Before we start the reviewing process, I want to express my greatest respect to the developer. I would never have managed to create a Palm OS that can actually browse the web. Nevertheless, in my role as a reviewer, I need to review applications based on facts. So, please understand that this app – like other open source projects – will not get baby treatment at TamsPalm’s!
One of the biggest problems of the Palm OS economy is the lack of a decent web browser for OS5 devices. This probably sounds confusing(as Access, the company that now owns PalmSource, essentially lives off browsers) but is true – you can either use WebPro, Blazer or a hacked version of NetFront; and none of them is really good. When Donald Kirker announced his Universe3 browser, people expected Firefox for Palm – can the first release candidate live up to the high expectations on my Palm Tungsten E2?
Universe3 takes about 2 seconds to start up. The startup phase is accompanied by a very nice splash screen. Once Universe3 is loaded up, you get an interface similar to the one below. Opening extra tabs can be done in the menu, although the total number of open tabs is limited to three independent of how much RAM you have:
The Universe3 UI is nice looking, but still contains a few debugging artifacts:
The most outstanding feature of Universe3 is the “5way mouse”. The mouse pointer visible in some of the screenshots above can be moved around the screen with the 5way navigator like one does with IBM’s Trackpoint. If the mouse gets over a link, it transforms into a hand. A tap on the center button then “activates the link”:
So, Universe 3 has a nice UI – but can the current rendering engine live up to its expectations?
The first test page was the start page of Tamoggemon.com. This web site has a hand-created CSS stylesheet – and it didn’t render correctly in Universe3. The HTML part made it through, but the CSS part simply got omitted(the developer states this on his blog btw):
After that, I moved on to www.palmbinaryclock.com, which is an even more complex page with some dynamically generated content, a forwarding script from GoDaddy and GIF images. The CSS got omitted, and the GIF’s were rendered as black boxen:
Accessing TamsPalm(rather GIF-free) worked well, although all the sidebar content was rendered above the main content. The JPG images made it through, but the shoutbox didn’t:
Flickr automatically forwarded me to its mobile web page which worked decently well:
I also tried to access the Google AdSense control panel, but failed miserably with the error shown below:
My Palm Tungsten E2 locked up once while creating this Universe3 review. The internet access was provided by a Belkin F8T030 router connected to a Chello broadband link. The page loading speed was rather slow…
Overall, Universe3 looks like a very promising web browser for Palm OS, reviewing it was fun. The user interface ix extremely well done, the tabs also come in handy. However, the sub-par rendering engine really needs to be replaced by a better one before this web browser is ready for prime-time. The current engine is too slow for everyday usage, and also can’t do CSS and other advanced page elements.