At first glance, the Palm Tungsten T3 looks like a near clone of its predecessor, the Tungsten T2. Both PDAs feature a sliding design that allows the compact 4.3-by-3.0-by-0.63-inch housing to expand almost a full inch in height. But where the T2 simply hid the Graffiti input area, the T3's extra real estate is put to much better use. With the exception of a thin Windows-style taskbar at the bottom, the entire 320x480 transflective screen is available for applications and documents. Even better, the entire screen can pivot from the default portrait (vertical) mode to landscape (horizontal) orientation with the click of a taskbar icon. Likewise, a virtual Graffiti input area can be popped up when needed and just as easily minimized when not. Sony's swivel-screen models, the NX73 and the NX80V, have the same large screen and the advantage of a built-in keyboard, but they lack the T3's sliding design.
|The T3's sliding design means a more compact travel size.|
|The power button, the stylus storage, the IR port, and the SDIO expansion slot are found along the T3's top edge.|
The Tungsten T3 is sheathed in a durable metallic casing and weighs in at 5.5 ounces--a bit lighter than its older brother but still somewhat weighty for a PDA. The handheld's top edge hosts the stylus receptacle, the infrared port, the power button, and the SDIO expansion slot. The microphone, the voice memo button, and the standard 1/8-inch stereo headphone jack are clustered at the top of the unit's left side. A small speaker is mounted above the screen, and the squarish five-way navigation pad is surrounded by dedicated Task, Calendar, Contacts, and Memo buttons. A Palm Universal Connector can be found on the bottom edge of the handheld.
|Given the large cradle and AC adapter, frequent fliers should invest in a travel charger/sync cable.|
|The Graffiti input area is virtual and can be minimized to the taskbar below, leaving more room for applications.|
The T3 ships with the same beefy synchronization cradle as the T2. Attached to the cradle is a standard USB cable for syncing to Windows PCs or Macs. Recharging duties are handled by a separate AC adapter that plugs into the cradle. Travelers will want to spring for a cradle-less USB cable that handles syncing and recharging. A more travel-friendly add-on is the included removable leather flip cover, a welcome improvement over the T2's Plexiglas snap-on screen protector.
Palm has endowed the Tungsten T3 with a lightning-fast 400MHz Intel XScale processor and a healthy 64MB of RAM (about 52MB of which is available to the user). Additional SD or MMC media can be added to the SDIO-compatible expansion slot.
In addition to the standard applications native to Palm OS 5.2, the T3 includes the new Contacts and Calendar applications, which replace the aging Address Book and Date Book, respectively. Contacts allows for additional and customized fields (you can finally, for instance, store multiple addresses for each contact), while Calendar adds richer scheduling information and easier navigation. Furthermore, both programs offer better compatibility with Microsoft Outlook.
The T3 includes a healthy software bundle. Dataviz Documents To Go Professional Edition 6.0 allows for full manipulation of Microsoft Word and Excel files (and even limited use of PowerPoint decks), and separate applications offer support for Adobe Acrobat and e-book documents. Palm has even added J2ME support so that the Tungsten T3 can natively run mobile Java applications. Multimedia support is also strong, with a photo viewer, MP3 playback via RealOne's Mobile Player, and Kinoma's Producer and Player software available for compressing videos for on-the-go viewing.
The built-in Bluetooth transceiver provides connectivity to a growing list of similarly configured devices, so the T3 can wirelessly sync with a Bluetooth PC and interact with Bluetooth-enabled cell phones. This opens up more-useful features, such as autodialing from the PDA's contact list or using the phone as a modem for dial-up or high-speed data access (depending on the phone's supported network) to the Web, e-mail, or instant-messaging programs.
The T3, however, lacks a mobile pro's must-have feature: built-in Wi-Fi. If wireless network access is a requisite, consider instead Palm's $500 Tungsten C. Alternately, if you want much of the T3's functionality but can live without the larger screen and built-in Bluetooth, the $200 Tungsten E is the way to go.
Thanks to the Palm Tungsten T3's fast Intel XScale 400MHz processor and ample system memory, overall system performance was impressive. Some notoriously resource-hungry J2ME Java applications exhibited slight sluggishness but still performed well within acceptable limits. Smooth, sharp-looking playback of Kinoma videos and MP3 files makes the T3 a decent multimedia device, though headphone volume won't overcome particularly noisy environments. Voice recordings were clear enough, but we would have preferred the sort of user-configurable quality settings available on many MP3 players.
The T3's unique pivoting screen allows documents to be viewed in the wider 320x480 landscape mode.
The unique screen is the Tungsten T3's best selling point; it is highly readable and easy on the eyes, even in daylight. One look at a wide-screen movie trailer instantly proves that the collapsible Graffiti area is long overdue, and the ability to pivot the handheld's screen to landscape mode is the icing on the cake. Combine the bright, high-resolution wide screen with Palm's new IR keyboard, and creating, editing, and viewing Word and Excel documents becomes a viable option. Road warriors may opt to leave the laptop at home.
Probably thanks to a more power-hungry processor, battery life was slightly less than that of the Tungsten T2. In CNET Labs' tests, a looping Kinoma video played for 3 hours before exhausting the rechargeable lithium-ion battery in Compact mode, but with the slider opened to show the full screen, playback time was a much shorter 1 hour, 45 minutes. Palm estimates the T3 can go for about a week without a recharge under normal conditions--somewhat shorter with frequent Bluetooth use. As always, we would have preferred a user-replaceable battery.