Picture Tour of Palm Pre Plus, Pixi Plus

I admit it was exciting attending Palm’s press event at CES in January. CEO Jon Rubinstein unveiled Palm’s (s palm) roadmap for the year, consisting mainly of refreshed versions of the Pre and Pixi smartphones. The Pre Plus looks like the older Pre, with everything the same, save for a few minor differences. The Pre Plus loses the button below the screen that looks like a trackball but isn’t, and the “Orange” key on the keyboard is now a stately white. Oh, one other minor change — the Pre Plus now ships with the back that is compatible with the Touchstone charger (the Pixi Plus does not). The Pre Plus also sports twice the memory — 16 GB — as the original.

The Pixi Plus is like its predecessor, not surprising as the original Pixi has only been in the wild for a short time. The biggest difference in the Pixi Plus is the addition of Wi-Fi to the mix, a big improvement over the original Pixi that lacked it. The playing field between the two Palm phones was leveled a great deal with that addition, even though the Pixi Plus only has 8 GB of memory. The Pixi Plus is extremely light for such a capable phone. I believe it is the lightest smartphone I have used to date.

At the press event Palm proudly pointed out that both phones have the Palm Mobile Hotspot, a tethering app that turns the phone into a MiFi-like 3G hotspot. Unfortunately, neither of the phones supplied to me by Verizon (s vz) have the Mobile Hotspot software installed. I’ll have to find out what’s up with that. The feature is listed on the Verizon site at $40 per month, so they certainly intend to provide it. It’s a major feature and cost savings, as the same data plan for the MiFi is $60 per month.

So far, the Pre Plus feels faster than my original Pre, but that’s pretty much expected. The Pre Plus is fresh out of the box and has almost no third party software installed yet. I did go to install the Twitter app I use on my Pre, Tweed, but there is no longer a free version. I’ll have to try a few out to see which free app I like best.

The inclusion of Wi-Fi and the convenience of having the QWERTY keyboard always at hand makes the cheaper Pixi Plus a very compelling phone. I will have to see if the smaller screen and lower resolution is a sacrifice over the next few days, but if not, the Pixi Plus might be the one I’d choose over the more expensive Pre Plus. The Pixi Plus is just so darn light in the hand and it feels good to use. It’s nice avoiding that awkward (at least for me) sliding motion to expose the Pre Plus’s keyboard. To this day that is still not comfortable for me to do on my Pre.

I’ll be testing both phones thoroughly over the next few days. Until then, enjoy this photo tour comparing the two phones.