hour battery life (2 AA batteries)
Size: 4.9" x 3.25" x 0.4"-0.7"
Weight: 3.0 oz without batteries, and 4.8 oz with batteries


When you buy the PyroPro, you get the unit, 2 AA batteries, a set of ear bud
headphones and a dual USB / Serial cable.

The unit itself looks like a transparent, smoky colored Palm V series modem.
It’s actually a little thicker than the modem, has an earphone jack, microphone,
2 LEDs and uses 2 AA batteries instead of 2 AAA batteries.

The Palm V mates with the hotsync connector on the Pyro and the slot
connector on the back of the Palm. A slider switch on the back of the PyroPro
allows you to detach the Palm. If you’ve ever used the modem, you’ll have no
problems figuring out how to attach and detach the Pyro.

The only button on the Pyro is a small blue rubberized button at the bottom
middle of the unit. This is the power button. On either side of this button is
an LED. The left LED is the power indicator and the right LED is the status

There is a stereo headphone jack on the left side of the unit and the RS232 /
USB port is on the right side.

There is only one minor thing that I don’t like about the PocketPyro casing.
That is the fact that it is a fingerprint magnet. I’ve noticed that my Pyro
always looks smeary and being the picky person that I am, it kind of drives me
nuts. I wish the casing had a texture to it so that this problem didn’t occur.
Otherwise, it is a solid device.

The first thing you have to do before you can start using your PyroPro as an
MP3 player and / or mass storage device is to install the necessary drivers on
your desktop PC and the Player utilities on your Palm V. If you run Windows ME
or 2000, you’re lucky because you can just plug the USB / serial cable into your
Pyro and PC and you’re good to go! If you run Windows 98 like I do, you have to
install a driver so that the Pyro will show up as a removable drive on your
desktop. The driver is included on a CD and is very easy to install.
Unfortunately, if you are a MAC user, you’re out of luck for the time being….

The Palm apps are also on this CD and can be installed in the normal manner.

Once you have the Pyro connected to your PC, it will show up as a new drive
letter and is designated as a removable drive. At this point, you can drag and
drop files to it just like you would to your hard drive. You can also make new
directories directly on the Pyro to organize your music and other files. You can
copy any type of files to the Pyro that you want. So, you can treat it just like
a hard drive. With 256mb of memory, it works great for taking large files to and
from work. Sometimes I download really large files at work and have to burn a CD
in order to bring them home. I found that using the Pyro instead of burning CDs
was much faster and more convenient.

There are 4 application on the Palm that you use to interface with the
PyroPro: PyroPlayer, Pyrofile, PyroPower, and PyroMic.

PyroPlayer is the audio playback application. This app displays the song title
and artist using the ID3 tag support. There are also several features including
a song progress
bar which allows you to jump to a selected location in the song, a
scrolling display of the next tracks, a volume slide bar, and standard CD
player style buttons. There are also shuffle and repeat playback options.

I found the interface for this application to be easy to use. And to make it
even better, you can skin the interface! The player comes with several different
skins, from silly to useful (I like the big button version). Take a look at a
few below…

As far as audio playback, the order in which you copy MP3 files (WMA files are
working on a beta version of the code that I reviewed) to the Pyro is the play
list order that they will play back in. If you have a Palm OS version 3.5, you
can arrange the order of the songs by dragging and dropping them in the Play
list screen. Unfortunately, you just have one playlist. I think it would be
great if you could create multiple lists, especially if you have a bunch of
songs loaded. You could have lists for workout music, lists for driving music

The player application also has an equalizer that you can use to adjust the
audio settings. There are presets for different types of music.

You can also assign different functions to the hardware buttons on the Palm. For
example, you can assign the next song function to the MemoPad button. So every
time you press that button, it will switch to the next song in the playlist.

There are two small annoyances that I found with the PyroPlayer app. If you
are playing music and turn the Palm off, music will continue to play just fine.
But, when you turn the Palm on, the status does not update on the screen. It
will show the last song that was playing before you turned off the Palm. If you
press the next song button, it then updates correctly.

The other thing that I didn’t like was the lag in starting the player app. If
you add any new songs to the Pyro, the start up time for the app is around
20secs or so. Regular start up time is about 4-5secs. I’m the impatient sort, so
it just feels like it takes forever to start.

It’s important to note that the PyroPro can work as a stand-alone digital audio player.
That’s right, you don’t even need a Palm to play music. Whenever you turn on the
Pyro, it automatically starts playing whatever song it was playing when it was
turned off last. Using the only button on the device, you can control playback
and volume. Pressing the button once will advance to the next song, and holding
it down will reset the volume to low and slowly increase it.

When I first received the Pyro and started listening to MP3’s on it, I was a
bit disappointed because I could hear white noise in the background. I finally
figured out that it was the fault of the earbuds that came included with the
unit. Basically, they are junk. I tried the PyroPro with some nicer full-size
headphones and didn’t hear the hissing at all. Although I’m no audiophile, I
think the player has a good sound.

The PyroPro supports MP3 bit rates from 16kbps to 320kbps, and WMA bitrates
from 5kbps to 192kbps.

The unit uses it’s own power (2 AA batteries) and plays for a long time!
According to the PocketPyro site, you should get 24 hours
of music playtime.

Speaking of batteries and power, another useful feature of the PyroPro is the ability to charge the Palm from
the PyroPro’s batteries. This allows you to charge the Palm without the need of
the Palm charging cradle. The PyroPower app is a nifty utility that gives you
the battery status on both the Palm and the Pyro. It even tells you the
temperature of the Pyro which is kind of fun. Using this app, you can charge the
Palm’s internal battery for 5min, 15mins or until fully charged.

This features allows you to use the Pyro as an emergency charger which is
great when you are away from your regular cradle. A fresh set of AA’s will fully
charge the Palm V/Vx at least once.

Guess what? The Pyro also functions as a Palm V cradle and can be used to hotsync
to your desktop just as a normal cradle will. You just plug the serial connector
part of the cable into a free serial port on your PC and you’re all set. This
actually makes traveling more convienent as the Pyro is smaller and easier to
carry with you than the regular cradle.

 The ability to store and retrieve Palm data and program files on the
PyroPro make it a great mass storage system for your PDA. The PyroFile app will allow the user to backup and restore data and
application files from the Palm. Transferring files between the PyroPro and Palm
is as easy as selecting and copying to the desired destination..

This application could use some work though. I would like to see a backup all
files option that would just make a mirror of everything on the Palm and copy it
to the Pyro. As it is, you have to select individual files one at a time to copy

Unfortunately, you also can’t run applications directly from the Pyro. However
it is possible that you will be able to in the future. Luckily the Pyro can be
easily updated by copying updates to the unit via your desktop PC.

And, there’s yet another feature of this device. It is also a voice recorder. The PyroPro has an internal microphone that allows the user to record audio
in .WAV file format. These files can be played back on the PyroPro and
transferred to the PC. Audio is recorded at 16 bit 11kHz and takes 1.3MB per
minute. So an hour meeting would require 78MB, and in 256MB you can record 196
minutes or about 3 hours and 15 minutes. 

I found that it can record surprisingly well from a distance. I recorded the TV
while in another room and the play back was decent. Very clear.

The PyroPro is a multi-featured device. It is an MP3 player, a removable drive
for your PC, mass storage for your Palm, a battery charger for your Palm, a
hotsync cradle for your Palm, a voice recorder and even a thermometer. All those
features make it desirable, but at $400, it is probably priced out of bounds for
most people. Heck, at $400 it is  more than a brand new Palm Vx. I think
it’s a very cool device, but I’m not sure I would be able to justify the cost. I
think I’d be more likely to buy one if it was compatible with the m500 series
instead of the Palm V/Vx. That said, if you want an MP3 player for your Palm
V/Vx and you don’t mind spending the $$’s, this is your only option.


Price: $399

MP3 player
Palm battery charger
Hotsync cradle
Voice Recorder

Comes with crummy ear buds
There isn’t a Palm m500 series version


Product Information

  • MP3 player
  • Palm battery charger
  • Hotsync cradle
  • Voice Recorder
  • Expensive
  • Comes with crummy ear buds
  • There isn't a Palm m500 series version
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