P50 the Treo slayer? Not quite.
Ever since its first appearance early 2004, people have called BenQs P50 a Treo killer. Having spent a little bit of time with the device, we think they should reconsider.
The P50 is the first Windows Mobile device that copies the beloved form factor of the Treo, and it has some impressive hardware specs: Quadband GSM, Intel PXA272 platform, 64 MB memory, WiFi, Bluetooth, IrDA, Qwerty keyboard, SD expansion slot, 1.3 MP camera with flash, and a 240x320 262k TFT screen.
We didnt spend more than 30 minutes with P50, and were unable to use the phone functionality (no SIM chip present), so a more detailed comparison will follow upon release. This comparison will mainly focus on the hardware aspects and basic operations.
Size and quality
The P50 felt very solid in our hands and has a plain conservative look to it. Nothing flashy and we dont think it is needed. Size wise it is a little taller and wider than the Treo 650 (4.7 x 2.4 x 0.8 versus 4.4 x 2.3 x 0.9), but if you include the height of the Treos external antenna they are almost identical. Tie.
Weight wise the P50 rings in at 5.3 ounces, and the 650 at 6.3 ounces. Advantage P50.
Strangely the P50 has its SD card slot located at the bottom of the phone, where the sync connector is on the Treo. At the bottom you will also find a barrel like power connector. The sync jack (which is a mini-usb connector) and the headset jack is located 2/3 up the right side, which makes it very hard to use a slide-in cradle or a docking car-kit with the P50. Advantage Treo 650.
P50s physical screen size is slightly larger than the Treo 650s because of its vertical design, but the Treo screen packs more pixels (320x320 versus 240x320) and is way brighter and sharper. There is a significant difference in the quality between the screens. Advantage Treo 650.
Using the P50s keyboard reminded me of traveling back in time to the 1st generation Treo, the Treo 180. Why? Because there is NO backlight on the keyboard! This is an unforgivable oversight by BenQ, because it makes the phone almost useless in darker settings. On the other side, the Treo 650s keyboard backlight is almost blindingly bright.
The P50s keyboard also feels a little cramped, possible because all the four keyboard rows are filled with keys and they are raised very little. On the 650, there are empty spaces on each sides of the bottom row which helps open the keyboard up a little bit.
In addition to the standard keys, there is a function key, a customizable quick launch key, and a dedicated start on the P50. A number pad is overlaid on the right side of the keyboard. An ok first try, but strong Advantage Treo 650.
Buttons and 5-Way Navigation Pad
Above the keyboard on the P50 there is a 5-way navigation pad, two customizable soft buttons, and a set of answer / hang-up buttons. I had no problems using the navigation pad on the P50, although the Treo 650s curved shape is much easier on your thumb. Like the 650, pressing the green talk button always brings up the phone dialer.
On the top of the P50, there is a small power button. On the left side, there is a pair of volume up/down buttons, a customizable quick launch button, and a sliding lock switch. When the lock switch is moved into locked position, all keys (including the power key) are disabled. This is the P50s version of KeyGuard. On the right hand side, there is a small key to launch the camera.
There is no ring silencer switch, like on the Treo 650. While the phones offer a similar set of buttons, we fell that the sleek and well curved buttons of the buttons on the 650 are better than the P50s square and cramped approach. Small Advantage Treo 650.
Both phones are quad GSM phones, but the Treo 650 has two advantages when it comes to the cellular radio: It is also available in a CDMA version, and the GSM version supports Edge, which the P50 does not.
However, the lack of Edge on the P50 is easily compensated by the integrated 802.11b WiFi. Browsing the web over the WiFi connection was blazingly fast, and they even had Skype installed on the demo phones!
Both devices also support Bluetooth and IrDA. Advantage P50.
P50 claims 3-5 hours of talk time, the Treo 650 5-6 hours. Advantage Treo 650.
One handed usage
One area where the Treo 650 excels is one handed usage. You generally never have to use the stylus, unless you are using an older 3rd party application. One handed usage may sound trivial, but is essential to a good smartphone user experience.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the P50 which runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Generation. While you can perform a lot of functions from the keyboard, many of them quite cumbersome. For example, pressing OK or closing a window requires you do press Function key Return key (two hands required).
The next update the Windows Mobile, Window Mobile 2005 will greatly increase the ability to use the operating system one handed.
Advantage Treo 650.
Phone Application, SMS, Email etc
We did not get a chance to extensively test the phone application and SMS, but it is the same dialer found on other Windows Mobile devices. It compares pretty well to the Treo 650 (dial from contacts, call history etc), but for now we are not able to comment on it. Tie.
While the Treo 650 comes bundled with RealPlayer, the P50 comes with Windows Media Player 10 which allows for both music and videos in most formats. It also offers easy synchronization capabilities with PCs running Windows Media Player. Advantage P50.
To summarize: Good first attempt BenQ, but a Treo killer you got not. However, most of the issues will probably be resolved in the 2nd generation hardware and with the release of Windows Mobile 2005, so palmOne has to keep innovating to keep a step ahead.
A more detailed comparison will be available upon the P50s US release, which probably wont be until Q2 2005 at the earliest.