Treo Pro Review
New Palm Treo Pro Review Reveals Stunningly Beautiful “Super Hot” Smartphone With Excellent Ultraslim Form-Factor, Terrific Hardware Design & Specifications, Ultrafast 3G & WiFi Data Connectivity & GPS
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the release of the high-end enterprise-class Palm Treo Pro has literally stunned me and been a complete revelation – I would probably have to go back to the Treo 600 some four years ago to match the level of excitement that I have felt since getting this smartphone in my hands. I absolutely love my existing very trusted Centro and the Palm OS but I can already tell you that it’s going to be nearly impossible for me not to switch to the Treo Pro as it offers such a huge leap in performance and mobile experience.
From a hardware perspective alone the Treo Pro is undoubtedly exactly the device that Treonauts have been waiting for years to get as it meets almost every single design and specifications criteria that we’ve wanted. In this respect, the Treo Pro smartphone highlights the single most important milestone yet in Palm’s ongoing corporate transformation and opens a completely new door to a much brighter future.
From a software perspective there is no doubt that the major sticking point for many (particularly existing Palm OS users) will be the Windows Mobile operating system that the Treo Pro runs. The fact is that my experience has shown that Windows Mobile has come a long way and become increasingly more “friendly” and usable. The key point however is the fact that the stunning hardware design of the Treo Pro is finally giving me the energy to make the switch to WinMo – I’m basically willing to compromise a little to gain access to all the many other benefits this smartphone offers.
More importantly still is the fact that the Treo Pro design engenders a level of passion that had almost completely disappeared from Palm smartphones in recent years – there isn’t a single person that I have shown it to (devout BlackBerry and iPhone fans alike) that didn’t feel good holding it in their hands. Where it previously often appeared that narrow-minded accountants were in charge of design at Palm it’s clear that energetic and passionate artists have now thankfully firmly taken over. The Treo Pro is the first Palm smartphone in years that can proudly stand tall on its two feet without the need of crutches.
A perfect example of how quickly the Treo Pro appears to already have won the hearts and imagination of Treonauts is the result of our recent “Is the Treo Pro hot or not?” poll below. Not only has the poll now broken past the 1,000 votes but even more importantly in the last seven days the balance has steadily increased in favour of a “Super Hot” rating from 40% to 50% (more than statistically relevant) while the combined overall positive “Hot” rating is now a staggering 92%.
Within this rather cheerful context, let me now take you through a closer look at exactly where and why the Treo Pro is so Super Hot.
Treo Pro Hardware (External) – Rating 9.5/10
Overall Look & Feel (Form-Factor, Size & Weight) – 9/10
At long last the Treo Pro delivers a completely revamped form-factor design which is ultraslim (so thin it actually fits in an iPhone case) and ultraslick with a smooth black casing – it’s basically the coolest looking smartphone Palm has produced to date (even when you can’t see its full form in total darkness below) and may very well be the near perfect form-factor for any keyboard + touchscreen smartphone.
As I mentioned in my Treo Pro Preview, it looks a bit like a high-tech polished black pebble – a Zen of tranquility on the outside but one that also happens to be bursting with energy inside (thanks to a fast processor, 3G data, WiFi, GPS and a whole lot more). The whole smartphone just seems to be made of one piece as opposed to glued together from different parts.
One very minor issue is the fact that because the Treo Pro is so shiny and black it has the habit of visibly accumulating your fingerprints both on the screen and at the back. This is quickly remedied by keeping a Microfiber Cleaning Cloth in your pocket and I have to admit that I’ve actually developed a particular pleasure polishing my Treo Pro every so often and bringing it back to its full shine.
High-Resolution Touchscreen – 9/10
The Treo Pro also finally offers Palm’s first flush crisp high-resolution (320x320 pixels) touchscreen and it’s evident that this makes a huge difference both for the overall look and feel of this smartphone as well as more importantly how much easier it makes it to get to even the smallest icons and corners.
Thanks to the much easier access to the full touchscreen Palm has for example now been able to remove the physical “soft buttons” found on other Windows Mobile devices as you can now simply and quickly use the on-screen buttons instead. The actual full-size 320x320 screenshot taken from my Treo Pro above should help you to get an impression for how good and crisp its display is.
In terms of screens, the next step for Palm will be the introduction at some point in the future of either a 480x320 or 480x480 resolution screen but for now this one certainly doesn’t get any complaints from me (aside the fact that it could be just a bit brigther).
5Way & Navigation Buttons – 9/10
I particularly like the fact that in addition to the new flush touchscreen Palm’s designers have maintained the same smoothness with the main four Start, OK, Calendar and Messaging buttons while slightly raising and rounding the left green Phone/Send and right red Power/End buttons (which are both made from a clear hard resin).
At the same time, the redesigned round 5Way button at the center remains as good and easy to use as before and there is also conveniently no need for the physical soft buttons as the flush touchscreen is so immediately accessible (Contacts + Internet areas above).
Keyboard – 9/10
Some people have argued that the use of the same Centro keyboard design on the Treo Pro was somehow “inferior” but I strongly disagree. Not only is the keyboard here a full 10% wider but the “bouncy” rubber keys (below right) offer excellent tactile response and Palm has also ensured that the Space bar is a harder plastic. Overall even with my big hands I had absolutely no difficulties whatsoever typing (either in daylight or in total darkness thanks to the backlight).
At the same time, I cannot stress enough the benefits of having a physical full QWERTY keyboard compared to a device that has an on-screen virtual keyboard. In this respect it is also worth remembering that this Treo Pro is the only high-end smartphone that offers an all-in-one touchscreen + full front keyboard + 3G + WiFi + GPS (BlackBerry Bold for example has no touchscreen and iPhone has no keyboard).
Ringer Switch & Power Button – 10/10
In addition to the always ultra-convenient ringer switch button at the top of your device (basically a slider that quickly silences your smartphone when you’re in a meeting or another place where you don’t want to suddenly disturb others with your ringtone or alarms) there is now also a dedicated Power button that quickly and equally conveniently switches just your screen off (press once) or all phone, data and WiFi connections (press and hold for a couple of seconds).
Side Buttons – 10/10
In the meantime, Palm’s designers have so elegantly merged the side buttons into the device that you would hardly know they’re there (they’re almost completely flush). As before, on the left of your smartphone you’ll find the volume Up/Down buttons as well as one dedicated button that can be assigned to launch any application that you like (the default is Camera).
At the same time, the right side of your Treo Pro smartphone now offers both a deidcated WiFi button (press once to quickly switch it On/Off or press+hold to open your WiFi connections) as well as the IR port.
MicroUSB Sync & Charge + Stereo Port – 9/10
There are two other welcome additions on the Treo Pro. The first one is the use of a more convenient high-speed microUSB Sync & Charge connector (uses USB 2.0) and the second is the use of an even more convenient 3.5mm headset port which now means that you’ll be able to plug any one of the thousands of standard high-quality headsets available without the need for a 2.5mm stereo adapter.
Speakers, Speakerphone & Microphone – 10/10
Even though the Treo Pro back speaker is visibly smaller (a good thing from a design perspective) and therefore not as powerful as on previous Treo or Centro smartphones the fact is nonetheless that the volume that it generates is more than loud enough to listen to music and engage in speakerphone calls.
Above you will find a short audio sample from a call that I made testing both the on-board Treo Pro microphone as well as its rather good built-in speakerphone.
Memory Expansion Slot – 9/10
I’ve always loved the solid memory card expansion capabilities that Treo smartphones offers and the Treo Pro provides a microSDHC slot that I happily use with my existing 8GB cards (it supports up to 32GB). The slot is accessible by just removing the back cover and thankfully not under the battery but easily within reach on the side.
Stylus – 9/10
A welcome addition is that Palm has finally reintroduced a solid metal stylus as standard with the Treo Pro. It appears that previous rumours that the metal stylus might interfere with the Treo radio may have been true and this is also why presumably Palm has now placed the stylus at the bottom as opposed to the top of the device.
Battery & Back Cover – 9/10
Although the Treo Pro is already ultraslim you don’t realize just how small it is until you remove both the back cover and the battery (image below) – you’re left wondering how anybody could have crammed such a powerful smartphone with a touchscreen and full keyboard into such a small device.
The huge and powerful 1500mAh battery which provides a very healthy five hours of talk time (PCMag actually claims 7 hours 8 minutes continuous talk time!) appears to take up some 40% of the space on its own. At the same time, I really like the introduction of a full back cover as you now get a beautifully smooth surface instead of one interrupted by the half battery cover used previously. It’s true that the cover can sometimes prove a little difficult to remove but here again I’m willing to dismiss this in favour of the design benefits it offers.
Overall, I have to admit that before the release of the Treo Pro I had come to seriously doubt Palm’s engineering and design capabilities to deliver such an ultraslim and full-featured device – wondering aloud if the company would ever be able to regain its position among the smartphone elite now dominated by the BlackBerry and iPhone. Thanks to the wonderful Treo Pro my answer is now a categorical and very firm “Yes! I believe that Palm can do it.”
NOTE: Please check back tomorrow as I will continue this Treo Pro review with more information and my take on the internal hardware and bundled accessories.
Treonauts are always super hot…