Review posted April 13, 2005 by Lisa Gade,
Editor in Chief
A good PDA just got better. It's always
a pleasure when we can say that, and the Tungsten E2 gives the
Tungsten E just what the doctor ordered for improvements. In
fact, as a mid-range PDA selling at a near budget price, the
Tungsten E2 is one of the best deals on the market. It has a
bright high resolution color display, an expansion slot that's
compatible with memory and networking cards, it works with native
Word, Excel and PowerPoint out of the box and has Bluetooth for
checking email on the go and surfing the web if you've got a
Bluetooth enabled cell phone as its companion. For $199 US, that's
a good deal.
The $199 Tungsten
E has been extremely successful in its 1.5 year
tenure, out-selling most other handhelds on the market. PalmOne
made important evolutionary improvement to this proven PDA with
the E2, and these improvements aren't merely spec jumps but things
that will be important to most owners in everyday use. The Tungsten
E2, following the palmOne Treo 650 and Tungsten
T5, has non-volatile
memory which means that your data will be safe even if the PDA
runs completely out of battery power. These palmOne models and
the import Sharp Zaurus line of Linux PDAs
are the only PDAs on the market to use 100% non-volatile memory,
which means other PDAs will lose your data if the battery runs
Battery life is another sticky issue for recent
PDAs: as screens get larger and brighter, CPU speeds increase and
wireless is integrated, battery life suffers. The Tungsten E had
respectable battery life and could make it 3 to 5 days on a charge
with average use. PalmOne claims to have doubled battery life from
the Tungsten E (not including Bluetooth usage since the E doesn't
have Bluetooth) thanks to an increase in battery capacity and more
frugal circuitry. Given that the E2 has a faster CPU and brighter
display, that's both impressive and welcome.
Add in Bluetooth with a friendly user interface,
a faster CPU and the new palmOne Multi Connector for compatibility
with recent Palm accessories and you've got the Tungsten E2.
In the Box
The Tungsten E2 comes with a US charger, USB
sync cable with HotSync button, software CD, Getting Started guide,
PDF user manual, flip cover, and stylus.
Design and Ergonomics
Despite the larger battery and added Bluetooth
radio, the E2 is nearly identical in size to the Tungsten E. They
share the same design and finish— a good decision since the
original E's size and looks were very well received. The palmOne
E2 is one of the smaller handhelds on the market and at 4.7 ounces,
won't drag your pockets down. The device has the same chrome crossed
with polished aluminum finish and it looks great, though it does
show fingerprints. The top cap is shiny black plastic and this
is where you'll find the SD slot, power button and headphone jack.
The unit feels comfy in the hand, and comes with a gray rigid leather
flip cover that fits in the left side rail. The stylus, a metal
and plastic affair, slides into the right side rail and is a good
weight and size.
The Tungsten E2 has an oblong 5 way directional pad
that's easy to operate, has good tactile feedback, and
is equally easy to press in all directions. Four buttons
surround the d-pad, and launch the calendar, contacts, notepad and tasks
(you can reassign the buttons to any program). Using the E2's key
lock feature, you can tell the device to ignore button presses
(other than the poewr button) when the unit is powered off . That way
it won't accidentally power on when traveling in your bag, pocket or
brief case. The speaker is on the back, and the standard 3.5mm stereo
headphone jack is on the top. Oddly, the Tungsten E2 lacks the charging
and alarm reminder LEDs found on most other PDAs.
Size comparisons. Above: the SUV of PDAs, the HP iPAQ
VGA display, Dell Axim X30, Tungsten
T3 with slider closed and the
Right: top to bottom: Tungsten T3, Tungsten E2, Dell Axim X30 and
the iPAQ hx4700.
Horsepower and Performance
The Tungsten E2 runs on a 200MHz Intel XScale processor
that's responsive and adequate for business tasks, accessing PIM info,
music playback and gaming. It's a faster performer than the 126MHz Texas
Instruments based Tungsten E and we had no performance complaints, though
you will have to wait a few seconds for native PowerPoint files with
images to open. Unless you're a hardcore video playback fan, the E2 should
be up to the task. The device runs Palm OS 5.4.7 (Garnet). Still no OS
6 Cobalt devices in sight from palmOne, though if and when it does appear,
it will likely be on a high end model or a smartphone.
The E2 has a high res 320 x 320 pixel transflective
color display capable of displaying up to 65,000 colors. The display
is bright and color saturated, attesting to palmOne's claims that the
Tungsten E2's display is 30% brighter and 40% more color saturated than
the Tungsten E's display. Is it one of the very best displays we've ever
seen on a PDA? No, but it's darned nice for the price and makes viewing
photos and videos a pleasure. It will please most folks and you won't
do better unless you want to spend considerably more on a PDA.
Sound and MP3 Player
Sound through the rear-firing speaker is loud and clear,
so you won't miss your appointment alarms when the sound is set to high.
For stereo playback of MP3s and other media, you'll plug in earbuds or
headphones using the Tungsten E2's standard 3.5mm headphone jack. When
using a set of iPod earbud headphones with the E2, we were amazed and
nearly deafened by its sound volume. Have no fear, you can lower the
volume for a little ear-kindness; but if you love to rock to loud tunes
using the included RealOne player for MP3s, the E2 will please you. This
is one of the loudest handhelds we've heard through a set of headphones!
Sound quality through headphones is also quite good with very low background
noise and strong bass. If you want to EQ your tunes to really bring out
the sound quality, try a 3rd party MP3 player like NormSoft's excellent
Pocket Tunes or other players. You can check out our review of Palm MP3
The E2 is much more expandable than the original
E and you won't have to consider buying a pricier Palm solely to
gain expansion. The SD slot supports SDIO and palmOne released
a driver for their SD WiFi
card which has E2 support in mid-May, 2005. Of course you can
use the slot for SD memory cards if you need more storage space,
and the E2 worked fine with a variety of cards in our tests. Expansion
possibilities aren't limited to card slots. Traditionally, accessories
that use the sync connector have been popular; and these include
sync/charge cables, keyboards and modems/modem cables for use with
cell phones. Since the E2 shares the palmOne Multi Connector
used on other recent models, it won't be left out in the cold
when it comes to wired accessories.
The Tungsten runs Palm OS 5.4.7 and comes with Palm Desktop 4 for
both Mac and Windows. The Windows version of Palm Desktop includes
conduits for syncing to MS Outlook if you prefer.
The PDA comes with palmOne's enhanced PIM applications
for contacts, calendar, memos and tasks management, all of which
can sync to Outlook or Palm Desktop. The enhanced apps include palmOne's
Agenda view which shows you the day at a glance and is similar to
the Pocket PC Today Screen (see image, right) and color coded appointments
in calendar views. In addition, DataViz' Documents To Go 7 Professional
is bundled. This excellent Office suite allows you to create, view
and edit native MS Word and Excel files (no file conversion needed).
You can also view PowerPoint presentations, but not edit them when
in native desktop format.
Favorites, which made its first appearance on the
Tungsten T5, is included with the E2. This
application functions as a launcher with shortcuts to your favorite
applications, such as Documents To Go, music, Photos & Videos ( using
Media, palmOne's photo viewer and video player) and Web. It also
has room for additional individual applications which you can launch
with one tap. The Favorites app has three additional pages where
you can add more shortcuts to the files, folders or apps of your
choice (see image, lower right). Of course, you can use the traditional
Palm OS home screen if you wish or your favorite 3rd
For Internet, you get both a web browser and an
email client. Web (Blazer 4.0) is the web browser, and it has optimized
bookmarks, history, cookies, proxies and SSL. VersaMail, palmOne's
popular email application is included. It supports POP, IMAP and
SMTP servers, multiple email accounts, automatic email fetching and
notification of new mail and filters.
Like all recent palmOne models, the E2 has Graffiti
2 handwriting recognition. You can write in print (not cursive) in
the Graffiti area at the bottom of the screen, or turn on the write-anywhere
feature by tapping the icon in the taskbar. In addition, you can
bring up an on-screen QWERTY keyboard or number pad when you don't
want to use handwriting recognition. If you have some serious writing
to do, you can buy palmOne or Think Outside's IR or Bluetooth folding
The calendar's agenda view, using an optional background image.
Above: Favorites, palmOne's launcher
Similar to the Tungsten T5 and Treo 650, ,
the palmOne E2 has a friendly Bluetooth program that will help
you connect to Bluetooth access points, GPS units, PCs with Bluetooth
adapters and Bluetooth enabled mobile phones. When you launch
Bluetooth by tapping its icon on the Home screen, you'll see
the main Bluetooth screen shown on the upper right. Here you'll
turn the Bluetooth radio on and off, specify the device name,
set discoverability and select a network service (once you've
selected or created one).
To pair the E2 with another Bluetooth
device such as a cell phone, you'll tap on the Setup Devices
button and you'll be taken to the screen shown at the lower right.
The palm groups connections into three types in device setup:
Phone Setup, PC Setup (for PC connection and Bluetooth HotSyncing)
and LAN Setup. Phone Setup walks you through connecting to your
phone so you can use it as a wireless modem for the palm. Supported
brands are Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Siemens, Sony
Ericsson and "Not shown ". If you select "Not shown"
you'll be prompted to run palmOne's Phone
Link Updater on your PC to download more Bluetooth phone drivers.
Once you select your brand, you'll select your phone model from
a list and move on to the pairing process. Then you'll create
a new network connection using the wizard which first asks your
country, then offers a list of common GPRS providers and settings
for that country. In addition, the E2 comes with a dialer application
that allows the PDA to tell your phone to dial a phone number
via IR or Bluetooth. Speaking of IR, you can also use a mobile
phone with an IR port as a modem for the PDA.
In addition, the Tungsten E2 supports Bluetooth
connections to Bluetooth access points for wireless Internet
access (LAN setup), as well as connection sharing and HotSyncing
to PCs and Macs over Bluetooth.
The palmOne E2 has a 1020 mAh Lithium Ion battery.
That's a relatively high capacity battery for a PDA with a 200MHz
processor and a mid-sized color display, so it's no wonder the
device reminds us of the Energizer Bunny. As we mentioned, palmOne
claims to have doubled the battery life of the Tungsten E, and
we believe they've succeeded. We used the device heavily for
days and didn't have to charge it once. We attempted to do an
MP3 playback test, long the favorite of reviewers, where we set
the PDA to play a set of looping music tracks (screen
turned off) through headphones until it runs out of power. Rather
than stay up until 2am waiting, we terminated the test because
the E2 was still playing after 12 hours. To give you an idea,
after 5 hours of playback, the E2 still had 74% charge remaining.
Leaving the Bluetooth radio on had little effect
on battery life, and the radio only consumes significant power
when actually in use. In our tests, active Bluetooth use decreases
battery life by 25%, which is fairly standard for a PDA. Now
for the negative: the E2, like all palmOne brand PDAs doesn't
have a user replaceable battery. Argh! These days, most Pocket
PCs have user replaceable batteries and we hope palmOne will
someday follow suit. Yes, a user replaceable battery does increase
both the size and cost of a handheld. Why might you want this
feature, then? If you will be away from AC for a long time, and
need to swap in a spare battery while on the road, you'll care.
Two to three years from now the battery runtimes will decrease
(that's true of all Lithium Ion batteries) and if you want to
replace the battery, you'll need to send it back to palmOne or
purchase a do-it-yourself kit which involves opening the PDA
up and performing minor (very minor) surgery. Not the end of
the world, but it does matter to some users.
Above: the main Bluetooth screen. Below, the screen you'll see
if you press the Setup Devices button shown above.
The palmOne Tungsten E2 is an excellent mid-range
PDA. You get a lot for $199 and likely won't be running to buy
software or hardware add-ons to make up for the unit's shortcomings
as is the case with budget handhelds. While not for power users
who crave the very fastest processors, even higher resolution displays
and integrated WiFi, the E2 is perfect for the "average" user
who wants to keep track of appointments, tasks and contacts, work
with MS Office documents, play games, listen to MP3s, and even
surf the web, IM and use email on the go with the help of a Bluetooth
enabled mobile phone. The unit is both attractive and compact,
and the included flip cover will keep the screen safe.
Pro: Persistent storage
memory means data stays safe even if the battery runs down. Great
battery life, bright and colorful high res display. Supports
SDIO and you'll be able to use palmOne's WiFi card as a result.
Bluetooth is reliable and easy to set up. Uses palmOne's new
standard Multi Connector for greater compatibility with plug-in
accessories. Documents To Go is included with the unit so you'll
be able to work with MS Office documents including those in native
(unconverted format). Good price for the features and functionality,
Con: Battery is not user
replaceable (when will palmOne support this feature?!). No alarm
TFT color LCD. 65K colors, screen size diag: 3.5".
Resolution: 320 x 320 pixels.
mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user
XScale PXA255 200 MHz processor. 32 MB Flash ROM
with 26 megs available). Palm OS 5.4.7 (Garnet).
x 3.1 x .59 inches. Weight: 4.7 ounces.
in speaker and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. RealPlayer included for your MP3 pleasure.Has
auditory alarms (but not vibrating alarms). No voice
Bluetooth 1.1. WiFi not integrate but you can add
on palmOne's SD WiFi card for $99.
OS 5.4.7 (Garnet). Included
are the usual suite of Palm applications, including
Contacts, Calendar, Clock, Tasks, Memo, Note Pad, Favorites,
Expense, SMS, Calculator, Web (Blazer 4.0), VersaMail,
Media (photo viewer and MPEG movie player), and Palm
Reader. A generous bundle of 3rd party apps including
Documents to Go Professional 7.0, Graffiti 2, RealOne
Player, AddIt (for downloading and purchasing software
on the PDA), and a 14 day trial version of Klondike
Solitaire. Palm Desktop 4.1 for Windows and Mac included.
MS Outlook conduits included for Windows.