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Palm Tungsten C

The Tungsten C is Palm's first handheld to have 802.11b built in. It's also the first to break the 16MB RAM barrier, and the first to come with a 400MHz Intel XScale processor. Palm has opted for the new PXA255 chip, which Intel says is designed to provide significant speed gains and improved power management over the PXA250.
sandra-vogel.jpg
Written by Sandra Vogel on
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8.5/10

Palm Tungsten C

Excellent
Pros
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • fast 400MHz processor and 64MB of RAM
  • high-resolution screen
  • usable thumb keyboard
  • pleasing design and solid construction.
Cons
  • Stylus and screen-cover slots are not interchangeable
  • no headset as standard
  • no Wi-Fi 'on' indicator.
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

The Tungsten C is Palm's first handheld to have 802.11b built in. It's also the first to break the 16MB RAM barrier, and the first to come with a 400MHz Intel XScale processor. Palm has opted for the new PXA255 chip, which Intel says is designed to provide significant speed gains and improved power management over the PXA250.

The Tungsten C completes Palm's portfolio of connected devices: while the Tungsten W offers voice and data, and the Tungsten T has Bluetooth, the Tungsten C incorporates 802.11b. This, says Palm, makes it the ideal handheld for professionals who spend a lot of time on the move and need to access data. But the Tungsten C has far more going for it than wireless connectivity.

Design
The hardware design is very similar to that of the Tungsten W. The overall dimensions are slightly smaller and sleeker as the W's mobile phone and antenna are not required. For the record, the Tungsten C measures 7.8cm wide by 12.2cm high by 1.7cm deep and weighs 178g. The thumb keyboard that replaces the Graffiti area is identical to that on the Tungsten W. In general it's well designed, although the bottom row of shortcut keys -- including the small five-way directional cursor -- are a bit fiddly to access one-handed. Palm's key mapping tool, available under the Preferences area, is easy to use, and lets you get pound signs, Euros and a range of other international characters and symbols onto the keys. Alternatively, you can use Graffiti 2 to form letters on the screen. The TFT display is transflective, and although it's less bright and clear than that of the consumer-orientated Zire 71it is fine in general use. The single SD card slot is located on top of the device, while the power switch is on the bottom right-hand side of the casing. The stylus fits into a bay on the right side, while a slot on the left side is used to accommodate a flip over screen protector. Sadly, the two slots are differently designed, so you can't swap the stylus and screen cover depending on whether you are left- or right-handed. Palm should consider resurrecting this clever feature, used to good effect on the Palm V. The Tungsten C has the Universal Connector, making it compatible with a range of existing peripherals.

Features
Palm uses one of Intel's new PXA255 XScale processors in the Tungsten C. Among its advances on the PXA250 are a 200MHz bus as opposed 100MHz on the earlier chip, and improved power handling that, says Intel, should deliver longer battery life. The extra processor speed won't affect basic functions, but may show its value in quicker wireless data transfers. If you choose to upgrade from an older Palm, you should immediately notice greatly improved speed when synchronising with a host PC and installing applications. Palm has finally decided that 16MB of internal memory is not enough, and the Tungsten C has a massive -- by Palm's standards -- 64MB on board. Only 51MB of this is actually available for storage, the rest being commandeered by Palm. But even this is a great advance, and should allow you to install a number of third-party applications while leaving room for plenty of data, without resorting to an SD card. Palm provides a range of applications with which to start eating into this space. These include: Acrobat Reader for Palm OS; PrintBoy, which is designed to allow printing over wired and wireless connections; WorldMate, a world clock and data conversion tool for travellers; the PowerOne advanced calculator; VoiceMemo for managing voice notes; AvantGo; Colligo Calendar for wireless sharing of schedules; Kinoma video player; Palm Reader; and an unregistered copy of classic card game Solitaire. This is fair bundle, but note that if you want to use VoiceMemo you'll need a headset as there's no microphone built into the hardware and Palm does not provide a headset. The Tungsten C's ROM is also pretty packed with applications. The standard Palm bundle is present: Address Book; Calculator; Card Info (for working with SD cards); Date Book; Memo Pad; NotePad; To Do List and World Clock. These are supplemented by a range of applications chosen, for the most part, for their communications or productivity features: VersaMail is a good email client, and you get the PalmSource Web Browser, a Wi-Fi setup utility, Documents to Go Professional Edition and a VPN client based on PPTP. Palm Photos also sneaks in, so you can view digital images.

Performance
There is much to like about the Tungsten C. Its 802.11b capability has been well implemented, and the Wi-Fi setup tool barely needs any reference to the printed manual that comes with it. The software found our non-WEP-protected wireless network, obtained an IP address and connected to it all by itself. When we switched WEP back on, setup was slightly more complex, but still easily managed. The zippy Intel PXA255 processor made Web page rendering and synchronisation faster than we've experienced before on a Palm device. We also got 7 hours and 1 minute of battery life with the device running in its full-power state; we tested using BatteryBench2, which runs a series of tasks continuously on a Palm until its battery dies. A Conserve Power mode can be turned on in the Preferences area if you want to eke out more battery life. There are one or two things we don't like about the Tungsten C. As already noted, Palm's failure to provide a headset seems a cost-cutting measure too far. Also, there's no light on the device to show that 802.11b is switched on -- and wireless mode has to be turned on and off via the Preferences area. These are niggles, though; in general, the Tungsten C is well thought-out and nicely constructed. Palm's first Wi-Fi handheld deserves to be a success.



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