Jewish World Review Nov. 1, 2002 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Palm's New Tungsten PDA Shows Its Mettle

By Mark Kellner | Palm Inc.'s new, $499 Tungsten T handheld computer is tiny, sleek, stylish, functional and surprising. The first of two new Tungsten devices from Palm (the other, which builds in a wireless phone, will be available later), the Tungsten T is the kind of device users of personal digital assistants, or PDAs, will gravitate towards, while die-hard paper-bound planner types will find it more difficult to resist.

Unlike some earlier Palm models, the Tungsten T's display is as colorful as anything that would fit in a shirt pocket. The screen's vibrant colors are a delight in many situations, and work as well outdoors as indoors. The size is deceptive: slide down the lower panel of control buttons and the familiar "Graffiti" (stet) writing area appears; slide up the panel and you have a Lilliputian PDA with Gulliver-sized power.

Standard on the unit is 16 MB of RAM, but there's also an expansion card slot (for SD, or Secure Digital) cards, which can double or triple the memory for not more than $40. Any number of cards could be swapped in and out of the machine, one for office files, another for home items, and so on. The Palm Tungsten T also sports a new Texas Instruments processor, which delivers more computing power while using less electrical power. When used as a standard PDA, Palm estimates the new device can go seven days between recharging its lithium-ion battery.

It's the little touches on this new computer that perhaps mean the most. Something that is only 4 inches tall, 3 inches wide and 0.6-inches thick (when closed) is little by any standard, yet it doesn't appear underpowered. There are four quick-access buttons to get to one's appointments, addresses, to-do items and the note pad; a five-way navigation button in the center of this row of buttons allows for one-handed operation of many features of the Palm software.

Along with the SD card slot, there's a tiny built-in microphone and record button, to create voice memos that can be replayed (a headset jack is included) or e-mailed. An optional keyboard is also available, which when connected to the Tungsten T turns it into a tiny computer, thanks to a software compliment that includes software from DataViz to view, edit and save Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Those presentations can be displayed from the Palm Tungsten T with a separately-sold item from MARGI Systems that uses the SD card slot to connect the Palm to a portable projector. If Ross Perot had access to these devices in 1992, he might have won the White House.

For me one of the nicest features of the new Tungsten T is that I haven't had to unpack the synchronization cradle in order to transfer data from my desktop computer to the handheld. Why? Because the Palm has built Bluetooth (stet) wireless communications into the Tungsten T, giving it the ability to hook up with desktop computers, cell phones and printers that are similarly Bluetooth-equipped. After a simple setup, I was able to transfer addresses and appointments from an Apple Computer iMac to the Tungsten without a wire in sight. If I had a Bluetooth phone, I could then tell the handheld unit to dial my boss without pressing a single digit on the phone keypad, or to use the phone to retrieve e-mail from my corporate server.

Is all this worth nearly $500? Some will say yes, others will wait for a price drop. One thing is clear, however, Palm - whose fortunes have varied a bit in recent months - is definitely taking a higher position with the Tungsten T, a handheld that shows its mettle in a demanding business environment. Details about the unit should be available online at

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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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© 2002 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at