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« Christmas & New Years Blogging Break | Main | Thoughts on Shaun McGill's "PDAs are ruining my life" post »
Thursday
Dec182003

Tungsten E Update: Month Two

Tungsten EIt's been about two months since I've switched to a PalmOne Tungsten E. I thought it might be a good idea to post some updated tidbits about adapting to my new PDA. Overall I have been very pleased with the TE: the screen is really gorgeous, it's fast, it plays MP3s, the size is just right and there's a nice 28MB chunk of RAM to fill with goodies!

It's funny that when I look at my old Clié screen now, it seems so dim and dark compared to the TE's screen. I hadn't mentioned in my case review that Brando also sent along a screen protector for the TE to test as well. I was concerned that the plastic screen protector would reduce the light of the screen in some way, but I found that it really didn't. In fact I now prefer the screen with the Brando screen protector in place! I find the TE screen has less glare, feels a bit more paper-like and I can rest assured that my screen is protected from scratches and scuffs. These protectors are not cheap ($12) but they are tough, and I can see one easily lasting for a year or more. I'd bet that this screen protector from Brando would probably last as long as I have my TE.

I've continued to enjoy MP3 playing capabilities of the TE, carrying it with me for errands in the Saturn and for my weekly walk to the cafe or wherever I want a little music. I've found it very easy to throw a mix together right in iTunes and then drag the files from an iTunes playlist or library right to the SD card. This is one of those times when I'm reminded just how great it is to be a Mac user.

The stock 'Calendar' app has also been a bright spot, since I can use color categories for marking my work and personal schedules and have them in sync with the Palm Desktop. This is important because of the way I use the Calendar tool -- I track all of my daily work time in 15 minute (minimum) increments, so that I can build timesheets at the end of the month for billing. Consistent color coding on the Palm Desktop and Calendar really helps me when tallying up my work hours on the Desktop at the end of the month. I do miss a few features from Agendus (which I used to use) but as time goes on they are missed less and less. Plus there is something to be said for Calendar's simplicity.

One knock against the TE of note is its shorter battery life. The TE seems unable to last as long on a single charge than my old Clié N610 could. Of course there are reasons for that: a beautiful, bright screen, OS 5 and an ARM processor probably sucking much more juice than the Clié's duller screen, OS 4 and Dragonball processor ever did. I'm not sure how the capacity specs of the Clié and TE batteries compare; that could also be an issue. Fortunately this hasn't been a huge issue, as I charge up the TE at my desk most of the time.

I have not completed a scientific test yet, though with the Clié I figured somewhere between 4-6 hours battery time, but then, I wasn't playing MP3s either. I'd guesstimate that the TE might last between 3 and 4 hours per charge. Today at PDA 24/7 Shaun featured the freeware app, Battery Time which I think would work well for testing the TEs battery lifespan. I'll let you know what I discover.

A second knock against the TE is Graffiti recognition. I almost immediately replaced the Graffiti 2 libraries with Classic Graffiti libraries (see the procedure here), since I'm not terribly fond of "Jot Lite". I don't know if this library-replacing hack job has reduced the Graffiti area's sensitivity or if the two Graffitis are just fighting for control behind the scenes. My solution has been to write larger, a little slower and more deliberately. Is it just me, or has Graffiti recognition steadily gotten worse over the years on Palm OS devices since the original Pilot and PalmPilot?

Finally the TE's D-pad seems to be easier to use after some practice. It's not as nice as the Clié's up/down buttons in most cases. However, I do like that the D-pad can be programmed to do things that couldn't be done with the Clié. For instance, I read in iSilo quite a bit, so I've programmed a click on the right edge of the D-pad to toggle full screen mode on and off. Quite nice.

My biggest discovery about using the D-pad is to not press it as hard as I think I should. It seems that light pressure does a much better job of activation than heavy pressure does. As I get into reading my mind adjusts to this level of pressure and I'm fine, and as I spend time with the TE it seems more and more natural to get the pressure correct, right away.

As I said, the Tungsten E has been a very nice machine and suits my needs very well. Maybe the only add-on I could see now would be an IR keyboard and maybe a larger SD card to carry more MP3 tunes, but these are certainly wants and not needs. I'm happy to have made the switch now and have found myself recommending the TE as a good all around device for friends who want alot of handheld for a low-budget price.

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