PDA/mobile phone hybrid: Tungsten W

People call PDA/mobile phone hybrids ‘smart phones’ for a reason: you have to be smart to use them. That’s certainly the case with the Palm Tungsten W. A glance at the feature map in the manual reveals that this is not a simple Palm PDA: the Tungsten W manual identifies 15 callouts for buttons and icons.

With its built-in thumb keyboard (a first for Palm) and its bright, 320x320-pixel colour screen, the $1199 Tungsten W is certainly a pleasure to use. Whether you’re a Palm veteran or a neophyte, you’ll need some time to find your way around, but once you do, navigating becomes routine.

What distinguishes the Tungsten W from other Palms is its communications capabilities. Using the Vodafone network, it can handle e-mail, wireless instant messaging, Web browsing, and a full complement of phone features (including caller ID, call waiting and six-way conference calls). The Tungsten W’s rechargeable lithium ion/polymer battery supported a full 10 hours of talk and more than 200 hours of standby, and it’s loaded with 16MB of SDRAM.

Unfortunately, to use the Tungsten W as a phone, you must connect an uncomfortable Palm-supplied earpiece (there is no built-in or external speaker), and on my shipping unit, this proved to be inconvenient. By the time I connected the earpiece and untangled its cord, I missed many of my incoming calls. (A Palm Audio Flip Cover, with built-in mike and speaker, should be available in June at an additional cost.)

As for Web browsing, unless you view one of few sites that have been enhanced for the Palm screen, pages resize awkwardly. Page refreshes were achingly slow, too. But at least the keyboard made typing dot-com addresses easier than it is on a regular nine-button phone keypad.

If you’re interested in a power PDA that doubles as a mobile phone and a wireless communicator, the Palm Tungsten W is a good choice.

In brief: Palm Tungsten W
Powerful hybrid serves best as a handheld that just happens to have mobile phone and Internet capabilities.
Price: $1199
Distributor: Vodafone
Phone: 1300 650 410
URL: www.palm.com/au

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Michael S. Lasky

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