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Palm Tungsten T5 Review

Editor's rating (1-5):
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Also check out the Palm T|X, released Oct. 12, 2005 which adds WiFi and costs $299.

Review posted Oct. 7, 2004 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

The Tungsten T5 is the successor to the popular Tungsten T3 and is palmOne's flagship "business" PDA. Not that you can't use the T5 for multimedia, but its fast processor, plentiful memory and lack of camera put it in the business class. While the Tungsten T, T2 and T3 featured a unique slider design, the T5 has a slate form factor and doesn't slide.

The T5 has Bluetooth wireless personal area networking, 256 megs of RAM and runs on the fastest processor available in a Palm OS PDA. While it doesn't have WiFi, you can add that on using palmOne's SD WiFi card reviewed here. While many of us were hoping that the T5 would run Palm OS 6 (Cobalt), it runs Palm OS 5.4.5 with several enhancements from palmOne including a file system browser and the ability to mount the T5's 160 meg memory partition as a USB removable drive on your computer. PalmOne told us that they'd been working on the T5 before OS 6 was finalized, and that's why we don't see it on this device. What happened to the T4? PalmOne avoided the number 4, which in certain Asian languages such as Chinese, is a homonym for the word death.

Palm Tungsten T5
Palm Tungsten T5 back

 

Features at a Glance

The T5 has a 416MHz Intel processor, 256 megs of RAM with 215 megs available, a high res + 320 x 480 display that runs in both portrait and landscape orientations, a removable flip cover and an SD slot that supports SDIO. It uses palmOne's new "multiconnector" which replaces their universal connector and supports niceties like audio out. Speaking of audio, the T5 also functions as an MP3 player. Unlike the T3, the T5 doesn't have a voice recorder or vibrating alarms.

In the Box

You'll get the T5, a stylus, charger, removable flip cover, USB sync cable, software CD for PC and Mac and a getting started guide. Unlike palmOne's prior top of the line models, the T5 doesn't come with a cradle so you'll plug the sync cable directly into the unit for syncing and plug the charger directly into the PDA or into the sync cable to charge it. Likely palmOne went with the cable so you can transport it more easily when you wish to plug it into a PC as a USB drive, though we do miss the convenience of the cradle. To initiate a HotSync you can either select HotSync on the palm or press the button on the end of the sync cable that plugs into the PDA.

 

 

 

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Design and Ergonomics

The T5 has a slate design, and doesn't slide, fold or manifest any other form of industrial design magic. It's slim and attractive, with a silver finish that has a hint of gunmetal on its plastic casing. Those of you who are familiar with the Tungsten E will immediately notice that the T5 looks like the stretched version of the E. The design and appearance are indeed very similar and palmOne went with that design because it has been so well received. While the Tungsten E is a brighter, lighter silver, the T5 is a bit more subdued and business-like.

T3 and T5 Tungsten T3 and T5

Above: comparing the size of the Tungsten T3 (left in both photos) closed and open to the T5.

 

On the front you'll find an excellent 5-way directional pad flanked by four application buttons. These buttons are assigned to Home, Agenda View, Contacts and Files, the new file explorer. As with most PDAs, you can re-assign different applications to these buttons if you wish. Unlike the T3, there is no voice recorder button because the T5 doesn't have a voice recorder.

On the right side you'll find the excellent metal non-telescoping stylus which feels great in the hand. The removable flip cover mounts on the left side, and the IR port, SD slot, power button and standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack are on top. The sync and charge connectors are located on the bottom. The speaker is located on the back.

Horsepower and Expansion

The Tungsten T5 has a 416MHz Bulverde Intel XScale PXA270 processor which is currently the fastest processor on a Palm OS device and is more than fast enough for even demanding power users. It runs on Palm OS 5.4.5 and has two memory areas: one called "device", which is the memory area you'd find on any Palm OS device. That area has 64 megs with 55 available to the user (another 5 megs are used by pre-installed apps which you can remove). The other is "internal" and is 160 megs in size. You can store programs and data on both areas, but only the 160 meg partition mounts as a USB removable drive on a PC. Why these memory partitions? Those of you who've used higher end Sony Cliés like the UX50 are already familiar with this slicing and dicing of memory. Palm OS 5 can only address 64 megs of device memory, so the added memory must be separate from that, and it works like a permanently installed SD card.

What's particularly lovely about the T5's memory is that it's all non-volatile persistent memory (flash ROM). While a little bit slower than the SDRAM used on prior palmOne devices, it will survive a hard reset or a complete battery drain. If your T5 is left in a drawer for two months, the data will be intact: excellent! Certainly this is worth the slight performance hit for most users.

The T5 has an SD slot supporting SDIO and it will work with palmOne's SD WiFi card once Palm releases a T5 driver. In addition, the unit has Bluetooth and IR for expansion. Since the unit has palmOne's new multiconnector, peripherals made for the older Palm universal connector won't work with the T5.

Display

The T5, like the Tungsten T, T2 and T3, has a 320 x 480 color display capable of displaying 64,000 colors. Like the T3, you can switch from landscape to portrait mode on the fly and that transition is nearly instantaneous (unlike Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition devices where there is a slight lag when switching). To switch orientation, simply press the icon on the taskbar. The unit has right and left handed modes, which affects which way the landscape mode flips (buttons on the left vs. buttons on the right).

The display is a tad dull in the color and brightness department compared to the Tungsten T3 and recent Pocket PC competitors. Perhaps palmOne cut back on brightness to conserve battery power, but the colors aren't as rich in comparison. Not that the display is terrible, but it's not one of the best out there.

Sound and Multimedia

The Tungsten T5 comes with palmOne's Media, which is a photo viewer, slide show app and MPEG1 video player. Using Media, I was impressed with the T5's video playback capability. Testing it with movies such as "The Chosen" (a neat BMW flick with Clive Owen) which is a 4:26 minute long, 10 meg MPEG1 file recorded at 320 x 240, 308 kb/s it did an excellent job, playing the movie smoothly with good audio sync. I only wish the display were brighter and more color saturated for movie playback.

MP3 playback using the included RealPlayer sounds very good through a set of headphones and is extremely loud. When playing back at lower volume levels you can hear a bit of white noise. RealPlayer allows you to turn off the display to save battery power and can play in the background while you use other applications. If you're looking for even more features, check out our review of Palm OS MP3 players.

The T5, unlike the T3, doesn't have a voice recorder or mic. It supports polyphonic alerts for alarms and doesn't have a vibrating alarm feature.

Battery

The T5 has a 1300 mAh Lithium Ion battery which is a good capacity for a PDA running a large display, fast processor and Bluetooth. This is a nice increase from the Tungsten T, T2 and T3's 900 mAh battery. The battery is not user replaceable. The US version ships with a US charger, but if you need a world charger, palmOne sells it separately. The Tungsten T5 doesn't have a charging LED. To check charging status you'll need to turn the unit on and check the battery gauge on the top of the screen. If the unit is turned on when you plug or unplug the charger it will beep to give you an auditory indicator of charging status. While the T3 wasn't a great performer in the battery department, the T5 is a bit better thanks to its higher capacity battery and dimmer display. Keep in mind that if you want a large display, fast processor and wireless, the unit can't run for a week on a charge if you use the PDA frequently. That's the price you pay for these lovely features. That said, the T5 should certainly last most users two days on a charge with average use. If you play games for a few hours each day or watch movies, runtimes will be shorter and you'll need to charge it daily. Likewise, if you spend a few hours browsing the web via Bluetooth, you'll want to charge it each day.

Bluetooth

As with other recent palmOne PDAs, the T5 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 the Bluetooth program by pressing its icon on the taskbar, you can quickly connect to devices you've established partnerships with, and connect to new devices. 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, Philips, Siemens, Sony Ericsson and "other". Once you select your brand, you'll select your phone model from a list and move on to the pairing process. If you select "other" for the brand, the palm will tell you to run Phone Link Updater to download additional drivers. In addition, the T5 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.

USB Drive Mode and the new File Transfer Features

To use the T5 as a USB removable drive, simply run the Drive Mode application on the PDA and plug it into a USB port on your computer. You need not install any software on your computer. The palm appears as a new drive on your computer and you can access the 160 meg memory partition, to view, move and transfer files to and from the device. Very nice! Speeds are fast, and copying MP3s and movies was as fast as copying them using a card reader. Those of you who've used Palm Desktop to transfer large files know how long that took, and the T5's drive mode is a wonderful improvement.

File Transfer is a new drag-and-drop desktop app for Windows machines that works like file explorer for your T5. You can use File Transfer to view, move and transfer files to and from the internal memory partition and SD cards. Both File Transfer and USB drive modes are much welcomed improvements since it wasn't possible in the past to peruse and manipulate the contents of your palm's memory from a computer.

Software Bundle

The T5 comes with palmOne's enhanced PIM applications for contacts, calendar and tasks management. This includes palmOne's Agenda view which shows you the day at a glance and is similar to the Pocket PC Today Screen. 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 is new for the T5, and this application functions as a launcher with shortcuts to your favorite applications such as Documents To Go, music, photos and VersaMail. 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. Of course, you can use the traditional Palm OS home screen if you wish or your favorite 3rd party launcher. PalmOne's Files application on the PDA allows you to view and manage the contents of memory and is similar to the popular freeware Filez.

For Internet, you get both a web browser and an email client. Blazer 4 is the web browser, and it has optimized and wide (desktop) page layout modes. The browser supports Javascript, bookmarks, history, cookies, proxies and SSL. VersaMail 2.7.1, 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 T5 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 keyboards.

The T5 comes with Palm Desktop syncing software for Windows and Mac. File Transfer and the sync conduit for Outlook are available for Windows users only.

Conclusion

A very nice Palm OS PDA. If you're a T3 user, you probably won't want to run out and upgrade, but if you're using an older, slower or lower resolution Palm, this is a worthy contender. It has a large, high resolution display, a very fast processor and plenty of memory. In addition it has an SD slot for memory and WiFi card expansion, Bluetooth and an MP3 player. Not bad. This is the first PDA with enough memory to hold a decent collection of MP3s, photos, short videos and PDF files without a memory expansion card.

We'd have liked to see more from palmOne's new top-of-the-line unit however, especially WiFi which has become so important in the US and other countries. These days, PDAs like computers improve at a rapid pace, increasing processor speed, adding memory, more networking technologies and other features for the same price as last year's model. The T5 is a good unit, but it doesn't give power user T3 owners a place to go in pursuit of the fastest and coolest new Palm OS PDA. While the T5 does add more memory (and non-volatile memory at that), it doesn't have as bright a display as the T3, and it lacks the T3's voice recorder, metal casing and vibrating alerts. Which should you buy? That depends on whether lots of memory that stays safe even after a complete battery drain and a larger battery are more important than the T3's more durable casing, brighter screen, voice recorder and vibrating alerts.

Web site: www.palm.com

List price: $349

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Specs:

Display: Transflective TFT color LCD, 64K colors. Resolution: 320 x 480. Supports both portait and landscape modes.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable. 1300 mA.

Performance: Intel XScale PXA270 416MHz processor. Total memory: 215 megs comprised of 64 MB (55 megs available) device memory and 160 megs of "internal" memory.

Size: 4.76 x 3.08 x .61 in. Weight: 5.1 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. RealPlayer included for MP3 playback.

Networking: Integrated Bluetooth.

Software: The device runs Palm OS 5.4.5. Palm Desktop for Windows and Mac included. Windows only conduits to sync to Outlook rather than Palm Desktop if you prefer. Documents To Go 7, RealPlayer, Blazer 4.0 web browser, VersaMail 2.7.1, Note Pad, Memos, Expense, calculator, Files, eReader, Drive Mode, Dialer, Bluetooth, Handmark Solitaire, World Clock, Adobe Acrobat Reader for Palm OS and palmOne's enhanced PIM apps (contacts, calendar, tasks) included.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot, supporting SDIO.

 

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