The Tungsten T3 is designed to appeal as much to the corporate user as the general consumer, and Palm seems to have struck the right chord coming up with a balance of hardware and software that should appeal to both camps and not compromise performance in either.
The hardware design deserves first mention. The clever sliding portion of the casing we first saw in the original Tungsten model is here again, allowing the overall hardware size to remain small yet cram in a display 480 pixels tall. With the Tungsten T3 in its standard configuration you can see an area 320 pixels wide x 320 high, but slide the section of the casing containing the navigation button and application shortcut keys downwards and away from the screen, and the remaining pixels suddenly reveal themselves.
The extra long screen is great for viewing ebooks and diary dates â€“ you can actually see a whole dayâ€™s appointments at a glance. But the screen really comes into its own when flipped into landscape mode, at which time spreadsheets actually become readable on a PDA â€“ thatâ€™s a first in our experience. Web pages and still images also take on a rather more user friendly appearance in landscape mode than in portrait.
To make the most of the screen the Graffiti area is software driven, and when it is hidden a tiny icon bar offers quick access to key features, including toggling on and off the built in Bluetooth connection. Palm includes in its software suite a number of applications for Bluetooth fans, including phone dialler and SMS tool on ROM, and BlueChat and Blueboard on the installation CD.
The ROM-installed software suite is broad ranging, and goes a long way to meeting that self imposed goal of serving both business and consumer focussed users. For example, Documents to Go is there for reading and amending Microsoft Word documents, VersaMail is on hand for email, the RealOne MP3 player, Palmâ€™s own Photo viewer and the Kinoma video player are all present for multimedia and you can install the Palm Web Browser and Adobe Acrobat reader if you want them. Palmâ€™s Contacts and Calendar applications have had a bit of a tweaking too, and they now synchronise more data with Microsoft Outlook. To round things off, you can even install a Java client.
Thereâ€™s 64MB of RAM available for applications and data, with an SD card slot (with SDIO support) present if you need more. The processor, an Intel PXA 255 running at 400MHz is a real speed-merchant. So far so rosy, but we only got three hours of continuous battery life from BatteryBench running at full power, which is a disappointment. Heavy Bluetooth users may well find they get even less life between charges.
With the Tungsten T3 Palm shows that it is beginning to realise that a significant number of PDA owners want their machine for both work and play: Palm has accordingly provided a good mix of software for productivity and for leisure, and, taking a leaf out of Sonyâ€™s book perhaps, has installed plenty onto the ROM. The hardware design is impressive, and it has all been brought together at an attractive price. As is so often the case, the only real disappointment in what is otherwise an excellent PDA, is the battery life.