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Review of PDA Palm Tungsten T5 and results of the year for Palm
The destiny of Palm OS platform
When we see how fast Pocket PC platform is gaining popularity, the results shown by Palm OS do no longer impress much. The platform that used to be the only leader on the PDA market ended 2004 in the red. 3 key events determined this state of things:
Is it everything that bad and Palm OS is going down? What will happen to the platform? PalmOne and Palm Source seem to care little about the lost leadership in the market and technological gap. Palm OS can last for a year or a year and a half on the old operating system, high popularity in the masses (especially in the US) and popular trademark.
Well, the lion's share of Palm OS devices falls on the US market, the demand here is inertial, and we come across a traditional devotion to Palm. However palmOne realizes this situation can't last for long, sooner or later if the company doesn't take reasonable steps and proceeds with old technologies only, the US market will be switched to Microsoft platform. 2005 will be the crucial year for Palm: the platform will either lose its leadership for some long time (I don't feel like writing - forever, but this can happen) or will try to restore it, or at least not to remain far behind.
Let's try to view possible scenarios for 2005.
Result: greater market share loss, especially in Europe. Some users of Palm OS devices can't wait any longer and switch to Windows Mobile devices. There are other adverse factors for Palm OS devices: the future release of Windows Mobile 2005 (the code name - Mantego), price cuts on top Pocket PC devices followed by the tough competition, restricted model line of Palm OS devices.
Result: the platform goes on competing with Windows Mobile. The technical gap is eliminated in users' eyes. Although the platform won't be leading till the end of 2005 because of its restricted model line.
Naturally, we pictured the extremes, the reality will be somewhere in between. The plans of palmOne are closer to the positive scenario, but they depend much on the readiness of Palm OS 6 device and on the results of the 3d financial quarter 2005. The fact that PalmSource announced the course to Linux platform shows that the developers realized they were unable to develop new OS versions on term (there is no other explanation to this long suspension of devices based on Palm OS Cobalt). I'd say one more time, 2005 will be the crucial year for Palm.
Tungsten, Zire, Treo
The current product line of palmOne is divided into 3 groups. The first group includes Zire products, which are low-end solutions equipped with organizer and multimedia functions. The sub-brand Tungsten deals with "serious" and advanced PDAs designed for business users. And the Treo represents smartphones.
Right after the announcement Palm Tungsten T5 roused the tide of negative critics among reporters and ordinary users. Before the release it had been rumored that the model would be powered by Palm OS 6 and have dual wireless adapters, VGA screen and QWERTY-keyboard. Imagine how the public was surprised to see an inferior version of the Tungsten T3 instead of the technological flagman model. The device lacked a slider keyboard (a distinguishing feature of Palm Tungsten series), a voice recorder and LED indicators on the shell. The positive change touched upon an extended battery. As a matter of course there were no Wi-Fi modules or VGA screen. But still, let's have another look at the situation.
PalmOne just had no time to prepare the real Palm Tungsten T5 based on Cobalt. Besides it was the high time for the company to announce the top model of the line. As a result the company decided to reequip Palm Tungsten E2 into Palm Tungsten T5 quickly and add a unique function (built-in USB flash drive).
In our review we'll try to minimize the comparison with the Tungsten T3, for Palm Tungsten T5 is not the real TT5, but the renamed Tungsten E2 meant to close the gap in the model line by palmOne.
Built-in USB Flash Drive
The unique feature of the T5 (according to company's marketing specialists it should draw attention to the handheld) is the capability to work as a USB-flash drive without any extra software, like in case with common USB-flash trinkets, which became very popular. Let's try to find out whether it is that unique and necessary.
The available Flash memory makes up 161 MB, you can store anything on it and then work with the files on the handheld or just use it to transfer files. If the handheld has a SD or MMC card inserted, the card becomes accessible as a flash disk. Besides the largest memory size for the SD card has already reached 2 GB, and the price for the 1GB SD card has dropped to $90, the 128 MB SD card - $15 or less.
It's clear with memory size, now let's pass over to the speed. There is an alternative to the built-in flash - the high-speed USB 2.0 reader 12-in-1 (it costs some $20) and the 1 GB SD Transcend 45x card. This pair works also without drivers. We ran tests with the Aida32 package. These are the results:
There is nothing to comment on here, everything's clear enough. I'd only note that the lag of the integrated flash is due in most part to restrictions of USB 1.1 standard.
The real price for this peculiarity of the T5 is about $35 (a card + a reader make less price difference than that between the T3 and the T5), low speeds, no need to take the reader with you. In result, we have a nice feature, but it can be the decisive factor when you buy a PDA, just another plus.
I was a little bit surprised when I saw no cradle in the standard kit, after all it was supplied with the Tungsten T3. However, if we remember the Tungsten E without a cradle in the kit, the matter becomes clear.
Instead of the cradle there is a USB-cable with the HotSync button.
The protective flip cover is mounted on the left. I liked it - it coped well with its functions, it protects the screen from being damaged. It looks expensive and feels pleasant to touch. There is a major flaw with it - when placed in the pocket, it turns to press buttons and the joystick, the T5 needs badly Hold button, an essential element in Sony handhelds.
Design, control elements
Design of the Tungsten T5 is inherited from the Tungsten E, the resemblance is obvious. The Graffiti zone is replaced by the virtual analog, the casing got darker. As for weight and dimensions, they are average, considerably larger than in the T3 with the slider shut and thinner than a dual slot Pocket PC.
The shell is made of plastic, which feels metallic. In all, the handheld feels comfortable in hand.
The application buttons and the joystick under the screen prove to be comfortable while handling documents and games. In all, they have no flaws; they are well positioned and have optimal size. I found them fully identical with the analogs in the Tungsten E. As in case with the Tungsten E there are no LED indicators above the screen, besides other control elements are located at sides.
There is nothing on the left and the right sides, a voice recorder button could have gone here.
A look at the top reveals traditional elements: the SD/MMC slot, standard audio jack (I'd mark the excellent sound during the MP3 playback), the power button and the silo. There are two points in the assessment. Firstly, the power button creaks when pressed (it might be a problem of the particular specimen). Secondly, I'd mark the stylus - its size and weight are optimal for use. However, it is just like the stylus on the Tungsten E…
At the back panel we find a loudspeaker and a reset pin hole (unscrew the stylus to tip it).
The bottom hides the Multi-Connector and nothing special.
The screen in Tungsten T3 has a 320x480 (HVGA) resolution, in the middle between QVGA and VGA screens for Pocket PC (picture quality and screen size). It is comparable with that of T3 - the same size, good color rendering, performance under the sunlight, excellent viewing angles. This is one of the best among Palm devices, however it yields greatly to top Pocket PC models with VGA screens.
There are 53 MB of RAM available onboard; this is more than enough for Palm OS.
The heart of the handheld is its new Intel XScale PXA270 processor working at 416 MHz. Subjectively it is at the same level with the T3, everything runs as quick, you'll hardly notice a difference.
The synthetic tests revealed some peculiarities, i.e. some strange graphic test results (long time in drawing dots with LCD Analyzer along with high graphic test results in pBench). The developers might have tried to optimize the operating system to Wireless MMX technology, which is built in the new Intel processor.
The only reprimand to the speed arises during the reset, which lasts for some dozens of seconds.
The PDA comes with the non-removable battery capacious of 1300 mAh, that's much higher than 900 mAh in Tungsten T3. The battery life has increased correspondingly. Under the maximum load (video playback, the highest backlight level) the T5 worked for some 3 hours till the first alert of battery low level. In the MP3 mode with the screen off (the playback in pTunes from the memory card, system alerts ignored) the battery got drained out after 11 hours.
We can compare the work of Bluetooth in Tungsten 5 with Palm Zire 72, the opportunities are identical. That is the handheld featuring best Bluetooth opportunities among all Palm OS devices, but still lags behind Pocket PC.
At the bottom of the screen you see the status bar with icons, which facilitate the work with the PDA.
From left to right: House -resumes the list of applications, tap it to see the list of frequently used applications; Magnifier - ordinary search engine; Menu - launches menu in any application; Clock - displays current time, tap it to see the battery power left, available memory, the level of backlight and sound (the photo below); Bluetooth icon stands for Bluetooth activity; Exclamation mark - a prompt in different applications.
As a matter of fact there aren't serious changes in the software compared with Palm Tungsten T3, so we won't go into details here.
The built-in personal information manager (PIM), the same as in the T3.
DataViz Document To Go. A powerful package to edit original MS Office documents without the preliminary conversion.
Files. An integrated file manager.
Media views photos.
In Russia the device is available for sale with the russificator by Paragon (Russian interface, text input in the Russian, Russian fonts, partial compatibility with Russian MS Office documents).
If we treat Palm Tungsten T5 as the successor of Palm Tungsten T3, then I'd say it failed. There is nothing fundamentally new about it, some functions and the kit are cut. The unique integrated flash-drive adds to the functionality, but this is hardly a big reason to buy T5. You can replace your T3 with T5, if you do not care much about the money spent on it and you are not satisfied with the battery life of T3.
As a matter of fact Tungsten T5 is a successor of Tungsten E2; you can see it even with the naked eye. The latter costs $200, while T5 is twice as more expensive. For that price difference the user gets Bluetooth, HVGA screen, and built-in flash-drive. That's all.
However, the price for Palm Tungsten T5 can be considered too high, as I have already said, the model has no direct rivals, that means it will be sold. But we still expect to see the real successor of Tungsten T3 based on Palm OS Cobalt in 2005.
Published 22 January 2005
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