By February 25, 2010

Palm Pre Review

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The Palm Pre has been around now for five or six months but unfortunately it has taken us that long to get hold of a review unit! 

Praise the Lord that I eventually made contact with a lovely lady at Palm and within a couple of days our review unit was on its way.

Most of us know that Palm has been struggling a bit over the past couple of years and with the release of the Pre and the Pixi (in the USA) and subsequently the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, it’s really crunch time for them. Of course it’s not just a new phone for Palm but also a brand new operating system; WebOS.

Sales have not been great for the Palm Pre, particularly in Ireland where rumour has it that they have sold a mere 200 units up to December 2009!

So where are Palm going wrong, if anywhere?

Read on to find out my opinion of the Palm Pre…

 

What’s in the box:

  • Device
  • Battery
  • Headphones
  • USB Wall Charger
  • Getting Started Guide

(Please note that this was a review unit and the retail one may have some extra treats in the box)

Please check out Matt’s Palm Pre unboxing video for more details.

 

The ten second review:

Device: Palm Pre

Price: From free with a contract

Summary: A smallish device with the added bonus of a sliding QWERTY keyboard that delivers a great new OS and is packed with all the high end features you would expect.

Best of: OS, Browser, onboard storage

Worst of: Hardware, Keyboard Size, Lack of Bluetooth file transfer

Buy it now from: O2

 

 

Palm Pre specification:

  • Operating system: Palm® webOS
  • Display: 3.1-inch touch screen 320×480 resolution HVGA display
  • Keyboard: Physical QWERTY keyboard
  • Email: Microsoft Outlook® email with Microsoft® Direct Push Technology POP3/IMAP (Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, etc).
  • Messaging: Integrated IM, SMS, and MMS
  • GPS: Built-in GPS
  • Digital camera: 3 megapixel camera with LED flash and extended depth of field
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Accelerometer
  • Proximity sensor
  • Wi-Fi 802.11b/g
  • Bluetooth® 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
  • Memory 8GB of user storage (~7.4GB user available) USB mass storage support
  • MicroUSB connector with USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
  • Headphone jack 3.5mm stereo
  • Dimensions: Width: 59.5mm (2.3 inches) Height: 100.5mm (3.9 inches) Thickness: 16.95mm (0.67 inches)
  • Weight: 135 grams (4.76 ounces)

 

 

General:

The top of the Palm Pre is packed with features. There is the 3.5mm headset jack, a ringer mute switch and also the power button.

Palm-Pre-top

Palm Pre Top

 

The left side of the device houses only the volume rocker. Its hard to spot though!

Palm-Pre-left

Palm Pre Left Side

 

On the right is just the micro USB slot.

Palm-Pre-right

Palm Pre Right Side

 

On the rear of the Pre is the camera lens and flash as well as a nice big speaker grill.

Palm-Pre-back

Palm Pre Rear

 

The front of the handset appears to be very bland and simple. At the top is the ear speaker and at the bottom is just the one button.

Palm-Pre-front

Palm Pre Front

 

Once the keyboard is slid open the Pre jumps into life and says look at me, I have tonnes of keys!

Palm-Pre-front-open

Palm Pre Keyboard

 

Highlights:

  • Web OS
  • Great Web Browser
  • 8GB of Storage

 

Lowlights:

  • Sharp Edges
  • No MicroSD Support
  • Small Keyboard
  • Camera
  • Feels a little cheap

 

 

Review:

I have been looking forward to this review for ages. I have been a fan of Palm in the past and have owned a couple of their PDAs as well as a Treo 680 and a Centro, all of which served me well. The Pre was a new beginning for Palm. Not only a new handset but also launching the brand new WEB OS which most people say is a fantastic operating system.

So lets see if this new creation is worthy of keeping Palm in the mobile game.

 

Out of the box I was pleased with the look and feel of the Palm Pre. With the keyboard closed the device feels great in the hand. Just the right size and extremely smooth. Its curved edges really help with giving it a comfortable feel. On the downside it does feel a bit rickety with the top half (screen) and the bottom half (keyboard) being able to move left and right a wee bit. Although it feels and looks okay I do think that the buttons around its edges feel a little cheap and nasty. They seem to work okay but they do not feel great to use (a small point I know!)

Palm-Pre-side-on

Palm Pre Open

“Now it’s not so comfortable!”

Opening the keyboard on the Pre gives the device a totally different feel in the hand. Now its not so comfortable! It certainly feels a bit top heavy and from top to bottom its pretty huge. One handed use can certainly be achieved but it feels a little unstable. Two handed typing feels a lot better but the keyboard is not the best.

Palm-Pre-keyboard

Palm Pre Keyboard

 

The picture above is in my opinion where the Palm Pre is let down, for two reasons. The first is the edges around the keyboard. They are so sharp its crazy. When you hold the Pre they dig into your palm (no pun intended!) and when typing the edges catch your thumbs. I reckon I could actually shave with the Palm Pre!

The second let down for me was the keyboard itself. Now, having owned a couple of Palm phones before I was not expecting a great keyboard but I thought it would be better than on previous devices. I don’t think it is better at all. The keyboard is too small. Regular readers will know that I’m a massive fan of hardware keyboards but this one is one of the worst I have used in a long time, (sorry Palm). The keys are nicely spaced apart but they are just too small and typing for me was a real struggle. The amount of pressure required to press a key is also a little greater than on some phones, although this is a very small factor compared to the size of the keys. Size is the major factor here. This problem could have been solved by giving users an option of an onscreen keyboard as well but sadly this is not an option. Shame.

The screen on the Palm Pre is pretty nice. At 3.1 inches its not the biggest but its sufficient baring in mind you get a full QWERTY keyboard included in the package. It seems to work well in sunlight and it has a built in light sensor to switch the display on and off when required.

Palm-Pre-angled-left

Palm Pre Closed

 

Below the screen on the Pre is a single hardware button.  This is the only navigation button on the device. This button sort of acts like a home button and if you are in an application a press of the button will take you back to the home screen and the application you were using will appear on screen as a card.  All other navigation is done using the touch sensitive area either side of the button.

So, that’s pretty much the hardware. A bit disappointing but the software i think will make up for it.

“..but on the Pre it’s better!”

At the bottom of the screen on the Palm Pre is a taskbar. This consists of five features: phone dialler, contacts, calendar, email and a menu launcher. The taskbar disappears when an application is open but you can recall it at any point buy sweeping your thumb upwards on the touch sensitive area. By pressing the taskbar and keeping it pressed you can move it up and down the screen in a sort of wave movement. I’m not really sure why but it looks nice.

One of the most important features that Palm really shouted about when the Pre was released was multi tasking and I must say it does it jolly well. Multi tasking is done with a ‘cards’ system. It kind of works like Windows Mobile when viewing the WinMo task manager but on the Pre its better!

Pre cards

Palm Pre Cards

 

As you can see in the above picture, when you exit an application on the Pre the app will still be open in a card on the screen. You can have loads (and I mean loads) of cards open and scroll left and right to view them. A tap on the one you want opens it up again full screen. To close an app its just a case of swiping the card upwards, simple.

Getting to the installed programmes on the Palm Pre is done by accessing the menu launcher from the taskbar.

Pre launcher

Palm Pre Launcher

This launcher is fairly standard and consists of three screen which can be toggled by swiping left and right. The icons can be moved simply by holding and moving so you can position your most popular ones at the top of the list.

 

Synergy is the name Palm use to integrate contacts and its works perfectly as far as I can see. For example: If you have a contact from your address book that is also a contact on Facebook, then when you look at the contact it will give you all their information from whichever locations you have them. So as well as email addresses and phone numbers their Facebook profile picture will appear in the contact field.

Palm contact

Palm Pre Contact

 

Messaging on the Palm Pre is overall a good experience. Email was simple to set up and the interface is aesthetically pleasing and nice to use.

pre email 3 pre email 2

Palm Pre Email

“Overall browsing on the Pre is excellent” 

You can set up multiple email accounts and notifications will appear at the bottom of the home screen when you have mail. Although I managed to use email on the Pre I didn’t find it the best mail client I have used. This however may have been influenced by the hatred of having to type on the Pre keyboard!

Considering the specs of the Palm Pre there is one thing missing and I cant imagine why Palm would miss it out. Bluetooth file transfer. It has Bluetooth and A2DP but you cant Bluetooth a file from your Pre to another phone. What’s that all about Palm?

I am really impressed with the web browser on the Pre. Pages render quickly and you get the full web experience which is helped massively with multi-touch. Pinch to zoom works beautifully and the screen colours are bright and vibrant. Like all mobile browsers you have the options to add bookmarks, view history etc. Another great feature is that you can have multiple cards open with different web pages, perfect if you are maybe doing a comparison with something. Overall browsing on the Pre is excellent.

 

Of course with a new OS comes a new app calalog (this is how Palm spell it) and although its no apple app store its not bad considering its relatively new. Finding what you want is painless as you can either search or view all the categories. The main apps I used were the Facebook app and a Twitter one called TwitFree. The Facebook app seemed to work as well as others I have used such as WinMo, iPhone and Blackberry and keeping in touch with your friends or just being nosey is a piece of cake.

Likewise with TwitFree. The interface is pretty and it does everything its meant too.

FB Pre twitfree

Facebook and TwitFree on Palm Pre

 

The media features on the Palm Pre are pretty hot. First off, the Pre comes with a YouTube client pre-installed (again, not a pun!) and it delivers reasonable quality video.

When installing movies from a PC I thought I would do the same as on every other device I have ever owned or reviewed, just cut and paste. But could I find the video on the Pre? NO! I tried several times and it was nowhere to be found. I cant believe the Palm Pre doesn’t like MP4s?

Viewing photos is much the same as on other touch devices. You are initially presented with the galleries and then its a case of either selecting the picture you want or scrolling through from left to right. Again, pinch to zoom works a treat here.

Listening to music on the Palm Pre was good. The interface looks pretty and its dead simple to use, although I did find it to lag a little. The music quality though was above average. I used the supplied headphones and although they did not feel the best quality they delivered ‘Anthrax’ stompingly. I’m not sure if that is the word to use but that’s what sprung to mind so its included!

Pre Music

Palm Pre Music Player

 

With only a 3mp camera on board taking photos with the Pre is never going to give you the best results. It does not have autofocus, which is a shame, but on the upside it does allow you to take snaps really quickly, one after another. Its LED flash seems to do a decent job but if you want high quality photos then either get a digital camera or maybe the Palm Pre is not the device for you?

 

The Palm Pre has a amazing calendar. Well, I say amazing, it does what most other ones do but I really like the look and feel of this one. I am not able to comment on syncing though as I didn’t sync it with my Outlook calendar. I could have, but if I cannot then figure out how to do a hard reset on the device it will take me hours and hours to manually remove all my personal data.

pre cal 1 pre cal 2

Palm Pre Calendar

The Palm Pre does come with built in GPS however as far as I am aware there is not a turn by turn navigation app for it so Google maps is it for now. I did read that in the USA the Sprint Palm Pre has Sprint Navigation but that is no good for us here in the UK. I’m sure that if there is not a navigation app that there will be in the near future. Is the Pre screen a little too small for in car navigation? That one is down to individual users.

Palm were kind enough to send us the Touchstone with the review unit. If you are not aware of the Touchstone its a neat bit of kit. Basically the Touchstone is a small charging station connected to the mains. The beauty of it is that it charges the Palm Pre wirelessly. Just place the Pre on the Touchstone and its on charge. Magnificent! You do need a new back cover for the Pre for this to work but Palm sent us that as well so the Touchstone was what I used to charge the device.

Pre touchstone Pre TS

Palm Touchstone

 

I think I have covered most of the main features on the Palm Pre. It does come with the usual stuff you would expect such as memos, tasks, clock, calculator, document viewer and a PDF viewer but not too much else.

 

Conclusion:

This is a really easy conclusion for me to write and it goes like this: The hardware on the Palm Pre is terrible but Web OS is great!

Palm have clearly invested a lot of time and money into the new OS and I wish they had given the hardware a similar amount of love. The sharp edges in particular are a major concern and I would not use the Pre for this reason alone. The keyboard is under par compared with all other front facing QWERTY devices and as a messaging device this really sucks. If Palm could sort out the hardware then the Pre would actually be a very decent device but at the moment its not. Web OS is fantastic and particularly as its still in its early stages but it out classes the Pre totally. Maybe Palm should just licence WEB OS to other manufactures? Can you imagine it running on an iPhone or HTC touch phone. That would be super.

I am sure there are thousands of Palm Pre users out there all very happy with their phone. Although I am being negative I am basing my opinions on comparing the Palm Pre to the other devices on the market right now and I am not going to say everything is great about it when its not. Come on Palm, sort out the hardware. The Pre could have been a serious contender for top place in the Smartphone wars but sadly not at the moment. Better luck next time. (Apart from the Pixi).

 

Posted by: James

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

Five year veteran of the site. BlackBerry specialist, but experienced in most operating systems. Enjoys flower arranging and cross stitch.
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