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Palm Treo Pro
After a few delays, the Palm Treo Pro is now shipping from Sprint (for $200 with a two-year contract, as of 3/5/09). This smart phone will please Windows Mobile fans with its sleek design and its business-friendly features. Sprint customers seeking a more multimedia-oriented phone might want to hold off, though, since the much-anticipated Palm Pre is expected to launch sometime in the first half of 2009.
Sprint's Treo Pro has essentially the same specs as the unlocked version: A slickly designed, lightweight handset, it runs on Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 and offers Wi-Fi connectivity and GPS. While the unlocked version is a quad-band world GSM phone, Sprint's Treo Pro is a CDMA phone and supports EvDO Rev A. Other than the inclusion of Sprint-branded applications such as the Sprint Music Store and Sprint Navigation, nothing else has changed. The Treo Pro has a slim profile and sports a more contemporary look than older Treo models. Measuring 2.4 by 4.5 by 0.5 inches, the handset fit nicely in my smallish hand; and since it's a light 4.7 ounces, I could hold it comfortably for long periods of time. The handset has an attractive glossy piano-black finish with both a 320-by-320-pixel transflective touch screen and a full physical QWERTY keyboard.
At 1.7 inches, the display is large enough for viewing a long message comfortably, but with video it felt a bit cramped. The keyboard takes some design cues from the Palm Centro, as the keys have a plastic veneer that prevents finger slippage. I found the keys a bit too small for my liking; I kept pressing the wrong one accidentally even though my fingers are not all that large. Typing out long messages could be somewhat arduous--not ideal for a business-oriented phone. Between the screen and the keyboard are four standard soft keys; Talk/End buttons; an OK button; dedicated Start, Inbox, and Calendar buttons; and a central navigation toggle with a select key. The unmarked soft keys are flush with the phone's surface and sometimes require multiple taps to produce a response.
Call quality over Sprint's 3G network was good. All of my contacts reported above-average call quality and said that my voice sounded clear and natural; they also heard very little background noise, even while I was standing on a busy street corner. On my end, however, I experienced one niggling issue: an audible hiss during most of my calls. On some calls I could hear the hiss even when I was speaking, but on others it was quiet enough not to be distracting.
Palm's Today screen makes some helpful tweaks to Windows Mobile. My favorite feature is an icon in the upper-right corner that lets you view all running apps and shut down the ones you don't need. This addresses an ongoing issue with Windows Mobile: The OS doesn't automatically clean up after itself, which tends to slow down your device. Even with the added feature, however, I encountered some sluggishness when navigating around various applications--typical Windows Mobile behavior. Fortunately, the device never froze or crashed on me. I do wish the Treo Pro had more of a touch-oriented and user-friendly overlay, similar to what we've seen on HTC and Samsung devices.
The Treo Pro supports Microsoft's Direct Push Technology for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic syncing with Outlook calendar, contacts, and tasks over the Exchange Server. You can also set up POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, such as your Gmail or Yahoo account, by entering your user name and password.
Connecting to Wi-Fi is a snap: You simply press the dedicated button on the right spine of the device. The Treo Pro can connect to your preferred networks or automatically scan for new ones. Having Wi-Fi connectivity at a touch of a finger is a really nice feature, but I had no trouble browsing the Web over Sprint's 3G network; pages loaded relatively quickly, though some media-heavy sites took a bit longer.
The Treo Pro comes preloaded with Windows Media Player 10 Mobile and supports AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV audio and video files. You also have access to some of Sprint's exclusive multimedia applications, such as Sprint Music and Sprint TV. The Treo Pro has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, as well--always a welcome smart phone feature. Audio sounded a bit flat, but still adequate. Though video quality was good for short clips, the display is too small for long videos. Personally, I wouldn't make the Treo Pro my main multimedia device, but the handset does support up to 32GB of storage on a microSDHC card to accommodate all of your music, videos, images, and apps.
The 2-megapixel camera is mediocre. With no flash, pictures appeared dark and blurry. In outdoor shots, colors looked washed out and images seemed grainy. The camera has a few advanced features, namely 8X digital zoom, brightness and white-balance settings, a self-timer, and a time stamp. You have a choice of four quality settings and five resolutions, as well. Overall, however, the camera seems like a bit of an afterthought on the device.
The Palm Treo Pro is appealing for a number of reasons: It has a sophisticated and classy appearance, solid business features, and some nice multimedia extras. But considering that the Palm Pre with Palm's new webOS is looming on the horizon, Sprint customers looking for a more full-featured device might want to pass on shelling out $200 for the Treo Pro. And even if you're a Windows Mobile fan, the Treo Pro feels a bit dated--especially compared with other touch-based Windows Mobile devices with slick overlays, such as the HTC Fuze and the Samsung Omnia.
Palm Treo Pro