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Palm Tungsten E

Editor's rating (1-5):
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Discontinued and replaced by the Palm Tungsten E2.

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.

Palm Tungsten T3 size comparison

 

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.

Horsepower

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.

Display

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.

 

Deals and Shopping

 

 

MP3 Player

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.

Expansion

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).

Battery Life

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 more freqently.

Software Bundle

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.

 

agenda view

 

Above, the new Agenda view in the Calendar application. Below, the new calendar week view.

 

T3 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 PDA.

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Web Site: www.palm.com

List Price: $199

Comparison Shopping: Where to Buy

 

Specs:

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

Performance: 126 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP311 ARM processor. 32 megs of RAM, 28.3 megs available to the user.

Size: 4.5 in. high. x. 3.1 in.wide, 0.5 inches thick. 4.6 oz.

Audio: Built-in speaker, 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack. MP3 capable, with RealOne as the included player. Supports alarm sounds.

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Ion Polymer. Not user replaceable.

Software: Palm 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.

Modem/Wireless: None included.

Expansion: 1 SD slot supporting SDIO

 

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