Palm's additions to its Tungsten range of PDAs offer a host of enhancements in comparison to previous models, and reflect the increased impact of digital convergence on the goodies available in the device marketplace. We looked at the Tungsten T3 and E products. Since the release of these two PDAs, Palm merged with Handspring to become PalmOne.
Both devices carry a Secure Digital card slot for expandability. These small cards cost from £28 for 64MB, up to £216 for 512MB. While a good, lightweight choice of storage technology for a portable device, the problem is that owners must spend more in order to enable some of the more attractive features of both devices. Multimedia support, for example, requires an SD card, as MP3s and video clips cannot be saved to the devices themselves.
Both devices offer new software features, including support for larger notes and Memos, more fields for data in the Contacts app, and a new Agenda view in Calendar. The latter displays events, tasks and pending emails on one page.
Updated versions of Palm's VersaMail and DataViz Documents To Go also ship in the box. The latter lets users view and edit native Word and Excel files, though such native files cannot be saved to the on-board RAM; users will require an SD card to explore this feature as well.
The Tungsten E measures 114-x-78-x-12.7mm, and weighs 130g. It has the customary Tungsten metal chassis, and offers a 320-x-320-pixel screen. Control is on-screen, using either the Stylus (which fits snugly into a slot at the side of the unit), or the new five-way Navigator, which I found easy and logical to use.
E: Speed and features
Software includes Palm Photos, Kinoma Player and Producer lite, and the RealOne audio player. QuickTime software for Palms is available for free download. You'll also find PDA Money, scientific calculator Power One, and Palm's SMS and telephony tools in the box – though you won't find the company's Web browser.
E supports infrared, and has an acceptable little speaker and an audio jack. Its brains are its 126MHz ARM processor, which carries 32MB RAM. Compared to the rest of the Tungsten line-up, the E is a slowcoach – though a perfectly acceptable and affordable (£149 all-in) choice for people who need a PDA.
For the price, the E offers a solid range of functions that should suit users who want a PDA to help them stay organized on the road, but does lack the whizz-bang appeal of its sibling.
Palm's T3 is the leader of the pack. It simply feels right – though at £329 (all-in) you'd expect it to. The device's build quality does reflect the price.
The all-silver, 156g unit offers a massive, sharp and bright 320-x-480-pixel display, and single-button support for portrait and landscape views. If you want a device to help edit and view spreadsheets, documents or even video on the road, plump for the T3. This screen makes for a 50 per cent larger viewing area in contrast to other models.
Users must extend the T3's slider mechanism to access all that real estate, but most features are accessible when it's retracted. Like the E, navigation is via the Stylus (a neat spring-loaded stylus ships in the box), or the five-way navigator. In use, you'll see a Dock-like menu bar with single-click access to many features. This really improves the user experience.
I liked the product's easy-to-use voice-memo feature – record memos or conversations at the touch of a button. I also liked the T3's built-in Bluetooth support. I was able to use this to access the Internet, send emails and SMS messages, dial numbers, and even grab the SMS messages off my mobile phone.
It's fairly straightforward, though getting Bluetooth devices paired remains a slightly tedious experience to me. It did mean I was able to consider checking my email on the bus without pulling my phone from my pocket, which kept me amused.
Under the hood
This product offers an audio jack, so if it's equipped with an SD card you can listen to music (using the supplied RealOne software, or the downloadable QuickTime software) or watch movies in relative peace, though you'll need to spend a lot of cash on the cards to tote much multimedia content around.
The T3 has one feature that may put some Mac users off the product – ironically, this is also the T3's biggest selling-point; it has Intel inside. That's right, Palm is putting Windows-powered PocketPC devices to shame, by offering excellent utilities, a better and bigger screen (in a more compact form factor) than such devices do today, and powering the whole thing with a 400MHz Intel XScale processor with 64MB built-in RAM.
There are some flaws, though. It's a shame that the product lacks WiFi support. It's also a pity that there's no easy solution yet for at least partially synchronizing data between Mac and T3 using Bluetooth – after all, it's possible to sync data on a Bluetooth phone. This could perhaps be an opportunity for an enterprising developer.
The idea of a mobile phone and Palm combo, like the PalmOne Treo, is a good one – as it means I'm carrying one device around. I am taken by the T3, though.
I had no problem installing applications or synchronizing data with my Mac and Palm's supplied software. The T3 connects to the Mac using USB and a cradle – though I think it's a little clumsy that the cradle must also be plugged in to the mains. The E doesn't have a cradle, but must be plugged in to power directly, and offers a direct USB connection too.
If you need a PDA – and an extra item to tote around isn't for everyone – then you want the best you can get. There's a host of Palm-powered devices for different needs on the market, and there's these. For its price, the E is a capable digital assistant that performs its functions well.
On the other hand, the simple experience of using a T3 and its voice-memo and Bluetooth capacity, plus large screen, make the device far more suitable for someone who's trying to meet, greet and make decisions on the road.
Min specs: Mac OS X 10.1.2; OS 9.1; USB.