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PalmOne Tungsten T5

The best Palm yet?

Reg review Back in 2002, the Tungsten T's unique slider mechanism, which tucked the PDA's text-entry area behind a slide-up five-way navigation control, seemed a radical step forward from the tablet form-factor of old. PalmOne was pitching the device at executives and, it reckoned, executives spend more time looking at their information than typing it in. The slider allowed the T to become a compact data display device without sacrificing the ability to enter new information.

Come the era of big-screen devices, however, and the slider started to seem redundant. The Tungsten T3's 320 x 480 display is magnificent, but it defeats the object of having one if you need to open the slider every time you want to see it at its best, especially if you didn't use your PDA for data-entry. If you did, the slider just got in the way each time, as the Tungsten E showed.

PalmOne Tungsten T5

Enter the T3's successor, the T5, and it's immediately clear PalmOne has learned from both the T3 and the E, ditching the former's slider and adopting the latter's case design to produce what is not only its best PDA to date, but one that doesn't hide its glory.

Yes, the 320 x 480 display is back, augmented by Palm OS 5.4's much-improved and alpha channel-blended graphics. The screen's resolution is the same as previous Tungstens, but the colour is visibly better. Sitting it alongside an E, I hadn't realised how off-white the older displays were. Not so the T5.

Like the T3, the T5 has a virtual Graffiti text-entry area, popping up from the bottom of the screen whenever you need it - or whenever you run an app that thinks it's working with a 320 x 320 screen. Present again is the icon bar along the bottom of the screen, offering quick access to the application launcher, find facility, menu bar, the Graffiti panel, a switch to flip the display between landscape and portrait mode, and the Bluetooth settings. The latter has been upgraded from a wireless on/off switch, to a network connection chooser, finally providing a quick way of linking up to a mobile phone - the list of handsets needs updating, mind you - and initiating an Internet connection without having to visit several separate Preferences panels.

The virtual Home button is redundant now, PalmOne having set one of the four hard-wired application buttons alongside the navigation control to work the same way. But pressing it repeatedly now no longer cycles through the application categories but flips between the launcher and PalmOne's new alternative, Favorites. You get eight icons to the full screen, but rather than limit you to applications, you can also add URLs and documents.

Like the entries in Windows' Start menu, each item is represented by a shortcut, so it can be given an alternative name that better explains its function. VersaMail, for example, can be retitled to the more prosaic 'E-mail', Media to 'Photos and Videos'. It's a good idea, and one that will make the T5 easier to use for the less technically-minded. It's also handy for IT departments who want to offer mobile workers an single, clear interface.

Favorites has its flaws: reordering list entries has to be done through a menu item using drag and drop - why not do that on the list itself? And the application provides four pages of icons, number one to four, to add more than eight entries. I'd rather PalmOne had implemented Categories, or come up with something more novel, like the UI on Tapwave's Zodiac.

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