Posted on 2-Nov-2004 08:44 by James Shiell.
Filed under: Reviews
PalmOne’s new Tungsten T5 was not released to anything like the acclaim of its predecessor, the T3. Instead there were plenty of complaints – it didn’t have a voice recorder, it didn’t have Palm OS 6/Cobalt and worst of all – no Wireless LAN. However, in the spirit of scientific enquiry, I have finally managed to borrow one briefly from an eager purchaser and find out just what could have been going on in the think tank at PalmOne.
For those who’ve managed to miss the hype (or lack of) – the T5 replaces the Tungsten T3 in PalmOne’s line-up – the top of the range non-cellular organiser. It has a lovely 320x480 display, a 416Mhz X-Scale processor, Palm OS Garnet 5.4 and a higher capacity (1300mAh) built-in battery. It also has a rather neat toy – while it has but 55Mb of main RAM (and a 16Mb dynamic heap), this is topped up with a built-in 256MB flash drive (215MB available). And not only can this be used on the Palm but by running in ‘Drive Mode’ you can use the device as a flash drive on a PC. To finish it off it has Bluetooth and a very similar set of software to the Zire 72.
One thing I cannot fault with the device is its form – this is one of the nicest handhelds in size/shape since the Palm V. The contentious slider of the T1, 2 and 3 is gone, resulting in a slightly longer but thinner and lighter device. PalmOne supply a side-attached black leather cover with looks very nice and unlike the Zire series the body is made of metal. The bulbous navigator and buttons of the T3 have been replaced by a much more compact layout. In fact, it looks just like a Tungsten E without a hard graffiti area.
On the downside, some of the nice touches of the T3 have gone. The SD drive now uses a plastic filler once more – the drive door has gone the way of the Dodo. The vibration support for alarms has gone and the stylus is a metal-barrelled item with plastic ends, one of which unscrews to get to a reset pin – very similar to that used in the Palm IIIC. And the universal connector is MIA. Once again you’ll need to buy new HotSync cables and cradles. I have read this was to unify the connectors on the Treo and Tungsten ranges and add some new capabilities (audio out and USB 2 support), but it’s still rather a pain. And in an odd move for a top-of-the-line device, there’s no cradle included – just a HotSync cable.
T3 users will be chuffed to hear that the life battery has been improved. I’ve been going since Thursday with Bluetooth turned on (including a length Bluetooth sync to restore the device from a hard reset) and the battery is still at 60%. And if you do drain the battery all your data on the internal flash drive will be preserved. Unfortunately the battery is still not removable.
Side by side (left)
Side by side (left)
As for software, it’s a Zire 72 with polish and a few surprises. Documents to Go is now at version 7, and WebPro has been dumped in favour of Handspring’s faster Blazer browser. VersaMail remains at version 2.7, the Media application looks a little nicer and has easier access to email media, and the Messages applications found on the Zire is gone, replaced with PalmOne’s older SMS application. We also get the newer launcher with background support and a new launcher view – Favourites. This is an assignable list of shortcuts that alternates with the launcher view when you press the leftmost device button. Shortcuts can link to programs, URLs or files/folders on flash media. Useful, but it reminds me a little of Sony’s launcher chaos (the TH55 had three launchers to choose from!).
You can tell Palm have spent a bit of time tweaking these apps – they are a little more polished than the Zire 72’s set, the icons are nicer and there’s a handy blue highlight on the currently focused field, simplifying navigator use. And they’ve finally included a file manager – essential for those using the flash drive.
Entering Drive Mode: removable storage for your computer
In summary, it’s a nice device but it’s not a T3 replacement. But for the name on the case I would have said it’s an updated Tungsten E, and were it marketed as such I believe it would do very well. But as a high-end device it’s a disappointment. The lack of vibration and a voice recorder make it a step backwards when PalmOne is already lacking anything to compete with high-end (or even mid-range) Pocket PC handhelds. It’s got delusions of grandeur, and they could cost PalmOne dear. But knock NZ$200 off the price and I’ll take three. Here’s hoping the T6 makes me eat my words!