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Palm Tungsten T and Tungsten T2

Posted Nov. 7, 2002, updated July 24th 2003 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

Note that the palmOne Tungsten T3 and Tungsten T5 have replaced the T and T2 models

In November 2002 Palm introduced a new high end line of PDAs called Tungsten. The Tungsten T was the first model to come out, and it sports Palm OS 5, an ARM family processor running at 144 MHz, a high-res 320 x 320 pixel color screen and a sliding case design. You may see it listed as the Tungsten T m550 in some retail outlets.

Palm OS 5 is the much anticipated release that adds several competitive features such as support for high res color displays, faster processors, stereo audio, voice recording, MP3 playback, and enhanced security and encryption.

Tungsten T2

On July 23, 2003 Palm announced the successor to the Tungsten T, called the Tungsten T2. It's nearly identical to the original Tungsten T. What's new in the T2? It runs Palm OS 5.2.1, offers Graffiti 2, has 32 megs of RAM (29.5 megs available to the user) compared to 16 megs on the Tungsten T, and has a transflective color display which is superior to the original Tungsten T screen. If you're interested in larger, high res+ 320 x 480 pixel display version of the T line, check out the Tungsten T3, introduced October 1, 2003.

Design and Slider

The Tungsten T has an interesting industrial design: the bottom of the unit slides down to reveal the Graffiti area. Thus when you want to access info using the stylus and buttons, you can use your Tungsten T with the slider closed. Palm's idea is that most of the time we use our PDAs for data retrieval rather than data entry, so users will mostly use the unit with the slider shut. It is very compact when closed, and still fairly compact when open (see size comparison photos below).

The unit feels very durable and solid in the hand. My guess is that it could take a licking and keep on ticking, though I always advise that you play nice with your PDAs . You'll feel a nice positive click both when you slide the unit all the way open and shut. The case is finished in an attractive gunmetal gray metallic finish that looks slick but not too flashy.

size comparison

Comparing size: the iPAQ 3970 left, Tungsten T closed in the middle and the Handspring Treo 90 at right. Below, the same PDAs with the Tungsten T slider in the open position.
size comparison

 

 

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Horsepower?

This thing really rips! Most Palm OS devices with the older Dragonball processors running at 33 or 66 MHz seem quite usable, but once you use the Tungsten T (or the Sony Clié NX and NZ models which have 200 MHz XScale processors) you will definitely notice the difference. Applications come up faster, searches are faster, syncing takes less than half the time it did with older Palms (I synced a 6 meg video file to the T in under 30 seconds!) and images in graphics programs load much more quickly.

The Texas Instruments OMAP 1510 processor's power allows developers to add more features and enhanced graphics, which means Office apps, multimedia apps and games can be much more sophisticated. In fact, Documents To Go 5 supports high res, and there are Palm OS 5 enhanced games on the market now.

Display

This is Palm's first high resolution color display and it is lovely. Previous Palm and Handspring Palm OS PDAs had 160 x 160 pixel screens. The Sony Clié line has featured several high res screen models in the past years. Palm has caught up with Sony with OS 5, which offers native support for a number of higher resolutions, and the Tungsten T has a 320 x 320 pixel screen. It is VERY sharp, bright, evenly lit, and has good color saturation. The transflective display on the T2 is even brighter and more color saturated than the original Tungsten T.

The brightness is adjustable and you can turn the backlight on or off as you desire. How does it compare with rivals? In fact, it's more evenly lit than many Pocket PCs. It's as sharp as the high res Sony models, though not quite as color-saturated. It's as good as most all Pocket PCs on the market, with the exception of recent iPAQ models which, like the high-end Sony models, uses a gorgeous transreflective display that are among the best.

Gamers and the rest of us will definitely appreciate the display; and speaking of gamers, the new 5-way directional pad button which replaces the old up/down buttons will surely be welcome.

Compatibility

The Tungsten was one of the first Palm PDAs to come out with OS 5 and the ARM processor. Nowadays drivers for your existing universal connector hardware accessories should be available. How about software? You shouldn't have any trouble finding OS 5 compatible software as of Summer 2003. The major productivity apps such as Documents to Go 5 (which comes with the Tungsten T), iambic Office, Quick Office, and Chapura Pocket Mirror (also included with the T) work on the T, and many take advantage of the new high res screen. Docs to Go 5 looks absolutely fantastic, and you'll be very pleased at how much of a spreadsheet you can see on the screen, not to mention how sharp the text is. Palm has published a list of compatible software (including games) at www.palm.com/support/tungstent/compatibility.html.

The Universal Connector and Connecting Accessories

The Tungsten T, like recent m-series Palms, has a universal connector which attaches to the cradle for syncing, and to accessories such as modems and keyboards. Note that you should make sure the peripheral has OS 5 drivers. The processor and operating system upgrade mean that companies who manufacture accessories have to issue OS 5 drivers.The cradle looks the same as other m series models such as the m515 and m130 PDAs. The power adapter plugs into the cradle's cable so you'll charge the PDA by placing it in the cradle. You can use m series cradles and chargers with the Tungstens.

If you're an IR sync and beam fan, you'll be happy to know the T has an IR port that played well with our Sharp Actius UM30 notebook and other Palms here in the office.

MP3 and Voice Notes

Yes, this device can play MP3 music and has a stereo headphone jack. At launch, the Tungsten didn't come with an MP3 player app, but a few months later it was released. Real Player Mobile Player is now available for the Tungsten T, and functions as the MP3 player for the Tungsten T. You can download it from palm.com. The Tungsten T2 comes with Real One Mobile Player. You'll need to store MP3s on an expansion card with the T2.

For all you folks who've been dying for a voice recorder, rejoice! You've got one in the T, and the audio quality is decent. If you're planning on recording long conversations or meetings, do get some SD memory cards to store those larger audio files. You can tell the Voice Memo to automatically record to a memory card, if present.

Bluetooth

If Bluetooth is your game, you'll be happy to know that Bluetooth is built-in and works flawlessly in this machine. Connect to your phone, an access point or chat with your Palm Bluetooth-enabled buddies using Blue Chat. The T doesn't come with all the Bluetooth apps pre-installed, but don't panic, they're all on the the Extras CD (disk 2).

Conclusion

Pro: Many of us have been waiting a long time to see the new Palm OS 5 devices with wickedly faster processors and new multimedia features. The Tungsten T is surely what we've been waiting for: the high res color screen, fast processor, enhanced security and stereo output capability are just what the doctor ordered. Videos are a pleasure to watch (thank you Kinoma Player), the screen is easy on the eyes and built-in Bluetooth is a nice feature (yes, I think Bluetooth devices will improve and proliferate). Con: What's not to like? Unless you're a WiFi junkie or want an integrated camera, this model should please you.

 

Specs:

Display: Backlit, high res 320 x 320 pixel color display with 16 bit, 65,000 colors. Transflective on the Tungsten T2.

Performance: 144 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 1510 (ARM) processor with integrated audio processing capabilities (DSP). 16 megs of RAM on Tungsten, 32 megs on the Tungsten T2. Flash upgradeable ROM for OS.

Size: height: 4.0 in. closed,
4.8 in. open. 3.0 in.wide, 0.6 inches thick. 5.6 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker, voice recorder, stereo headphone jack. MP3 capable, with Real One as the included player. Supports alarm sounds, LED alert and vibrating alerts.

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Polymer.

Software: Palm OS 5 on Tungsten T and OS 5.2.1 on the Tungsten T2. Included are the usual suite of Palm applications, including Address Book, Date Book, Clock, To Do List, Memo, Note Pad Calculator and Palm Reader. Bluetooth software, SMS app, new security software, Palm WAP Browser and Palm™ Web Browser Pro included. A generous bundle of 3rd party apps including Documents to Go 5, Chapura Pocket Mirror (for syncing to Outlook), Handmark's MobileDB, powerOne Personal, Calculator, Acrobat Reader for Palm, Handmark's Monopoly® (trial version), Handmark's Scrabble (trial version), and more. Palm Desktop for Windows and Mac included.

Modem: None included. Bluetooth is built-in, so you can use your Bluetooth capable cell phone as a modem or buy Palm's accessory 56k dialup modem.

 

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