Palm Centro Review
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I kindly received my Centro review unit from Palm yesterday and after playing with it for a full day (as well as looking for a whole new bunch of Centro accessories) I can now confirm that my very positive original impressions when seeing the device for the first time at Digital Life in NYC have not changed – on the contrary I’m loving my Palm Centro more by the minute.
On the hardware front here are a few points that I’m particularly delighted with:
- Colour: I’ve been wanting a Black Treo for some time and now I finally have one (Palm call it “Onyx Black” and there’s also the “Ruby Red”).
- Form Factor: this smartphone is very compact, solidly built and shaped just right (rounded back and edges) to fit comfortably in your hand or pocket.
- Weight: at only 4.2 oz (119 grams) with its battery the Centro is extremely light (up to 1/3 lighter than previous Treo smartphones). It shaves a full 2.2 oz (62 grams) from the Treo 700p and 1.4 oz (40 grams) from the Treo 680 and you’ll notice the difference this makes the moment you hold one (image below and see also Palm Centro & Treo Comparison Chart).
- Full QWERTY Keyboard: some people can argue this point all they want but the fact is that I still consider that there is no substitute for a full usable keyboard on a smartphone. Yes, the Centro’s keyboard (below) is incredibly small but what is even more incredible is how well it works – it’s not quite as fast or comfortable as my Treo 680 but it comes very close (it’s also a hell of a lot faster than the virtual keyboard on the iPhone).
- Touchscreen: again, the touchscreen is smaller in size but luckily Palm kept a high resolution 320x320 display. I didn’t have any problems at all viewing all sorts of information on this screen but admittedly the smaller size does make it just a bit harder to reach some buttons or menus with your fingers using the touchscreen.
- Memory Expansion: although I’ll be missing the 8GB SD cards currently on my Treo 680 the present maximum of 4GB on a microSD card for the Centro should nonetheless prove plenty for most Centronauts.
- New 5Way and Flat Hard Buttons: these new larger flat/flush buttons make the Centro a more elegant (reducing the relative clutter of so many keys) and slimmer looking device.
- Back Speaker: until you hear it it’s hard to describe just how LOUD the new back speaker is – making it perfect for an impromtu music session, for your morning alarm clock and naturally more importantly to ensure that you actually hear your phone ringing when someone calls or texts you (comparatively I’ve been missing about 50% of calls on my test iPhone because both the speaker and the included ringtones are designed for people with bionic ears and not the average user).
- Camera/Video: I haven’t yet been able to make some proper comparisons but based on first impressions both the images and video that the Centro takes appear to be much improved over earlier models.
One of the few downsides on the Palm Centro is a relatively low battery life with a Talk Time of 3.5 hours but as with the Treo 680 previoiusly I found that an extra spare battery as well as maintaining regular charging cycles (overnight in a cradle for example) significantly reduce the limitations. Additionally, it’s also clear that as before we should expect to see an extended battery introduced within the next few months.
On the software front I have found an equal number of features to like:
- PalmOS: it may be old/ageing but the fact is that the PalmOS is not only perfectly usable but it also still does things much better than competiting operating systems on a great many fronts such as the Onscreen speakerphone and mute buttons, “Ignore with text” function, Google Maps integration, Messaging, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks among others. The additional benefit for existing Treonauts is that like me they’ll be able to simply plug their Centro to their PC and synchronize it using their current HotSync ID to have a fully customized new smartphone in minutes. There are also a few additional minor modifications within the OS and I’m trying to get a full list of these from Palm.
- Pocket Tunes Deluxe: with a value of $39.99 the full version of this top MP3 player is conveniently included in your Centro purchase ready to provide you with hours of fun with music on the go (something that I use almost daily).
- IM: bundled for the first time, the new IM application provides support for AIM, MSN and/or Yahoo! to instant message your buddy list while on the go – it works great and even lets you know of incoming message via an alert when you are out.
- Sprint TV & On Demand: part of the exclusive Sprint content and services found on the Centro (also includes Sprint Mobile eMail). Most of the programming is free (On Demand alone used to cost up to $10 per month) and includes things such as streaming news, video, music, radio as well as news, sports, weather, 411 and TV Guide.
- Google Maps: the latest version of Google Maps is also now pre-installed in ROM and provides a superbly useful solution and now also includes Contacts integration so that you can quicly view directions to a contact’s address.
- Nuance Voice Control: this voice recognition service works surprisingly well and the only downside is a relatively long delay as it’s an application that runs wirelessly via a server instead of being an on-board application.
- Third-Party Software: with hundreds if not thousands of fantastic third-party software designed for the PalmOS, you can customize and further enhance the functionality of your Centro to your hearts desire (see my Top 100 Treo Software).
Overall the Palm Centro will prove to be a terrific smartphone for existing Treonauts wishing to greatly reduce the size and weight of the device that they carry in their pockets every day without having to make any significant compromises. Newly minted Centronauts for their part will find a device not much larger than their current standard 12–key phone – one that now offers them all the amazing benefits of owning a Treo smartphone.
Editor’s Choice Centro Accessories
Seidio 2in1 Pen Centro Stylus
If you’ve ever been anywhere struggling to find a pen at hand to write something down you’ll quickly understand just how useful this dual pen/stylus for your Centro really is.
SPE Centro Screen Protector
You could risk scratching your screen accidentally or simply choose these great screen protectors for your Centro instead.
Cellet Cradle Dock
This is the slimmest and most elegant Docking + Battery Charging cradle available for your Centro and my own top choice.
Centro Screen Protectors
The simplest way to ensure scratch protection for your delicate Centro touchscreen these screen protectors are the #1 bestselling accessory.
This 1150mAh spare Centro battery from Palm (see my review) will provide you with an additional 3.5 hours of talk time or 240 hours of standby time – perfect for that extra juice you’ll need while on the go.
Both the AT&T Centro and Sprint Centro are now available for FREE with a 2 year contract or for $99 directly from either AT&T or Sprint. For additional information and full specifications please see these previous posts:
Treonauts & Centronauts are always amazing…