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Treo 800w

Mon Jul 14, 2008 - 8:10 AM EDT - By Dieter Bohn


(Cross-posted at WMExperts)


The Treo 800w is a long-awaited update to the Treo 700wx and many, of not most, have thought that the wait for the device has been too long. In that long period, Palm hasn't created anything that will knock your socks off on a first impression. Spec-wise, there's nothing to complain about here -- if I had a list of everything I expect on a CDMA Windows Mobile device, the 800w matches pretty much all of them. Were it released a year ago, it would be the undisputed king of Windows Mobile Pro devices. The Treo 800w sells for $249.99 after a 2-year contract. Released today, it holds a deserved place at the top of the CDMA heap, but devices that will one-up it are on the horizon.

As you've seen here and elsewhere, the looks of the 800w are somewhat ...underwhelming. It's a very straightforward device that matches the classic Treo form-factor (minus the antenna) -- though I will say right now that it very nearly perfects it. I am now and may always be a believer in the core design idea of the Treo: a great, front-facing QWERTY keyboard that can be used one-handed combined with a touch screen. There's nothing available (at the present moment, in the US) to match it, but Palm still manages to improve on that basic design idea with every iteration.

The Treo 800w's dimensions are 4.41" x 2.28" x .73" -- and the reduced width and thickness really do make a difference. It's not as curved on the back of the device as the Treo 750 but it still feels very good in the hand. Overall, the 800w feels like it's just at the cusp of being too small (in the width department) for serious use.

The Blue color looks pretty decent (though we'd still prefer a black or grey version) and the 800w also thankfully eschews the latest fingerprint-friendly trend of glossy finishes for the classic soft-touch paint.

It weighs exactly 5 ounces with the battery and has both a nice heft and a good balance to it -- overall my only complaints about the look and feel of the device are it's conservative styling and its thickness. I can guess why Palm decided to stick with the recessed screen (it makes a certain class of customer feel less worried about scratching the screen), but I don't agree with the decision.

Around the Device

Treo 800w

The front of the Treo sports its recessed 320x320 screen (it's great, more on that below), the QWERTY keyboard, a LED, the 5-way dpad, 2 soft-buttons, and 6 buttons. In other words, it has 2 more front-facing buttons than the 700wx and they're a welcome addition. The soft buttons are somewhat odd-looking integrated into the casing, but that's a tiny gripe to be rolled into the overall gripe that though the 800w has great specs, it lacks anything approaching sex-appeal.

In any case, the buttons are not mushy or clacky, they act and feel just as you'd like buttons to act and feel. There may be one caveat for 700wx owners to that, however, as the 800w now matches the behavior of nearly every other Windows Mobile device out there when it comes to the red End key. Hitting that while in an app will take you back to the Today screen, hitting it again will power the screen off. Like with the 750, however, you can work around that by hitting Opt-End to activate the keyguard and power down the screen without losing your place.

The back is a little curved at the edges but almost entirely flat. You remove the battery door by just pushing down, but it seems to hold on well. It's easier to remove than the Centro battery door but doesn't feel like it'll get flimsy anytime soon. You've also got your speaker grille here (it's plenty loud) and your 2.0 megapixel camera with requisite self-portrait mirror. Unfortunately, Palm did not take the lesson they learned from the Centro and left the speaker to sit precisely flush with the table, slightly muffling the sound.

Treo 800w

On the right side we have an IR port -- let's hope that Palm didn't expend too many resources keeping that out-dated tech in the device. You'll also find a slot for a microSD card. The door covering the slot feels relatively sturdy and shouldn't break or fall off on you (hi there, Motorola Q9h!). I'll note here that the 800w read my 8gig microSDHC card with no problems, in fact it was very fast.

Treo 800w

On the left side you've got your volume buttons and the traditional Treo side button. Palm has stuck with the nigh-inexplicable behavior of having the side button do nothing on a single press, requiring instead you hold it down to activate anything. Since the Treo 800w doesn't support Push-to-Talk, it would have been nice if Palm had allowed both single presses and long presses to initiate actions.

Treo 800w

On the bottom you've got a microUSB port and that's it. No hated 2.5 headset jack, but also no 3.5 headset jack either. Like with HTC devices, you'll need to either use the included stereo headsets or get yourself an adapter. I greet this change with mixed feelings, but mostly good ones. The classic Treo "Athena" connector is better dubbed "Anathema," good riddance to bad rubbish. As for using microUSB instead of standard USB, I've got no bones to pick with that.

Treo 800w

And finally we have the top of the device featuring the silence switch. I'll point out to my iPhone using friends (and, yes, my own alter ego) that this is a proper ringer switch, not the bollocks that you'll find on the iPhone. When you enable the ringer switch on a Treo, the external speaker is silent, period, whether you're getting an SMS or playing a game or having an alarm go off. That's how it's supposed to be, folks, and that's how it works on the 800w. Next to the ringer switch is the WiFi toggle button, more on that below.

...This is as good a place as any to tell you that in the box comes the 800w, a single battery, a wall charger, a microUSB cable, a set of stereo headphones that plug into that microUSB port, and a cd plus various manuals.

Next Page: Keyboard, Screen, and Specs >>

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