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A Closer Look at the Palm Tungsten

by Wei-Meng Lee
01/30/2003

Palm recently released the Tungsten T. After spending some time with this new Palm OS 5 device, I have to say this is one of the most exciting offerings I've seen from Palm in quite a while.

The first striking feature of the Tungsten is its slider design. The outside of the slider features four buttons--Date Book, Address Book, To-Do List, and Note Pad--plus a new five-way Navigator, which allows for fast scrolling through long lists without tapping on the screen.

The Tungsten T with the slider open
Figure 1. The Tungsten T with the slider open

Pull the slider down and you will see the usual Graffiti area. Palm's rationale for designing the slider is that most of the time you don't need Graffiti. And hence, the slider will make the device smaller when it is in place. Size-wise, the Tungsten is smaller than a Pocket PC, as shown below.

Comparing the size of iPaq with the Tungsten T
Figure 2. Comparing the size of iPaq with the Tungsten T

Besides the cosmetic improvements, the Tungsten T also uses the faster Texas Instruments OMAP1510 processor (an enhanced ARM-based processor), running at 144MHz. It also comes with 16MB of SDRAM, though this seems measly compared to the 64MB found in most Pocket PCs. However, you have the option to add an SD memory card to the Tungsten T for additional storage.

The top view of the Tungsten (image from Palm.com)
Figure 3. The top view of the Tungsten (image from Palm.com)

Just as with previous Palm devices, the Tungsten T uses a rechargeable Lithium-Polymer battery. The screen resolution is 320 by 320 and supports 16-bit colors on a reflective display. It also comes with built-in speaker, a new Voice Memo button (similar to Pocket PCs), and a new headphone jack.

The new headphone jack and the voice recorder button (image from Palm.com)
Figure 4. The new headphone jack and the voice recorder button (image from Palm.com)

Most importantly, the Tungsten T comes with Bluetooth built-in, eliminating the need to buy an additional Bluetooth card (which is costly). The bundled software, BlueBoard and BlueChat, allow you to use the Bluetooth connection to share a common "whiteboard" as well as to chat with another user via Bluetooth. There is also an SMS application that allows you to send SMS messages on your Tungsten T.

Using the BlueBoard application to share a common 'whiteboard'
Figure 5. Using the BlueBoard application to share a common "whiteboard"

The Tungsten T also includes a Palm Universal Connector for connecting to add-on peripherals such as a keyboard, a wireless network card, and so on.

The Palm Universal Connector for add-on peripherals (image from Palm.com)
Figure 6. The Palm Universal Connector for add-on peripherals (image from Palm.com)

Multimedia on the Tungsten T

While the Tungsten T includes a headphone jack, it does not come with software that plays your audio files. So if you want to listen to your MP3 audio, you have to look for the application yourself.

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Fortunately, I managed to find a free MP3 player from Aerodrome Software. The AeroPlayer from Aerodrome is currently in beta (6.3) and is available for free download.

Playing MP3 audio on the Tungsten T
Figure 7. Playing MP3 audio on the Tungsten T

By default, the AeroPlayer supports the Ogg/Vorbis audio file format. But it supports plug-ins that play other music format. Currently, two plug-ins are available: Wave and MP3.

You can also change the default "skin" of the player. Additional skins are available.

Changing the skin of the AeroPlayer
Figure 8. Changing the skin of the AeroPlayer

Because MP3 files take up significant storage (as compared to the 16MB onboard memory of the Tungsten T), you will need an SD memory card to store the MP3 files.

Besides the AeroPlayer, Kinoma also produces a player that plays multimedia files on your Palm device. The Kinoma Player is a digital media player for Palm OS. It supports video, VR objects, VR panoramas, animation, and still images with synchronized audio. You can download some sample panorama clips and movies.

Playing sample movie clips using the Kinoma Player
Figure 9. Playing sample movie clips using the Kinoma Player

If you want to play your multimedia clips on your Palm (such as MP3 files), you can use the Kinoma Producer to convert the files to the Kinoma movie file format. The Kinoma Producer supports standards like QuickTime, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, AVI, MP3, WAVE, AIFF, Macromedia Flash, animated GIF, PNG, and JPEG. Download a trial version of the Kinoma Producer.

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