Review – Palm Tungsten T2

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The Palm Tungsten T, C and Zire 71 models have brought much promise to the future of Palm.  The rise of the Pocket PC market offering a variety of devices that are feature rich with powerful multimedia at a competitive range of prices has posed a considerable threat.  The company who made every PDA’s name synonymous with the a.k.a. “Palm Pilot” recently seemed to be slipping.  Why would shoppers at the local Circuit City want to buy a Palm PDA with a dull, low resolution screen for say $300 when the Pocket PC displayed next to it includes a bright 64K transreflective screen and according to the sign below, over 3 times the RAM and processing power?  Even some of the most loyal Palm enthusiasts have been tempted (although they’d never admit it) to actually convert.  Concerning today’s technologies available for handheld computing devices, it was time for Palm to “use it, or lose it”. Palm’s turn came to pick up the ball and gain considerable yardage to protect its’ share of market.

The newest offering from the rebounding PDA manufacturer is The Tungsten T2.  This model is essentially an update to the Tungsten T, incorporating the missing essentials such as a new bright transreflective screen and an additional 16MB of RAM equaling a total of 32MB.  Other than these two changes and a lighter shaded case, the unit is almost identical to the “original T”.  I would almost equate the difference that Palm made when introducing the m515 (an update to the m505).  Both units were similar, except the m515 doubled the memory and had an improved screen.  It seems that Palm has now used the same strategy with the Tungsten T’s. The Tungsten T2 still includes a wireless Bluetooth radio, and the same slider and form factor.  The T2 does not include a new processor.  Many users had hoped for a big update like the Tungsten C’s Intel PXA255 processor at 400 MHZ.  But the T2 still is powered by the Texas Instruments OMAP Processor at 144 MHZ.

 
A cradle, adapter, T2, plastic cover, cd’s and manual are in the box.


Tungsten T2 SPECS:

Manufacturer: Palm
Model: Tungsten T2
Description: Breeze through tough tasks with one of the most compact Palm handhelds available. The perfect balance of power and size, the new Tungsten T2 handheld is built to last and has Storage space to burn.
Released: 7/23/2003
Operating System: Palm OS v5.2
Dimensions: 4.8″ x 3″ x .6 “
Weight: 5.6 ounces
Processor: 144 MHz Texas Instruments ARM-Based OMAP1510
Wireless: Bluetooth
RAM: 32MB RAM (29.5MB usable)
Expansion Slot: Secure Digital (I/O)
Battery Type: Rechargable Lithium Polymer
Audio Out: Speaker, Stereo headphone jack
Audio In: Microphone
Display: Transflective
Keyboard: Onscreen
Handwriting Recognition: Graffiti 2
Resolution: 320 x 320 pixels
Digital Camera: No
Other Hardware: USB cradle


SHOULD I UPGRADE?

A big question Tungsten T owners probably have is: “Is it worth it to upgrade to the new unit?”  I intend to help clarify any confusion concerning this dilemma throughout details outlined in this review.  First of all, going from a reflective screen to transreflective usually makes an upgrade well-worth it.  But in this case, I have to disagree.  It’s not because the new screen is not bright, sharp and clear like other transreflective screens.  My reasoning is simply this; the original Tungsten T screen (although incorporating reflective screen technology) is simply excellent.  The difference is subtle enough that the units need to be placed side by side to really see it.  In my humble opinion, not worth $399 for the new model.  Let’s look at what other issues may help to influence your decision.


Can you see that big of a difference?  (T1 left, T2 right)


POWER and PERFORMANCE

As previously mentioned, the T2 is powered by the same ARM compliant processor as the “original T” which runs at 144MHZ.  Although it is not a speed demon like the Tungsten C’s PXA255 at 400MHZ, this processor easily handles any Palm software thrown at it.  The T2 has excellent battery life considering the power it offers. The 900mAh Li-polymer battery is rated to last through 5 days of use according to Palm.  I have found that it lasts at least that long, even with daily use of the Bluetooth wireless radio.  The multimedia performance is excellent.  The Kinoma Video Player software (included on CD) plays smoothly.  Gaming is smooth and accompanied by clear audio from the integrated speaker.

 
The T2 has the standard SD slot on top.


MEMORY and EXPANSION

The T2 includes 32MB of built-in RAM and 8MB of upgradeable ROM.  The top of the unit includes a Secure Digital expansion slot with SDIO capabilities.  This will prove to be a valuable addition with the highly anticipated arrival of SD Wi-Fi cards expected to be available soon.


INTEGRATED WIRELESS
One of the strongest features of the T2 is the integrated Bluetooth wireless radio.  Although it is a little tricky to setup, performing a HotSync via Bluetooth is very efficient and easy to do.  Assuming the proper settings have been set up ahead of time, just a tap on the HotSync icon on the T2 and you can sync away — no cradle required!  Also, connecting to a Bluetooth enabled phone, like the SE t68i, allows for wireless email checking and web browsing. An IRDA port is fixed on the top of the unit for easy beaming of files with other Palm users.


INCLUDED SOFTWARE and PALM OS
The T2 ROM includes several applications including Date Book; Address Book; To-Do List; Memo Pad; Note Pad; Phone Link set-up wizard; Dialer; SMS; VersaMail; Palm Web Browser Pro; Voice Memo; Card Info; Calculator; World Clock; Enhanced Security and Graffiti2.  Other software titles included on the CDROM  are Acrobat Reader for Palm OS; Documents To Go; powerOne Personal Calculator; BlueBoard; BlueChat; RealOne Mobile Player; Kinoma Player; Kinoma Producer and Solitaire.  The T2 is preinstalled with Palm OS version 5.2.1.


EASE of USE
I find the T2 a pleasure to use in many ways.  The metallic popup stylus feels good in hand and is easy to remove from the silo and simple to replace.  The unit casing feels sturdy and comfortable to hold.  The navigation pad and accompanying buttons all work well and are not undersized like those found on other compact sized PDA’s.  The touch screen is easy to read and very responsive to the stylus.  Text appears sharp and crisp, making the T2 perfect for reading eBooks.  The sliding portion of the case opens to allow access to the Graffiti Writing area.  Text input is a pleasure with the Graffiti 2 improvements.

 
The T2 has a silver-colored sturdy metallic case.


BOTTOM LINE
In final. I will not conclude this review with the traditional Pro’s and Con’s section, since I am having a kind of “love/hate” relationship with the T2.  Because of this, I feel inclined to express my thoughts under the following lists:


What to Love!
– fantastic screen
– great battery life
– attractive design and case
– overall a pleasure to use


What to Hate!
– no charge status light
– no Bluetooth indicator light
– Inserting the unit and removing it from the cradle without placing stress on the contacts is a little tricky.
– The Palm OS 5 built in sounds still sound primitive compared to other PDA’s — reminiscent of Palm OS 4 units.


Where to buy
Palm’s MSRP on the T2 is $399, but online merchants are already offering much better deals, even with shipping costs. Check out our price comparison for the Palm Tungsten T2.

-Barry J. Doyle

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