Monday, September 19, 2005

Stupid Things About The Tungsten T5

I just upgraded my PDA. I had been using the T3, but now I've got the T5. You may ask, What happened to the T4? And I do not know.

What I do know is: you can't expect Palm to get everything right, ever.

They got a couple things right with the T5 that they wiffed on the T3. For instance, they provided a "drive mode." Drive mode allows you to transfer files from your computer to your PDA. Wow! What a revolutionary concept! Imagine being able to transfer files from one computing device to another. Golly! That's when you know you're really living. It's like they're connected or something. Really neat. I'm sure this concept will catch on, and when it does I predict it will be called connectworking or something like that.

Another thing they did right: they did away with the slider portion and now the T5 is just one big juicy PDA with a 320x480 screen, all-color, all the time. The T3 had this slider thing that concealed or revealed part of the screen. I suppose a "gee-whiz" factor existed there, but I never felt it. I felt sure from the beginning that nothing good would come of this and I was right. It was only a matter of time before two of the four screws that held the damned thing on fell out and I became one of the many upset T3 owners. Apparently, Palm will be happy to repair the device for $125; yeah, that's a good deal. Fortunately, this guy sells replacement screws cheap. I added a tiny bit of liquid teflon to help keep them from falling out again.

Aside from that, a processor that is 16MHz faster (Woo!), and considerably more memory (256MB up from 64MB), the T5 is hardly different from the T3. It even lost a few features that were cool and perpetuated a couple things that continue to be stupid.

At first, the fact that it was just a big screen and didn't have the slider thing made me happy, but I soon found that it didn't fit in my hand as comfortably as the T3. Not sure why. It is .13" wider than the T3 and .03" thinner, but I wouldn't expect such tiny amounts to have much impact. Nonetheless, the T3 is easier to hold.

It came with a free wireless card as a special promotion, a $100 value. Wireless is cool, but it'll be cooler when I have a decent browser to use. It comes with Blazer which has a tendency to say things like, "This Web site is too big! I will crash the entire OS now. Fatal error." The wireless card is tiny, too, wafer thin and roughly 1x2". With something that small, one wonders why it wasn't integrated into the unit like my wife's iPaq (with which we can replace all of our remote controls in the living room).

One of the most obvious things that was missing: the cradle. And this is a very stupid omission. The cradle for the T3 was challenging due to the slider. It was really hard, nearly impossible with just one hand, to remove the PDA from its cradle. It would expand instead of detach and force you to work much harder than is reasonable for such a rudimentary task. But at least, with the T3, you got the cradle.

With the T5, you get no cradle, but Palm offers a "cradle kit" for $50. That's right, $50. Are these guys high? Why on earth would anyone pay that much for a cradle when you can get one from this guy for $20? I actually got mine via ebay for $12, so if you need one, check there first. What's more the eforcity cradle allows you to charge your PDA via its USB connection to your computer. I don't think we need to call Scotland Yard to figure out why this is better. Anyone who has lived with computers has lived with power adapters that take up three spaces on a normal power strip and a rat's nest of cables beneath and on top of one's desk. An opportunity to make one or more of these things go away is always welcome.

The stupidity of Palm's cradle kit requires additional paragraphs. Palm thinks that you will see shelling out $50 for this "kit" as a good idea because they sweetened the deal. Oh yes, they did. In addition to the cradle, lucky consumer, you will also receive an assortment of adapters to allow you to power your device all over the world! Yay! Truly this is a fantastic windfall of fortune!

Except for the fact that they included the adapters with the unit. Yes, that's right. These adapters are already in the box taking up space where the cradle might have been. High? The marketing department must have been snorting Ajax when they came up with this idea.

As a side note, I am actually glad they have begun to realize that they have users outside of the United States. I let the smoke out of the original power supply for my T3 in a hotel room in Rome (blowing the breaker and leaving us in darkness) because it couldn't handle the current over there. Every other electronic device, even my wife's hair dryer, was 240v compliant, so it's good that Palm is finally catching up.

Anyone who has ever used a Palm device, or anyone who has been near a person who owns a Palm device, knows what the alarm sounds like. It's something like an ascending fourth sort of trilled like a triplet with a swing feel and a rest in the middle. It's nothing to shout home about, and turning it off is usually the first thing I do with my new PDA. That's why the vibrate feature is nice. Oh what's that? No vibrate feature on the T5? You don't say. Well, sucks to be you. WTF?

As if that wasn't bad enough, they also did away with the voice recording option. Pictures are great, but the sound recordings I've made at various candid moments actually contain greater emotional memory. I am very upset to see this feature go.

The screen on my old Compaq iPaq could be adjusted, which was important because on full power it would eat through the battery in about two minutes. On the other hand, it was bright enough to be used as a headlight on an airplane, and you could easily read the screen in full daylight or a well-lit room with the backlight turned off. The Palm screen is almost impossible to read in direct sunlight, easy to read only when indoors, and has no adjustment of any kind that I'm aware of. This is lame and should have been addressed long ago.

Finally, the one cool thing that I miss the most specifically from the T3 is the stylus. The T3 stylus conceals itself in such a fashion as to leave just its very top exposed on the top right of the device. It looks like a button and when you push it the stylus pops out a little so you can easily grab it. My old iPaq did something similar but used a tooth-and-groove setup that eventually wore out, $50 to repair. The T3 stylus used a much smarter design that did not rely on a tooth that could be worn down but rather an internal two-step spring that seems much more robust. The T5 uses that same old boring stylus that has been used on PDAs forever, like on my Handspring Visor. Hello? Are we still in 1999?

A few superficial omissions:

  • No LCD. Charging the T5 is largely an act of faith because there is no light of any sort on the case. Try Battery Graph. It's free.
  • No microphone vents and no record button. Already mentioned, but visually it is obvious that the T5 does less than the T3, not more.
  • No embossed Palm logo button on the case. Obviously no reduction in functionality, but it makes the case look cheap, not like the flagship Palm device.
  • Recessed power button. Half the time I try to turn it on I have to try twice because the first push failed to turn it on.

So, there ya' go. I'm not sure why I'm still using a Palm device, to be honest. The iPaq line seems to offer more variety and functionality. I think the only things holding me back are Plucker and Space Trader.


Blogger factory_peasant said...

i don't know much about PDAs wad, but i gotta say that was one entertaining review you wrote there. for a couple laffs you should freelance it out to some of the tech sites and see if they'll run with it. you know, like arstechnica or something.

9:07 AM  
Blogger fugginWad said...

Thanks, FP.

Just because you suggested it, I sent the link to Ars. For a laugh.

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