REVIEW – Palm Solutions Group Tungsten T3

by Reads (67,129)

 


The speculation is over.  Finally the T3 has arrived.  Want to see the packaging with a picture of the box?  Yawn… There are so many other exciting things to talk about regarding the T3.  So let’s just skip the usual introductory chat and cut to the chase. 

(If you really want to know what to expect in the box, please refer to our T2 review,  bargainPDA T2 Review, the packaging is basically identical)
 

There are a lot of  features to discuss in this innovative masterpiece.  Yes that’s right “masterpiece”!

Here is some graphic information to get you familiar with the confirmed features and specs of the T3:

Form Factor / Changes – Upon examining the T3 closely, you will notice that there have been some physical changes from the previous Tungsten models.  The unit is sleeker, thinner and the navigation buttons have changed.  I find that the unit feels more solid when it comes to all aspects of use, from the new buttons to the sliding mechanism itself.  The T3 feels more comfortable in the hand – great for those who will hold it for extended periods of time as I do – like when reading ebooks each night for 30 minutes or more.  The new case is all silver, giving the unit a sharper aesthetic thrill!  This one will turn more heads than the past TT models (not to mention the “jaw-dropping” screen which will be discussed later).  Overall the changes are in my humble opinion – for the better.


A look at the “Virtual Graffiti Area” with the new Palm One logo.

User-Interface – One issue that many Tungsten T users have grown tired of is that they have to open and close the slider constantly to control some of the most commonly used functions on this PDA.  The T3 has remedied these issues and more.  It is almost as though this unit has a whole new GUI (graphic user interface).  It’s as if the Palm OS has been redesigned, however the T3 runs version 5.  But a noticeable change this model has is a “floating” toolbar (dubbed by Palm as the Status Bar) that allows users to click common commands with the stylus, even when the slider is closed.  Observe the “Status Bar” in the graphic above.  This excellent new feature adds quick access to the home, find, edit, clock, battery status (by percent), available memory, screen, audio, Bluetooth and display mode functions.  On a side note, during a conference call with Palm on 9-30 it was mentioned that this could be a taste of what we will see as one of the standard improvements in Palm OS6.  Just this new feature alone significantly improves the user experience.  Another improvement worth mentioning is that the T3 basic sounds have been upgraded to the “polyphonic” tones that were previously only included on the Zire 71.  The cheap, dated “clicks” and “pops” reminiscent of the original 1996 Palm Pilot are now gone!

The Screen (THE SCREEN – WOW!) – Simply put, the most outstanding new feature of the Tungsten T3 is the high resolution 320×480 display.  It’s bigger, brighter and sharper than any past model by a mile.  Even the T2’s transreflective screen is somewhat “dulled” by the T3’s unsurpassed display.  From spreadsheets to viewing wide-screen video, the landscape mode will be an indispensible feature for many users.  For power users who have a lot of apps. filed under the “Main” category or are cramming for space in others, the need to scroll to get to most apps. is reduced significantly.  Palm states that the viewing area has been increased to a whopping 50% over other models!

Speaker / Audio – The T3 speaker is loud and clear.  Playing most MP3 files straight from the integrated speaker (without headphones) produces quality pleasing enough for most users to enjoy a tune on the ride to work with the T3 riding shotgun.

Processing Power / Memory – Unlike past TT models, the T3 has a faster Intel XScale chip rated at 400MHZ.  This would indicate better multimedia performance, download speed (for web connectivity) and overall faster performance.  Some users question whether this is overkill for a Palm powered device.  Even Palm applications must evolve and the newest apps. such as Real Player and Kinoma Video Player will take all the power they can get.

The T3 has 64MB of RAM (52MB user available). This may sound like a lot to some, but I feel that 128MB would have been more sufficient considering the other outstanding features of this handheld.  When attempting to leave Real Player playing an mp3 file in the background, I experienced skips and jumpiness in the playback while accessing other applications.  Perhaps an increase in RAM might remedy this issue and provide better multitasking performance.  One more side note, I was also told by Palm that another feature of OS6 will be improved multi-tasking capabilities.  It might be safe to speculate that this skipping issue could be resolved if the new OS is compatible on the T3, which has not been confirmed.

Battery – as in “BATTERY” – You asked for it, let’s talk about the BATTERY! – In response to so many comments that have been posted by readers on the BargainPDA.com website these last few days, we have made efforts to get the story straight on this issue.  I have heard some threats like “Poor T3 battery life could be the reason for me to switch to another device” and concerns like “…please pay special attention to the battery power rating (mAh) and battery life of the T3 in comparison to the TT / T2. There have been conflicting opinions regarding this issue…”.  OK here you go, we got the story from our sources at Palm Source!  The T3 has the same battery rated at 900mAh as the Tungsten T and T2.  Our source reported to us exactly this,

Battery life is approximately five days for basic PIM usage at default brightness. With regular Bluetooth use, the handheld will take on more of a cellular phone model where you want to recharge at the end of the day. We anticipate that the average user will use Bluetooth for short periods of time to check email or dial a phone number from their handheld.”

So there you are straight from the horse’s, I mean “sources” mouth! (ohh bad joke).  Also because you all asked, I took this a step further and conducted a hardcore battery test on my own. 

TEST 1:  First, I cranked up the screen brightness and speaker volume (quite loud) to full levels and left the Bluetooth radio “on”.  I looped a video in the Kinoma player with sound and music – leaving the T3 to drain away.  During this extreme use, the unit played for 1 hour before giving a warning (with 40% battery life remaining) and a message threatening to “shut down services”).  The unit continued to play for another half hour when it dropped to about 10%.

TEST 2: This time I put the screen brightness up to about 1/3 (plenty bright) and the speaker volume to 1/3 in the Kinoma Player (still quite audible) and once again left the Bluetooth radio “on”.  I looped a video in the Kinoma player with the same video as the first test.  Under these moderately extreme conditions, the unit played the video for 2 hours with 30% battery life remaining!

The Battery Bottom Line – I believe this unit can easily make it through a work week with moderate to average use (excluding multimedia).  Considering this processor is clocked at 400MHZ and the unit is running a Bluetooth Radio that is acceptable performance.

Applications and Included Software – The T3 comes with a great bundle of software on the accompanying CD and preloaded in the ROM.  Titles include DataViz Documents To Go Professional Edition, RealOne Mobile Player, Palm Photos, Kinoma Player and Voice Memo Recorder, JPEG photos, video clips and voice notes. 

But the real excitement comes from the changes to the standard Palm OS software in ROM which includes:

        A new agenda view that shows future appointments and daily tasks, while color-coded calendar options lend schedule and viewing flexibility to the day, week, month and an all-new year view;

        Improved scheduling that lets users beam multiple appointments with a single command, schedule events that last past midnight and view appointment location details;

        More contact information, including multiple contact addresses, more phone numbers and email addresses, instant-messaging ID, website addresses and birthdays;

        Repeating tasks and alarms for easier scheduling of Tasks for reoccurring assignments and chores;

        Larger memos and notes, which allow for entering and syncing more data than has been possible before; and

        Advanced built-in Microsoft Outlook compatibility for seamless synchronization of new fields.

Bluetooth and Wireless – To the disappointment of many, the T3 includes a Bluetooth wireless radio, but doesn’t have integrated Wi-Fi.  Palm states,

By using a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone as a modem, users can access the web and email or swiftly initiate a phone call using Quick Lookup. Users also can perform a wireless HotSync operation with Bluetooth-enabled computers and share information wirelessly with other Bluetooth-enabled devices.” 
  
Bluetooth is undoubtedly an exceptional, low-power, wireless option, but it’s hard to find a Bluetooth “Hotspot” at any coffee shop or airport.  However, the good news is that SanDisk has finally released an SD Wi-Fi card, which according to our source with the company will be compatible with the Palm Tungsten series handhelds.  A release of the appropriate software drivers is expected in November. 

Final Thoughts – I hope that this review serves as a good basis for you to decide if the Tungsten T3 is worth the $399.00 (est. street price).  To conclude this review, I have a few last points worth mentioning.

1.  If you are agonizing over switching from your TT or T2 to this device, decide if the new features will make sense for your own PDA needs.  This device is being promoted by Palm as a “Business Solution”.  Do you really need the larger screen for your purposes?

2.  Palm OS6 is said to be coming out soon.  Might there be even more devices to choose from then?

3.  If you do go for it and buy the T3, get a case.  None are currently available specifically for the new unique shape, but several “universal” cases will work for now.  The T3 comes with a ridiculously annoying and unnecessary “snap on” flap to protect the screen.  Skip that!

4.  Be careful!  Once you have tried out this unit, you’ll definitely want it.  TT and T2 owners who don’t want to spend the cash, stay out of the Computer stores!

That said, I bid you Happy Shopping!

Barry J. Doyle

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