By: Ryan Kairer
October 13th, 2004
The Tungsten T5 is palmOne's latest Tungsten handheld. It features a large 320 x 480 pixel screen, 256MB of Flash RAM and Bluetooth wireless. Prior to the T5, every Palm Tungsten T series handheld featured the expand and retract slider design. The T5 departs from this tradition and borrows its design from the popular, lower end Tungsten E handheld. The Tungsten E has been a big success for palmOne, becoming the top selling handheld every quarter since its introduction over a year ago.
The T5 really impressed me when I first picked it up. Because it had inherited its appearance from the TE, I was concerned that it would have a similar light and plastic feel. Fortunately it does not, and the T5 has an excellent body and finish. Though it does have a plastic outer case, it is not quite easy to tell. The body is very rigid and the paint finish gives both the appearance and smooth texture of metal. The plastic case helps keep the weight down as well.
Overall the T5 has a very simple and smooth design reminiscent of the Palm V. The rectangular display makes up the majority of the front of the handheld, surrounded by a rounded corners and a clean silver gunmetal paint. A white painted palmOne logo and the Tungsten | T5 model name are pressed along the top. The sides are smooth and free of buttons with the left functioning as an attachment rail for the flip cover and the right rail doubles as a slightly open stylus silo. Two sets of silver customizable application buttons border the rounded rectangle 5-way navigator in the center. The buttons are flush with the case and have a decent feel. The 5-way is solid and has a smooth finish and is easily to pressed in each direction.
The top of the handheld is made of a glossy black plastic. On the left is the SD expansion slot, which unfortunately lacks a dust cover. To the right is the Ir window, the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack and the power button. The bottom is slightly curved to the font and holds the new multi connector in the center, more on the new connector later.
The back of the T5 hides the center mounted speaker, behind a 5x5 grid of speaker holes. Above it is an embossed Palm Powered logo, and reset hole. In a backward step, the reset hole reverts back to the smaller type, so you must unscrew the top of the stylus to reveal the smaller reset pin. Below, is a slightly recessed position for the UPC sticker with the standard assortment of logos and numbers. Each corner of the T5 rear has a small exposed screw which presumably holds the T5 body together.
The T5 has physical dimensions of 4.76 x 3.08 x .61 inches (120 x 78 x 15.5 mm) and weighs 5.1 ounces (145 grams). It is just slightly larger and taller than a TE, and is slighly less tall than the Tungsten T3 extended. The build quality is solid, with no creaking when twisted or rattling loose parts.
The T5 comes with a pleather black flip cover. It has a white stitching border and an embossed palmOne logo on the bottom. The stylus is metal and has a nice silver barrel with a black plastic tip. The top quill is also a black plastic and unscrews for the reset pin.
The Tungsten T5 is powered by a 416 MHz Intel XScale (PXA270 family) processor and runs Palm OS Garnet v5.4.5. It includes a total of 256MB of RAM, of which 215 MB is user accessible, the remainder is used for dynamic heap memory space and to store the OS and applications. 160 MB of RAM acts as the Internal Flash drive, while 55 MB is used for general program and data memory. 16MB is alloted for the dynamic heap. The T5 also incorporates the usual SD memory expansion slot which can accommodate SD, SDIO and MMC memory cards.
Arguably, the T5's biggest innovation is the new storage drive ability. A DiskOnChip system from M-Systems enables the T5 to set aside 160 MB of RAM for the Internal Flash drive. This acts much like a built in SD card slot and is accessed in much the same way. But what is also unique, is that palmOne has included a new Drive mode, which allows the T5's Internal Flash Drive and Memory card, to me mounted on any desktop via the cable connection to any machine that supports USB removable drives.
While many PDAs have previously included this feature in the past, palmOne is the first to include a good amount of usable RAM to make this feature truly useful. You can hook up the T5 to any PC running windows 2000/XP or Mac OS X and be able to mount the internal drive without any special software or drivers, similar to how one would operate a USB keychain device. Transferring files is a straightforward drag and drop operation. A 10 MB mp3 file took 35 seconds to transfer over via drive mode. This is a great laptop replacing feature because not only does it allow you to carry around large office documents or files on your handheld, but you can also access and edit them while on the road with the included Docs2Go.
Another advantage of the new memory system is the fact that it uses NAND Flash Memory. NAND Flash is non-volatile which allows the handheld to retain its information and data, even when the battery completely runs out of power. It also allows the handheld to save on power consumption, as there is no power required to preserve the RAM contents. In simple terms, if you leave your T5 in storage and forget about it, you can come back to it years later, charge it up and it will still have all of your data and programs retained.
The T5 has an excellent, large 3.25 x 2.2" inch rectangular screen. It is a 320x480 pixel (HVGA) transflective TFT display that supports over 65,000 colors. It can easily be rotated either portrait (320x480) or landscape mode (480x320) with the touch of an icon in the status bar.
The T5 uses the exact same display as the T3. The display is very bright and quite vivid, even at lower brightness levels and I typically keep mine around 30%. The screen is consistently backlit and does a great job displaying photos and movies. It is quite bright indoors, but washes out and dims significantly in direct sunlight, but is still quite usable. There is an on-screen slider to adjust, but not turn off the backlight.
The Tungsten T5 is powered by a 416 MHz Intel XScale a member of the PXA270 family of chips. This is just a incremental speed boost over the 400MHz T3. The PXA270 chip offers more multimedia support and some better power management features. Performance on the T5 is pretty snappy, large websites render quickly and many complex games such as Snails, ran very fluidly.
The Tungsten T5 has built in Bluetooth v1.1 for wireless networking. The Bluetooth software has the same enhancements found in the Zire 72 which has been updated to make setting up connections to a mobile phone, computer or bluetooth access point much easier. With Bluetooth, you can dial out contacts from your address book, send and receive files, sms and photos wirelessly, hotsync, and connect to the internet from a bluetooth mobile phone, computer or a bluetooth access point. The software was able to automatically configure itself to recognize my Sony Ericsson T610 and use it's GPRS connection without any complicated setup procedures. There are also ways to setup a desktop computer with Bluetooth to work as an access point.
The Tungsten T5 is the first handheld to incorporate the new Multi-Connector, a new common connector for palmOne handhelds and future smartphones. The new connector adds capability and features that were not possible with the Universal Connector such as audio and video out. While the T5 operates at USB 1.1 speeds, the new connector is capable of supporting USB 2.0 speeds in the future.
Unfortunately, the T5 does not ship with a cradle. Instead it comes with a USB cable and a separate AC charger, that can plug directly into the handheld or into the dual USB cable connector. The supplied USB cable has a button on the connector that can be used to initiate a hotsync. The USB cable alone will not charge the handheld from the computer, you must attach the AC cord.
The T5 has a centered rear mounted speaker, which on this unit is a poor position for the speaker. The flip cover completely covers the back when folded over, which can directly muffle and lower the sound. Even with the cover removed, my hand covers a good amount of the speaker area by just by holding the handheld. However when unobstructed, the speaker is moderately loud and mp3's and sound effects are clear, though most will opt for using headphones (not included) for listening to audio. For listening to music files, palmOne includes Realplayer (formerly named the RealOne player), which can also play audio from the Internal Flash drive. Unfortunately, the T5 does not include vibration support for silent alarms and does not have a microphone.
And now my obligatory long-standing complaint... The T5 still uses the same DateBook alarm sounds that debuted on the original Pilot 1000 in 1996. While there are many third party replacements, these are long overdue for an update or add something to make it easy for the user to add custom alarms.
The T5 has a non removable 1300 mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery. This is a good increase over the T3's 900 mAh supply. The Flash RAM in the T5 also allows for a greater keep alive time, as the handheld does not have to supply power to the RAM in order to preserve the memory contents. I've only had the T5 for less than a week, and its tough to draw conclusions from the limited time. I can tell initially that the battery life is improved over the T3, but not significantly. I was able to get about ~5 hours of time out of my first charge. (I will come back an update this section after I've had more time with the T5.)
What it doesn't include...
While I rarely discuss what a handheld doesn't include, for the T5 I have to make an exception. Many PalmInfocenter readers were very disappointed that the T5 did not include built in WiFi. Users were further dissatisfied to see that the latest version of the Palm OS, Cobalt not used as well.
Todays highly competitive PDA market practically demands that a high end PDA model include the wireless standard. Its absence on the T5 left many users scratching their heads in disbelief that it was not incorporated. I feel that this was an oversight, as a result the lack of integrated WiFI could negatively impact sales of this device. palmOne has announced that the WiFi SD card will be supported, but this is not the most ideal solution and adds additional cost. Many competing handhelds in this price range will already have built in WIFI standard.
According to palmOne, they chose Bluetooth because it is now becoming widely available on a variety of consumer products and on the latest cell phones. Adding a second radio would have increased size, weight and cost, which wasn't supported by the customer research palmOne has done.
|Size & Weight:||4.76 x 3.08 x .61 inches (120x78x15.5 mm); 5.1 oz (145g)|
|Processor; OS:||416MHz Intel PXA270; Palm OS Garnet v5.4.5|
|Memory:||256MB Flash RAM; (55MB/160MB user accessible)|
|Screen:||320x480 pixel; 65k-color; transflective back-lit|
|Audio:||stereo headset jack; rear speaker|
|Power:||Built in Rechargable Li-Ion Poly (1300 mAh)|
|Connectivity:||Multi-Connector, SDIO, IrDA, Bluetooth (v1.1)|
The T5 runs Palm OS Garnet v5.4.5. This is the latest version of Palm OS 5 and is mainly a bug fix release from v5.2. The T5 includes palmOne's excellent Updated PIM application, which has been previously covered in the Zire 72 review. New on the T5 is support for background images in the Calendar and Launcher, photos for contacts and Time Zone support in the Calendar.
One Handed Operation
The T5 really excels at one handed operation. palmOne wisely took the One handed navigation code found in the Treo 600 and applied it to the T5. This makes for a vastly improved user experience. The 5-way navigator and new code make it possible to perform many tasks without using the stylus or needing to tap the screen. There is a light blue glow that highlights dialogs and form elements, that acts much like an on screen cursor. It really makes using the handheld with one hand easy and much more intuitive. It works well within many of the included apps and also works on many existing third party programs.
The T5 has a couple of new applications. First is a new media application that displays photos, videos and slideshows. The media application is quick and supports native gif, jpeg and mpeg movies. It was able to play every video I thew at it, but it does not expand the movie fill up the screen when possible and doesn't do full screen video.
The new Favorites is a simple application that acts much like a typical launcher. However, It allows you to setup a number of custom bookmarks on a single page. These can be links to programs, web sites or a file or folder. Bookmarks can be customized by simply holding down on the space. You can also configure a background image. By default, the app is linked to the home button. When pressed once it goes to the favorites app, and press again to go the regular Palm OS launcher.
The new included Files application is a basic files and folder browser. It allows you to navigate the contents of the Internal drive as well as memory cards. You can rename/copy/send/delete or move files and create folders. You can also select which program to open a file with, baring the program supports the new files application.
On the included CD, is the Palm Desktop for both Mac OS and Microsoft Windows. Bundled third party add on Palm OS software includes, Adobe Acrobat reader, AddIt eReader, Handmark Solitare and Audible Player. The T5 also includes a new Calculator with support for many advanced functions, which seems like a re-skinned version of Handspring's Parens. It also has an SMS client, Bluetooth dialer and a world/travel alarm clock.
Documents to Go 7
The T5 has the latest version of Dataviz Documents to Go v7 built into the device. Documents to Go is a superb Microsoft Office compatible application suite that support native office file format. Version 7 has a number of new features including a revised interface and support for native PowerPoint applications.
For data input on the handheld palmOne includes the standard Graffiti 2. The Dynamic Input area can also be used as an onscreen keyboard. Unfortunately, an old hack to restore original Graffiti no longer works on the T5, which will surely disappoint many stubborn long time palm users. Another minor annoyance I noticed is that the status bar frequently flickers when switching apps. It seems like the status bar is redrawn each time a dialog is presented or an app is launched, which causes the flicker which can be little distracting.
The Tungsten T5 is a simple and elegant handheld. It offers a solid organizational foundation, good multimedia abilities and a pleasant one handed user experience. The added memory is a welcome bonus, and the Drive mode storage capacity gives you another reason to leave the laptop behind. While not the uber device many enthusiasts had hoped for and slightly expensive, the T5 is a solid handheld with a great screen and a rich suite of software.
The Tungsten T5 is available for $399 with free shipping from the palmOne online store. It will start shipping and become available at retail locations around November 3rd. You can also search for the lowest price on the T5 with our price comparison service.
RATING: 7.5 / 10
|Design:||Simple Elegant Design|
|Features:||Large RAM, but No WiFi|
|Screen:||Vibrant, Large Display|
|Battery:||Standard Battery Life, non-volatile RAM|
|Value:||Slightly Overpriced, lacks common features|
PriceGrabber Lowest Prices on the palmOne Tungsten T5:
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