palmOne Tungsten T5 review

Price when reviewed

Don’t be fooled by the name: the T5 isn’t the successor to the T3, much more an evolution of the highly successful Tungsten E. In fact, the design is almost identical. This is no bad thing, as it means the T5 passes the shirt-pocket test and incorporates the classic faux-leather flip cover.

palmOne Tungsten T5 review

The big difference between the two devices is the screen. Where the Tungsten E has a 320 x 320 TFT, the T5’s stretches down to replace the Graffiti writing pad, creating a 320 x 480 area. It works well, especially as you can flip from portrait to landscape mode by pressing the tiny icon at the foot of the screen. Long-time Palm lovers will once again mourn the absence of the original Graffiti, though, with Graffiti 2 in place here.

Where palmOne has branched out is in the amount and type of memory included. Rather than the Tungsten E’s 32MB of volatile memory, which loses its data if the PDA’s battery runs out, the T5 includes a stupendous 256MB of flash memory – this doesn’t need battery power to store data. Only 215MB of that is usable, with a further 55MB taken by program memory for applications, but that still leaves 160MB for data.

What’s more, it’s now easy to transfer files from your PC to the T5: activate Drive Mode on the Tungsten, and after a few seconds a 160MB drive appears in My Computer just like a standard USB flash drive. You then just drag and drop files to and from the T5.

The most obvious files to transfer are photos and music, but considering that a typical album ripped at 128Kb/sec occupies about 50MB, the T5 isn’t likely to replace the iPod any time soon. That said, it almost matched the iPod for battery life when playing music: 8 hours versus the iPod’s 9 hours in our tests.

Of course, that’s with the screen off. With the backlight set to medium and under light use, this decreased to 5 hours, 31 minutes. You may be tempted to increase the brightness to the maximum, though, as the T5 isn’t as bright as previous palmOne devices. Everyday image quality is still great – you often feel like you’re reading a piece of paper rather than a computer screen – but photos lack vibrancy.

It’s also disappointing that the T5 still uses Palm OS 5, not Palm OS 6 (codenamed Cobalt). As such, there are no big OS-level improvements in the T5, although we did find the new Favorites app useful – pictured left, this is the first screen to appear when you switch on the T5, and provides a list of commonly used programs. It’s customisable too, so your favourite programs can be just one tap away. DataViz’s Documents To Go 7 is another welcome addition, allowing you to edit Word and Excel documents and view PowerPoint presentations.

So there are some nice inclusions with the T5, but before you buy take careful note of the omissions. Number one is Wi-Fi. Yes, there’s Bluetooth, so it’s possible to browse the Web via your mobile phone, but this is a complementary technology rather than a Wi-Fi replacement. You can add Wi-Fi via palmOne’s own SD card, but this costs a princely £95 and protrudes a few millimetres from the top of the unit.

Another more minor omission is the vibrate alarm, which so many people rely on as a discreet reminder in meetings. And those of us who permanently have our PDAs hooked up to our desktop PC will immediately have to spend more for the T5 cradle kit in order to obtain a docking cradle – palmOne supplies only a cable.

No doubt the prime reason for all these omissions is cost, but palmOne is still expecting people to pay over £200 for the T5. Once you pass that barrier, any sort of compromise is less bearable. When you compare it to the £110 Tungsten E, the T5 looks like very poor value.

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