Palm TX fills the niche between cell phone, BlackBerry

13.07.2006

In my mobile world, form is as important as function, and I like the look as well as the features of the Palm TX. At just a shade over 5 ounces and 0.6 inches thick, the TX isn't particularly cumbersome. The 320x480 color screen is a nice size for doing reasonably serious work -- enhanced by the ability to display in either portrait or landscape mode by tapping one spot on screen. This helps when viewing photos and documents, because you see more of what you want, depending on your file. It's especially handy for viewing spreadsheets as well as photos.

Even a BlackBerry-committed friend was impressed by the TX's superior display, if not its connection dependability.

There are some nice free or low-cost software additions for the Palm, including a handy open-source currency converter and Mundu Enhanced instant messaging software ($29.95). I may soon be searching for an upgraded e-mail client, since the included VersaMail software is occasionally glitchy -- it choked on a couple of large messages with photos included in the body instead of as attachments, making it impossible to load the rest of my messages from one account. In addition, for some reason, it has problems with the Domain Name System for a couple of my mail servers, requiring me to input IP addresses instead.

Palm input methods aren't designed for lengthy data entry. Tapping the software "keyboard" with a stylus, while fine for quick navigation or a sentence or two, quickly gets old. And while some of my colleagues are avid users of Graffiti, Palm's handwriting-recognition software, I find the need for slow, exact stylus strokes irritating if I'm in a rush, although I wouldn't be any happier thumb-typing on a BlackBerry microkeyboard. Happily, the $69.99 portable Palm wireless keyboard solves the data-entry dilemma if you're doing significant composing on the TX. It's not perfect -- you've got to type fairly deliberately -- and it falls short on feel and response of a desktop keyboard.

But for something small enough to add to your camera bag, the TX -- with or without the optional wireless keyboard -- is a nice bit of portable computing lite. Web surfing is substantially better than on a Web-enabled phone (although yes, you'll notice the difference between the TX and your 19-in. flat-panel computer). Text is readable, mobile-designed images show well, and response is pretty quick. The rechargeable lithium battery lasts for days with moderate usage, and a light cable plugged into a USB port will offer a slow recharge when necessary (the bulky, heavy quick-recharge cable is not something I long to tote around).