PalmOne Tungsten T5: a first look

PalmOne breaks new ground with the business-focussed Tungsten T5, but we wish it had Wi-Fi built-in.

PalmOne's new Tungsten T5 has some of the look and feel of the Tungsten E and some of the features of the Tungsten T3, but also incorporates several innovations. The headline-grabbers are the T5's 256MB of Flash memory, and the fact that the device can be used as a virtual hard drive. The Tungsten T5 will be available in early November and will cost £329.


The Tungsten T5's design is based on the Tungsten E; it has a fast XScale CPU and 256MB of RAM, but no integrated Wi-Fi. It will be available in early November.
Of the 256MB of memory, 215MB is accessible to the user, the rest forming the ROM that holds the operating system and bundled software. The user accessible memory is divided into two portions, one of 160MB and the other of 55MB. The latter is where users store their applications, while the former is designated as internal storage -- it's not possible to run applications from here. Data can be stored in either area. PalmOne is pushing the larger portion as a virtual disk drive. It shows up as a hard drive on a PC and supports drag-and-drop file transfer, allowing the handheld to be used for file transfer between computers. The idea is that professionals needing to transfer a lot of files between locations may find this a more convenient solution than USB key drives or carrying a notebook. The added bonus is that files can be accessed from here, and because Documents To Go Professional version 7 is included on the device, native Word and Excel files can be edited. Because the memory is all Flash, it will retain data if the battery runs down. Also, the use of Flash memory throughout should help prolong battery life -- something we'll test when we get the T5 for a full review. When the T5 is connected to a PC for synchronisation (via HotSync), users have to tell the device they wish to use it in ‘Drive Mode’ to enable access to the larger memory area. We will have to live with a T5 for a while before deciding whether the benefits of the virtual drive system outweigh the extra steps required to use it. In addition to Documents To Go, PalmOne provides a number of additional applications alongside the standard fare. These include PalmOne Media player for viewing photos and video, RealOne Player for PalmOne for MP3, VersaMail and the Blazer Web browser. The T5 does not run the newly announced Cobalt 6.1, but rather the older Garnet, now at version 5.4.5. We found both the new Favourites view and Files application welcome. The former provides for quick access to frequently used applications and services, while the latter presents a welcome listing of data and applications stored on the device, with the ability to easily launch files -- tap a music file, for example, and it's played by RealOne Player for PalmOne. The hardware design is familiar, although the dark grey case helps distinguish this Tungsten from the T3. The absence of the T3's slider mechanism means the T5 is a larger device, but its screen is constantly available at 320 by 240 resolution. The screen was bright and clear in the fluorescent lighting conditions under which we conducted our initial evaluation. The bar of icons recently added to the Palm OS allows for easy shifting between portrait and landscape modes, as well as to the built-in Bluetooth. Wi-Fi is not present, though, and PalmOne suggests that its recently announced SD Wi-Fi card can provide this service if required. We'd have liked to see both wireless options available out of the box, and in a device aimed primarily at professionals, its absence may be a serious omission. It's also a pity that the company has abandoned the longstanding Universal Connector for a new type, which it is calling the Multi Connector, and which the company suggests will be the new common connector for PalmOne products. The large memory allocation and virtual drive feature show that PalmOne is still innovating. Although drag and drop file copying to Pocket PCs has been possible for some time, PalmOne’s first foray into Flash is an interesting development. A longer look at this device will help us determine whether these features, and the capability afforded by Intel’s 416MHz XScale processor, justify the £329 price tag. Check back soon for a full review.

GPS bundles, T3 Business Class
At the same time as launching its new Tungsten T5 handheld, PalmOne announced two GPS solutions and a new Tungsten T3 bundle. The GPS solutions are tied to PalmOne's entry-level and mid-range Zire devices, the 31 and 72. The former will retail at around £249 and the product box includes the Zire 31 itself, a suction-based car mount, a wired Kirrio-branded GPS receiver and MapSonic software from ViaMichelin. The suite does not include a data card on which to store the complete MapSonic map database. Instead, users can either export ‘strips’ to the Zire 31, or purchase an SD Card to hold the full map data. The Zire 31 has a suggested retail price of £119.99 when sold separately. The second GPS bundle, which has a suggested retail price of £349.99, includes a Zire 72, a Kirrio-branded Bluetooth GPS receiver, MapSonic software and three car mounting options (vent, suction and car charger adaptor). It comes with a 128MB SD card containing pre-installed software and maps, so users don't need a PC to install any applications and can carry the full UK map base around at all times. PalmOne has also announced that the Tungsten T3, which was launched a year ago and which PalmOne says has been a top-five seller ever since, will get a price drop from 11 October. The T3's suggested retail price will be £249, down from £299. Furthermore, from 1 November the T3 will be available with a free PalmOne infrared keyboard.