Review: Treo 700p - InformationWeek

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Review: Treo 700p

Palm has fixed the memory issues, increased the quality of the camera, and made a host of improvements that add up to the best Treo ever--and for Palm OS fans, the best smart phone you can buy anywhere.

It wasn't long after Palm's first-ever foray into the Windows Mobile market with the Treo 700w that rumors started flying about a Palm OS version of the hardware. Well, five months later we have it: the Treo 700p.

The 700p is nearly identical to the 700w, the only difference is a 320x320 screen instead of the 700w's 240x240 screen, and some minor differences in key labeling to accommodate the different OS requirements. It is also almost identical to the Treo 650, with a few major improvements. Chief among those is the upgrade of the 650's 0.3 MP camera to a 1.3 MP version (the same as the 700w's) -- which takes 1280x1024 resolution pictures -- and a bump from 32MB of memory to 128MB (again, matching the 700w.)

The increase in memory will be the most welcome change for power users, as memory limitations were one of the top complaints. Unlike the 700w, most of the 60MB of user memory is actually available for use. In testing, the device was responsive and didn't suffer any major hangs, with one exception. Overall, however, performance is significantly and noticeably faster on the 700p compared with the 650.

The Blazer web browser continues the tradition of poorly performing, buggy web browsers that has been a hallmark of the handheld computing experience. One improvement is that you can now see full URLs, unlike on the 650, which limited you to a seeing only part of a URL at one time.

The Treo 700p comes with several tools for mail, contact and calendar management. VersaMail, the old Palm workhorse for e-Mail is included, as are an Exchange client called Sprint Business Connection and a tool called GoodLink. GoodLink looks to be equivalent to the Wireless Sync product offered by Verizon for the 700w, which allows mail, contacts and calendar items to be synched remotely via a data connection. Unlike the Wireless Sync feature, which is available to all Verizon customers with the 700w, GoodLink is only available to Sprint business customers, and at a significant cost.

Like the 700w, the 700p comes with Bluetooth support. According to published reports, Sprint will allow the 700p to be used as a data modem (either directly or via Bluetooth) for a monthly charge (up to $50/month for unlimited data). On the Sprint Web site, it shows an option for $25 for using your Treo as a modem limited only by your minutes. Since the 700p works on Sprint's EVDO Power Vision network, that can theoretically be quite useful, assuming you live or work in one of the limited locations that Spring EVDO service is available. Note that with the Treo 650, you have to use third-party software to use it as a modem -- and, of course, it's a lot slower -- but Sprint charges only $15 per month for unlimited data with the 650.

Trying out the SprintTV service in the Boston metro area, we found that the quality of the streaming video was nothing to write home about, and was still subject to fits and starts even when the quality of the connection was high. Outside of the EVDO network, forget about using any of Sprint's "Sprint Vision" video products.

As a phone, we found the interface a bit annoying compared to the 700w. For one thing, the green "connection" button does nothing at all unless you're on the phone screen. It's essentially a wasted button (and a large one too.) On the 700w, pressing the connect button brings you to a calling menu from any application. In addition, the 700p "home screen" (the normal Palm OS home menu) has no way to dial a number; you have to press the "phone" button first.

One minor improvement: Those who use their Treo as a clock may appreciate the inclusion of the time and date to the Keyguard prompt, so you don't need to add a password or even click the button to check the time.

Now that the 700w has had a firmware upgrade that fixes a lot of the initial teething problems with Windows Mobile 5, it's a much stronger competitor to the 700p than it would have been a month ago. Given that Verizon has a wider EVDO data network than Sprint, offers the Wireless Sync product for free, and (in our opinion) has a better phone/PDA integration, there's little reason to go with the 700p unless you're a real Palm OS fan. The only two advantages the 700p offers are better memory management (which, admittedly, is a major pain in the rear on the 700w) and a high resolution screen. However, since the screen is the same physical size, it's not clear how much of an advantage that's going to be for anyone without superhuman eyesight.

The only other factor that swings things in favor of the 700p is the fact that Sprint is explicitly allowing its use as a modem. Since Verizon is also planning to roll out the 700p soon, it will be interesting to see if they plan to change their policy on the 700s to allow data usage as well.

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