Palms New Tungsten Handhelds Shine

 
 
By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2003-10-13
 
 
 

Palms New Tungsten Handhelds Shine


Palm Inc. has bolstered its lineup of enterprise-oriented handheld computers with the Tungsten T3 and Tungsten E, two new devices marked by their high-resolution displays, compelling software enhancements and affordable prices.

In the case of the $399 Tungsten T3, eWEEK Labs was impressed enough by the quality and implementation of the units half-VGA display and integrated Bluetooth radio to award it an Analysts Choice designation.

The $199 Tungsten E provides companies with a new, lower entry point into Palms business-focused handheld line, albeit one that lacks any wireless functionality beyond infrared.

The devices, both of which began shipping this month, run Palm OS 5.2.1, the latest release of Palms 32-bit mobile operating system, and feature a better-organized preferences menu in which all configurable settings are organized into a single page.

The company also began shipping this month the Zire 21, a $99 consumer-targeted device that also runs Palm OS 5.2.1. (The previous Zire model was based on the 16-bit Palm OS 4.)

We didnt review the Zire 21, but were pleased to see that Palm has extended support for its new platform from the low to the high end of its product spectrum. While some users might not care what operating system their mobile device runs, it certainly matters to the Palm development community.

Both the T3 and E ship with software for synchronizing to Windows and Macintosh machines, and we could sync our handheld data to our Linux desktop using the GNOME GPilot application.

To synchronize data with Microsofts new Outlook 2003, we had to download a free software update from Palm, which is available at www.palmone.com/us/ support/downloads/ outlookupdate2k3.html

We had a bit of trouble setting up synchronization between our Exchange mail account and Palms VersaMail e-mail application: The initial account setup screen asked us to choose between Post Office Protocol and IMAP account types and didnt mention anything about synchronize-only accounts. Once we got synchronization going, we were pleased with VersaMail, particularly for its support of e-mail subfolders.

Next page: Tungsten T3

2


Tungsten T3

When eWEEK Labs reviewed the Tungsten T last year, we liked the way Palm trimmed about an inch of height by giving the T a slide-out design that hid the units graffiti input area when not in use.

Palm has improved on the Ts design with the T3 by ditching the silk-screened graffiti area and devoting that extra inch of space to an expanded display.

The T3 is about the same size as the T—when shut, the T3 measures 4.3 inches tall by 3 inches wide by 0.66 inches thick, and the unit weighs 5.5 ounces.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Tungsten T3
Palms Tungsten T3 gives handheld computer users more of what these devices most keenly lack—display size—and the T3 manages this while maintaining a small form factor. It was this new display, and the excellent way that Palm implemented it, that earned the T3 our Analysts Choice designation. Whats more, at $399, the T3 is priced attractively—$100 less than the Tungsten T that we reviewed a year ago.
KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
USABILITY EXCELLENT
CAPABILITY EXCELLENT
PERFORMANCE GOOD
INTEROPERABILITY GOOD
MANAGEABILITY GOOD
SCALABILITY GOOD
SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Large display viewable in portrait and landscape modes; integrated Bluetooth radio; helpful new task bar in interface.

  • CON: VersaMail setup is confusing.

  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    Hewlett-Packard Co.s iPaq h2215 Toshiba Computer Systems Groups Pocket PC e755 Palms Tungsten C

    When slid apart, the T3 sports a screen about the same size as those that grace rival devices based on Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC operating system, but one that boasts a resolution of 320 by 480 pixels, compared with the Pocket PCs 240-by-320-pixel display. The extra pixels make a big difference when viewing pictures and reading text—particularly for text rendered in small fonts.

    In lieu of the Palm-standard silk-screened graffiti area, the T3 has a software-based input area that can take the form of an on-screen keyboard, a traditional-look graffiti area or a new three- column pen-input space. Alternatively, we could hide the input area to use the whole length of the display for viewing data.

    We could hide and adjust the input area from a new task bar in the T3 interface that runs across the bottom of the display. The task bar also includes a clock, a launcher for the devices contact find applet and a button for configuring the units Bluetooth connections.

    Also from the task bar, we could switch the orientation of the screen between landscape and portrait modes, with settings to accommodate either right- or left-handed users.

    The T3s large, landscape-oriented display, in tandem with the Palm Web Pro browser that ships with the device, delivered the best Web-browsing experience that weve yet encountered on a pen-based handheld device.

    We connected to the Web through a Bluetooth access point in our lab. We could also use the units Bluetooth radio to connect to Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones and to synchronize the device wirelessly with a desktop or notebook computer.

    The T3 is powered by a 400MHz Intel Corp. XScale processor and ships with 64MB of RAM and an SD (Secure Digital) slot for memory and peripheral expansion.

    With heavy use of the T3s Bluetooth radio, we experienced about two days of life between charges from the units nonremovable lithium polymer battery.

    Next page: Tungsten E

    3


    Tungsten E

    With a slim, chrome-look chassis, the Tungsten E resembles Palms classic V series of devices and measures 4.5 inches tall by 3.1 inches wide by 0.5 inches thick; it weighs 4.6 ounces.

    The Tungsten Es most compelling feature is its very bright and readable 320-by-320-pixel display, which makes this device a great fit for reading documents on the go.

    Both the Tungsten E and T3 ship with a copy of DataViz Inc.s Documents To Go, which enables users to read and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents in their native formats.

    In previous tests of this software, weve found that Documents To Go does a better job with these Microsoft-formatted files than the Pocket Word and Excel applications that ship with Pocket PC devices.

    We found the Tungsten E, which is powered by a 126MHz Texas Instruments Inc. OMAP311 processor, to be a snappy performer, and the units 32MB of RAM offers plenty of space for storing files on the device.

    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
    Tungsten E
    Palms Tungsten E has a beautiful 320-by-320-pixel display, plenty of RAM and a slim form factor. Lacking Bluetooth or 802.11b support, this units range of usefulness is narrower than that of the T3, but at a cost of $199, the Tungsten E can well afford to serve only as a place for reading and referring to data synchronized from a desktop machine.
    KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
    USABILITY EXCELLENT
    CAPABILITY GOOD
    PERFORMANCE GOOD
    INTEROPERABILITY GOOD
    MANAGEABILITY GOOD
    SCALABILITY GOOD
    SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Bright, high-resolution display; low cost; good software bundle.

  • CON: No wireless connectivity; lacks the T3s handy task bar.
  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    HPs iPaq h1935 Toshibas Pocket PC e350

    As with the T3, the Tungsten E includes an SD slot for memory and peripheral expansion. The units SD slot offers the potential for wireless expansion, but the 802.11b and Bluetooth SD cards of which were aware—from Socket Communications Inc.—support only Pocket PC devices. Whats more, Palms own Bluetooth SD card does not support Palm OS 5-based devices.

    The Tungsten E includes an internal lithium-ion battery that, according to Palm officials, should deliver about a week of use between charges.

    Discuss this in the eWEEK forum.

    Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks @ziffdavis.com.

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