Linuxgruven > Hardware > Palm Tungsten C

Palm Tungsten C

December 2005

I have owned many PDAs over the years, nearly all of which have been Palms. My last PDA, a Sony Clie TJ-37, was beginning to show it's age, so I took the opportunity to switch to a Tungsten C that a friend was selling. I've been using it extensively for a few months now. The following is my review and comparison to the TJ-37.

The Hardware


The Tungsten C, which was released in April 2003, features a 400MHz ARM processor and, almost three years later, is still the fastest Palm on the market. The T/C also features 64MB of RAM, a 320x320 colour screen, integrated wifi and a thumb keyboard. All of this is fantastic, especially in light of the fact that the PDA isn't much bigger or thicker than my TJ-37. However, the Tungsten C isn't perfect. My biggest beef with it is the 2.5" proprietary mono headphone jack. That's right, Palm went to the bother of creating the near perfect PDA for me and then clutched defeat from the jaws of victory by using a non-standard headphone jack. Perhaps they did this just to remind everyone that it's still a Palm inc. device. Thankfully, 3rd party adapters exist to convert the jack to a standard, though still mono, 3.5mm.

The T/C looks a lot chunkier than my old Clie. Having said this, when the devices are side to side, they're actually about the same size. As is often reported, this PDA, while powerful and flexible, will not win any beauty contests.

Of course, the keyboard is what sets this Palm apart and is what makes it a viable model even years after the release. The thumb keyboard makes data entry a reality on a PDA. After having used the integrated keyboard, I can't see myself returning to Graffiti. Data entry has always been lousy on PDAs. If this isn't a big deal for you, you'd probably be better off with a T/X. I'd love the screen real estate offered by the T5 and T/X. However, it's just not worth giving up the keyboard for. Email is actually doable with the T/C. It's a shame that this is the only PDA with WiFi and a keyboard.

The battery on the TC is hands down the best that I've seen on a modern Palm. It would easily last at least a week with regular use. I tend to use mine to listen to music on the walk in to work and often find myself listening to tunes in the background. Despite this and frequent WiFi use, the battery barely budges in a day.

Software


The Clie and Tungsten both use PalmOS 5.2..1. Despite the same version numbers, the two devices' operating systems are quite different. I find Palm's WiFi implementation to be just fantastic. The range is good and it hops on and off wireless networks quickly and easily as needed. This contrasts the TJ37 a bit, which always seemed to have a bit of a hard time with the WiFi. This is probably partly because Sony integrated WiFi well before Palm, so had to blaze ahead before it was properly integrated into the OS.

The Tungsten includes RealPlayer for an MP3 player and Documents To Go for an office suite. it also includes Web Browser and VersaMail. The mail program is great. It features both POP and IMAP support an can optionally use SSL. I've used VersaMail, Iambic Mail and SnapperMail on the Palm. I honestly prefer the intuitive interface to VersaMail. It is to mail what Palm's DateBook is to schedulers. RealPlayer is a decent MP3 player, though I prefer either TCPMP or AeroPlayer that shipped with my old Clie. The web browser, however, is a sore spot. Fortunately for me, the person I bought the TC from had installed WebPro, a browser installed on later Palm models. It is fantastic, if a little slow to render. I've also recently installed Mini Opera. It's a scaled down version of Opera designed originally for cell phones. It uses IBM's stripped down Java VM, which is available for the T/C. Mini Opera is a much better and faster browser than either Web Browser or Web Browser Pro.

One thing to note about PalmOS 5.2 is that it crashes quite regularly. This especially appears to be the case when using the wireless. As has been widely reported, PalmOS 5 is now about four years old. In fact, if memory serves, the T/C was released after OS6 was announced.

This device clearly illustrates the need for a PalmOS 6 upgrade. the frequent crashes really detract from an otherwise outstanding user experience.

OS Compatibility


One major advantage that the T/C and other PalmOS devices have over the competition is out-of-the-box platform compatibility. That is, Palm devices are well supported in both Mac OSX and Linux. Palm provides Palm Desktop on OSX. With my Clie, I had to purchase the arguably better MissingSync program. It has a few features missing from Palm Desktop, such as iTunes and iPhoto integration, but was a little steep at $40 USD. Moreover, you can only use MissingSync on two computers at a time. Having the option to use the Palm Desktop software means that I can sync on all Macs.


Conclusion


With the excellent thumb keyboard, slick WiFi and ample speed and RAM, this is by far the best PDA that I've ever used. As the device is nearly three years old at the time of writing, I hope that Palm releases a follow-up soon that has an integrated mic and a standard headphone jack. As this seems unlikely with their current preoccupation with the Treo line and Windows CE, I would highly recommend trying to pick a T/C up used.

(Please note that this review was written on the Tungsten C using Documents To Go.)