Jewish World Review April 11, 2003 / 9 Nisan 5763

Tungsten's handy "Dubya"

By Mark Kellner | I'd like to imagine that the Palm Tungsten W, a $549 PDA/cellphone/Internet appliance would be favored by Washington's more famous "Dubya," and not just because of the nomenclature. This handy device is everything a chief executive - or THE chief executive - might want in an electronic tool. The rest of us would probably warm to it, too.

Combining many functions into one device has its risks: one function or another is likely to be shortchanged; enough skimping and you have something sub-par. Fortunately, however, the Palm Tungsten W seems to have avoided this by and large, resulting in a thoughtful, useful tool for those working in corporations and on their own.

At the heart of the Tungsten W is Palm's basic personal digital assistant platform: a date book, address book, to-do list and note organizer. These functions have been enhanced somewhat since the original Palm Pilot of the mid-1990s, but retain their basic simplicity.

Other applications are geared towards the business user/traveler, such as WorldMate, which offers a combo of a world time clock, time converter and currency converter among other features. Documents-to-Go, an application from DataViz, is an ideal editor for Microsoft Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.

VersaMail, the e-mail application Palm has designed, works very well - at least with servers other than the rather highly secured one where one of my e-mail accounts resides. One account works very well, the other apparently has a level of security CentCom would envy. While I attempt to solve the security hassle, I'm satisfied that VersaMail will do the trick for most of my mobile e-mail needs in the meantime.

That e-mail retrieval and sending comes via the built-in cell phone, in this case the GSM/GPRS technology now employed by AT&T Wireless. Speed won't rival that of broadband connections, of course, but for quick checks of e-mail, the data rate has been satisfactory.

As with other wireless handhelds, the Tungsten W features a "web clipping" browser that lets users look at select Web site content - the "meat" of Yahoo's news and information page, for example - without the graphical fluff. Here, too, data connection speeds and transfers are good and useful for many purposes.

As a phone, the Tungsten W has many endearing features such as tight integration with the Palm address book; touch a number and dialing is automatic. The phone supports call waiting and placing one line on hold to answer another call; sound quality is excellent with the supplied - and necessary - headset/microphone.

Battery life on the Tungsten W is nothing short of amazing; I've kept the phone in "sleep" mode for days and have had great batter life. I'm sure there's a way to run down the battery, but I haven't found it yet.

The color display screen on the unit is very good, if backlit, and capable of displaying high resolution color images. Built-in is a small "keyboard" ("thumb-board" might be better) and using it isn't difficult at all. For more serious typing, Palm offers an optional, external keyboard for $99.

The unit also features a Secure Digital, or SD, media card slot, which can increase the supplied 16 MB of data memory by 128 MB, 256 MB or higher. There's a front cover which folds over the unit to protect the screen and keyboard from damage while being carried.

Also worth mention, particularly for Macintosh users, is the fact that the Palm Desktop software is a great tool for managing appointments, contacts and other information. The simplicity of the software interface, it's compatibility with a variety of data formats including the "vCard" format used by many, is a delight in an era of overloaded applications.

More information on the device can be found at It's worth investigating, particularly if you want to keep in touch on the go.

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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.

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