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Tungsten Handheld

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Palm Tungsten T5
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Palm Tungsten T5

The Palm Tungsten is palmOne's line of business-class PalmOS-based PDAs.

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Details

Tungstens all have high-quality color screens, metal-toned or metal cases, and often have high-end features like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. (They also never have built-in digital cameras, due to workplace security restrictions on cameras.) Generally, they cost between US$199 and $399, and, despite being marketed as business-class devices, are also widely sold through consumer outlets.

The Tungsten series, first introduced in Fall of 2002 with the Tungsten T, was part of palmOne's (then Palm, Inc.) move away from arcane model numbers, PalmOS 4, and aging Motorola processors. While the Zire was the same old PDA in a white plastic case, the Tungsten T was a wonder, bringing the Palm line up to date to compete with increasingly popular and powerful Sony Clie and Windows Mobile competitors. Since then, the Tungsten line has been palmOne's "prosumer" line, catering to business users and hobbyists willing to pay the price for higher performance.

All of the Tungsten PDAs have a few attributes in common. Save for the Tungsten W, they all run a version of PalmOS 5 on an ARM-compatible CPU. They all have high-resolution (at least 320 x 320 pixels), 65,536 color LCD screens. They all have metal or metal-toned enclosures. They all have an SDIO slot for memory cards or accessories. They all have non-user-replaceable lithium-ion batteries. They all use a five-way navigator pad, in the shape of a rounded rectangle or circle, and have four buttons for built-in applications. Save for the Tungsten E and Tungsten T5, "Palm Universal Connector (http://www.palmone.com/us/products/accessories/universalconnector.html) for docks and accessories. Save for the Tungsten W, they have included Dataviz's Documents To Go (http://www.dataviz.com/products/documentstogo/) office suite and some version of Kinoma Player (http://www.kinoma.com/). None of them have digital cameras, due to the number of professional workplaces that disallow cameras.

Models

Tungsten E

palmOne's Tungsten E is the simplest and cheapest of the Tungsten series, and as such has been the most successful. It has 32 megabytes of memory, a Texas Instruments OMAP (ARM) 126 MHz processor, a 2.5 inch (64 mm) LCD screen, and runs PalmOS 5.2.1. It is 4.5 by 3.1 by 0.5 inches (114 by 79 by 12 mm), and weighs 4.6 ounces (131 g). It has a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a single tiny speaker. It uses a mini USB connector not supported by most dock accessories. (It is otherwise a standard Tungsten; see above.) At introduction, it was US$199.

The Tungsten E, released in October 2003, was intended to replace the aging Palm m515, one of the last holdouts from Palm's old product line. (As it was released at the same time as the Tungsten T3, it includes the enhanced "agenda view" for quick viewing of to-do items and upcoming calendar items.) While opinions vary on how well it did so quality-wise, the Tungsten E has been one of Palm's strongest sellers since its introduction, to the point where its simple slate form factor prevailed over the Tungsten T series' previous slider form factor in the development of the Tungsten T5.

It was superseded in April 2005, when palmOne released the Tungsten E2.

Tungsten E2

Tungsten E2 is the latest additon to the Tungsten line. It has 32 MB of memory (29.7 available), a 200MHz Intel XScale processor, 320x320 Transflective TFT color display, and runs Palm OS Garnet v5.4.7. It is 4.5 tall by 3.1 wide by .59 inches thick (114 x 79 x 15mm) and weighs 4.7 ounces (133g). It has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a longer lasting battery than the Tungsten E, Bluetooth, and a single speaker on the back. It uses non-volatile flash memory, meaning that if that battery dies, your memory will still be there, like the Tungsten T5 and Treo 650, but its NVFS Memory System is utilized more efficiently, as each block only requires 16-32 bytes to fill each memory space, depending on the program and/or demand, giving even power users some memory space to spare as opposed to the Tungsten T5. It uses a standard "Athena" Multi-Connector port supported only by some new accessories. When it was released, its retail price was US$249.

Tungsten T

palmOne's Tungsten T, introduced in November 2002 and known during development as the M550, was the test balloon for both PalmOS 5 and the entire Tungsten line. It has 16 megs of memory, a Texas Instruments OMAP (ARM) 144 mhz processor, a built-in microphone, and runs PalmOS 5.0. It is 4.0 inches (102 mm) tall, 4.8 inches (121 mm) tall with the slider extended, by 3.0 inches (78 mm) wide by 0.6 inches (15 mm) thick, and weighs 5.6 ounces (146 g). It has a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a single tiny speaker. (It is otherwise a standard Tungsten; see above.) It sets itself apart from other PDAs physically by having a sliding lower portion; the bottom third of the casing can be slid up and down to cover or reveal the touch-sensitive Graffiti writing area. At introduction, it was US$499.

Many of the features in the Tungsten T are palmOne firsts, in response to Sony's successful Clie series. It was the first palmOne PDA to use a version of PalmOS 5 and an ARM processor, which meant that it had the software and processing power for real-time video playback and mp3 playback. It was the first palmOne PDA to have a 320 x 320 resolution screen, what is known as "hi-res" in enthusiast circles. It was palmOne's first PDA with built-in Bluetooth. It was the first palmOne PDA with a microphone, for recording voice memos.

The slider was the real innovation and what made it a critical success, though. When open, the Tungsten T looked like a normal slate-shaped PDA, but the bottom portion, with the five-way controller and four buttons, could slide closed, covering up the Graffiti writing area. This made it much smaller for keeping in a pocket. palmOne's reasoning behind the slider was people spend more time viewing data rather than entering data. Thus, they chose to hide the data entry medium while not in use to make a more compact device.

It was succeeded by the Tungsten T2.

Tungsten T2

The Tungsten T2, introduced in July 2003 for US$399, was simply a minor update to the Tungsten T, and had exactly the same form factor. (Save for the label and the T|T2's slightly lighter case color, they are superficially identical.) The memory was increased to 32 megabytes, the screen was replaced with a superior TFT LCD of the same size and resolution. Since it is much like the Tungsten T model, PalmOne did not deliver this model to some markets, such as mainland China or Brazil.

The Tungsten T2 was discontinued in April 2004, having been succeeded by the Tungsten T3.

Tungsten T3

Tungsten T3, was the third Tungsten device, sporting with 64MB of memory, a much faster 400MHz processor, and a new 320x480 transflective TFT touch-screen. One of the most apparent improvements of the T3 was the new screen that featured a virtual Graffiti 2 area with the typical Tungsten line slider. With many other additional features, the T3 was released with the same $399 retail price tag as the Tungsten T2 until the release of the Tungsten T5, when it was reduced to $349.

The machine runs Palm OS version 5 and has an in-built speaker, as well as a microphone for use with the included voice recording software. It comes with all of the usual Palm software, including Palm Tasks, Palm Photos, Palm Contacts, Palm Notes and so on. There is a stereo headphone jack, making it a viable rudimentary music player when in combination with a Secure Digital (SD) flash memory card. The machine has 5-way navigation buttons, and a Palm Universal Connector with which it sits in the included USB cradle unit, used both for charging the PDA (at the mains supply or through a desktop computer) and for synchronizing the Palm's data to a PC or Mac (software is included for Windows and Mac OS X, but with the pilot-link software, the unit synchronizes perfectly with a Unix machine).

Tungsten T5

The Tungsten T5 is combination of the Tungsten E and Tungsten T3, replacing the standard "Graffiti" area with 320x160 pixels worth of screen. It still retains the shape of the Tungsten E, but is slightly thicker. It is the first Palm PDA to have 320x480 pixels all revealed without a "slider," as used in the Tungsten T3, though other brands have had sliderless HVGA displays for years. It is also the first to have 256 MB of memory (versus 64 MB in the Tungsten T3), 160 MB of it acting as a "USB Flash Drive", and the first to have a 416 MHz processor.

While the Tungsten T5 was meant to be a replacement for the Tungsten T3, it is missing many of the high-end features (which made the Tungsten T3 a "true" high-end handheld) including: charge-indicator LED, vibrating alarm, HotSync cradle, and voice memo function. Also, due to the 'flash drive' type storage space in the T5, data backup programs in place at the time of the devices debut are incapable of performing properly, backing up to the inbuilt memory instead of an external memory card. Not to be mentioned was that a lot of third-party programs and/or device drivers seem to be incompatible also due to the memory structure of the Tungsten T5. The Tungsten E-derived design also created some power-user outcries.

Initially, the Tungsten T5 was just one of the palmOne handhelds that had memory inefficiency issues, in which each block required a minimum of 512 bytes to fill up each memory cluster. This causes extremely small databases to take up more space than necessary, and deriving space concious PDA users of memory space.

As of June 22, 2005, the Tungsten T5 1.1 Update (http://www.palmone.com/us/support/downloads/tungstent5/tungstent5update.html) was released to the public addressing the memory inefficiency problem Tungsten T5 users had, plus other fixes described on the Tungsten T5 1.1 Update page, and the Flash ROM files also updates the Operating System to Garnet 5.4.8.

Tungsten W

The Tungsten W (known as the i710 during its development period), introduced in February 2003, is a bit of an odd duck in the Tungsten series, and has little to do with the other Tungsten handhelds. The only smartphone (PDA/cellphone hybrid) in the Tungsten series, instead of running PalmOS 5 on an ARM-compatible processor, it used PalmOS 4 with a low-power Dragonball processor, to increase the battery life. Likewise, it had a thumb-sized keyboard, more like the Treo 600 than the flagship Tungsten T. (This form factor would be reused in the Tungsten C.)

The Tungsten W heavily favored the PDA half of smartphone over the cellphone half, which is no surprise considering it was replacing the Palm i705 and Palm VII, both of which could only make data connections over the Mobitex pager network. Data downloads and uploads were done using comparatively-fast GPRS connections. It didn't actually have a microphone and the speaker couldn't be used for phone calls; instead, you'd use an included ear bud and microphone loopset for voice calls. (In the US, it was sold exclusively by AT&T Wireless, and all Tungsten W handsets sold in the US were locked to AT&T Wireless's service). It has 16 megabytes of memory, a Motorola Dragonball 33 MHz processor, a built-in microphone, and runs PalmOS 4.1.1 with special enhancements for its hi-res display. It is 4.8 inches (121 mm) tall by 3.1 inches (79 mm) wide by 0.7 inches (18 mm) thick, and weighs 6.4 ounces (181 g). It has a standard 2.5 mm cellphone loopset jack, and a single tiny speaker. The bottom half is a thumb-sized keyboard for typing, and it has no silkscreened Graffiti input area. (It is otherwise a standard Tungsten; see above.) At introduction, it was US$419 before service provider subsidies.

The Tungsten W was succeeded by the Treo 600 after Palm purchased Handspring and became palmOne.

Other models

See also

Competitors and contemporaries

External links

  • palmOne Official Website (http://www.palmone.com)
  • MobileTechReview (http://www.mobiletechreview.com) - Review site and (incomplete) database of models
  • PalmInfoCenter (http://www.palminfocenter.com/) - Longstanding Palm review site
  • 1src (http://www.1src.com) - Large PalmOS user community
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