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Palm Tungsten T5 review: Palm Tungsten T5

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The Good Sleek and lightweight design; 256MB of memory; doubles as a USB drive; easy drag-and-drop file transfer; good battery life; bright screen.

The Bad No Wi-Fi.

The Bottom Line Though it lacks Wi-Fi, the T5's solid performance and new features make it a perfect companion for mobile professionals.

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6.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 5
  • Performance 6

Intro

It's no secret that the market for standalone handhelds is shrinking, but with the Tungsten T5, PalmOne is betting that there's still room for a plain old power PDA. The T5 is not a smart phone. Nor does it have Wi-Fi--unlike nearly every other PDA in its tax bracket. And it borrows its straightforward design from the workhorse Tungsten E series (rather than the T3 that it supplants with its fancy slider). What the T5 lacks in flash, it makes up for at least partly in function. It has 256MB of nonvolatile flash memory, a great display, and Bluetooth, and thanks to new software tweaks not found on other Tungstens, it is also a capable MP3 player and thumb drive. The T5 will be available in stores on November 3 for around $400. Meanwhile, PalmOne will drop the price of its other business-friendly handheld, the Tungsten T3, to about $350. Elegant and sexy are two words that come to mind when looking at the PalmOne Tungsten T5. Designed after the popular Tungsten E, the T5 sports a classic dark-silver finish and slim form factor. At 3.1 by 4.8 by 0.6 inches and 5.1 ounces, the PDA easily slips into your bag without adding much weight, yet it still benefits from solid construction and is comfortable to hold in your hand.

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While the Zire 72's design is fun and hip, the Tungsten T5 sports a classier and more elegant look.

The T5's most notable feature is its gorgeous display. The 3.7-inch-diagonal TFT screen shows 65,536 colors and a sharp 320x480-pixel resolution. Similar to the Tungsten T3, the T5 has virtual Graffiti input area, which increases the overall viewing size of the screen. There's a convenient taskbar at the bottom of the screen that offers quick access to the Home page, the Find function, Bluetooth, and more. You can also switch from Portrait and Landscape mode with a single click. Below the screen, you'll find the standard four shortcut keys, easily identified by their icons as Home, Calendar, Contacts, and Files. The five-way toggle sits in the center, and its roomy layout makes for easy navigation.

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Take cover: The T5 comes with a slide-on flip cover to protect the PDA's gorgeous screen.

The top of the T5 houses an SDIO/MMC expansion slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack (which accepts Walkman-style headphones), a power button, and a stylus holder. We particularly like the heavy feel of the stylus; compared to the plastic styli we've seen on other PDAs, this feels more like a luxurious fountain pen. On the left side, there's a slot to slide on the included screen cover, while the bottom of the device has a connector for the power adapter and USB HotSync cable. In a new twist, the USB dongle features a one-touch button to activate a HotSync operation, and there's also a slot to attach the power cord. Finishing out the handheld are a speaker and reset button on the back.

Other than a flip cover and the syncing and power cables, the T5 doesn't come with too many extras. However, PalmOne offers a number of accessories, such as a desktop cradle for $30 and a nice leather case, also $30, if you feel like sprucing up your investment.

The PalmOne Tungsten T5 is chock-full of new tricks. You get more computing horsepower with the T5's 416MHz Intel processor, but even more newsworthy is its whopping 256MB of flash memory. You read right: With 215MB of user-accessible memory (160MB in internal flash drive, 55MB in program memory), the T5 currently boasts the most memory available in a handheld today. This does well as a complement to the T5's other newfound glory--the ability to double as a USB removable drive. To take advantage of this feature, turn on the Drive mode utility on your handheld, use the USB cable to connect to your PC or Mac, and the T5 will appear as a drive on your computer. Transferring files is a thing of ease too, now that you can simply drag and drop items with the new File Transfer feature. We used this method to move several Microsoft Word documents, MP3s, and Kinoma video clips from our PC to the T5. Thanks to the fact that the PDA supports USB 2.0, transfer times were relatively fast, although slower for larger files, as would be expected. Still, there's no denying the ease and convenience of drag and drop, and we were equally pleased with the ability to perform a HotSync operation with the click of a button on the universal connector.

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Plug in and use your T5 as a USB drive.

There's plenty of fun to be had with the T5 as well. With RealOne Player onboard, you can listen to MP3s and RealAudio files while Kinoma Player lets you watch video (see Performance). And why not take advantage of the T5's vast storage space to carry some of your favorite photos with you? The PalmOne Media application even lets you organize photos into a digital album for extra personalization.

In terms of wireless connectivity, the T5 offers Bluetooth and an infrared port, but to our disappointment, there is no integrated Wi-Fi. The one saving grace is that PalmOne says it will update the driver on its Wi-Fi card to support the T5. Now you'll just have to fork over the extra $130. We did, however, use the included Bluetooth utility to pair up the T5 with a Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PC and were able to seamlessly beam data between the two devices.

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Space hog: If 256MB of memory isn't enough for you, there's also an SDIO/MMC expansion slot.

The T5 runs Palm OS 5.4 and offers two new views. The customizable Favorite screen lets you quickly access your most important or frequently used applications, while the File view opens the doors to all the files and folders on your internal flash drive. Bundled software includes VersaMail 2.7.1 (which supports POP, IMAP, and SMTP e-mail accounts), the Blazer 4.0 Web browser, SplashMoney, and more. You also get DataViz's Documents To Go 7.0, so you can create and edit Word and Excel documents and view PowerPoint files. Aside from the multimedia kicks, you have Handmark Solitaire and PalmReader to entertain you during your downtime.

Equipped with Intel's latest 416MHz XScale processor, the PalmOne Tungsten T5 offered great performance overall. Applications ran smoothly, although we did notice a slight lag in response time when loading photos and videos. Still, videos looked great on the T5's sharp screen, and MP3 playback was superb, with clear sound and loud volume.

Battery life was impressive. In CNET Labs' tests, we looped a video clip with screen brightness set at 50 percent, and the T5 hung on for 5 hours, 10 minutes, a good 2 hours longer than the T3. Playing a repeated MP3 file, the device lasted for 6 hours. Since our drain tests are designed to zap battery power as quickly as possible, you'll get more mileage out of the PDA with normal use. PalmOne says the T5 can last as long as a week on a full charge.

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