True information addicts will never be satisfied with the puny screens on most smart phones. Even at high resolution, a 2-inch display just won’t cut it for reading news, checking stock charts, or powering through an overflowing inbox. If you’re a data maven, PalmOne’s Tungsten W is an attractive option — provided you don’t plan to use it as your primary phone.

That’s because the Tungsten W is not so much a smart phone as it is a PDA with phone features tacked on. The integration is less seamless in the Tungsten W (now more than a year old) than it is in more recent PDA-phones, such as the Treo 600, and it makes the overall experience of using the W less than satisfying.

At heart, the Tungsten W is a Palm PDA from the last generation. An underpowered 33MHz Motorola Dragonball processor gives the W anemic performance results in our PalmGauge test. On the other hand, its battery packs a whopping six and a half hours of talk time, which will give you plenty of time to gab. In ordinary use, we found it lasted several days to as long as a week between recharges. The W comes with a standard Palm cradle. Like other recent Palms, it’s not especially easy to plug the Tungsten W into the cradle: You have to jiggle and squeeze it down onto the connector instead of just slipping the device into the cradle as with Palms of old.

There’s no microphone or speaker built into the Tungsten W, so you must use the included headset. Conveniently, the PDA turns on and brings up the “Mobile” display whenever you plug the headset in, so you can dial immediately. The headset also includes a small button that cycles the Tungsten W through the three modes of the Mobile display: one showing the current call, one showing a dial pad, and a third showing your call history. Sound quality over the AT&T Wireless network was adequate, although a little tinny. There are no buttons on the unit itself to control basic phone operations, so if you navigate away from the call status screen during a conversation, you’ll need to press two or three buttons in a row just to hang up.

As a data device, the Tungsten W fares a bit better. Browsing the Internet via GPRS is easy, and the screen is roomy enough to render most webpages in a compact but readable form, complete with miniaturized images and usable forms. The W also includes a WAP browser for visiting mobile-phone-optimized sites, an SMS application that lets you send and browse text messages over AT&T Wireless’s network much as you would e-mail messages, and e-mail capabilities through the Palm-standard VersaMail. There’s even an ICQ client, so you can chat in real time with your Net buddies anywhere you can pick up a GPRS signal.

Ultimately, the Tungsten W is less elegant and harder to use than more modern smart phones. Its size and dependence on the corded headset mean it’s an awkward substitute for a cell phone. But its large screen and GPRS connectivity make the W a good handheld information device. And if you plan to use its phone only occasionally, it’s an acceptable way to put the Internet in your coat pocket. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: Large screen for Web browsing via GPRS Worst Feature: Requires external wired headset to use the phone

PalmOne Tungsten W
Weight: 6.4 ounces
Size: 5.4 x 3 x 0.6 inches
Specs: 900/1800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS; 320 x 320-pixel TFT; 33MHz Motorola Dragonball processor; 16MB of RAM (15MB available); IR; hands-free headset (required); Palm OS 4.1;

* * 1/2

Link: PalmOne Tungsten W

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