Review posted Oct. 1, 2003, by Lisa Gade,
Editor in Chief
In the past year, Palm has introduced a number
of exciting new handhelds, catering to those who want a digital
camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, thumb keyboard or GSM wireless integrated
into a handheld. However, we haven't seen an offering without those
bells and whistles, for users who want a small, powerful PDA without
the extras for a reasonable price. Enter the Tungsten E, which
is only a hair larger than the hallowed but aged Palm V and m500
series, yet comes with the latest Palm operating system, an MP3
player, a fast ARM family processor and a good dose of memory.
The Tungsten E is wonderfully small, attractive
and a great value at US $199. It'll leave space in your pocket
without emptying your wallet. The Palm m515 has
been one of the most popular PDAs, and though it's quite old and
runs Palm OS 4, shoppers have been drawn to it thanks to its incredibly
attractive design and small size. But it's slow by today's standards,
and doesn't have much memory, a high res display or an MP3 player.
So what to buy? Some shoppers have opted for higher end PDAs like
the Zire 71 even though they didn't
want a camera, or mid-level Sony Clié models
like the SJ33. Others have patiently waited, and this may well
be the PDA for them.
Design and Ergonomics
As stated, the Tungsten E isn't much larger than
the Palm m515, the smallest PDA on the market. It has a chrome
finish that's attractive, though it does show fingerprints. The
casing is made of plastic, but feels rigid and durable.
The Tungsten E has an oblong 5 way directional
pad that's easy to operate, though there isn't much tactile feedback,
and the down direction is harder to press than other directions.
Four buttons surround the d-pad, and launch the calendar, contacts,
notepad and tasks (you can reassign the buttons to any program).
Like the Tungsten T3, the E
does offer key lock, so you can set it to ignore button presses
if you wish when the unit is powered off. The speaker on the back,
top center of the unit (see picture).
The unit feels comfy in the hand, and comes with
a 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. If only Sony could take lessons from Palm on stylus
design! The headphone jack, SD slot and power button are located
on the top edge of the unit.
The Tungsten E has a 126 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP311
processor, which is plenty fast enough for most endeavors. Video playback
using Kinoma is great, and demanding games such as Warfare
Inc. run decently. Sega Action
Games, which don't run smoothly on the Tungsten T or Zire 71, don't
run terribly fast or smoothly on the Tungsten E. The Tungsten T3 or the Tungsten
C, with their 400 MHz XScale processors, are the best bet for that
particular game suite. For all other current games, the Tungsten E is
ready for the match.
The Tungsten E has 32 megs of RAM, with 28.3 megs available
to the user. Given the relatively small size of Palm OS applications,
that's good deal of space! Of course if you're going to carry around
a lot of MP3s and movies, then you'll need plenty of space, and the E
has an SD slot for memory cards.
The Tungsten E has a high res 320 x 320 pixel transflective
color display. It's the same display as that used on the Zire
71, and is one of the sharpest and brightest displays among PDAs.
it's a pleasure to use whether viewing documents, photos or videos.
The Tungsten E has a built-in stereo MP3 player, a
single rear-firing speaker, and a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack.
RealOne Mobile Player is included, and there are other 3rd party MP3
players available if you prefer those over Real. MP3 playback volume
through headphones is plenty loud, and is louder than the original Tungsten
T and Zire 71. You'll need to store MP3s on an expansion card, but
given the relatively large size of MP3 files and the low cost of SD cards,
this shouldn't be a huge problem for most users.
The E does not have a voice recorder, nor LED or vibrating
alerts. If you must have these features, consider the Tungsten T3 instead.
The Tungsten E, like all m-series and Tungsten PDAs,
has an SD slot that accepts SD and MMC cards (SD is recommended) and
supports SDIO for such things as SD WiFi wireless networking cards should
one become available that supports the E.
The E doesn't use the universal connector found on
the Tungsten T and m-series Palm PDAs, so you won't be able to use accessories
that require the universal connector. The E comes with a USB cable with
USB to mini-USB standard connectors for syncing, and a charger that plugs
directly into the PDA.
Comparing the $199 Sony Clié TJ25 to the $199
Palm Tungsten E
Had the TJ25 come
out before the Tungsten E, it might've seemed a better value than it
does now. The E has more memory, an MP3 player, a significantly better
screen and an excellent software bundle. The TJ does have a bit faster
processor, but most users won't notice the difference in performance,
and it does use the standard Sony connector for peripherals, while the
Tungsten E isn't compatible with Palm universal connector accessories.
The Clé TJ35, announced the same time as the TJ25 sells for $250
and is the more direct competitor feature-for-feature with the Tungsten
E. Sony is offering a $20
rebate unit Jan. 3, 2003 on the TJ25 and a $30
rebate on the TJ35 when purchased from any dealer, and that does
help sweeten the pot.
Improved PIM Apps
The basic Palm OS PIM apps on other models
(address book, date book, to-do's and notepad) haven't really
changed since the days of the original Palm Pilot. PalmOne (the
new name for the company that makes PDAs) and not PalmSource
(the company that makes the Palm OS) has revised the PIM apps
for the T3 and Tungsten E models. Yay! These are welcome enhancements
that all users will appreciate. In fact, they've also been re-named
as Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Memo. You'll notice that our
write-up of the T3 and TE enhanced PIMs are the same, since the
apps themselves are the same.
The Calendar features an Agenda view, which
is similar to the Pocket PC Today Screen. The month view has
been enhanced to show appointments with color coding by category,
and smaller calendars of the previous and following month shown
below the current month. There's also a year view of the calendar
with the current month and day bolded (appointments don't show
in year view).
The Contacts application allows you to enter
both home and work addresses for a given contact (with other
Palm OS PDAs there's only one address per contact), and there
are new fields for instant messenger IDs, birthday and web site.
If you wish to sync to Outlook rather than
Palm Desktop, you won't need additional software since the Windows
version now includes an Outlook conduit (email in Outlook is
synced with VersaMail on the Palm).
The Tungsten E has a non-user replaceable Lithium
Ion Polymer battery. Like most Palm brand PDAs, battery life
has been pretty good so far, and you should be able to go a few
days on a charge with average use. If you play intensive games
or videos for long stretches, you'll need to charge the unit
The Tungsten E comes with a great software
bundle for a budget PDA. Documents To Go Professional 6.0 is
included with the E. It's one of the most popular MS Office suites
for Palm OS, and version 6 supports native Office file formats,
so you won't need to convert documents (and lose formatting)
when editing them on the Palm. Docs To Go allows you to both
view and edit MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.
VersaMail, Palm's capable email client, supports
multiple email accounts and both POP3 and IMAP protocols. You
can use it to check your email directly, or sync emails from
your desktop inbox to the PDA. You can set VersaMail to automatically
fetch your email on a schedule, setup filters and have it notify
you audibly of new mail.
Above, the new Agenda
view in the Calendar application. Below, the new calendar
For you video buffs, the Tungsten E comes with
Kinoma Player and Kinoma Producer. You'll also get Palm's Photos
application for viewing images, and several Handmark titles, included
PDA Money and Mobile DB for viewing databases and references on
The Tungsten E, like all Palm brand PDAs, comes
with desktop software to sync the unit with both Windows and Mac
OS. It also comes with Grafitti 2 handwriting recognition software
which allows you to write characters in a fairly normal fashion,
and write anywhere on the screen if you wish.
Pro: This is a great unit if you're looking for
a reasonably powerful Palm PDA that's also very small and light.
It runs the latest OS, has 28.3 megs of available RAM, enhanced
PIM apps and an MP3 player. Excellent for $199! Con: Battery is
not user replaceable, though battery life is quite good and this
won't bother many users. No universal connector.
high res 320 x 320 pixel color transflective display
with 16 bit, 65,000 colors.
MHz Texas Instruments OMAP311 ARM processor. 32 megs
of RAM, 28.3 megs available to the user.
in. high. x. 3.1 in.wide, 0.5 inches thick. 4.6 oz.
speaker, 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.
MP3 capable, with RealOne as the included player. Supports alarm
Rechargeable Lithium Ion Polymer. Not user replaceable.
OS 5.2.1. Included are the usual suite of Palm applications,
including Contacts, Calendar, Clock, Tasks, Memo,
Note Pad, Expense, Calculator, SMS, VersaMail and
Palm Reader. A generous bundle of 3rd party apps
including Documents to Go Professional 6.0, Grafitti
2, powerOne Personal calculator, Acrobat Reader for
Palm, Handmark's PDA Money, MobileDB and Magic Dogs
card game, Kinoma Player and Producer, World Clock
and more. Palm Desktop 4.1 for Windows and Mac included.
MS Outlook conduits included for Windows.