Tungsten T Device Raises the Palm Bar

But Palm OS 5-based handheld is pricey compared with competitors.

The Tungsten T, Palm Inc.s long-awaited next-generation handheld computer, has arrived—along with the sort of high-resolution display, ARM processor and 32-bit operating system that had been key differentiators for rival devices running Microsoft Corp.s Pocket PC operating system.

For all thats new, however, the Tungsten T still has more in common with its Palm forebears than with its Pocket PC competitors. On the plus side, the Tungsten retains the Palms slick design and good battery life, as well as backward compatibility with the bulk of Palms software catalog (courtesy of an emulation layer similar to what Apple Computer Inc.s OS X provides for legacy Mac OS applications).

When you factor in a built-in and well-implemented Bluetooth radio, theres no doubt that the new device, which began shipping in late October, is the slickest Palm handheld to date. However, the Tungsten T comes at a price—$499—thats beginning to seem high even for a Pocket PC device. And that price gets you only 16MB of RAM for running and storing applications—pretty meager, if you ask us.

We were also surprised to find that no MP3 player ships with the unit, nor is one available for it elsewhere—this despite multimedia suitability being touted as one of the key benefits of the Tungstens Palm 5 operating system.

When an MP3 player does surface, the Tungsten T will be ready for it, as it sports a stereo headphone jack. For now, though, the jacks usefulness seems limited to use for listening to voice messages, which we were able to record in the way were accustomed to with Pocket PC units.

The Tungsten T is powered by an ARM-based Texas Instruments Inc. OMAP1510 processor, a significant departure from the Motorola Inc. DragonBall architecture around which Palms previous devices were built. However, because the Tungsten T differs little in the sort of application functionality that those earlier devices delivered, weve yet to see much of what the new chip has to offer.

We expect this to change eventually, as Palm begins moving the rest of its devices to Palm OS 5. For now, only the Tungsten T runs the new operating system; not even the forthcoming Tungsten W communicator device will run OS 5 or ship with an ARM chip.