capsule review

Palm Centro PDA Phone

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At a Glance
  • Palm Centro

If you own an aging and increasingly bulky-looking Palm Treo but are reluctant to abandon the Palm OS, the new Palm Centro may be the interim PDA smart phone you've been waiting for. It lacks features that are routinely available on competing Windows Mobile and BlackBerry devices--most notably Wi-Fi and GPS support. But the Centro does deliver EvDO cellular broadband access, and it offers the Palm OS in its most contemporary and petite package yet.

The Centro is significantly tinier (4.2 by 2.1 by 0.7 inches) and lighter (4.2 ounces) than its Treo kinfolk, and its smooth plastic case feels comfortable in the hand. Because the device is so small, its keyboard keys are proportionately diminutive, but the keys are coated in a squishy plastic that keeps your fingertips from slipping. The transflective 2.4-inch 320-by-320 color touch screen looks good, though it's smallish.

Call quality was excellent: The people at the other end sounded as good as on a landline, and they reported that I sounded great, too. Talk-time battery life was poor, though, as the Centro lasted only 4 hours, 19 minutes in our lab tests.

Web surfing with the Blazer browser over Sprint's EvDO network was a sheer delight. Pages seemed to leap onto the screen, especially from sites that have been optimized for mobile browsers. Even nonoptimized sites appeared quickly. E-mail setup went smoothly, but to use the Centro with my Windows Vista PC, I had to install a new version of Palm Desktop, which doesn't support e-mail syncing over USB.

The Centro comes with the Deluxe version of the PTunes music player--a nice addition--and music sounded surprisingly robust through the device's rear speaker. You also get Sprint's Music Manager software, which made transferring tunes easy. You'll need an expansion card if you want to play a lot of audio, however, because the device comes with just 65MB of user-accessible memory--and you'll want to reserve some of that for applications.

The device's 1.3-megapixel camera captures images with up to a 2X digital zoom, and it can record a short amount of video. Image quality was adequate but nothing special, and Palm doesn't provide the image editing tools that some camera phones now include.

The Centro comes with several other useful applications, including the excellent Palm client for Google Maps and DataViz's Documents to Go for at least basic editing of Microsoft Office applications.

Though the Centro is not the most beautifully crafted cell phone available, it's a good-looking contemporary handset. And at $100 (with a two-year contract from Sprint), the price is attractive, too.

--Yardena Arar

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At a Glance
  • A sporty counterpart to the aging Treo gives you EvDO and the Palm OS, too.


    • Excellent call quality
    • Petite, attractive design


    • Plastic case feels a bit fragile
    • Lacks Wi-Fi and GPS
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