Two Cents

Two of our editors tried different editions of palmOne's famous handhelds -- here's what they thought.

by , / September 2, 2004
PalmOne Tungsten E

A lot of functionality, an itty-bitty package and a reasonable price.

I always thought I didn't do handhelds because I couldn't afford one, but after spending a little time with palmOne's Tungsten E, I realized I'm just not a Palm kind of girl.

Initially I thought it was cool. It had a neat little cover and could hold a plethora of information -- my contacts' phone numbers, addresses, e-mail addresses and birthdays, and any appointment I had. I could even open Word and Excel documents transferred from my PC (though not wirelessly -- this puppy must use a USB cord to connect to my computer).

The problems I encountered with the Tungsten E seem primitive in the technology world, but they're important nonetheless. The writing pad wasn't sensitive enough to the stylus's touch. When I attempted to write my appointments in the calendar, no word was translated correctly. When I wrote, "Interview with Brian, 3 p.m." in block letters, the palmOne's translation was "Ihterviv vitn Biiam. 3 pn." I typically enjoy learning new things, but getting accustomed to that Graffiti 2 writing pad wasn't my cup of tea. I want to write my appointments in without learning some new shorthand.

Either way, it forced me to tap letters on the keypad to insert my appointments or interviews, which took too much time.

After about three weeks of carrying the Tungsten E in my purse -- which fit quite nicely seeing as it only measures 114 mm by 78 mm by 12.7 mm -- and using it instead of my regular old calendar, I went back to the old school way of keeping track of my life.

I do, however, see how handhelds benefit those with lots to do, many places to go and nowhere to keep a monster calendar. If you're one of those on-the-go people without the need for infrared file sharing between the Palm and your PC, the Tungsten E -- which retails for $199 -- is for you.

Memory: 32 MB (28.3 MB actual storage capacity)
Screen: 16-bit, 320x320 transflective TFT color display supporting more than 65,000 colors
Size and Weight: 4.5x3.1x0.5 inches; 4.6 ounces
Processor: Texas Instruments OMAP311 ARM processor
Operating System: Palm OS 5.2.1
Battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion/polymer battery

Rating: 3 out of 5

PalmOne Tungsten T3

Stretch display and fast processor make the T3 fun to use.


Memory: 64MB memory (52MB actual storage capacity)
Screen: 320x480 color Transflective TFT display with portrait and landscape support
Size and Weight: 4.3 x 3 inches (screen closed), 5.5 ounces
Processor: 400MHz Intel XScale?
Operating System: Palm OS 5.2.1
Battery: Rechargeable 900mAh lithium polymer battery

It's not that I'm a slacker, it's just that I don't have the sort of job that creates a need for a device like palmOne's Tungsten T3.

A colleague who works with California's Legislature and attends lots of committee hearings expressed genuine terror at the thought of losing his Palm when I asked him how important it was to him.

As a piece of technology, there's no doubt palmOne's Tungsten T3, which retails for $399, is a slick little device. The T3's most attractive feature is its "Stretch Display" functionality -- simply grab hold of the T3, pull on the bottom, and it slides down to give you 50 percent more viewing area than other palmOne devices. The extra viewing area allows you to work in portrait or landscape mode.

Though this does nothing to enhance the T3's beefy personal information management functionality, it does do two important things: It satisfies consumers' love for a mobile device with a nice big screen, and it emphasizes another strong feature of the T3 -- the Graffiti 2 writing pad.

With the pad, you wield the stylus like a pen and handwrite information for calendar entries or personal contacts. Unlike my colleague who reviewed the Tungsten E, I liked the Graffiti 2 writing pad.

It took some practice to learn to write letters the way the pad understands them, but once I figured it out, Graffiti 2 clearly solves the problem of a tiresome input process of tapping letters on the T3's software keyboard -- a real chore that takes forever.

I give the Graffiti 2 software extra credit for recognizing my e's. My handwritten version of the letter looks sort of like this -- e -- but the Graffiti 2 recognized it with no problem.

Of course, this can all be avoided if you use the HotSync software to link the T3 to Outlook. Then, you rest the T3 in its cradle, use the USB cable to plug the cradle into your PC, and hit the Sync button -- anything you've got in Outlook gets zapped over to the T3 lickety-split.

The only thing that could significantly improve the T3 is Wi-Fi capability.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Shane Peterson Associate Editor
Jessica Jones Managing Editor