To Upgrade or Not? Better Make Your List

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I am pretty convinced quite some people are in the same situation as myself. You have a perfectly working device yet the upgrade virus is trying to convince you for some time to upgrade anyhow.

I frequently observe posts on the Brighthand forums from users who just upgraded but are unaware what their device can do. Sometimes there is a little frustration when they find out it can NOT do what they expected.

Hence I decided to set down my thought process, hoping some others would benefit from it.

What I Have Now

My current device is a Tungsten T3, a device already some years old. I got it second-hand early last year and replaced the standard battery.

On the positive side my T3 is still holding strong; it more or less does all I currently need. It is RAM based (which makes it pretty fast, no Graffiti lag for example ) and it runs OS5.2.1, which allows it to run most current released applications except when NVFS is really required.

I like the compact form-factor to carry around, though the slider also resulted in occasional frustration from time to time.

During my ‘normal’ usage it has plenty of memory for my needs (64 MB user available RAM), though it is a bit short when a virtual SD card needs to be hosted (more about that later).

On the downside, battery life is by far the number one issue! An external battery combo and FullPower help to some extent but it remains a hassle.

To get Wi-Fi connectivity I use an external SD card, which unfortunately enough I tend to forget most of the time at home. Using this card also means no regular SD card is available anymore, which, for example, removes my storage area for downloads.

This can be compensated for by using Softick’s RamDrive but requires sacrificing part of main memory. Currently I am trialling RamDrive using a 24 MB setting, but I already encountered issues when trying to retrieve podcasts exceeding that size.

Lastly, the maximum (reliably) supported SD card size on a T3 is 1.5 GB. Not really a point since I still have about 50% free on my current 1 GB card. But times change …

My Requirements for the Future

When listing the requirements for a new device, I started by writing down it has to be Palm OS based (my apologies for all Windows Mobile users, but that’s my choice).

Next on the list are Wi-Fi capabilities. This is really a must, and preferably built-in. I have a Wi-Fi setup at home so it would be foolish not to benefit from it.

Coming from a Palm m105 then a Tungsten E, a 320-by-480-pixel screen is my preference but not mandatory, since I use my T3 quite often in its collapsed 320-by-320-pixel mode.

A keyboard would be nice, but, again, not a must as I am getting a lot of Graffiti practice lately.

To finish, whatever device I pick, it has to have decent battery life, which for all NVFS based devices should be no problem when comparing to my T3.

My Options

The options I looked at are a Palm TX (Palm’s current PDA flagship), a Tungsten T5 or even a Tungsten C. Another possibility is, of course, the Treo 650 and the just announced Treo 680.

Palm TX

The TX has built-in Wi-Fi combined with great battery life. It is a bit slower than my current model, but I suspect that will not bother me since I run the majority of applications at 50% system speed to conserve juice.

The TX is still being produced, which can also be considered a plus.

It has a 320-by-480-pixel screen and supports 4 GB SD cards.

Palm Tungsten T5

On the T5, Wi-Fi would be possible using the Palm Wi-Fi SD card I already own. Another option would be the Enfora Wi-Fi sled, but then I would need to invest additional money.

The Internal Drive makes up for the SD card not being present in case the SD Wi-Fi card is being used.

The T5 has good battery life and performance (at par or even a little better than the T3) while also having a 320-by-480-pixel screen and support for SD cards up to 2 GB.

A big minus is that this device already has been discontinued (in case I need replacement parts).

Palm Tungsten C

Then comes TC. I know, this one is discontinued as well. But having built-in Wi-Fi and a keyboard it is something to consider as long as it remains available via the second-hand market.

It has a 320-by-320-pixel screen and runs an earlier version of Palm OS 5 which does not have the proprietary PIMs, and thus no category support.

However, this one is still considered the fastest Palm PDA ever by a lot of people, though some might argue with that.

It supports SD cards up to 1 GB.

Palm Treo 650 and Treo 680

Which brings us to the killer device of the moment and its successor, the Treo 650 and 680.

Both have a thumb-pad and represent info on a 320-by-320-pixel screen while supporting SD cards up to 4 GB.

Where I live a mobile data plan is way too expensive which does not really let me benefit from having PDA and phone integrated.

On top of that, I already have a company mobile that can be used via IR for occasional dial-up Of course I could consider switching the SIM card back and forth, but I doubt this can be considered healthy in the long run.

The real deal breaker for me is that there is no way to get reliable support for Wi-Fi using an SD card. The only option is using the Enfora sled but this is ONLY for the Treo 650. Enfora already stated it will not support 680. And even IF Palm decides to add support for its Wi-Fi SD card to the Treo 680, the card will stick out on the side, making the combo, to say the least, a bit difficult to handle.

My Bottom Line

The absolute need for Wi-Fi capabilities ruled out the Treos for me, while T|C would be a downgrade as far as PIMs capabilities are concerned. I just use those features too much.

That leaves TX and T5 which for me are not enough of an upgrade to justify handing out somewhere between 200 to 300 EUR. For a part of that money, I might get a keyboard, as I can always use that later.

Suggestions to All Would-Be Upgraders

Ask before you buy. If you do not get decent answers, most likely you’re buying at the wrong place.

Invest some mental effort to find out for yourself what you need your device for. Keep the near future into account, as behavior changes.

Review the specs. Without any exception all info is available on the Web. You just need to read it.

I for one am going to stick with my T3 as long as it holds. Currently I do not see any pressing needs requiring me to change.

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