|Wed Aug 27, 2008 - 11:45 AM EDT - By Dieter Bohn|
Every smartphone is made up of hundreds of design trade-offs. With the Treo Pro, the biggest change might be the flush touchscreen. It enables the Treo Pro to become very thin. Another advantage of the flush screen is that it's easier to use your thumb to tap elements at the edge of the screen. Most important would be the upper-right "close" corner of the screen, though it's also convenient for grabbing the scroll bar as well.
As happy as I am to finally see a thin Treo with a flush touchscreen, there is one design tradeoff I'm not very happy about: Palm excised the traditional Windows Mobile 'soft buttons,' i.e. the two hardware buttons traditionally found at the bottom of the screen that map to the two bottom menus in Windows Mobile.
Instead, Palm has applied the same "you can easily touch the edges of the screen" principle to the soft buttons -- the area is actually quite easy to tap with your thumb and Palm also told me that the touch sensitive area at the bottom actually extends a few millimeters underneath the screen proper as well. For 90% of Windows Mobile apps, it's no problem at all.
There are places where having physical soft buttons are more important, however. The most prominent example is Pocket Internet Explorer in full screen mode -- exiting that without soft buttons requires holding your finger down on the screen to pop up a context menu. It would have been nice to have soft buttons on the Treo Pro, but it's not something I think should prevent anybody from purchasing the device.
There are other hardware/software elements on the Treo Pro that work quite well, of course. I've already mentioned the voicemail indicator on the D-Pad. Another element that deserves mention is the WiFi button. When WiFi is off, pressing the WiFi button automatically turns WiFi on and sets the Treo looking for a network. Holding it down while WiFi is on turns it off.
Users will want to peruse of the WiFi settings, however, as the Treo Pro is a little over-aggressive in turning WiFi off by default. I understand that's probably for the best to have the default settings err on the side of battery life, but it's still annoying.
I mentioned earlier that the Treo Pro signals the return of a power button separate from the End key, it's a welcome return too. The End key on Treos was getting overloaded with functionality -- ending calls, going back to the Today Screen, turning off and locking the screen, and powering off the phone completely. The hassle was that unless you hit Opt End at the same time, you'd go back to the Today Screen before you could turn off the screen.
The power button eliminates that by letting you just turn off and lock the screen in whatever app you're in with one press. That that app is then waiting for you when you power the Treo on again. Holding down the power button conveniently turns on Airplane mode, turning off all the radios on the Treo. One odd note: Palm's guide says that holding down the End key should power off the phone completely, but on my Treo it simply locks the screen.
Another old-school Treo feature has finally made its way to Windows Mobile Treos with the Treo Pro: proper Option Button functionality. On all Treos, you can hit Opt another main button to access secondary applications. For example, I usually map Opt Mail to my media player. The hassle with previous Windows Mobile Treos is that you had to hold down Opt and the other button at the same time, requiring two hands.
With the Treo Pro, you can hit Opt and then hit the next button in succession -- matching the behavior of all PalmOS Treos and Centros. It's a small thing, but it helps keep the Treo Pro optimized for one-handed usage.
One last note: the flush screen on the Treo Pro is begging for some "flick scroll" action, which is nowhere to be found on the Treo Pro. I'll also complain here that the Treo Pro could really use a proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor for screen brightness, and a flash for the camera.
Let's run down the specs and comment on them:
Platform: Microsoft� Windows Mobile� 6.1 Professional Edition
Good to see the Treo Pro out of the gate with the latest version of the Windows Mobile OS, including full enterprise support, threaded text, and a slightly improved battery life.
Processor: Qualcomm� MSM7201 400MHz
So far the Treo Pro isn't quite as snappy as the Treo 800w (more on this below), but it has handled even heavy tasks like video and multitasking as well or better than any current-gen Windows Mobile device.
Display: 320x320 transflective color TFT flush touchscreen
Finally we can put the 240x240 screen resolution out to pasture. Of course, 320x320 is going to feel very cramped itself in the near future as more people experience higher resolution devices from HTC, BlackBerry, and Apple.
Radio: HSDPA/UMTS/EDGE/GPRS/GSM radio ; Tri-band UMTS � 850MHz, 1900MHz, 2100MHz ; Quad-band GSM � 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz
Worldwide 3G and thus far the 3G seems very stable, reliable, and fast. I'm averaging anywhere from 450 kbps to 800 kbps here on our brand-new 3G network. Things might be slower in a bigger city with more 3G traffic.
Wi-Fi: 802.11b/g with WPA, WPA2, and 801.1x authentication
The WiFi is good and it's worth noting again that the Treo Pro has a dedicated button for toggling it on and off.
GPS: Built-in GPS
The GPS is a-GPS and fully autonomous, which is to say it will work fine even when there are no towers in range and it will work even better when it can get assistance from cell towers. It's also not locked down in any way, it's fully available to all apps.
Bluetooth� Wireless Technology: Version: 2.0 Enhanced Data Rate
What can I say: the Bluetooth works, but I haven't had a chance yet to do extensive testing. A2DP / Stereo Bluetooth is here too, as is infrared for those of you who like to kick it old school.
Memory: 256MB (100MB user available), 128MB RAM
It's not the most capacious device out there, but it's well within norms for Windows Mobile these days. I haven't had to do much in the way of memory management, either. The Treo Pro and Windows Mobile 6.1 handle everything pretty well. That said, there are plenty of memory management tools built-into the Treo Pro, including the much-loved "Tap X to exit program" option as well as the HTC Today Screen task manager (see below). After a soft reset, with 8 or so apps (some of which are very large) and with a couple pieces of software running, I'm currently working with:
Storage: Total 105.55 MB, 69.79 MB in use, 35.76 MB free
Program: Total 101.18 MB, 35.79 MB in use, 65.39 free
Camera: 2.0 megapixels with up to 8x digital zoom and video capture
It doesn't have a flash, sadly, but it takes decent-enough photos when there's adequate light. More on this below.
Battery: Removable, rechargeable 1500mAh lithium-ion; Up to 5.0 hours talk time and up to 250 hours standby
I'm averaging about two days of moderately heavy usage on this battery. 1500 mAh is on the upper end for Windows Mobile Smartphones these days and I'm finding it to be plenty. This is with 3G too. All but the heaviest of users should be getting a full day's usage off a single charge.
Expansion: microSDHC cards (up to 32GB supported)
Pow. It's a little aggravating that you have to remove the battery cover to access the memory card slot, but at least you don't need to remove the battery. Support for memory cards up to 32GB also helps quite a bit -- let's hope the days of hacking on Treos to find ways to get them to support larger-sized memory cards are behind us.
Connector: MicroUSB� 2.0 for synchronization and charging Audio: 3.5mm stereo headset jack
Two great standards that taste great together. The 3.5mm headset jack is also 'standard' in how it works with microphones -- headsets made for the BlackBerry or the iPhone are confirmed to work for both music and phone with the Treo Pro.
Dimensions: Length: 4.49", Width: 2.36", Depth: 0.53", Weight: 4.69 oz
Thin and with a decent heft, but not too bad. Be sure to check out the many comparison photos from our earlier article, "Treo Pro Unboxing, Gallery, and Comparisons." Given everything that's been packed in here, it almost feels like a miracle that the device is as tiny as it is.
The Treo Pro's keyboard takes its design cues from Palm's Centro. It's not as Centro-esque as it appears at first blush, however. The Treo Pro's keys are slightly more spaced apart, flatter, harder, and almost imperceptibly slightly larger. The net effect is a keyboard that's more usable than the Centro's.
It pains me to say it, though, the Treo Pro's keyboard is the least 'Pro' part of the device. After a week with the device, I'm proficient with it but not great. I find that I'm often typing with my thumbnails instead of the flat of my thumbs. For heavy-duty emailers, it doesn't compare well to the more traditional Treo 800w keyboard, the Motorola Q9h's keyboard, or the BlackBerry Bold's keyboard. The Pro's keyboard simply isn't large enough.
Roughly, I'd say that for speed, accuracy, and quality I'd rate the keyboards thusly:
I'm actually quite good with all of the above and would have no problem making any of them my main device, keyboard-wise, but there's no denying that the Treo Pro's keyboard is closer to "good enough" than it is to "really good."
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