3-month Palm Review

I’ve had my Palm Tungsten E2 for about 3 months now. The verdict so far: I’m getting my money’s worth. I’m using it more, and in more ways, than I did my old Palm m105 a few years back.

First though, let’s dispense with the bad stuff. The only thing I’m disappointed with is the overall fit-and-finish of the unit. Specifically, mine has something that rattles around inside it every time it gets jarred, turned upside down, etc. It’s extremely annoying. But, it doesn’t seem to affect how it works, so I’m just putting up with it. Once my warranty expires, I’ll pop the case open and see what’s going on in there. Also, I’d like to have rubber covers to protect the headphone jack and the SD card slot. As it is, they sit there wide open, waiting to collect dust and debris.

With that out of the way, here’s what I’m doing with the thing:

  • PIM. The PIM stuff (particularly calendar and tasks) is improved somewhat from older versions of PalmOS, and it’s very useful when combined with good sync software. This is what I bought a PDA for, and so far I’m happy with it.
  • Games. Great for chewing up time. There are a lot of good freeware games out there, but finding them amongst the lemons can be a challenge. Some of my favorites are: FreeJongg, Vexed, and StaBu362 (an Othello/Reversi game).
  • Music. With an SD card, a pair of headphones, and the bundled RealPlayer app, the Palm turns into sort of a poor man’s iPod. It works pretty well. RealPlayer leaves a bit to be desired (it’s very bare-bones and the interface is a bit klunky) but it’s certainly usable. There are supposedly some other MP3 players available, but I haven’t tried any of them yet.
  • Books. This one was a bit of a surprise. At first I thought the Palm would be a horrible platform for reading books. Anyhow, I stumbled across the University of Virginia Etext Center, which has hundreds of classics available in Ebook form for free, so I downloaded “A Tale of Two Cities” and tried it out with the bundled eReader software. I actually like reading books in this format. I can search for specific text, and read in total darkness, neither of which I can do with a paper book. And apparently if I buy an electronic dictionary, I can also tap on words to get definitions. I’m sure not everyone is going to like this format, but I’ve become a fan of it.
  • Photos. The color display does a pretty good job of displaying photos, so I can keep updated pics of the family handy.

The Tungsten E2 is reasonably priced for all this functionality you get, but you do have to factor in the cost of add-on accessories and software. I’ve purchased several things that I would consider essential to getting the full value out of the Palm:

  • Missing Sync for PalmOS ($40). Absolutely essential for synching with a Mac. Really should be bundled with the Palm. Palm should consider offering this to Mac users in lieu of Palm Desktop.
  • 1gb SD card ($99). Required if you want to play MP3s. Great for storing data like music, photos, ebooks, etc. and for transferring files to and from other computers. Shell out the extra money and get the fastest card you can find; it’s worth it.
  • Softick Card Export II ($15). Makes the SD card show up as a USB mass storage device, so I can mount it anywhere and use it like a USB key drive. This is great for getting files and applications on and off the device. It’s another app that really should be bundled with the Palm.
  • Cheap pair of headphones to listen to music at the gym ($15). Nuff said.

All in all… the Palm has been worth the money so far. We’ll see how it goes.