Hot device for hot spots

Palm's Tungsten C had little trouble locating a wireless router, and has plenty of power for applications.

The new Palm Inc. Tungsten C is like a Palm on steroids. Whereas once the company touted the tininess of its applications and OS, now it produces devices as muscular as any handheld running Microsoft Windows.

What distinguishes this $499 device is built-in WiFi networking. Hoping to capitalize on the proliferation of hotspots, and the growing corporate and government use of them, the C has an IEEE 802.11b radio. I tapped on the Tungsten C and within seconds it located the wireless router in my house. A few seconds later I was surfing the Internet. Bada bing.

What made the experience more satisfying than Web surfing with earlier Palms was the C's speed and display brilliance. Other Palm wireless devices have some combination of slow processors and dull screens. The C has a 400-MHz Intel XScale processor and an extremely brilliant and sharp transflective TFT screen. Of course, because it is a 320- by 320-pixel personal digital assistant screen, you must scroll up and down and sideways a lot to see the typical Web page.

Also aboard is Wired Equivalent Privacy 2 encryption, which Palm says can be upgraded when the more-secure WiFi Protected Access protocols are finalized.

All thumbs

The C shares the chassis of its cellular-equipped stablemate, the Tungsten W. It has a thumb keyboard and four-way navigator rocker switch with an 'enter' button in the middle. If you are into thumb keyboards, it's as good as any of them. This device is also like the Windows devices it competes with in that it comes with 64M of RAM, expandable via a slot to 512M.

Voice recording'which requires you to buy an optional headphone'plus Palm's VersaMail e-mail package are bundled with the C. There is also an application called Mergic VPN for secure tunneling to your agency network.

All in all, the C is a robust platform that is cool for individuals, with promise as a corporate platform. Now if they could just get WiFi and cellular into one device ...

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