The Palm Tungsten T2 is the successor to the Tungsten T,
Palm's initial entry into the latest generation of high performance, high
resolution PDAs. The T's legacy is plain to see in the appearance of the
T2. In fact, if you set them side-by-side, you would be hard pressed to
tell the two apart. Other than a slight difference in the metal case's
color, the T2 looks like its older sibling.
Of course, inside, there is a big difference. Most
notably, the Tungsten T2 has 32MB of SDRAM to the T's 16MB. The T2 uses
the same screen as the new Tungsten C and Zire 71 PDAs, an improvement over the
original Tungsten T (although I'm told that screen was no slouch).
The display is a 320x320 transflective LCD panel.
Palm claims true 16 bit color, supporting over 65,000 colors. I have to
confess that, compared the M130 that this T2 replaced, the difference is like
night and day. The display is visible under quite a range of ambient
lighting, from complete darkness to diffused sunlight and from any but the most
extreme angles. While the display was washed out in bright sunlight, it
was still visible with a little creative shading from my hand.
The T2 is powered by Texas Instruments' OMAP 1510
processor, as was the original Tungsten T. This processor is an
interesting combination of an ARM925 CPU running at 144MHz and a C55x DSP at
The Tungsten T2 supports SD and MultiMedia cards. It
will accept memory cards up to 512MB. That could come in handy because the
T2 has audio support built in. Palm includes a copy of RealPlayer for
Palm, supporting MP3 files. While the T2 features a small speaker on the
front of the unit, a headphone jack supports standard mini-plug stereo
headphones. Third party players are available which support other audio
formats, including Ogg Vorbis for Open Source fans. The audio quality from
the built-in speaker is nothing too terribly good, although considering the size
of the speaker, it certainly could be much worse. The headphone output was
actually able to drive my Grado SR-125 headphones quite loudly, something that
surprised me, since they are a notoriously difficult load. Compared to the
Neuros HD 20GB digital music player, the Tungsten T2 was a little light on the
bass. I noticed that Palm specifies the lower frequency response of the
audio circuitry to be about 160Hz. Even so, you're probably not looking at
the T2 as a portable music player - to me, this is more of a bonus, and a
reasonably well performing one, at that.
On the topic of sound, the T2 also features a voice
recorder. A small button on the left side of the unit activates a
microphone that will make a digital recording. I made a few recordings
with groups of one to six people and found that it worked quite well. The
only drawback that I found was that it was easy to inadvertently press the
button and bring up the recording screen. While this did not make an
actual recording (the screen requires an additional tap), it was something of a
nuisance until I got used to holding the T2 a little differently.
An infrared port is on the top of the PDA, along with the
expansion card slot and the stylus silo. The stylus protrudes ever so
slightly from the top of the T2 and is released by pressing on it. The end
of the stylus is spring loaded and pops up about a half inch. The user
then just pulls it out. It is replaced by dropping it in the silo, then
pressing down on the end until it clicks into place.
The T2 uses the same cradle that Palm has provided with
its handhelds since the M100. The PDA ships with the USB cradle, although
a serial version is also available. Other options include USB and serial
cables. The T2 charges through the cradle via a 5 volt wall-wart charger.
Car chargers are also available. The lithium-ion battery went from fully
discharged to completely charged in about two hours. Under "average" use,
it took several days for me to discharge to 25% charge.
One feature that will certainly affect battery life is the
built in Bluetooth network. Bluetooth seems to be one of those
technologies that seems to be having a difficult time finding a purpose, but it
does seem quite appropriate for PDAs. The technology is not as power
hungry as 802.11 WiFi, primarily by virtue of its limited range (around 30
feet). Security is about as good as WiFi, meaning that it can be
dangerously absent or reasonably secure, depending upon the user's needs (or
lack of concern). I was able to connect the Tungsten T2 to a Windows XP
computer using a Belkin USB Bluetooth adapter. The T2 can use USB for
synchronization and also to access the Internet, courtesy of the VersaMail IMAP/POP3
email client and the WebPro browser. I had no problem browsing web pages
(including Java content) and downloading my email, although the Bluetooth
connection is not particularly speedy. Web pages that snapped right up on
my computer (via a high speed DSL connection) were fairly sluggish, almost like
normal dialup speed. Part of this seemed to be a limitation of Bluetooth
and part of it was that the WebPro software reformatted most web pages to
properly display on the 320x320 screen. I found the best performance to be
from web pages that were designed with PDAs in mind, such as Yahoo's PDA portal.
The Tungsten T2 uses Bluetooth 1.1, which is the latest version.
Email was quite easy to use. VersaMail takes a page
from Microsoft by using a wizard-like application to step the user through
configuring a POP3 or IMAP email account. Sending and receiving messages
was not much more difficult than doing so from a PC.
The only real difficulty in connecting to the Internet was
that Palm does not provide any instructions on how to do it! Fortunately,
there are several resources on the web that provide step-by-step procedures for
enabling Internet Connection Sharing on Windows and setting up the T2.
The Tungsten T2 is quite small, a feat managed by its
sliding lower section. The area containing the buttons slides up and down,
concealing the Graffiti area. This takes almost a half inch off the length
of the device. Including a mechanical feature like this almost seems like
asking for trouble, but close examination shows that there are no less than four
physical connections between the slider and the main body of the T2. Also,
Palm says that they designed the slider to successfully open and close at least
100,000 times without failure. It's possible to navigate the T2 without
opening the slider, by using the five-way button pad and the stylus. I
still haven't quite got the hang of it yet, so I usually find myself opening up
the slider and navigating the traditional way. Even if I never catch on,
the slider does make the Tungsten T2 more convenient by decreasing the size and
making it fit in a pocket that much easier. The overall dimensions of the
T2 are 4.0" (4.8" extended) x 3.0" x 0.6" and 5.6 ounces.
Before plopping it into a pocket, though, Palm gave some
consideration to protecting the screen. The T2 ships with a clear
polycarbonate shield that snaps onto the front of the PDA for protection and
swaps around to the back for storage while using the device. It's not
quite as convenience as the old-style flip covers, but it does the job.
The cover has a hole in it for access to the five-way pad, for one finger
navigation with the cover on.
The Tungsten T2 comes with the usual group of software
applications. The WebPro and VersaMail applications are pre-loaded in ROM,
saving precious memory for your important stuff. The T2 uses OS 5.2.1.
The Notepad application, one of my favorites on the M130, is markedly more
usable with the T2's high resolution screen.
The accompanying CD-ROM provides Documents to Go (a
Microsoft Office integration tool), Palm Photos, the RealOne media player, the
Kinoma Player (for video clips), Adobe Acrobat for Palm, Palm Reader and
Handmark's Solitaire, as well as several other applications. If you use a
Bluetooth-enabled phone, the Phone Link software will step you through the
process of using your phone to connect to the Internet, browse, send SMS
messages and collect email.
The Palm Desktop software (version 4.1) makes
synchronizing even easier with the Quick Install program. Basically, all
you need to do to install an application or file is to drag it to the Quick
Install window. The program will take care of any necessary conversions
and ready the file for installation on the next hot sync.
Overall, the Tungsten T2 is a winner. It looks good,
it performs well and it doesn't cost an arm and a leg. It fits into a
price point that seems to have been notoriously difficult to fill over the past
year or two. It has plenty of memory, a zippy processor, an excellent
display and outstanding ergonomics. Extras like Bluetooth and audio give
it a high end feel for a mid-range price. It is priced about US$30 more
than its predecessor but adds more than that in improvements. When it was
initially introduced, it retailed for US$399.00 As of this writing, the
Tungsten T2 retails for US$329.00, but with a little searching can be found for
about US$50.00 less. I highly recommend it.