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Enjoy a great screen and full connectivity

Dr Neil Paul tries out the many different functions of the Palm TX PDA.

For years, people have either been in the Palm or the Microsoft camp for PDAs.

Palms were cheaper, had better battery life and lots of free software and were generally considered to be for home users. Now Palm has struck a deal with Microsoft and might start incorporating Microsoft software, so the Palm TX might be the last Palm OS-based PDA.

The TX is a solid machine that measures 15 x 7.5 x 1.25cm, which is fine for a coat or bag. It comes with a removable front cover that protects the screen. There are several smallish buttons on the bottom that allow direct access to your calendar, contacts, home page and web at the touch of a button.

The 10cm screen supports more than 65,000 colours and a 320 x 480-pixel resolution. Text and images are crisp.

Once on, a small menu allows you to switch between landscape and portrait mode, bring up the tap-on-screen keyboard, and turn on Bluetooth.

On top of the TX there is an expansion slot, a 3.5mm headphone socket, a power button and a hole for the stylus.

Unfortunately, the battery is not user-replaceable and I consider this to be a mistake. My old Tungsten C reached the stage where I had to charge it every few hours; replacement batteries are cheap and easy to fit, so would help prolong the life and value of the TX.

The TX is powered by a 312MHz Intel processor and comes with 128MB of non-volatile flash memory, and 100MB is available to use.

This is a decent size and, because it is non-volatile, if you run out of power you don't lose all your data. If you are planning on storing many music files and photos, it would be best to invest in some SD memory that could be plugged in via the expansion slot.

Synchronicity

Syncing the TX with your computer is just a matter of plugging in the USB cable and pressing the HotSync button.

The HotSync software is very good but the only problem is that the software has to translate the data stored in Outlook on your PC into the software on the Palm. Although it does this very well, there are some limitations and indeed several third-party companies provide software to enhance this function at added cost.

One of the strengths of the TX is that it has all the different communication forms. It can connect to Wi-Fi networks either at home, work or in Starbucks.

Numerous hotels, train stations and airports also have Wi-Fi access points, though some do charge.

Surfability

I tried accessing my home network and it worked like a dream. Surfing the web on the Palm is just about feasible. The ability to switch into landscape mode really helps, though for other than brief surfing I would soon lose patience.

It also has Bluetooth so you can connect to your mobile phone and access the internet that way. I tried this and it worked fine but you have to have a GPRS contract on your phone.

Also worth mentioning is that the TX comes with a piece of software called Pocket tunes that allows you to play music like an iPod. This uses up battery life quickly but you can expect up to 10 hours on a full charge, which isn't bad.

Overall the TX is an excellent Palm with a great screen, and comes fully loaded with software and connectivity, but should you buy one?

For me, none of the features make me regret buying my Vodafone VPA compact, a Microsoft-based smart phone. I tend to use more Microsoft software, so again the Palm holds no pull. Yet, if I needed to use a Palm because I was using software that only worked on it, such as Pocket EMIS, then the TX is a good choice.

If you just want something to keep addresses in, there are much cheaper Palms that may suit better but if you like the 'go anywhere' connectivity and don't want the hassle that comes with a Microsoft pocket PC, this could be for you.

- Dr Paul is a GP in Sandbach, Cheshire

FURTHER INFO

PALM TX HANDHELD PC
Cost: from around £200
Wireless: Wi-Fi (802.11b), Bluetooth 1.1, infrared
Operating System: Palm OS Garnet 5.4
Available from: www.amazon.co.uk
More information from: http://eurostore.palm.com

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