Palm T|X review

Price when reviewed

The T|X marks an important step for Palm, finally squeezing 802.11b wireless connectivity into a sleek and affordable PDA. It also has Bluetooth, which is used to connect to the Palm GPS receiver.

Palm T|X review

It’s actually the biggest PDA here, but it doesn’t feel like it because it’s also thin and lightweight. It boasts the largest screen at 3.8in: the 320 x 480-pixel resolution is second only to the Dell Axim X51v, and it’s the only PDA to get close to the Dell’s smooth and effortlessly readable image. Like Windows Mobile 5 devices, all data is stored safely in ROM so it isn’t at risk if the battery runs flat. There are two slight flaws, though: it doesn’t have a removable battery, and the stylus has so much friction on the screen that, to us at least, it felt unpleasant.

Palm’s desktop software package is fragmented into separate components, but it’s comprehensive and includes the excellent Documents To Go from DataViz, allowing you to read, edit and create Office documents on the PDA in native Word, Excel and PowerPoint file formats.

There are several good GPS applications to choose from in this Labs, but TomTom Navigator 5 is the cream of the crop. That’s not to say it’s perfect – we were disgruntled by the Draconian activation process and there are a couple of missing features – but taken as a whole it beats the competition. And for beginners, the guided tour and pop-up tips are useful.

Popular on Pocket PC devices, it works equally well on Palm OS with an identical look and feel. The only noticeable change is that address book integration is via a separate application.

TomTom opens to a 3D map with a greyed-out look if there’s no GPS fix, switching to colour when the Bluetooth receiver locks on to a signal. The connection is managed automatically, and we actually got a quicker first fix than with the integrated systems at just 45 seconds. That includes starting up the application, which at five seconds made it the fastest to open.

Tapping the map brings up the menu; the large icons are finger-friendly for easy use in the car. In portrait mode, the onscreen keyboard is a bit cramped, but switching to landscape gives bigger keys, and thankfully it’s a QWERTY layout.

Importantly, TomTom’s maps are superb. Apart from the clear graphics and colour-coded road classes, street names are easy to read and road widths scale extremely well as you zoom in and out, giving a natural sense of distance. As you drive along with the 3D map, you can easily read the names of roads ahead (some apps don’t display names at all), and as you approach a turn the map zooms in closer so you can see more detail. Together with clear voice instructions, it’s a joy to use.

However, the one thing you can’t do when browsing the 2D offline map is set a starting point, so you can’t plan a short trip on the map without the GPS receiver – a handy feature when you’re on foot. It’s something earlier TomTom versions could do, and we’d like to see it reinstated. Instead, you return to the main menu, plan an A-B trip (Advance planning), click Route, then select “Browse map of route”. Once the route is set, you have a handy “Travel via…” feature to stop somewhere along the way.

Most of your navigation will naturally be done in-car with “Navigate to…” (from your current GPS location), and besides “Advance planning” (plan A-B without GPS) there’s also “Itinerary planning” for multi-destination journeys using waypoints. It’s a shame you can’t calculate an itinerary route offline – you have to wait for a GPS signal, since your starting point is your current position.

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