PalmOne Tungsten T5

The best Palm yet?


Not that the PDA's performance is beefier. Running Laurent Duveau's Speedy 4.0, the T5 generated a score of 1852, below the T3's 1899. Running the same test again, this time with the screen in landscape mode, yielded 1415 to the T3's 1034. Speedy's score is an aggregate of three tests, focusing on the CPU, memory and graphics, respectively. Sure enough, the T5's processor and memory scores were much the same in either mode but while the graphics test completed in 0.27s in portrait, it took 0.52s in landscape mode.

That result is confirmed by our Kinoma Player 2.0 video test, in which the test movie ran flat out at 156.4fps in portrait mode, but only 91.7fps in landscape mode. But that's still better than the 82.9fps our Tungsten E scored. However, it's not as fast as the Zire 72.

One reason is the T5's use of Flash memory, which has a slower access speeds as SDRAM. The 72's Speedy memory test took 0.12s to complete; the T5 took 0.17s. You can see it in the start up process: the Tungsten E starts up from a warm restart in 7s. The T5 takes 34s. That doesn't sound much, but it feels like an age when you're waiting to get to your data.

But it's important not to get hung up on performance numbers. By their nature, PDAs are less performance-sensitive than, say, PCs are. Crucially, the T5 feels responsive when it's running. Only application launching feels slower than I'm used to - but not sufficiently so to be an irritation. And applications load much faster the second time they're run, provided you haven't reset the machine in the meantime.

Does the T5 irritate in other ways? Well, the power switch has to be pushed and held rather than quickly tapped. There's no voice recording facility. And PalmOne has reinvented its PDAs' interface to other devices again. Having a clear interface spec. helps encourage third-party peripheral makers - just look at the Palm add-on market, and what's happening in the iPod world - but PalmOne won't have endeared itself to any such makers by telling them there's a new format to support now. Existing PDA users with older peripherals won't be too happy about it either.

It's certainly hard to see what benefit the Multi-Connector offers over the Universal Connector beyond - presumably - support for faster data rates. But did PalmOne really need to change the connector completely to achieve that?

PalmOne Tungsten T5

Verdict

The T5 is a big step forward in PDA design. The big internal memory, the way it's partitioned as traditional Palm OS storage and as a solid-state drive, along with new tools to manage that capacity and connect more smoothly to host computers show PalmOne once again leading the development of the handheld. The T5 paves the way for some very capable PDAs going forward.

For now, it's fast and let's not forget that gorgeous 320 x 480 display. It's got Bluetooth for mobile phone connectivity, plus a well-coded wizard that'll get you connected to a GPRS link from almost any network anywhere in the world. And there's no slider to get in the way. That alone would make me consider upgrading from the T3, and I certainly wouldn't get a T3 now, despite the price cut. The T3's key benefits were speed and screen-size - the T5 has both and more besides.

Once again, PalmOne's annual Tungsten T update has seen the introduction of a very strong product that keeps the it ahead of the game. ®

PalmOne Tungsten T5
 
Rating 85%
 
Pros — Whopping 215MB of user-available RAM, configured as a 160MB Flash disk and 55MB of regular memory; the 320 x 480 display; well-integrated software.
 
Cons — Could be faster; no Wi-Fi
 
Price $399/£279/€419
 
More info The PalmOne Tungsten T5 website

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