|Wed Aug 27, 2008 - 11:45 AM EDT - By Dieter Bohn
Cross-posted at WMExperts
The Treo Pro is the latest Windows Mobile-based Treo from Palm. It is due to be available in Europe in September and available in the US later this Fall in an unlocked, non-carrier-subsidized form for $549. The Treo Pro is loaded with great features, including Tri-Band 3G and Quad-Band EDGE for worldwide, high speed data as well as GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, a 320x320 Touchscreen, and the Treo's signature front-facing QWERTY keyboard. It is one powerful smartphone, focused primarily on the business user but with plenty of features that will appeal to consumers in the "power user" segment as well.
The Treo Pro was officially announced one week ago amid a bit of fanfare (and the usual pre-release leaks). For many Treo-faithful, it represents the culmination of literally years of waiting, asking, and hoping. The Treo Pro makes good on nearly every single "When will this happen" that Treo lovers have been asking about, including:
Running the latest version of Windows Mobile, version 6.1, the Treo Pro packs more power and more features than any Treo before it (with the possible exception of the Treo 800w) into a package that's not only small by Treo standards, but is small by current smartphone standards, full stop.
Here's the short version of this review: I can choose from an embarrassing variety of smartphones, from the BlackBerry Curve to the Centro to the iPhone 3G to various Windows Mobile smartphones. Since I received the Treo Pro, it's what's been in my pocket and even with the devices I see on the horizon in the next few months, it's the device I expect to keep in my pocket for the foreseeable future.
This review will focus primarily on what's new and interesting on the Treo Pro: hardware, custom design touches, custom software, and the like. We won't be delving too much into Windows Mobile, a powerful operating system with very complete support for enterprise push email and a large body of 3rd party software. If you're new to Windows Mobile, I recommend you check out TreoCentral's reviews of previous Windows Mobile Treos -- you can read about our experiences back when we were first introduced to Windows Mobile ourselves.
Alright, let's get to the Treo Pro!
In the Box: The Treo Pro comes in a very professional-looking (and iPhone-reminiscent), small, white box. Inside, besides the Treo Pro itself, you'll find a small power-brick with a USB port for charging, a USB Sync/Charge cable, and a pair of stereo hybrid headphones. The rest of the packaging is fairly light -- less is more with this sort of thing. Palm has also decided to get rid of the standard install CD, instead including an innovative auto-install feature on the Treo Pro itself (more on that later).
Build Quality: The Treo Pro's build quality is fantastic. There's very little "flex" to the device and overall it feels solid. The battery door slides on with a solid 'click' and the edges around it are very close to the main device -- it almost feels like a solid, single unit.
The front face the device is almost completely flush, with just a tiny ridge around the edges. The main buttons have a decent amount of click, although the main front four are of a different type than Treo users are used to. Even the keyboard is more solid than it appears to be -- more on that below.
The flush touchscreen (we've waited so long!) is fairly responsive -- though of course it's no iPhone. There is a little bit of 'give' to it, but not enough to worry. There appears to be an extra layer of film covering the entire top-half of the front face - it definitely has a plastic (as opposed to glass) feel but doesn't appear likely to scratch too easily. Nevertheless, most users will want to invest in a screen protector.
The very (very) welcome additions on the bottom, the 3.5mm headset jack and the microUSB connector are also both solidly built -- it appears from my use thus far that the Treo Pro won't suffer from the broken headset jacks so common on previous Treos.
To call the Treo Pro a fingerprint magnet isn't exactly accurate. Magnets aren't a powerful enough metaphor. The Treo Pro attracts fingerprints as a black hole attracts light -- it sucks them inexorably in and you can see them for a time, but eventually they become invisible as they're replaced with newer fingerprints. Which is another way of saying "you get used to it." Mostly. Hopefully we'll see full body skins soon.
The front of the Treo Pro is where most of the action is. The device is dominated by the square, flush 320x320 touchscreen. It would be nice if the screen were a bit larger and/or stretched just a bit further towards the edges of the device.
Above the screen is the earpiece and a LED indicator to the left of that. The LED is invisible when it's not lit (a nice touch) and does one thing and one thing only: indicate charging status.
Underneath the screen is our favorite logo and a redesigned main button board. The Send and End keys are rounded and stick out enough to be findable with your fingers. They flank the 4 main application buttons which are flush with the front of the device, though they depress clearly and don't feel mushy in the way buttons of this style can. In the middle, of course, is the traditional 5-way D-Pad. The D-Pad is easy to use -- the ridges are tall enough and differentiated enough from the surrounding buttons to prevent mis-pressed.
The center button has the same semi-rubberized feel as the main keyboard and also lights up when you have waiting voicemail. It's very subtle unless the room is dark and it's also very infrequent. It only works for voicemail, too. Palm told me that, like with the LED, they prefer the KISS philosophy when it comes to alerts. Most users don't like trying to figure out what different blinks might mean, so Palm doesn't have an indicator try to do double duty. I wonder if RIM has some sort of patent on a center button lighting up to let you know you have email waiting, because it would certainly be a welcome feature here.
The rear of the Treo Pro is a single piece / battery cover. It's very hard, shiny black plastic and doesn't look like it will scratch very easily, but it does pick up fingerprints like Pauly Shore picks up bad movie scripts: i.e. with reckless abandon.
The 2 megapixel camera sits in the top center, cyclops-style, though the clear lens 'cover' is just recessed enough to prevent it from getting casually scratched.
The best part of about the back of the Treo Pro is the off-set speaker grille. It curves around to the right side of the device just enough so that it's not muffled when sitting on a flat surface.
On the top we we have the classic Treo switch, the kind that works the way I believe a ringer-switch ought to work -- it silences everything. Next to it is a button that hasn't made an appearance on the Treo since the Treo 600: a power button. More on this below in the "Design Touches" section, for now just know that it's good that it's here.
Over on the left we have a single, long 'rocker' button for volume. Like with Windows Mobile Treos past, it defaults to adjusting the ringer volume but pops up a bubble that also lets you adjust the main 'PDA' volume as well.
Beneath that is the 'Side button' that will only invoke an action with a long press. I'm not sure what focus group convinced Palm that the side button should only work after you've held it down for several seconds, but when I find out I'm going to egg their houses.
The right side is clean until you get to the bottom, where you'll find the IR Port, WiFi button, and stylus. The WiFi button is difficult to press unless you use a fingernail -- accidental presses are very unlikely. The stylus seems very secure in its silo down here, it shouldn't fall out on anybody. Additionally, the metal stylus makes a comeback (hooray), although it's not especially long at 2.85 inches (boo). Then again, I prefer a stubby stylus to a telescoping stylus.
On the bottom of the Treo Pro you'll find the microphone, the 3.5mm headset jack, and the microUSB port. As I mentioned above, the two ports feel very sturdy. The plastic here has a textured finish that looks just a bit out of place. Really, any complaints about this end of the device ring hollow -- there's a standard 3.5mm headset jack down here!
One detail that's easy to miss is that there's also a lanyard/charm anchor at the bottom. You take off the battery door to thread it in. A nice touch.
The battery cover takes a bit of doing to slide off -- you need to grip the keyboard with your fingers and push the battery cover up with your thumb. It's fairly easy once you get the hang of it, but still aggravating because it's necessary every time you want to access the memory card.
Once you remove the battery things are actually very clean underneath. There's the large, flat 1500 mAh battery, the microSD slot, and a reset button underneath the stylus that you need to use the stylus to press. Since holding down the power button only puts the phone into Airplane mode and pressing the end key just locks the screen, this is your easiest way to reset the device.
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