Review: Palm Hits Sweet Spot With New High-End PDA - InformationWeek

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Review: Palm Hits Sweet Spot With New High-End PDA

Palm's newest PDA strikes a surprisingly good balance between features and price, and boasts both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

With the new Palm Tungsten T|X PDA, Palm has gone back to basics, with a device that hits the sweet spot in price, performance and features.

Along with the consumer-focused Z22, this is first device released under Palm's retro-rebranding as Palm (formerly PalmOne). In keeping with the return to classic themes, the T|X is very much an evolutionary design, with no truly significant major advances, other than including both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a feature-set other vendors in the PDA space have offered for a long time.

However, the T|X is clearly the best all-around PDA from Palm in a long while. The question remains whether the stagnating PDA market can be energized and revived by such evolutionary, if excellent, designs. If the PDA world can be resuscitated, however, this may be one of the devices to do it.

What It Is, What It Isn't

Point-blank, the T|X is the device that the previous high-end Palm with this form-factor, the Tungsten T5, should have been. In fact, you could look at this device as a T5 with Wi-Fi, albeit with a slightly slower processor (312 MHz Bulverde processor instead of 416 MHz XScale), and less RAM (128MB/100MB usable, instead of the T5's 256MB/215MB usable).

Or you could look at it as a LifeDrive (review here) squeezed down into a Palm Tungsten E-series case -- the LifeDrive was the first Palm device with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and the T|X is the second. But the T|X is lacking the Drive Mode feature of the T5 and LifeDrive, meaning it can't be used as a USB drive. Drive mode was handy, but it is arguably not a key feature in these days of dirt-cheap USB keychain drives. A more significant lapse for some will be the missing voice recorder, which had been present on the LifeDrive and prior Tungsten models, but is not available on either the T5 or the new T|X.

But what the T|X does, it does well. Visually-sharp and with a very clean, slim (4.76" x 3.08" x .61") form-factor, the T|X's 480x320 pixel 16-bit transflective screen is, as usual for Palm devices, on the leading edge of PDA displays, providing an edge in resolution and usability over comparable Windows-based devices. Inside and out, the screen appears noticeably brighter and crisper than that of the T5, which was itself quite good.

And battery life has been improved significantly, in part by the drop in CPU speed -- finally, the PDA world returns to a time between charges of days instead of hours. The 312 MHz processor proved plenty speedy, however, in tasks from Web surfing to listening to music with the bundled PocketTunes MP3 player, to video playback and typical assortment of PDA tasks.

The T|X is the best all-around device, and the best overall value, of any PDA Palm has released for quite some time. At $299, it's the cheapest full-featured PDA that includes both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It shares the non-volatile storage of all of the current generation of Palm devices, which really is a life-saver, making the days of losing your important data due to being away from a charger a thing of the past. The non-volatile storage also is competitive with the same capability in the new generation of devices using Windows Mobile 5.0.

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