By October 1, 2008

Palm Treo Pro Review

Palm are arguably the pioneer of the PDA right from the original Palm Pilot in the mid-90’s through to today’s Treo Pro. What started off as a modest 512kB PDA has today morphed into a sophisticated multimedia device. No longer a simple PDA, no longer a simple phone.

I am the owner of quite a few PDA’s of various flavours including Palms, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Psion. I was keen to see how the Treo Pro compared as it represents current state of art .

Treo Pro_Headphones_lo res

The Palm Treo Pro

 

Introduction

I’ve long been a quiet fan of Palm’s simple, but elegant and effective operating system. It’s never been sophisticated or particularly powerful, but it has always been very good at getting things done as a personal organiser. However, it’s been getting a bit long-in-the-tooth of late and hasn’t received much in the way of development over the last few years. As PDAs and mobile phones has converged into single devices I think it would be fairly accurate to say that it has just about reached the limit of its capabilities so, it’s no surprise to see that Palm now offers its latest devices with the more sophisticated Windows Mobile operating system instead. This might be a bitter pill for Palm diehards, but the truth is that Palm’s o/s is end of life when it comes to sophisticated media rich applications and multi-tasking.

Myself, I’m not sure of the merits of convergence. I prefer a phone to be very good at phone functions i.e. texting and calling. I like phones to be compact and easy to use. In my experience few converged devices fulfil these requirements well as there’s too many compromises in the design to accommodate all the diverse demands placed upon them.

What’s in the box?

  • Treo Pro
  • Battery
  • Stylus
  • Headphones
  • Quick-start guide
  • USB cable
  • Mains charger with international plugs

See Matt’s Palm Treo Pro unboxing video for a more detailed look at what comes with it.

General

The Treo Pro’s packaging and contents are commendably lightweight and modest – useless leaflets and software CD’s have been discarded – the packaging is simple, clean and elegant. Software is already preloaded and Activesync used for synching the device to a Windows pc already comes preloaded on many PCs although, it’s necessary to upgrade to the latest version of Activesync.

In the hand the Treo Pro feels like a quality device which, is pleasing as it’s not inexpensive. Alas, like other machines I’ve reviewed recently, the glossy black finish is a greasy fingerprint magnet and my liking for greasy chips has yet to diminish. I would want to put a case on it very quickly to stop it looking grubby. The form factor is slim, but quite wide. Overall it is about the same size as a Treo 680 but noticeably thinner and it feels lighter.

 

Controls:

Bottom side: USB micro-connector, 3.5mm headphone socket

Palm Treo Pro_Bottom_lo res

Palm Treo Pro bottom view

 

Top side: Ringer silence switch, radio mode select (wi-fi, bluetooth, phone etc)

Palm Treo Pro_Top_lo res

Palm Treo Pro top view

 

Left side: Volume up/down, customisable button (pre-configured for camera)

Palm Treo Pro_Side_lo res

Palm Treo Pro left side

 

Front face: Keypad; 5-way navigator key, 4 configurable softkeys for applications, phone/send key, END key

Palm Treo Pro_Facing_lo res

Palm Treo Pro front view

 

Back: Camera lens

Palm Treo Pro_Back_lo res

Palm Treo Pro back view

 


Palm Treo Pro Specification:

  • Microsoft® Windows Mobile® 6.1 Professional Edition
  • Qualcomm® MSM7201 400MHz
  • 320×320 transflective colour TFT flush touchscreen  
  • HSDPA/UMTS/EDGE/GPRS/GSM radio
  • Tri-band UMTS – 850MHz, 1900MHz, 2100MHz Quad-band GSM – 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz
  • 802.11b/g with WPA, WPA2, and 801.1x authentication
  • Built-in GPS
  • Bluetooth® 2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate; Infrared (IR)
  • 256MB (100MB user available), 128MB RAM
  • 2.0 megapixels with up to 8x digital zoom and video capture
  • Removable, rechargeable 1500mAh lithium-ion; Up to 5.0 hours talk time and up to 250 hours standby
  • microSDHC cards (up to 32GB supported)1
  • MicroUSB™ 2.0 for synchronization and charging
  • 3.5mm stereo headset jack
  • Length: 4.49", Width: 2.36", Depth: 0.53", Weight: 4.69 oz

 

Software on device

ActiveSync®; Adobe Reader LE; Bluetooth®; Bubble Breaker; Calculator; Calendar; Communications Manager; Contacts; File Explorer; Get WorldMate; GoogleMaps; Internet Explorer® Mobile; Messaging; Microsoft® Office Mobile including Excel® Mobile, OneNote Mobile, PowerPoint® Mobile, and Word Mobile; My Treo; Notes; Pics & Videos; QuickGPS; Quick Tour; SIM Manager; Solitaire; Sprite Backup; Streaming Media; Tasks; Telenav; Voice Command; Windows Live™; Windows Live™ Messenger; Windows Media® Player Mobile

Highlights:

  • Clear and reliable phone calls
  • Quality feel
  • Bright and sharp screen
  • Battery life
  • Good connectivity.
  • Good hardware specification.

Lowlights:

  • Fiddly keypad
  • Glossy finish attracts dust and fingerprints
  • Windows Mobile 6 (it’s a Palm!)

Review

Although smaller than many dedicated PDAs, the 320 x 320 pixel screen is sharp and clear. It’s a shame then that Windows Mobile’s clumsy interface waste lots of screen estate and makes the screen feel small at times. The screen is flush with the main chassis and therefore at risk of picking up scratches and marks very quickly, however, putting a screen protector on it would really look like a kludge. Only time will tell how it stands up to daily use. As Matt has previously mentioned, the screen is an odd size which, may cause problems with some 3rd party software so, it’s best you check with authors for compatibility before loading it up.

I was pleased to note that behind the fiddly-to-remove cover there lurked a separate user-replaceable battery. I absolutely loathe devices with batteries that cannot be readily changed by the user i.e. iPods – when they die as they inevitably do then the user is faced with an expensive return to factory job. For this reason alone I will not buy them.

For a weird left-handed person like myself the stylus was very awkward to access from its location in the bottom right corner of the device. Holding it in my right hand prevented any access to the stylus whereas, with the Treo 680, I can still get to the stylus easily because it’s located in the top right corner.

The keyboard is similar to the Treo 680’s. It’s about as easy/difficult to use as the Treo 680 albeit slightly more spongy in feel – it’s fine for texting and short e-mails but for anything longer you would need to be a masochist or very patient. The 5 way navigator key is more fiddly though and I found I repeatedly miskeyed – no doubt things would improve with practice. I did find it a bit difficult to select shift characters on the keyboard in subdued light because the keyboard backlighting was not very strong. This could be overcome to some extent by increasing the screen brightness, but this only increased the keyboard backlighting by a small amount.

As with many similar devices, the camera lens has no sliding cover so, it won’t be long before it’s covered in muck and dust thus rendering photo quality useless. The 2mp camera will suffice for occasional use, but that is all it’s good for. That’s no great criticism of the Palm though – let’s not fool ourselves, if you want to take decent photos then you buy a proper camera for the job.

Call quality was good with plenty of volume and the phone didn’t seem to have any trouble holding onto a signal. It did feel a bit odd holding it to my ear though in the same way as holding a normal PDA would – this is because the form factor is not what you would associate with a normal phone. Geek or not, I’d feel a bit of a berk walking down the street with it held to my ear! When trying to dial a number I found that the numbers on the keypad didn’t stand out well enough, in comparison dialling from my Ipaq 514 was easier.

The level of connectivity is what you would expect of a leading edge device. It has bluetooth and wi-fi. It also supports audio by A2DP allowing the use of bluetooth headphones for wireless playback which is handy for those of us who like to use our phones as mp3 players. Establishing a bluetooth or wi-fi connection is about as easy as it can be given the quirks of the o/s. Extended use of wi-fi sucks the battery dry in no-time at all, but otherwise battery life is very impressive and I managed 7 days in general use – this is much better than my Treo 680. I think Windows Mobile has improved massively in this area of late compared to previous incarnations as my HP Ipaq514 also has an excellent battery life.

I won’t go into any great detail about the o/s other than to say it’s Windows Mobile Pro 6.1 designed for touchscreen devices. As you might gather, I’m not really a fan of it as it’s neither particularly stable in the incarnations I have used, easy to use or elegant and tight as a mobile o/s should be. Although it’s a powerful and flexible o/s, I feel that the GUI is clumsy and operations require far too many clicks/taps to achieve things. However, until a pocket Linux becomes available (Nokia N800 and Google’s Android notwithstanding) or Palm delivers a completely new o/s then it’s pretty much all we have these days. These observations about the o/s are no fault of the machine itself. Now having said all that, I will confess that the Treo Pro it didn’t crash once which, is a significant improvement over previous versions. Resets on my Axim x50v are a way of life.

Palm Treo Pro_TopSide angle_lo res

The Palm Treo Pro

 

Conclusion:

The Treo’s hardware itself is very lovely and feels good to hold. It’s not too bulky and looks trick. As a phone the Treo Pro is just about ok given the limitations placed upon it by being a converged device – it’s no worse than many other similar devices. As a multimedia device/communicator it’s excellent with all the functionality and whistles you could want. Whether or not you can put up with the foibles of Windows Mobile is up to you. In terms of cost it is significantly cheaper than much of the Windows Mobile competition and therefore is quite good value.

Myself? I am still looking for the perfect converged device, but the Treo Pro is about as good as you will get at the moment.

 

Review by: Nigel

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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