Palm Treo 700w Review

by Reads (89,289)

by Adama Brown, with contributions by Brian Beeler and Andrew Baxter

Good gadget or evil impostor? Palm’s newest smartphone sparked fervent partisanship before it was even out, but now we have a final breakdown of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This is primarily a review of the Palm Treo 700w running on Verizon. Most of the commentary also applies to versions of the 700w for Sprint, and various GSM carriers, when these versions become available.

For the purposes of this review, my main points of comparison will be the Treo 600, 650, and Sprint PPC-6700, these being the closest devices in form-factor and functionality to the T700w. This review will also be a slightly different format. Our own Brian Beeler and Andrew Baxter have both converted to the Treo 700w since its release, so periodically there will be blocks of commentary contributed by each of them, highlighting a different feature or aspect of the Treo.

Design & Construction

On the face of it, the 700w doesn’t look that much different from the Treo 650. The style of the buttons is a little different, and the shape of the casing has been changed slightly, but otherwise the design is very similar. If you were comfortable with the 600 or 650, you’ll probably feel the same about the 700w.

The buttons of the famous thumb keyboard have changed shape a bit, but they remain similarly sized and well spaced. The same basic arrangement of application and function keys has been retained from the Treo 650, but they’ve been remapped a bit to suit the new operating system.

Keyboard with backlight active

 


On the left side is a matched pair of up/down keys that function as the volume slider. By using these, you can easily adjust the system and call volume. Below these are a single unmarked button. I’d assume that this was intended for push-to-talk or some similar function. The only function that it does have out of the box is to launch Windows Media Player if you press and hold it. You can always remap it in the options to launch another program, or scroll down, or some other useful function.

Top mounted is the SD slot, IR port, and a simple switch that changes the Treo from “ring” to “vibrate,” allowing you to silence it quickly and easily without messing around in settings

One of the jewels of the Treo design is the principle of one-handed operation. The slimmer, more phone-like design is better for dialing, as well as placing the controls directly under the thumb. I actually found one-handed navigation on the 700w to be more comfortable than on my Axim, due to the placement of the buttons. Having the controls mid-way up the device makes for a more natural and secure grip than if the buttons are at the very bottom.

Rear: camera, speaker, and battery latch

The Treo is very much a phone in style and execution. It’s not until you get into the software that things get more complex and powerful–up to that point, the design is simplicity in action.

Hardware

Processor: 312 MHz Intel XScale PXA270
Display: 240 x 240 transmissive/reflective LCD
Memory: 32 MB RAM; 128 MB flash memory (62 MB available)
Size & Weight: 4.4″ long (5.1″ including antenna) x 2.3″ wide x 0.9″ thick, 6.4 ounces
Expansion: Single SDIO slot
Docking:

Palm “Athena” multiconnector, USB sync cable; optional USB cradle

Communication: Dual-band CDMA 1xRTT/1xEVDO; Bluetooth 1.2; Optional SDIO WiFi card
Audio: 2.5mm headset/headphone jack; speakerphone; speaker & mouthpiece for phone
Battery: 1800 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable/replaceable battery; optional extended batteries
Input:

QWERTY thumb keyboard; touchscreen; re-mappable application buttons

Other: 1.3 megapixel camera

Processor

The 700w runs on the same processor as the Treo 650, the 312 MHz Intel XScale PXA270. Judging from HTC’s designs, it seems that 416 MHz is the going speed these days for PocketPC phones, so the Treo is a little bit behind the competition, but not so much as to be seriously affected. Performance is overall quite decent, with a few slowdowns that I would more likely attributable to a lack of RAM at the time rather than the processor not being up to speed.

Good news on another subject, though. The Treo’s processor is just fast enough without overclocking to qualify for Skype, the popular freeware Voice-over-IP application for PocketPCs and Windows desktops. Combined with the Treo’s eminently phonesqe form-factor, this may just help to shoot VoIP up to a new level of popularity.

Operating System

When Palm first announced that they were going to build a Treo running on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system, Hell didn’t quite freeze over, but they did have to crank up the thermostat. One of the principles behind Palm’s conversion to the dark side was that they would be adding their own functionality and a few customized interfaces on top of the Windows Mobile 5 infrastructure.

It’s often the little things that you notice first. For instance, Palm changed the default color scheme from the sky-blue seen on most WM5 devices to a darker shade, closer to–dare I say it?–cobalt blue, with a touch of purple.

The most significant modifications are to the dialing systems and the Today screen. Since unlike most PocketPC phones, the Treo has an easily accessible physical keypad, it doesn’t require the on-screen dialing app seen on most other devices. Such a dialer is still available, if you feel more comfortable keying in numbers with the stylus rather than the keyboard, but it’s hidden away in a sub-menu. The new default dialing method now actually bounces you back to the Today screen. There, as soon as you begin to type in a number, the applicable plugin displays the number on the screen.

You can also type in a name, as listed in your contacts, in order to dial that person. Finish the number, hit the Send button, and away you go. If you don’t happen to already be on the Today screen when you want to make a call, all you have to do is press the Send button once, and it will bring up the Today screen post haste. If you want a more exhaustive investigation of the dialer, and the subsystems associated with it, read Andrew’s commentary under Communication.

A big question on the minds of potential adopters is how applications would adapt to the device’s square screen. Since many games and other programs are hard-coded to a longer screen, it’s been an open question how and if they would work. I ran a few of these to test it out, with mixed results.

For games such as Age of Empires, the system automatically resizes the graphics to fit the screen. This has the side-effect of distorting the aspect ratio–like watching a normal TV show on a widescreen TV, but in reverse. What was once wide (or long) is now narrow (or short, as the case may be). Despite this, the game would actually be semi-playable if not for another software bug that caused the Touchscreen to malfunction. Defiance: Final Strike was squeezed in the same way, resulting in the same touchscreen malfunction. Since I’ve never had any other square-screen Windows Mobile 5 device, I don’t know the default way of handling these programs. So I’m unable to say whether this is an OS bug, or something related to Palm’s modifications. Other applications which use the default Windows interface instead of drawing their own should adapt just fine.

The real star of the show, however, is the 700w’s Exchange sync capabilities. Being a business device, the ability to synchronize directly to an Exchange 2003 server is a prime selling point. For an in depth examination of exactly what Exchange sync means to the mobile business user, we go now to Brian Beeler, our own head honcho, and a long-time Palm user who’s recently converted to the Treo 700w.

Exchange Sync Capabilities (by Brian Beeler)

One of the more valuable facets of the Treo 700w comes into play for organizations using Exchange. In general terms, this allows you to sync contacts, email and calendar data over the air, so there’s no need for access to your PC. Using Exchange ActiveSync doesn’t completely rule out the need to sync with a PC though, they’re two separate functions.

I’ll start with the negative, because I think the limitations with Exchange ActiveSync are significant. First off, there’s no support for synchronizing multiple contact folders. In my case, I use the min contacts folder for personal contacts and create sub-folders for business use. None of those sub-folders can by synchronized. Exchange ActiveSync also leaves other folders in the cold like notes and tasks, two things I use routinely. I know it’s possible to sync this data, it’s all available to view in Exchange Web Access. What I don’t know is if this is a limitation in Windows Mobile, or Palm’s implementation of the OS. At this point I don’t have a clear answer, but I’ve requested to Palm that they add these features in the future to make the Exchange ActiveSync more powerful.

Aside from those gripes, I really love Exchange ActiveSync. I have my device set to sync on a 10-minute schedule. This time table seems to fit the device pretty well, from a battery life perspective. I found a 5 minute schedule was too battery intense, killing it off in less than a day. Of course if you need faster access, real time sync and manual sync options are also available.

Since each email sent and received is actually synchronized with Exchange, your PC or web email clients will have the same view of the inbox, sent items and deleted items. So when you send an email from the Treo 700w, it will show up in the sent folder on your computer’s instance of Outlook. The same thing holds true for contacts and calendar appointments. While this is standard for Exchange sync, not all programs integrate this well, giving the platform and this device a distinct advantage.

The integration with other parts of the operating system and applications is also nice. For instance, if you place a call or receive one, you’re prompted to add that phone number to a contact or create a new contact if the phone number isn’t already stored on your device. Similarly, you can do the same thing by selecting the email address from an email for someone who is not yet stored in your contacts folder. These connections make it much easier to create new contacts, keeping you more up to date. In fact, this method of creating new contacts is even easier than doing so in the desktop version of Outlook.

From a security standpoint, Exchange ActiveSync requires SSL on the server, so data is transmitted securely. Some organizations will add additional security, like a VPN, but even if you aren’t subject to these additional measures, the default SSL is pretty strong.

The bottom line is this. Since we’re an Exchange organization and I’ve been on the 700w, my personal productivity has gone up tremendously. The ability to quickly have full access to email is huge for me, making those brief periods of time where there’s nothing else to do, productive. So while I wait a few minutes for the gas tank to fill up, I can sift through email, making things happen for our business. Then when I get home or back to the office, I have more time to do something else, other than check and respond to email.

Display

Coming into this review, I was expecting to have to knock the 700w for having a comparatively low resolution screen. So upon unpacking the box, I found myself pleasantly surprised. Despite being only 240 x 240 pixels, the smallest screen possible under Windows Mobile, the display manages to be both readable and easy on the eyes. Email is legible, print is serviceable, and photos are visible enough to get the gist. In all, the screen is small, but still serviceable.

Left, Dell Axim X51v. Right, Palm Treo 700w. Both running Opera 8.5 beta.

That’s not to say that there’s no reason to miss a larger, higher resolution screen. Web browsing is an uncomfortable experience, featuring quite a lot of side-scrolling, and Internet Explorer Mobile’s fit-to-screen options didn’t help. Opera was better, but there’s still a limited amount of information that you can fit onto the screen. I’d also be highly dubious about recreational activities such as reading or watching video. I ran my preferred text reader, uBook, on the 700w to give it a real workout. The results were less than pretty. The low resolution means that you can’t make the text very small without making it illegible, and the small overall screen size means that you can only cram in so much text at once.

Memory

The Treo comes with a fairly standard 128 MB of flash memory for storage. Of this, some 62 MB is available to the user. While not as much as one might like, this is considerably more generous than the HTC Apache, which only provides about 40 MB to the user. And after all, Storage can always be augmented with a memory card.

Unlike most comparable devices, the 700w doesn’t have 64 MB of RAM, but rather a slimmer 32 MB. Once you take away the RAM used by the OS, and assorted system processes, you’re left with about 11.5 MB for the end user’s programs to play with–10 MB if you have the cellular radio active. 10 MB may not sound like much, and it isn’t. But even so it’s actually more than enough to run most functions. At one point, I was running Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, Opera 8.5 Beta, File Explorer, and PocketEarth, all with 1.8 MB of RAM left free.

If you have too many applications open, the system automatically closes the one that was least recently used, without need for user intervention. You can also manually shut down programs, and there are various task-switchers available that can make this faster and easier, but Palm has given the Ok button the ability to take you to the close program menu if it’s held for two seconds.

Truthfully, I don’t see why Palm went with 32 MB of RAM for the 700w. Did they still have a surplus of 32 MB chips sitting around from the Zire 72?

Size & Weight

The bulk of the 700w isn’t much different from the 650. It’s very thick but very narrow, a more phone-like profile for a more phone-like device. This makes it easier to use one-handed, and less awkward to hold up against your ear when talking.

The 700w is also one of the smaller PocketPC phones on the market. Since most other PPC phones use larger screens, and the only other square-screen device is the wider and thinner iPAQ hw6500 series, the 700w has a distinct size advantage.

Expansion

Like its older siblings, the 700w includes a standard SDIO expansion slot for peripherals and memory cards. Unlike previous Treos, it also supports the use of SDIO WiFi cards. None of the older Ts were ever given proper drivers for the cards, prompting some people to suggest that Palm was appeasing wireless carriers by forcing people to use their data plans for internet access. The 700w won’t compel such a discussion, but on the other hand, it doesn’t come with built-in WiFi either.

Docking

Like previous Treos, the 700w comes with nothing more or less than a basic USB sync cable and travel charger. If you want a cradle to hold the device in place while charging, or anything else, you’ll have to pony up some extra cash. The connector is the same as the Treo 650, as well as the recent T5 and TX models, so you can share peripherals and cables between devices.

Communication

The T700w comes with two main methods of communication: a dual-band CDMA/EVDO cellular radio for both voice and data, and Bluetooth 1.2 for peripherals, headsets, and syncing.

For a thorough examination of the Treo as a phone, and detailed dissection of the dialing system, we turn now to Andrew Baxter for the rundown.

Treo 700w Phone Usability (by Andrew Baxter)

Verizon Wireless as a Provider

Verizon has upset a lot of people in the past by crippling SmartPhone and Bluetooth enabled mobile phones in the interest of helping their business.  For instance, disabling wi-fi while the phone is in use for the Samsung i730, disallowing Dial Up Networking (DUN – using a cell phone as a modem), and crippling Bluetooth in phones has been standard practice in the past for Verizon.  Many of these “adjustments” to devices were basically to prevent users from doing an end run around paid for services Verizon wanted to sell.  The term Verizon is evil has been uttered more than once I suppose.

But let’s give Verizon credit for having the foresight in the business of building fast data access over cellular networks.  I was with T-Mobile before getting the Treo 700w, and although TMO didn’t cripple devices like Verizon did in the past, TMO is a no go in terms of offering fast internet access over their network anytime soon (or, one wonders, ever?).  And so wanting a device that offered fast data transfer, it was a choice between Verizon or Sprint — and Verizon had the Treo 700w with EVDO so that sealed the deal on who I wanted to transfer too to get away from T-Mobile and their non-existent roadmap for a high speed data network.

Having been with Verizon for over a month now, I can’t believe how much better the reception is than T-Mobile for the area I live in.  In New York City Verizon is king for reception.  T-Mobile is awful, and I mean AWFUL.  You don’t realize it until you try a service that actually works.  With T-Mobile I’d have to sit next to a window in a building to get good reception.  With Verizon I can be in an elevator and at times even on the subway and be able to get good enough reception for a phone call or to download data.  Just today I was sitting on the subway and my 700w started vibrating to indicate a new email, I take the 700w out of my pocket and sure enough it indicated 2 bars of reception — that’s through a steal subway car and a few feet below the street, wow!

Listening and Talking

Reception wise thanks to Verizon and the antenna in the 700w, there’s simply no complaints. Calls are never dropped, data transfer is fast and reception always good.  The volume on the speaker is certainly loud enough when holding the 700w to your ear, and volume is easy to adjust via the rocker on the left top side of the phone.  It’s so nice to have a hardware button for volume control on calls, although you’ll probably find you have it set to the loudest volume if you’re like me.  The speakerphone is excellent, it’s very loud, and amazingly clear at the same time.  To turn speakerphone on simply click the top right control button (indicated as “Menu”) when in phone mode, then click the action button to select “Speakerphone On”.  The same action turns it off.  This is simple and easy to do.  Included with the 700w is a wired headset, it’s very basic but it at least allows you to have a hands-free conversation without having to rely on the speakerphone.  Since the 700w has Bluetooth built-in you can of course opt for a Bluetooth headset to pair with the device.

As far as people on the other end of the phone hearing you, well my folks who live overseas call me once a week so I setup my old T-Mobile phone and service to redirect to my new Verizon number (I had to switch numbers and have a couple of months left with TMO — annoyingly long story and irrelevant) and my family actually commented that I sounded much clearer, that was without my prompting or asking.  Proof positive that a combination of Verizon and the 700w nets you very decent and clear communication abilities.

Using the Phone to Dial

The 700w is a SmartPhone but it does not run the Windows SmartPhone flavor OS.  It runs the Pocket PC Phone flavor OS.  With Windows Mobile 5 the SmartPhone and Pocket PC Phone OS flavors are supposed to be much more compatible and similar, but the differences are still large.  With the SmartPhone OS there is no touchscreen navigation or support for full fledged keyboard as that OS runs on much smaller candy bar style devices.  With the Pocket PC flavor you have support for a Touchscreen dial pad, tap screen dial shortcuts and QWERTY entry for text messaging to name a few.

The last time I used a Pocket PC Phone flavor OS was with the HP iPAQ 6315 — a couple of years back.  I found the 6315 simply too big as a phone, it was a large PDA with a phone thrown in.  I felt like a dork using it and it was frankly quite clunky in use as a phone.  One complaint that of course carries over to the 700w from the 6315 is that you’ll get “screen gunk” from your face when holding the device up to your ear to talk.  The oilier and sweatier your face, the worse the screen on the phone looks after talking — nice hey?  Using a headset or the speakerphone to talk eliminates this problem entirely, or just wipe the screen on your cotton shirt, use a screen protector or carry a screen wipe if it’s a huge deal for you.

The iPaq 6315 sure looks clunky with its “strap-on” keyboard compared to the 700w

The Treo 700w isn’t perfect in terms of phone usability, but it is certainly very good with some odd quirks for those of us that have used Pocket PC Phones and SmartPhones in the past.  On most Pocket PC phones when you hit the “Call” button (button with green phone icon) it brings up the dial pad (see below screen shot for what comes up on the iPaq 6315 screen when you hit the call button).  With the Treo 700w this is not the case, Palm adjusted it so that when you hit the Call button you go to the Today screen — it’s like hitting the Home button on any other Pocket PC.  From there if you start punching number keys you’ll enter a number to dial (it shows up in the “type a name or number” field).  If you hit the Call button a second time a menu will display that has a list where you can choose from “Dial Pad”, “Call Log”, or select a recently dialed or received known caller’s number:

On most Pocket PC Phone when you hit the Call button you jump to the dial pad application

On the Treo 700w Palm made it so that when you hit the Call button you go back to the Today screen, not the dial pad

If you hit the Call button again when on the Today screen, you get a menu that pops up with recent call numbers (edited out for privacy purposes!) or the option to view your entire Call Log or go to the Dial Pad

Here’s what the Dial Pad looks like on the Treo 700w, you have to hit the call button twice and then select “Dial Pad” to get to it

The first time I started using the 700w I was baffled by this, I had a number I needed to call that listed letters (say 1-800-GO-FEDEX), and I don’t have the letter to number association memorized — I needed a dial pad that showed me the letter to number association for phones.  The keyboard on the Treo 700w does not provide such information.  It didn’t strike me to hit the Call button again to bring up more options, I was in fact baffled as to how to get to the full screen dial-pad I so needed at the time.  Of course, I hadn’t read the manual (shoot me) but this usability paradigm had me stumped for a bit and I started to think that the Today screen was the only place you could enter a phone number or choose a speed dial.

This is neither a good nor bad aspect, it’s just something Palm has done differently and takes some getting used to.  Palm really emphasizes doing things from the Today screen and so there’s great options for setting up speed dial buttons and associating pictures to them (go to Start > Settings > Today > Items > Speed Dial > Options to add speed dial buttons and pictures for your contacts). 

Some niceties are if you have a picture associated to a contact, their picture shows up when they call.  You can also set a differing ring tone based on whether the caller is “Known” (in your stored contacts) or “Unknown” (not in your stored contacts).  Turning off the ring tone completely is easy to do via the hardware button on the top right of the device.  Placing a call on hold is done simply by hitting the left top button during a call, the screen displays Hold right above the button so you know its function.  Conferencing is fairly easy, you simply hit the Call button while in a call, select the contact you want to dial — meanwhile the other caller is automatically put on hold — and then when the second caller picks up you can conference in the first by hitting the top left button that now displays “Conference” above it.  It’s all much simpler than any complex office phone system I’ve used where you have to memorize agonizingly complex button stroked to conference together even just people within your office. 

Voicemail is also very easy to use, when you dial voicemail it displays VCR style buttons — if you have different voicemail boxes you can actually customize the button number to function mapping so you don’t have to memorize what certain numbers do in various voicemail boxes you might have — just enter it into the 700w once and forget about it.

So overall, the Palm Treo 700w as a phone is highly usable, even a pleasure I would say, to use as a voice communication device.

Data and EVDO

On the data and internet front, all the heavy lifting is done by the cellular radio. It features support for Verizon’s EVDO 3G network, as well as the older but more widely available 1xRTT network.

While it’s not in competition with wired broadband connections, Verizon’s EVDO network provides quite a lot of speed. While it can peak as high as 1 megabit, realistic speeds for a mobile device are usually in the 400-500 Kbit range, with latency hovering around 250 milliseconds. Even 1xRTT is reasonably fast for cellular data–an average of 120 Kbits with 380ms lag when close in to civilization.

That speed starts to take a hit if you move outside the urban centers, though. The first drop is when you leave the EVDO coverage areas and start using 1xRTT. Even then, the connection is snappy so long as you’re near to where Verizon hooks the network into the internet. But farther out, it appears that they backhaul the connection from tower, to tower, to tower, rather than connecting a local tower to the internet. While it’s hard to blame them, given the decreased demand out here, this causes significant increases in the latency of the connection–how long it takes to send a request and get a response. Normal response times for most cellular internet systems range in the 250 to 400 millisecond range, as compared to 50-150 for landline broadband.

Around my home, 30 miles east south east of Buffalo, connection lag was at a whopping 1688 milliseconds–a higher lag, I’ll note, than my home internet connection, which relies on bouncing a signal off a communications satellite in geosync orbit 22,500 miles above the surface of the Earth–this requires a “mere” 1400ms. On the bright side, average 1xRTT speed was higher out here, around 140 Kbits, thanks to less traffic clogging the Verizon towers.

So the moral of this story is, you’ve got a fast internet connection on the 700w, just don’t count on it being fast everywhere.

The 700w’s Bluetooth is the do-it-all connection method. With it, you can hook the Treo up to GPS receivers, keyboards, and even a Bluetooth mouse. The most important Bluetooth option, though, is headsets. To try this out, I paired the 700w with an older Nokia headset that I had laying around, and gave it a try. Sure enough, pairing went smoothly, and I was able to answer calls right from the headset controls.

Of course, Verizon being Verizon, they’ve managed to do something nasty to the 700w. In this case, they’ve disabled Bluetooth dialup networking, so you can’t use the 700w as a modem via BT. You can still use the Treo as a modem via USB, but this requires additional third-party software, so it’s not something that you can set up on a moment’s notice. It also requires the USB cable, and that the Treo be physically tethered to the laptop: again, not something that lends itself to being on the go. Not to put too fine a point on it, it’s a pain, and most off-putting.

Once you do get up and running–a process of about 15 to 60 minutes, depending on roadblocks and catastrophes–you can surf well enough. The internet connection is about as fast on a laptop as it is on the Treo itself, at least while running on 1xRTT.

I do have to ding the 700w for not having WiFi. Yes, I hear the people who say that WiFi isn’t neccessary if you have EVDO. I, on the other hand, still prefer it. WiFi allows me to access my home network, transfer files and folders, faster and more easily, without the need for a VPN. While I expect I could eventually do it over the internet with the 700w, it would be far slower, and setting up a VPN is a rather high-end endeavor for my home network. WiFi is also faster than EVDO, as much as ten times faster, and it can be used in places that EVDO can’t. So while it may not be absolutely neccessary, I like to have a full stable of communication options. That said, there is a lot to be said for the always present, instant-on internet connection afforded by cellular.

Audio

The Treo features a somewhat specialized 2.5mm combination headphone/microphone jack. This is primarily to accommodate standard 2.5mm mobile phone headsets, while still allowing for stereo output. To hook up a pair of standard 3.5mm headphones, you’ll need an adapter. These should be sold at any reasonable equipped Radio Shack.

The main speaker for the device, used for rings and the speakerphone mode, is placed on the back of the case. This lead to a little bit of volume loss if it’s set on a flat surface, but it still has more than enough power that you’ll hear an incoming call. The speakerphone sounds good as well, with very little tinniness. It might not be adequate for a particularly loud environment, but it’s very much suitable for most places you’d want to use it.

Battery

The 700w is powered by an 1800 milliamp-hour Lithium Ion battery, the same capacity and design as the battery of the 650. Treo upgraders rejoyce, as any spare or extended batteries you’ve bought are still useful.

Palm and Verizon advertise about 4.7 hours of “talk time” on the 700w’s standard battery. Talk time is, if you’re not aware, the amount of time that the device can be on and transmitting or receiving via its radio. This includes talking on the phone, wireless sync, and internet access. The companies also claim a total of 15 days “standby” time, with the device off waiting for a call. From my experience, I’d estimate the talk time at 4.5 hours, right near the Palm/Verizon projection.

It’s difficult to provide a single figure for battery life on a converged device, since phone use and PDA use each drain power differently, and there’s no one standard mixture of usage to fit everybody. That said, the 700w does quite well for itself on battery consumption–I took it through a full day of very intense use, of both the radio and the PDA functions, and it came through with 40% of the battery power left. A more moderate user could probably go two or three days easily without charging, and a casual user could go even longer. For a rough estimate of average use, with a mix of phone calls, internet access, and PDA usage, I would estimate the 700w could definitely go for 8 hours of continuous use. Past that, you’ll need a spare standard or extended battery.

Input

The keys on the 700w are much smaller than, say, the keys on the HTC Apache, or other landscape models. So if you’re not already accustomed to a Treo-size keyboard, you’ll have a steeper learning curve in terms of being comfortable with the keyboard. Straight out of the box, I found that my text input speed was considerably slower on the Treo than on the Apache. On the other hand, the Treo is much more friendly to one-handed operation, both dialing and text input, than the Apache is. So you’re left with six of one, or a half dozen of the other. With either method, you sacrifice some usability, but in a device that’s primarily phone-oriented like the Treo, the one-handed system is definitely the way to go.

There were, unfortunately, a few annoyances in the keyboard. For instance, there’s no key combination that gives you a colon. Semicolon, yes, but no colon. To get a colon, you have to hit Alt, which brings up an on-screen menu of special characters. You then scroll down the list to the colon, and hit enter. How exactly do you create an internet-enabled device without providing a colon on the keyboard? This aside, the main aggrivation was the uncomfortable placement of certain keys, due to the reduced space available. For instance, the key which produces a / resides at the upper left corner of the keyboard, rather than the upper right side as is conventional in QWERTY designs. While unavoidable due to the limited number of keys, this sort of thing can throw you off until you become accustomed to the placement of all the keys.

Once you do manage to get a feel for the keyboard, input becomes easier and more fluid, with your fingers finding the keys without having to figure out which ones do what. I’m not a great fan of thumb keyboards in general, but at they go, the Treo’s is quite nice. While small, it provides very adequate text input, and is comfortable enough for you to use for surfing, inputting contacts, or even some email. Not too much, though, or you’ll end up with the dreaded Blackberry Thumb.

Camera

There’s not much to say about the 1.3 megapixel camera in the Treo. It’s there. It’s typically middling quality. It does very poorly in low light. Rather than belabor it more, I’ll let the sample photos speak for themselves. Both photos were taken at maximum quality and resolution, and have not been recompressed or altered in any way.

Cat #1 in low light (1280 x 1024, 83 KB)

Cat #2 in broad daylight (1280 x 1024, 102 KB)

The biggest issue is a combination of terribly low-light performance–the norm on embedded cameras–and a lack of vividness and contrast even in well lit photos. While suitable for some purposes, I wouldn’t want to try pleasure photography with this.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that it doesn’t have WiFi, or more RAM, or a better screen, the Treo 700w is still a fine little device. It’s primarily business-oriented, with a minimum of luxuries–practically the very definition of the Treo line. But as with its predecessors, that’s not really a bad thing. The battery life is pretty good, the keyboard works well, and overall, it’s certainly one of the most appealing PocketPC phones on the market. It’s not quite a replacement to the Treo 650, but it’s not meant to be. The 700w is a new chapter in the Treo line, and I have the feeling that it’s going to be a good one for Palm.

Pros:

  • EVDO
  • Plenty of storage
  • Exchange sync
  • Well balanced and polished design
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Small screen resolution
  • Limited RAM
  • No WiFi

Bottom Line:

Another winner for Palm.


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