Palm hands more power to the people

The Tungsten T's sliding cover for the Graffiti pad is a design innovation that keeps the device compact enough to fit in a pocket.

Henrik G. DeGyor

Palm Inc. has powered up the Tungsten T handheld computer with a 144-MHz Texas Instruments OMAP1510 copper complementary-metal-oxide-semiconductor processor, instead of the sluggish 33-MHz Motorola DragonBall VZ in earlier Palms.

The extra power is noticeable in every operation from writing a document to storing data on a Secure Digital card in the expansion slot.

An embedded digital signal processor makes the Tungsten T the first Palm handheld that can play audio files, including .WAV and MP3 formats, although no MP3 player software is included.

With the faster processor comes higher resolution. The 320- by 320-pixel reflective, thin-film-transistor screen shows 16-bit color, far better than previous 8-bit versions. Its clarity and brightness even exceed the 16-bit, 320- by 480-pixel Sony Clie PEG-NR70V display.

A series of GCN Lab test images clearly showed improvement over Palm's usual dry image reproduction.

The Tungsten T also is the first Palm device with embedded Bluetooth 1.1 connectivity for wireless data transfer, printing and synchronizing with a desktop PC. Although the embedded Bluetooth modem is new to Palm, the Compaq iPaq has had it for several years. Palm OS 5.0 is easier to use than the iPaq's more complex Microsoft Pocket PC operating system, and the Tungsten T's Bluetooth features also are easier to use.

A one-touch voice recorder is another first for Palm. Tungsten T battery life is substantial'about seven days under minimal use. The unit also emulates other good handheld features such as optional vibration alerts and 128-bit encryption.

But the Tungsten T's biggest design difference is a sliding cover for the Graffiti pad. The 4- by 3- by 0.6-inch device fits nicely inside a pocket with the slide closed. Though a little on the heavy side at 5.6 ounces, it's still ultraportable.

The cheap, clear plastic visor is more trouble than it's worth, however. If you spend $500 on a Tungsten T, you'll want something that protects the screen better.

Regrettably, Palm has held down the Tungsten T's memory to 16M of synchronous dynamic RAM. Only 14M is free'2M goes to OS operations.

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