Palm Tungsten C

The $499 Tungsten C is flat out the most powerful Palm OS device the Palm
Solutions Group or any other Palm OS vendor has released. In so many ways it is
a Palm devotee’s dream come true. However, there are a couple of areas that the
device is lacking, perhaps limiting its appeal beyond Palm’s stated target
groups, the campus cruiser, power user, and the enterprise market.

Specs = Power & Performance
The Tungsten C measures
4.8 x 3.1 x .65 inches and weighs in at 6.3 ounces. It is a little bigger than a
m515 and about the same size as Tungsten T with its slider open. The Tungsten C
features the most powerful processor available for any handheld, not just a Palm
OS device, the 400MHz PXA255 XScale Processor from Intel. This processor doubles
the power found in the highest-end devices from Palm’s nearest Palm OS
competitor Sony and equals the CPU in the highest-end Pocket PCs. In fact, Palm
ended up skipping the whole first generation of XScale in favor of the latest
and its faster internal Bus for improved performance.

The Tungsten C also has 64MB of RAM, a seven fold increase in what had been
the previous max in a Palm handheld, which had been stagnant at 16MB for a long
time. Just a week before the Tungsten C was announced, the Palm Solution’s Group
released a statement that it and PalmSource, the Palm division in charge of the
Palm operating system, had finally broken the 16MB barrier, allowing Palm OS
handhelds to reach as high as 128MB. The 64MB of memory found in the Tungsten C
equals what you get in the highest-end Pocket PCs.

Another feature that equals the Pocket PC is the Tungsten C’s 320×320
transreflective display, the same one found in the Zire 71. This display, which
also supports 65,000 colors, is the richest and sharpest Palm has yet produced.
We were very impressed, especially when compared side-by-side to Palm’s previous
color offerings.

So the Tungsten C has a lot of features that equal the Pocket PC in terms of
raw power. If you take into consideration that Palm applications are far less
memory or processor hungry than their Pocket PC brethren, then Palm has created
a handheld that in a way surpasses the Pocket PC. This is something that’s
important to consider. While 64MB of memory is very welcome, most users won’t
come close to using all of it, even though only 51MB of it are available once
the system stack is subtracted. In addition, a 400MHz processor in a Palm might
be considered overkill.

These impressive specifications are aimed squarely at the corporate market,
where buying on mass is often predicated on which device has the fasted CPU and
the most memory. By placing the Tungsten C on par with the Pocket PC this way,
Palm has made it much more attractive to corporate buyers.

In terms of performance, we only noticed the slightest difference when
opening applications between the Tungsten C, and the Zire 71 and Tungsten T,
which have the same 144MHz Texas Instruments OMAP1510 ARM-based CPU. Where the
processor had the largest impact during testing was when accessing several
hundred photos from an SD card and then processing them for viewing, which took
a lot less time with the Tungsten C than in the Zire 71 and Tungsten T.

Reprinted from PDAStreet.

Audio

The Palm OS 5 Tungsten C looks remarkably similar
to the Palm OS 4.1.1 Tungsten W, except it is a lighter shade of silver and it
doesn’t have an antenna, which is interesting as it also has wireless
capabilities. The Tungsten C is a 802.11b device, while the Tungsten W is a
GSM/GPRS smartphone. The power buttons on both devices are located on the lower
right side. The Tungsten’s C’s Secure Digital slot, which was right behind the
power button on the Tungsten W, is back up to the top of the unit with the
Tungsten C where it belongs. Also located on top is a two-way mono/microphone
2.5mm jack for a Nokia style headset, just like the Tungsten W.

The inclusion of a mono jack rather than a stereo jack like the Tungsten T or
Zire 71 has been controversial, as it exposes one weakness of the Tungsten C,
the lack of stereo support, which, in some people’s minds makes it useless as a
multimedia device. We feel this is an exaggeration, as one can still listen to
mp3s with the Real One mobile mp3 player, which you download from the Palm
website, or Audible.com books for instance, they just have to be enjoyed in
mono. And the Tungsten C also comes with Kinoma Player and desktop companion
producer application for video. Nevertheless, the lack of stereo is a deal
killer for some who otherwise might have snatched the Tungsten C right up.

There are advantages to a two-way jack, especially for Palm’s target
audience. With the right application, the Tungsten C could one day become a
killer VoIP (Voice Over IP) device if you factor in its WiFi capabilities and
powerful CPU, potentially saving a company a bundle of money on phone costs.
Also, the jack makes the Tungsten C a good device for dictation, a feature very
important, for example, to the medical community. One nice feature is that when
you plug in a headset, it launches the Voice Memo application, which has been
integrated into the Palm desktop for synchronization with a PC.

One glaring omission on the Tungsten C, however, is the lack of the memo
button and built in microphone found in the Tungsten T. There’s now doubt that
Palm’s intended market would have liked the ability to be able to quickly make
voice memos without have to use a headset. And speaking of headsets, the
Tungsten C does not come with one like the Tungsten W. For $500 you would think
Palm could throw one in. The headset costs $14.95.

Reprinted from PDAStreet.

Keyboard & Navigation

The Tungsten C has the same
excellent BlackBerry-like thumb-keyboard as the Tungsten W. Keyboards are a
matter of taste, but if you have any predilection for a handheld with a keyboard
then the Tungsten C is for you. The keys are nicely raised and supply enough
feedback to make typing a breeze. To change a letter to a capital all one needs
to do is hold that letter down. A blue function key allows you to type numbers
and various symbols. To adjust the brightness of the display, simply press the
function key and the key just above it to make a slider appear on the screen.
Our one complaint about the keyboard is that it isn’t backlit.

Since there is no Graffiti writing area, keys exist to bring up a menu and go
to applications. Bellow the keyboard is the Palm’s 5-way directional pad with
buttons to launch the date and address books on one side and the VersaMail 2.5
email application and Web Browser, based on NetFront 3.0, on the other.

The browser works well and supports JavaScript, downloading pages as they
would appear on a desktop. This can be annoying sometimes, as it requires a lot
of scrolling to read text. Unlike the Pocket PC version of NetFront, the Palm
version doesn’t have the option to make the text fit the screen. You can
download and use the Avantgo browser if you prefer to view text without
scrolling. A link to it is available on the bundled Software Essentials CD.
Another problem with the browser is that the browser won’t follow links that
would open up another window in a desktop browser.

WiFi

The Tungsten C’s integrated WiFi puts it on par with
HP’s iPAQ 5400 and Toshiba’s e750. The Tungsten C includes an applet called WiFi
Setup, which makes getting connected easy. Just click on the application and
select next to have the device search out for a WiFi network, which it then
displays. Select the one you want and you’re set. During testing, I had no
problem connecting the Tungsten C to two WiFi networks: one that required an
SSID network name and another that didn’t. A bar changes color from green to red
as well as length to indicate how strong the signal is. We were able to
consistently get a signal in the range of 30 to 40 feet, depending on how many
doors and how much concrete was in the way. To make corporate users happy, the
Tungsten C comes with a Microsoft Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol compatible
(PPTP) VPN client.

In terms of wireless, the Tungsten C should have included Bluetooth, a
feature that would make accessing email from a Bluetooth phone and other
Bluetooth peripherals much easier. Another problem with Bluetooth support is
that there aren’t drivers yet for the Tungsten C for Palm’s SD Bluetooth card.

Battery

As for battery life, Palm has included a
powerful 1500 mAh Lithium Ion/Polymer battery. The goal for Palm was to allow
the Tungsten C to go a whole day with WiFi use without needing to be recharged,
as WiFi is a notorious power hog. I have to say that Palm succeeded as I’ve used
the Tungsten consistently over the course of several days with a WiFi connection
and it hasn’t drained the battery all the way once. When I’ve used the Tungsten
C as a regular handheld for over the course of a few days without WiFi, it
didn’t come close to needing to be charged. Like with the Zire 71’s battery, the
Tungsten C’s battery is not user-replaceable.

Software

As for applications, the Tungsten C and the Zire
71, are the first Palm handhelds to ship with Palm OS 5.2.1, which adds Graffiti
2, based on CIC’s Jot, instead of traditional Graffiti. As to how you’ll feel
about this depends on where you’re coming from. New users, who’ve never
experienced Graffiti, will be better off with Graffiti 2, as it requires strokes
that are much closer to real letters for handwriting recognition. Those who are
used to Graffiti will have to get used to something new. Graffiti 2 also lets
you write on the screen, which is essential for the Tungsten C, as it doesn’t
have a Graffiti writing area.

Other applications include DataViz’s Documents To Go for synchronizing
Microsoft Office applications with the Tungsten C, Bachmann’s PrintBoy, World
Clock, Solitaire and more.

Conclusion

Even with the lack of Bluetooth and stereo support limiting its appeal as a
multimedia device, the Tungsten C is still head and shoulders above any Palm OS
handheld that has come before in terms of overall power. Throw in some WiFi, an
excellent keyboard and a sharp display and you’ve got handheld that we highly
recommend. The Tungsten C is on cutting edge and should stay there for while.

For more details on the specifications of the Tungsten C and its software
bundle, visiit our Tungsten C Hardware Information Page.

Reprinted from PDAStreet.

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