If you're going to shell out £300 or more for a handheld that isn't also a phone or a camera, you expect more than a plain-vanilla personal digital assistant. PalmOne's £325 Tungsten T5 (launched last month) delivers that:
256 Mbyte of memory, almost four times as much as its predecessor, the Tungsten T3, and the most we've seen on a PDA to date. Sure, you can always add storage via the T5's SD slot, but you might need it for something else - for example, a promised optional SD Wi-Fi card.
What's more, this memory is all nonvolatile. If the T5 loses its charge, you won't lose any of your data. And 160 Mbyte is an internal flash drive: Plug it into any computer with plug-and-play support for a USB drive, and you can access your stored files. The T5's desktop software also supports Hot Sync-less file transfers for the internal drive, but you can only add apps using Hot Sync.
The T5 forsakes the collapsible chassis that distinguished its predecessors without sacrificing the T3's handsome, oversize (320-by-480) display. This makes the T5 taller but not dramatically so (4.8 inches vs. 4.3 inches for the collapsed T3), because PalmOne has downsized the case surrounding the screen.
Powered by Intel's 416-MHz Bulverde XScale CPU, the T5 is a snappy performer. But battery life in my preproduction unit was adequate for only a day or so of intensive use - even without going online. I wish Palm would jump on the bandwagon with a removable rechargeable battery, not to mention Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth for wireless Internet access - something that's become increasingly essential for business use.
Also, this is the first Tungsten that doesn't ship with a cradle; instead, you get a USB cable with a Hot Sync button. All in all, the T5 should appeal to users who'd like to use their PDA for storing lots of files.
Palm's bundled software includes appointment and address books intended to sync easily with Microsoft Outlook, and users can also download a Tungsten-compatible Java Virtual Machine. A small taskbar sits at the bottom of the display and contains icons for one-tap access to frequently used functions and features. These include the home screen, the search window, drop-down menus and a simpler Bluetooth configuration screen. It also provides input choices (keyboard, or the Graffiti screen).
A switch lets you toggle between the portrait display and the landscape orientation, which is handy for viewing photos and spreadsheets.
To save money you might take a fresh look at the T3, now available for around £250. The T3 runs on an XScale processor and comes with 64 Mbyte of RAM (52 Mbyte available to the user).
If multimedia video and games matter more to you, you might consider Dell's Axim X50v Pocket PC, one of the first mainstream PDAs with a dedicated graphics processor (the Intel 2700 with 16 Mbyte of graphics memory), and the first to include version 10 of Windows Media Player Mobile, which ties in to subscription services that support Microsoft's Digital Rights Management 10. With 64 Mbyte of RAM, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and removable, rechargeable batteries it will cost about £400.
The Tungsten T5 is a more evolutionary work-oriented upgrade that will appeal primarily to those who want a Palm-based business handheld that can double as a portable storage device - and who don't insist on out-of-the-box Wi-Fi.
If you want a business-oriented Palm handheld which doubles as a storage device, consider this machine.