Reluctant to stray too far from whats worked in the past, Palm Inc. has tended to make only incremental improvements to its devices. This strategy has led to functionality and power deficits between Palms devices and those running Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC operating system—particularly in the sort of high-end devices that cater to enterprise customers.
With the release last week of the $499 Tungsten C, Palm has moved aggressively to bridge this gap. And eWEEK Labs tests show that it has done so without discarding the solid design and good battery life that marked previous Palm successes.
The Tungsten Cs most striking feature is its integrated support for 802.11b wireless networking—among the best weve seen on any mobile device. A Wi-Fi Setup utility stepped us through the process of configuring a wireless link, first scanning for available networks and then enabling us to set up a connection to an unscanned access point. We tested the Tungsten C with both Wired Equivalent Privacy-encrypted and nonprotected networks.
Now that Palm offers three Palm OS 5-based devices, which join those available from Sony Corp., we expect to begin seeing more applications that take advantage of the improved performance of the new platform.
The Tungsten C is powered by an Intel Corp. 400MHz PXA255 processor and 64MB of RAM. (Earlier Palm systems supported no more than 16MB of RAM.) This increased muscle was most noticeable when we performed more than one operation at once, such as listening to MP3s while dealing a new game of solitaire or while using the virtual private network client that comes bundled with the Tungsten C.
The Tungsten C is powered by a 1,500mAh lithium-ion/polymer battery, which, un-fortunately, is not removable. Based on tests where we played music on the Tungsten C while periodically downloading e-mail and loading Web pages over its wireless link, we project that the device could deliver about 5 hours of constant use between charges.
Helping matters is the manner in which the Tungsten C uses its 802.11b radio: It makes its connection to an access point on an as-needed basis. The connection process took about 3 seconds on average, a delay well worth the power savings.
The Tungsten C sports a 65,000-color transflective thin-film- transistor display, which offers the same enhanced resolution found in Palms Tungsten T and W—320 by 320 pixels, up from the 160-by-160-pixel displays in Palms previous-gerneration devices. The display that graces the Tungsten C is also one of the brightest weve seen and works well for reading text or viewing pictures.
The Tungsten C weighs 6.3 ounces and measures 3.07 inches wide by 0.65 inches thick by 4.8 inches long, about the same size as Palms General Packet Radio Service-enabled Tungsten W. The Tungsten C permits peripheral expansion through a Secure Digital card slot or via Palms synchronization connector.
In addition to Palms standard personal information management applications, the Tungsten C comes bundled with DataViz Inc.s Documents To Go software for working with Microsoft Office files, Palms much-improved VersaMail 2.5 e-mail application and Colligo Networks Inc.s Meeting software for collaborating over wireless LANs.
The MP3 player we used during our tests, RealNetworks Inc.s RealOne player, did not come bundled on the device, which disappointed us. Also, the unit sports a hands-free headphone jack, rather than a standard stereo headphone jack.
Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at [email protected]