About six months ago, I set out to buy a new PDA. The strangest thing happened: despite money being essentially no object for this particular project, I came home without one. I simply couldn't buy a new PDA. Not a single product fit my criteria, and I didn't think they were particularly restrictive:
- It was reasonably important that the PDA be PalmOS-based. All my PDAs have been Palms: a IIIx, and most recently a Zire 71. PalmOS Just Works. It is lightweight and it is fast. It doesn't try to do everything, it just tries to do a few things the Right Way. Still, this wasn't going to a be a show-stopper: I was willing to change camps if and only if it could be shown that another candidate would behave correctly with OS X. And by "correctly", I mean natively, and if not natively, then with some low-cost, third party tool.
- I almost definitely didn't want a GSM phone in my PDA. My Motorola V3 is still under contract, and I wasn't signing up for a separate phone account just for the novelty of a phone in my PDA.
- I didn't really want a camera, but this was a soft requirement. (I've only ever taken novelty shots with my Zire 71. I like having devices that do one thing well, and my Canon EOS 20D takes pretty good photographs.)
- I wanted Bluetooth and wireless networking. Bluetooth was a hard requirement, as conventional Palm cradles are just too bulky to carry around, and I frequently want to sync with the PowerBook while away from home. Wireless would be great, but not a necessity.
Six months passed, and by the weekend just past, it was becoming critical that I spend the money on a new PDA. I re-checked Palm's range: no movement there. I settled on the TX from the unchanged comparison chart, deciding that wireless really was worth a cut in speed and memory. (Remember, PalmOS is lightweight. It's not like my old IIIx was even slow.) Between my previous expedition and last weekend, an article went up at O'Reilly's Mac Dev Center: New Palm TX Forced Me to Address Mac Sync Options by Giles Turnbull. This article basically sealed the deal for me, though it was obvious I would be forking out a further $US 39.95 for The Missing Sync from Mark/Space. The take-home message from Turnbull's article was that iSync could handle the basics (and I knew that—I've been syncing my Zire 71 since I bought the PowerBook), but that The Missing Sync fills in all the gaps.
The TX is working well so far. It's hard to be super-enthusiastic about getting a new Palm, for several reasons:
- New models are usually just evolutionary upgrades on old models, as opposed to revolutionary. PalmOS hasn't changed in any jaw-dropping ways since my old IIIx. It's in colour now, and the calendar application can finally handle events that span midnight, but other than that level of change, it's all pretty familiar. Which is good.
- Upgrading old third party applications can be tough. For example, I have used CryptInfo for a few years to store passwords. That's great, except you'll see that CryptInfo is no longer being developed, and it's a crusty, old PalmOS 2.0 application. I'm going to check out Keyring for Palm OS, mostly because it's free software, and there's not enough free software for the Palm. Now the bad bit: I'm going to have to transfer the data between these applications by hand.
- If you're an old Palm user, your new Palm Just Works like your old Palm Just Worked. You wouldn't expect any less, and it's nothing to get excited about.
- There's no cradle. I might be in a minority here, but I think that's good. Palm cradles are chunky, and a pain to travel with. There's a connector for a wall charger, and a connector for a USB cable. Even better, the TX charges from USB, so if you're travelling with a laptop, you only need to take a single cable, no wall adapter, and no cradle. I do, however, completely agree with Turnbull's observation on the USB connector:
On the downside, the USB connector cable that came with the Palm TX is difficult to plug into the Palm--it almost feels like you've got the wrong cable. It's more a case of jamming it into place, rather than it plugging in neatly with a satisfying click.
- The supplied flip cover is junk. The slide-on connector is flimsy, it barely covers the screen, and there's nothing to stop it from flipping back open. You couldn't throw it into a bag or briefcase, for example, with just this cover protecting it.
- Wireless worked without a hitch. (That's not the complete truth. More on my ongoing WLAN saga later.)
- The supplied email client (VersaMail) is quite satisfactory. I entered a few details relating to my IMAP server, and it downloaded unread messages from my Inbox over wireless.
- Bluetooth worked without a hitch. I paired it with my PowerBook and my Motorola V3, the latter just to see if I could.
- There's no longer a dedicated text-entry pad taking up potential screen real estate. Instead, I can now enter text as Graffiti 2 anywhere on the screen. (For old-timers for whom that sounds scary, a "classic" text-entry area can be displayed at the bottom of the screen where it used to sit on older models.)
- Portrait-landscape switiching is now a feature native to the OS. (Older models could do this if the application implemented it.) Any application can be run in landscape mode. This makes the built-in web browser (Blazer) just about feasible for, well, web browsing.
I think it's a shame that the Palm range has kind of stagnated. Unless there's some particular reason you need the memory and processor speed, though, the TX is a good buy for OS X users. I wouldn't even consider not budgeting the extra $US 39.95 for The Missing Sync, though.