Newest Palm puts on a burst of speed

Box Score

Thanks to a large screen and the ability to display in landscape mode, the Tungsten T5 is more like an ultraportable when you add a wireless keyboard.

Rick Steele

In the past, our biggest complaint in the GCN Lab concerning PalmOne handhelds had to do with the 66-MHz Motorola and 126-MHz Texas Instruments chips many of these devices came with. Those processor speeds never justified the cost of the units and belittled the transformation of personal digital assistants from simple organizers to minicomputers.

Someone at PalmOne Inc. must have been listening, because they've leapt nearly 300 MHz with the new PalmOne Tungsten T5, which runs on a 416-MHz Intel XScale processor. This business application-in- tense PDA lets users browse, edit or create Microsoft-compatible documents with relative ease. And at $399, it costs the same as the 144-MHz T2 did when it came out about a year ago.

Better screen, faster

Not only is the T5's processor almost three times faster than the T2's (the $349 400-MHz Tungsten T3 is similarly faster than previous models), but PalmOne also increased the screen resolution from 320 by 320 in the T2 to 320 by 480 in the T5. The extra real estate makes editing files easier and is especially noticeable when viewing pictures.

Still, because viewing PowerPoint files and editing documents can be tedious on a handheld, PalmOne kept the elongated LCD screen and gave the T5 two added features that make things easier. First is the ability of the OS to switch to a landscape mode instead of the default portrait mode. Second is the ability to work on documents in either mode while operating an optional $69 PalmOne wireless keyboard, which connects to the T5 via an infrared signal. I used the keyboard to write this review, and it makes the T5 more like an ultraportable notebook.

PalmOne also listened to another request of ours and boosted the standard RAM in the T5 to 256M (the T3 comes with 64M). The extra memory is particularly handy because a new feature of the Palm OS 5.4 is the ability to view memory-intensive PowerPoint files.

Of course, not all 256M are allocated to the user. After loading all the necessary software, the user has about 160M to work with. But you can add another 512M of storage using the built-in SecureDigital slot.

PalmOne also claims the T5 can double as a portable USB drive. Although you could use the T5 that way, we wouldn't necessarily classify it as a portable storage device because you need to load drivers from a setup disk for every PC you intend to use with the T5.

In contrast, you need only plug those simple USB keychain drives into a USB slot and the system recognizes them.

The T5 comes equipped with Bluetooth wireless connectivity, so you can surf the Internet if you have a Bluetooth phone with Internet service. But like the T2, the T5 lacks built-in WiFi connectivity. For that, you need to buy a $399 Tungsten C with a slower processor, less memory and a smaller screen than the T5.

Most PDAs would be spent at the end of a day, but we used the T5 and its rechargeable lithium-ion battery for about seven hours straight, typing Word documents, processing spreadsheets, and transferring large files to a PC. By five o'clock, we still had about 20 percent of the juice left.

PalmOne claims the T5 can last about a week before it needs to be recharged. In our experience, that means about an hour and a half per day of heavy use. Obviously, if you only use a PDA for checking your calendar, the T5 will last days on a single charge.

With its power and high-end features, the T5 is a nearly perfect PDA. Throw in WiFi and we'd have a hard time not giving this device a top grade.

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