Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Treo 800w mini review

As I mentioned earlier, Palm just released its latest Treo device- the 800w.

The W means its a Windows Mobile OS device as opposed to the Palm OS. Its an interesting move that their only new handset with the "Treo" branding is running WM.

Palm appears to be rethinking its handset strategy: the sleek new Centro running Palm OS is being marketed towards younger audiences, while devices with the name "Treo" are more full-featured devices for working professionals (or gotta-have-it geeks).

While its smaller and lighter than previous Treo models, the 800w unfortunately appears not as thin and sleek as the Centro handsets. It does however includes much more hardware: a WiFi radio, aGPS receiver capable of stand-alone mode, and more memory and CPU power than any previous Palm device, yet it's still trying to mimic the Centro's styling and button layout.

Sounds like a nice package to me. Here's what we've found after a day with the device:

A classic Treo layout, the 800w is a square-shaped screen atop a full Qwerty keyboard. Now, I'll be honest, I never cared much for this design in the past. My philosophy has always been that if you need a device this big, at least use the real estate for a large display and hide the 30+ keys away when not in use (My personal favorite smartphones looked like regular phones, actually). I've had the same complaint with Blackberry devices as well. However, I know some people prefer this layout for one-handed use, so to each their own. Still, it'd be nice to see Palm do something different once in a while.

Back to the 800, it's noticeably lighter than the 700w, and appears to have solid build quality.
The keyboard is slightly different than the older model as well- buttons are a little less raised and the keys a little closer together - but it's still easy enough to use and works well for one handed operation.
The stylus, however, has a very cheap feel to it. It's plastic and flimsy, especially when compared to the one that came with the 700w. Again, I'm sure there will be replacements available but Palm should have included a better one.

Call quality seems fine, no complaints so far.
Screen resolution is once again a non-standard square of pixels (instead of the QVGA standard). However, with WM6.1, Palm managed to squeeze out a higher res 320x320 instead of the older 240x240. The result is very nice.
Lag in navigating menus is much improved over the 700w, as is the camera quality (although the pictures still leave a bit to be desired).
Voice dialing over BT works out of the box, although I have not used it a lot yet.
The GPS adds a nice touch and works well, and searches made from the today screen panel are very easy to use to find places or businesses nearby.
Data speed was average for a smartphone in my area. Using the 1MB test on dslreports, I got 832 kbit/sec. This is in an area with great reception, but no Rev. A yet.

Potential Problems
Battery life is clearly going to be an issue. The 700 came with 1800mAh battery, the 800 with an 1150mAh. Extended batteries are available, but it's a little disappointing that they included such a small one. Its too early to tell what average use it like, but I'm not crossing my fingers.
At least they allow swappable spare batteries, unlike certain "other" phone manufacturers... *cough* APPLE *cough*

All in all, its a solid offering. Personally its not my style, but I do admit that its the most compelling Treo I've seen to date.

The question is, will this be enough to save Palm?

(Special shoutout and thanks to Y. Haas for supplying a device and his opinions)