TDK Systems BlueM

  • Editors' rating
    6.6 Good


  • Leaves the Palm's SD slot free when installed.


  • Expensive
  • HotSyncing via Bluetooth is slow.

Bluetooth -- the short-range wireless cable replacement technology -- has finally become a reality: even if it's not built in as standard, most handheld computers have an adapter available. TDK's BlueM is a clip-on Bluetooth module for m-series Palms (m515, m505, m500, m130, m125 or IBM WorkPad c500) that permits any of these models to be connected to a cellphone, a PC or another Bluetooth handheld.

The 29g BlueM module attaches to the back of an m-series Palm via the universal connector that also serves to dock with the HotSync cradle. It comes with a minimal software bundle -- a utility for managing and detecting peripherals and a 'Dialer' that lets you call a contact directly from the handheld, without needing to recopy the number onto your cellphone.

The device is not as intuitive to use as you might expect. The problem is not with the module itself, but rather the pairing of peripherals. This is the process of discovering usable Bluetooth peripherals in the environment, followed by the binding together of two devices in a secure partnership by setting a passkey. This operation should only need to be carried out once, but some peripherals require you to renew this operation regularly. Hopefully, these are simply teething troubles.

Bluetooth connections can be made without trouble within a range of six to seven metres, which is plenty for keeping in contact with a cellphone or a PC, although less than the claimed 10m. Beware that if you use a Bluetooth connection to synchronise your Palm with a host PC, the 1Mbit/s data transfer rate may prove to be a bottleneck compared to the 12Mbit/s of the USB HotSync cradle.

It's a shame that TDK Systems doesn't provide more applications with the BlueM. Palm's own SD-format Bluetooth adapter, for example, is delivered with a Bluetooth chat program, plus workgroup and file transfer utilities. None of these applications are available with the TDK product.

Finally the BlueM's price, at £120 (ex. VAT), is high enough to restrict this product to committed Bluetooth early adopters.