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Palm Tungsten C

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Review posted April 23, 2003, by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

You want horsepower? You want wireless Internet access via WiFi? Then the Tungsten C, introduced April 23, 2003 is sure to be on your short list. With specs rivaling top of the line Pocket PCs, you'll no longer be bullied by your iPAQ toting co-workers. Not that the highly efficient Palm OS even needs such a fast processor, but the 64 megs of memory will surely be more than welcome.

The Tungsten C is an attractive, business-like PDA that closely resembles the Tungsten W minus the antenna. It's made of hard plastic, has an integrated thumb keyboard and sports an understated silver metallic finish. It's easily pocketable and feels solid. It's about the same size as the Tungsten T with slider open.

Palm Tunsten C
Palm Tungsten C


Horsepower and Battery Life

The C runs Palm OS 5.2.1 and a 400 MHz Intel XScale PXA255 processor, making it the fastest Palm OS PDA at the moment. This is the same processor that high end Pocket PCs use. While the processor used on other Palm OS 5 PDAs (144 MHz or 200 MHz) has been more than fast enough, the specs should please corporate purchasers. What we have been waiting for is a Palm OS PDA with more than 16 megs of RAM, so the 64 megs of RAM (also the same amount found on high end Pocket PCs) will have most users jumping for joy. Of that 64 megs, 51 are available to the user. Still, 51 megs should be more than enough to store quite a large number of Palm applications and data.

Battery life is excellent for a PDA with built-in WiFi. I don't know how Palm does it, but I used the PDA to work with MS Office Docs, surfed the web for 2 hours, accessed the calendar, contacts and tasks several times during the day, played Pinballz2 and the battery level only dropped about 15%. Palm claims that you can get a full work day of WiFi connectivity from the unit, and I think they're telling the truth.


The Tungsten C and the simultaneously released Zire 71 are the first Palm brand PDAs to have transflective screens. The Tungsten C's screen is bright, nicely color saturated and doesn't have any color bias (no color tint). While not as bright as the best of the transflectives (iPAQ 3900 series and 5450) it is plenty bright enough, and is a bit brighter than the Zire 71. It's head and shoulders above the Tungsten T, which looks dim and has a pinkish color cast in comparison.



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WiFi Wireless Networking and Software

The Tungsten C has built-in 802.11b WiFi wireless Ethernet networking. If you'd like to learn more about WiFi and what you can do with it, read our article here. You can use WiFi to access the Internet for web surfing and email along with syncing and printing to printers on an Ethernet network. It comes with a quick start guide for WiFi setup and a Wi-Fi Setup application to get you connected to access points. The Setup application scans for all access points that are broadcasting in range, and walks you through connecting to them. It saves access points you've connected to, so you don't have to reconfigure your settings each time you change between frequently used access points. The C supports 64 bit and 128 bit WEP encryption (HEX, ascii and pass phrase), and you can connect to non-broadcasting access points if you enter in the access point's name (SSID) manually. The MAC address of the PDA is printed on the back below the serial number. So if you or your company run access control (restricting access only to allowed devices via their unique MAC address), the info you need to get the C on your network will be readily available. If you need to connect using a VPN, you can use Palm's VPN setup app to connect via PPTP.

How well does it work? We tested it with a few 802.11b access points and it worked well with excellent signal strength (better than some of our notebooks!). It connects fine using WEP and with non-broadcast networks. If for some reason the C fails to connect to an access point (perhaps you have the WEP key entered incorrectly), it may still tell you it's connected. However when you launch the included web browser, it will just sit there for about 30 seconds doing nothing. Your PDA hasn't hung, though you might think so.

Speaking of Web browsers, the Tungsten C comes with the excitingly named "Web Browser" built into ROM. Gone is Palm's Web Pro (a pretty darned good browser), instead we have Web Browser 2.0.1 with core technology from Access, the same folks who make the venerable, though sometimes cranky, NetFront web browser that comes with the Clié NX and NZ90 models. Web Browser is definitely a great app: it supports side-scrolling, JavaScript, proxies, SSL 3.0 and cookies. It's proxyless, so your content will be served directly to your handheld. Web Browser works with Hotmail and sites with large pages and complex homepages such as, which other PDA browsers have trouble with.

For email, you get Palm's own VersaMail 2.5. It supports up to 8 POP3 and IMAP accounts and has built-in settings for some popular ISPs such as Earthlink, Yahoo, Verizon and Apple's .Mac service. It will work with Exchange servers and supports syncing email with the desktop. It has an auto-retrieve function that allows you to schedule periodic checks for new email.

If you want to print to networked printers, you can do so using the included copy of the ever-popular PrintBoy from Bachmann.

Palm Desktop and Software Bundle

Just as with the camera-equiped Zire 71, the Windows version of Palm Desktop is enhanced to support image syncing. I imagine all Palm brand PDAs will ship with this enhancement and the Palm Photo app for the handheld. On the left side of the screen alongside with the Date, Address and etc. icons you'll see a Palm Photos icon. Clicking on this icon will bring up large thumbnails of images stored on your Palm that have been synced to the desktop. You can also use this window to adds photos to your Tunsten. Palm Photos offers some basic image editing functionality as well: you can rotate images 90 degrees, crop them, zoom, adjust for red-eye and automatically adjust brightness, color balance and contrast using the Enhance function. There's even a preview pane, so you can see how images downloaded to Palm Desktop will look on your Tungsten.

Also new with this version of Palm Desktop is an improved Palm Quick Install tool, which is a much friendlier version of the old Palm install application. You can even drag and drop files onto the Quick Install window to install them to your Palm. The window is divided into two panes, one for internal memory and one for expansion cards. Very nice!

The Tungsten C comes with Document To Go Pro version 5.03 built into ROM. This is the most popular package for working with Word, PowerPoint and Excel docs on your PDA, and supports the high res display. While it's nice to have the application suite stored in ROM, keep in mind that updates or new versions will have to be installed in RAM. You'll also get Collingo Meeting for sharing appointments with other Collingo users via WiFi, WorldMate, a really neat and useful app for travelers that lets you view the time, date, weather and more for 5 cities across the world, AOL for Palm, AvantoGo, Handmark Solitaire and more. If you're a gamer, you'll be happy to know the recently released Sega games for the Palm Tungsten T also work on the C.


Not much to say here: no MP3 player, a mono speaker built into the back, and a headphone jack that can accept the 2.5mm mobile phone style hand's free headset. In fact, you can use the Tungsten W's headset with the Tungsten C. Why bother with the headset jack? In case you want to use Voice Over IP or record voice memos. The C does not have a built-in mic, so you'll need to use a headset to record voice memos.

Kinoma Videos

Want to watch some videos? The Tungsten C comes with Kinoma Player for Palm and a special version of Kinoma Producer for the desktop. This app allows you to take MPEG-1, Quicktime, AVI and DV videos and turn them into .prc files that the Palm can play. While the files created by Kinoma aren't as high quality as the originals, and show some blockiness, overall they look good and are relatively small in terms of file size. Given the speed of the Tungsten C, you won't have to worry about stuttering playback or dropped frames! If you want to upgrade to the full version of Kinoma Producer in order to rip movies at higher audio and video quality or do batch conversions, you can upgrade for $29.99.

SD Slot

The Tungsten C has an SD slot that can accommodate SD and MMC memory storage cards as well as SDIO cards such as the Palm Bluetooth card.

The Universal Connector and Connecting Accessories

The Tungsten C, like recent m series Palms and the Tungsten family, has a universal connector which attaches to the cradle for syncing, and to accessories such as modems and keyboards. Most universal connector accessories should work with the C, including the Palm keyboard and modem.

The USB cradle is the same as other m series models such as the m515 and the Tungsten T. The power adapter plugs into the cradle's cable so you'll charge the PDA by placing it in the cradle. An serial cradle is available separately if your computer doesn't have USB ports. Just as with the other Palm brand OS 5 PDAs, this thing syncs remarkably fast via USB.

If you're an IR sync and beam fan, you'll be happy to know the Tungsten C has an IR port that played well with our notebooks and other Palm OS PDAs here in the office.

Keyboard, Graffiti 2 and Navigation

The built-in keyboard is similar to the Tungsten W. I've never been a big thumb keyboard fan, but this is one of the best. With some thumboards, you have to type using your thumbnails rather than the flesh of your thumb. The Tungsten C's keys are large enough and spaced widely so that you can easily type accurately with the meat of your thumb. It's a standard KWERTY keyboard, with a few nice touches: hold down on a letter and it will capitalize, press twice on the function key to turn on number lock. Below the keyboard, surrounding the d-pad there are buttons to launch Contacts, Calendar, Web Browser and VersaMail.

The Tungsten C and the Zire 71 are also the first Palm OS PDAs to ship with Graffiti 2. How does it compare to the old Graffiti? Certainly better. Instead of learning the original Graffiti alphabet, you'll enter characters in a more natural way, similar to the way you'd write them on paper. Since the C has a built-in thumb keyboard and no hardware Graffiti area, you'll need to turn on the Write Anywhere feature to enter text using hand writing recognition. You'll enter text on the left side of the screen, and numbers on the right.

The C has a 5 way navigation d-pad (directional pad). It's comfy and convenient. Pressing down on the center navigation button is equivalent to the action button, and you'll do that to return from a picture view to thumbnail view in the Photo application. In the home screen, you can press down on the button, then push it in the desired direction to move through your icons, and you can launch an app by pressing down on the button once you've moved to the desired icon.


Pro: The most powerful Palm OS PDA to date, bringing us a 400 MHz XScale processor and 64 megs of RAM running Palm OS 5.2.1 with Graffiti 2. User-friendly robust built-in WiFi. The high res transflective display is very good and the software bundle is strong. The PDA is fast and user friendly. Compatible with existing Palm universal connector accessories. Con: No MP3 player or stereo audio. You must use a headset to record voice notes.

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List Price: $399

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Display: Backlit, high res 320 x 320 pixel color transflective display with 16 bit, 65,000 colors.

Performance: 400 MHz Intel XScale PXA255 processor. 64 megs of RAM (51 available to the user), 16 megs flash upgradable ROM for OS.

Size: height: 4.5", 2.9" wide, 0.67 inches thick. 5.3 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker. 2.5mm mobile phone size jack for headsets (uses Palm's Tungsten W headset). Supports alarm sounds, LED alert and vibrating alerts. Voice recording supported with use of headset (no mic built into PDA).

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer, 1500 mAh. Not user replaceable.

Software: Palm OS 5.2.1. Includes the usual suite of Palm applications, including Address Book, Date Book, World Clock, To Do List, Memo Pad, Calculator, Palm Reader, VersaMail 2.5, Web Browser, and Photo app. A generous bundle of 3rd party apps including Chapura Pocket Mirror 3.1 (for syncing to Outlook on Windows), Handmark's Solitaire, Kinoma Player and Producer for Palm Inc., powerOne Personal Calculator, Acrobat Reader for Palm and more. Palm Desktop for Windows and Mac included. Windows version enhanced to support photo syncing and has a new Quick Install tool.

Expansion: SD Slot supporting SDIO.


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