Palm's Tungsten E is aimed at budget-minded mobile professionals, especially those still tapping away on a trusty Palm V or Palm Vx. But it's sure to have even broader appeal when consumers consider this lightweight, slick-looking handheld comes with a great screen, an expansion slot, and multimedia capabilities for less than $200. It doesn't have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a built-in camera, or a minikeyboard. However, a lot of people neither want those extras nor care to pay for them.
The Tungsten E's silver-and-black design is reminiscent of that of Palm's earlier M500-series handhelds. But while those PDAs suffered from lackluster displays, the E's sharp, high-resolution, 320x320-pixel screen is the same version found on the Palm Zire 71, and it's on a par with Sony's best efforts. A sturdy, detachable flip cover serves as a screen protector.
The 4.6-ounce, 4.5-by-3.1-by-0.48-inch unit is powered by a zippy 126MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 311 ARM processor, has 32MB of internal memory (28.3MB of which are free for storage), and runs Palm OS 5.2. The expansion slot is SDIO compatible, opening the door to forthcoming accessories such as cameras and wireless adapters. An AC adapter is included for recharging the internal lithium-ion battery. Additionally, a USB cable and Palm Desktop Software are provided to sync the E with your Mac or PC. No cradle is included, and older Palm docking stations and accessories won't work with the Tungsten E, thanks to its lack of a Palm Universal Connector.
The robust software package includes the standard organizer apps, plus an updated Contact and Calendar applications, which provide enhanced features and improved Microsoft Outlook synchronization support. You'll also find separate programs for creating small databases, reading Acrobat files and e-books, and viewing digital photos. A world clock, Real One Mobile player (for listening to MP3 and RealAudio files), and Kinoma Player and Producer (for converting and viewing movie clips) ship with the unit, and the Tungsten E can even run J2ME Java applications. Last but not least, Palm throws in Documents To Go Professional Edition, which allows you to view, edit, and create Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files on the device.
As for performance, our unit worked well with Kinoma video files, and MP3s played smoothly. Battery life was decent; in our standard CNET Labs test, we were able to run an MPEG-4 file in a loop for 3 hour, 30 minutes. With normal usage patterns, Palm says the Tungsten E should go for about a week before having to recharge.
To take advantage of the multimedia features, you'll need to buy 128MB of SD or MMC media (for two hours of music files). It's also worth noting that Palm is serving up several new accessories for all its handhelds, including a wireless keyboard that smartly interfaces with the infrared port. Whether you choose this Palm over a similarly priced Pocket PC handheld such as HP's H1935 ($199 with $50 rebate) is a matter of operating system preference. This PDA's lack of a built-in camera, keyboard, or wireless module keeps it just shy of an Editors' Choice, but anyway you slice it, the Palm Tungsten E is an excellent bargain.