Strange Noise Emanating from Tungsten E
June 19, 2005 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Unexplained Noise Emanating from Tungsten E.

I recently noticed a strange noise coming from my Palm Tungsten E: it's a high pitched whine, like the ringing in your ears after a Tool concert. In fact, I though it was a ringing in my ears until my wife told me she heard it too. The odd thing is that it sounds like it's in my ear, not actually coming from where the palm is located. And it's highly directional, i.e.: if I turn my palm so I can't see the screen, the sounds cuts off. If I move the palm left to right, the sound jumps from one ear to the other without any graduallness. Basically, it seems as if the sound were being beamed into my ears directly from the palm. As I recently downloaded the newest Charles Stross book to the Tungsten, I suspect some sort of aggressive memetic agent trying to hack my wetware, but I am open to more pedestrian explanations and suggestions.
posted by signal to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
All the new transflective palm pilots can have this whine - it is a result of the switching current used to drive the screen. It seems the greater the space between the digitizer and the screen, the louder the whine. Essentially, the screen and the digitizer act as an electrostatic speaker element, creating a highly directional tone related to the clock speed of the device.

Each device may exhibit the whine to varying degrees.

Generally, in forums where this problem has been discussed, there are a few points:
1. Palm will repair a unit that has a loud whine, but since they simply replace the screen when a unit is sent in for this problem, some people have had a unit come back with an even louder whine.
2. Underclocking, and/or reducing the screen brightness can mitigate the whine, but it will not dissappear.
3. Once you notice one Palm device whining, you'll notice they _all_ whine.
posted by Crosius at 5:29 PM on June 19, 2005

My Dell Axim did the same thing, eventually (and for a different reason) I got it replaced, and the new one doesn't whine. So replacement/repair might fix it.
posted by LarryC at 7:50 PM on June 19, 2005

A few observations based on mine and my wife's experiences:

1. The Tungsten E is FAR more likely to whine than other models. Walk into your local CompUSA, Office Depot or Best Buy and listen to the Palms on display--chances are the Tungsten E is the only one whining. And it almost always is. One of the Zire models is also a frequent offender. My Tungsten T3 never whined and neither does my Treo 650.

2. Returning the device to Palm is, as Crosius mentioned, a crapshoot. They might accept it for return, and the returned one might have less whine.

3. Once it starts to whine it will get worse over time. My wife's Tungsten E originally made a mild noise only she and the dog could hear, and only up close--by the time it was abandoned due to this issue, it was so loud anybody in the same room could hear it from any direction.

4. The new models may be better. I haven't heard a whine from a Tungsten E2 or T5 yet.

Good luck... Palm doesn't take this issue very seriously, which is why my wife switched to a Tapwave Zodiac.
posted by mmoncur at 10:22 PM on June 19, 2005

So, basically I’m S.O.L., huh?
I liked my aggressive memetic agent conjecture better.
Thanks for all the info.
posted by signal at 8:32 AM on June 20, 2005

All electroluminescent devices whine, because of the stepped up current required to light up the display, as Crosius said.

Do you have a watch with Indiglo? Hold it up to your ear and turn the light on. Do you have one of those fancy remotes with an EL display? Same thing.

The first Palm to whine like this was the Palm Professional. It had a whopping 1MB of RAM, and it was Palm's first model with a backlit display.
posted by SlyBevel at 2:19 PM on June 20, 2005

For the record, I consider all the answers “best”, but don’t think it makes sense to mark them all as such.
posted by signal at 8:27 PM on June 20, 2005

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