Palm TX fills the niche between cell phone, BlackBerry

The BlackBerry has become the gold standard for those who want round-the-clock mobile connectivity. But what about those of us who neither need -- nor should have -- round-the-clock Internet access, but nevertheless crave frequent Web and e-mail checks?

For me, the Palm TX, augmented by a Razr-like Samsung 9000S phone, fills the gap between light cell-phone surfing and the serious, enterprise-class connectivity that a BlackBerry provides.

Wi-Fi isn't in the same league as a cell carrier's data service for multilocation dependability, which means you can't always get online with a TX unless you live in a hot-spot-saturated environment. There are plenty of times when I can check e-mail on my mobile phone but the PDA is off-line. And since the phone e-mail is rudimentary at best -- not to mention slow -- if I truly needed constant mobile access to my e-mail, I'd find another device. But I don't. In fact, given my inclination to stay online when I should be, say, enjoying nature (or paying full attention to a companion), there's something to be said for occasional lack of access.

There's another drawback to my cell phone/PDA strategy: I can't use a single device for all my mobile needs. The TX is not a phone. But there are advantages to going with a best of breed instead of an integrated unit for your mobile needs. Sure, devices like the BlackBerry and Treo let you cart around just one convenient form factor, but convenient doesn't mean sleek.

When it comes to making calls, I prefer my slender, flip phone to a BlackBerry. It slips easily into my pocket when I'm out walking and want phone access but am not going to be doing any serious e-mail or surfing. In fact, the 9000S does offer me e-mail and Web access, although it's certainly not designed for heavy lifting in either. However, it will keep me reasonably in touch (and amused) while killing time in an airport or doctor's office where Wi-Fi isn't available. And, I can set it to alert me when important e-mails sent to a specific address arrive.

When I can tap into Wi-Fi, the Palm TX offers more heavy-duty Web, e-mail and computing capabilities, along with serving as an organizer, top-notch miniphoto display and reasonable device for using Office-format documents. It even takes SD memory cards, allowing me to pop in a card from my digital camera and e-mail photos from the road. (I can e-mail pictures directly from my phone camera, too, but let's just say the phonecam lens isn't quite the same as the Leica glass on my Panasonic digital camera.)