Palm Tungsten C

By James Alan Miller

May 09, 2003

The $499 Tungsten C is flat out the most powerful Palm OS device the Palm Solutions Group or any other Palm OS vendor has released. And it's also the first from Palm with integrated Wi-Fi.

The $499 Tungsten C is flat out the most powerful Palm OS device the Palm Solutions Group or any other Palm OS vendor has released. In so many ways it is a Palm devotee's dream come true. However, there are a couple of areas that the device is lacking, perhaps limiting its appeal beyond Palm's stated target groups, the campus cruiser, power user, and the enterprise market.

Specs = Power & Performance
The Tungsten C measures 4.8 x 3.1 x .65 inches and weighs in at 6.3 ounces. It is a little bigger than a m515 and about the same size as Tungsten T with its slider open. The Tungsten C features the most powerful processor available for any handheld, not just a Palm OS device, the 400MHz PXA255 XScale Processor from Intel. This processor doubles the power found in the highest-end devices from Palm's nearest Palm OS competitor Sony and equals the CPU in the highest-end Pocket PCs. In fact, Palm ended up skipping the whole first generation of XScale in favor of the latest and its faster internal Bus for improved performance.

The Tungsten C also has 64MB of RAM, a seven fold increase in what had been the previous max in a Palm handheld, which had been stagnant at 16MB for a long time. Just a week before the Tungsten C was announced, the Palm Solution's Group released a statement that it and PalmSource, the Palm division in charge of the Palm operating system, had finally broken the 16MB barrier, allowing Palm OS handhelds to reach as high as 128MB. The 64MB of memory found in the Tungsten C equals what you get in the highest-end Pocket PCs.

Another feature that equals the Pocket PC is the Tungsten C's 320x320 transreflective display, the same one found in the Zire 71. This display, which also supports 65,000 colors, is the richest and sharpest Palm has yet produced. We were very impressed, especially when compared side-by-side to Palm's previous color offerings.

So the Tungsten C has a lot of features that equal the Pocket PC in terms of raw power. If you take into consideration that Palm applications are far less memory or processor hungry than their Pocket PC brethren, then Palm has created a handheld that in a way surpasses the Pocket PC. This is something that's important to consider. While 64MB of memory is very welcome, most users won't come close to using all of it, even though only 51MB of it are available once the system stack is subtracted. In addition, a 400MHz processor in a Palm might be considered overkill.

These impressive specifications are aimed squarely at the corporate market, where buying on mass is often predicated on which device has the fasted CPU and the most memory. By placing the Tungsten C on par with the Pocket PC this way, Palm has made it much more attractive to corporate buyers.

In terms of performance, we only noticed the slightest difference when opening applications between the Tungsten C, and the Zire 71 and Tungsten T, which have the same 144MHz Texas Instruments OMAP1510 ARM-based CPU. Where the processor had the largest impact during testing was when accessing several hundred photos from an SD card and then processing them for viewing, which took a lot less time with the Tungsten C than in the Zire 71 and Tungsten T.

Reprinted from PDAStreet.

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