Brighthand Reviews the Palm Tungsten T2

by Reads (45,557)

Tungsten T2 Everyone likes a good sequel. Whether it’s the sequel to a blockbuster movie, the follow-up to a bestselling novel, or the upgraded version of a handheld computer, nothing beats a “bigger, better” version of the original. And so it is with Palm’s new Tungsten T2 handheld, the successor to its Tungsten T handheld released last October. With an upgraded version of the Palm operating system, twice the memory, added Java support, and a brighter color display, the T2 has everything found in the original T, and more.

But the big news is its price: $399. That’s $100 less than what the original Tungsten T debuted at back in October. The reason for the lower price is simple: sales history. Sales of the T were slow at $499, decent at $399, and good at $349. So Palm is making the wise move of starting the T2 off at $399.


Form

On the outside, the Tungsten T2 is nearly identical to its predecessor, the Tungsten T. The only noticeable differences are its new color — silver rather than gunmetal (see picture below) — and its noticeably brighter display. Otherwise, nothing’s changed, including its innovative “slider” design.

Tungsten T2

For those unfamiliar with the “slider” design, here’s how it works. The device starts out in “compact” mode, only four inches tall. But pull down on the bottom of the unit and it grows to a full 4.8″, revealing its dedicated Graffiti 2 text entry area. And to go along with it, Palm includes a stylus that also changes size. It fits compactly inside its silo, but press down on its spring-loaded top and up it pops, full length and ready to go. Nice touch.

Why the metamorphosis? Palm realized that consumers want as compact a device as possible, and its research also revealed that handheld owners retrieve rather than enter data more than 80% of the time. Hence, the slider was born.

But while the Tungsten T2 is certainly one of the most compact handhelds on the market, at 0.6″ thick and 5.6 ounces it’s not the thinnest or the lightest. Still, its feels good in your hand, if a tad slippery.

As with previous Palm handhelds, the Tungsten T2 is elegant in its simplicity. All you’ll find on the front is its display, four application launch buttons, and a dish-shaped five-way navigation pad. The sides are relatively unencumbered as well, with only a headphone jack and voice memo button on the left side and nothing on the right side. And the only thing on the bottom of the unit is its standard connector port, used for connecting to the synchronization cradle and other accessories.

The top of the device (see picture below) is slightly busier, housing the stylus, infrared and Bluetooth ports, Secure Digital expansion slot, and power button.

Tungsten T2

Overall, we give the Palm Tungsten T2 an EXCELLENT rating based on form.


Function

The T2 runs version 5.2.1 of the Palm operating system, which means that you’ll be using Graffiti 2 rather than the original Graffiti. The new OS also handles on-screen writing, so you can take notes even when the device is in its compact mode. And it supports Java, specifically IBM’s WebSphere Micro Environment J2ME engines.

Speed. As with the Tungsten T, the T2 is powered by Texas Instruments’ OMAP1510 processor, which combines a TMS320C55x digital signal processor (DSP) core with a TI-enhanced ARM925 device. However, it seems to have been pumped up a slight bit. While the OMAP1510 in the T was capable of operating at 432 mobileMIPS, Palm claims the one in the T2 can do 544 mobileMIPS.

What about megahertz? Well, Palm seems to have taken a page out of Apple’s playbook and decided that megahertz isn’t the best indicator of a device’s processing ability. So it’s dropped that bit of information from much of its literature and concentrated on mobileMIPS. However, Palm says it’s still clocked at 144MHz, although we got higher benchmark results with the T2 than the original T.

Memory. The Tungsten T2 comes with 8MB Flash ROM and 32MB of SDRAM, 29.7MB of which are available. While not quite up to the 64MB found in the Tungsten C, it’s nevertheless double that found in the original T. And you can surely expect the next model in the line (the T3?) to come with much more.

Multimedia. Palm’s only stumble when it released the Tungsten T back in October was that, while it was capable of handling all sorts of multimedia, there wasn’t any software available that could actually do it. Well, that’s no longer true. The T2 comes with RealNetworks’ RealOne Mobile Player for listening to music and Kinoma Player and Producer for creating and watching videos, as well as Palm’s Photos application for viewing and editing digital pictures. Plus, the Tungsten T2 is capable of recording voice notes.

Display. Display technology continues to improve and the Tungsten T2 is evidence of that. It sports Palm’s best screen to date — the same one found on its Zire 71 and Tungsten C handhelds — a 320×320 pixels 16-bit transflective color display. But while the T2’s display is significantly brighter indoors than the original T’s (see picture below), which has a reflective display, it’s not as readable outdoors. Also, the Tungsten T2’s display has a noticeable bluish cast, while our original T’s display has developed a pinkish cast.

Tungsten T2

Palm includes a clip-on plastic screen cover that still allows the device to be used while in place, or snaps on the back. It’s clear with a cutout that exposes the five-way navigator, so you can look up a phone number, address or appointment without removing the cover. You can also press down once on the button in the center of the nav pad to display the date and time in large, readable text and numbers, or hold it down and the home screen will display so you can launch any of your apps.

Communications. The Tungsten T2 has integrated Bluetooth wireless technology. It teams well with a number of Bluetooth-enabled cell phones to provide a flexible two-piece wireless Internet and email solution, and you can HotSync wirelessly to a Bluetooth-enabled desktop or laptop computer. Also, Palm includes two additional Bluetooth applications, BlueBoard, a virtual collaborative whiteboard, and BlueChat, a multi-user chat program, to enhance the wireless peer-to-peer experience. While it does not have integrated 802.11b wireless technology, or Wi-Fi, it can be added with a sled attachment.

Expansion. The Tungsten T2 continues Palm’s support of dual expansion. First, there’s the Secure Digital/MultiMedia Card slot, which is capable of handling SDIO cards, like Margi’s Presenter To Go card and Veo’s camera card, as well as typical memory cards. And then there’s the Universal Connector, which works with many accessories, including the Palm modem and the Ultra-thin Keyboard.

Power. The T2 combines a 900mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery with TI’s stingy OMAP processor to provide excellent battery life. The typical user can expect about a week’s worth of usage between charges. Unfortunately, the T2’s battery is not user replaceable, so you’ll have to send it back to Palm if it ever needs replacement. And the T2 can only be charged through the connector port (there’s no separate AC port), so you’ll either have to charge it through the cradle or purchase a travel charger.

Applications. Palm includes an excellent suite of applications on the Tungsten T2, along with the applications that come on the bonus Software Essentials CD. This includes DataViz Documents To Go v5.0, Adobe Acrobat Reader for Palm, Bluetooth applications BlueBoard and BlueChat, VersaMail 2.5, ArcSoft PhotoBase, Palm Reader, Palm Web Pro Browser, Solitaire, powerOne Personal calculator, Palm Photos, WAP Browser, Dialer, Phone Link, and Palm SMS.

Overall, we give it an EXCELLENT rating based on function.


Value

As we mentioned earlier, one of the coolest elements of the new Tungsten T2 is its price. For $399 you get a fast yet energy-efficient processor, an excellent high-resolution color display, and built-in Bluetooth wireless technology. And of course there’s the Palm operating system, which remains the easiest to use for handheld devices.

Overall, we give it an EXCELLENT rating based on value.


Bottom Line

Palm’s Tungsten T2 handheld combines stylish design with modern technology, while remaining true to Palm’s “pocketable, easy-to-use, long battery life” philosophy. And at $399 it’s not too hard on the pocketbook.


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