Palm's Treo 700w takes a better spin on Windows

Palm Treo 700w Windows PDA

Performance: A

Battery Life: B+

Features: A+

Value: B

Price: $399, with two-year service agreement from Verizon

Reviewer's comments: Putting a Windows interface on a Palm is an idea whose time has come. It's an attractive package, if you're willing to pay a slight premium for it.

Contact: Palm Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., (800) 881-7256, www.palm.com

Palm Treo 700w

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If you can ignore the rip in the fabric of the universe that was surely created when Palm devices started running Microsoft software, you will find that the new Treo 700w Smartphone is a spiffy, speedy workhorse.

The 700w runs the Windows Mobile 5.0.2.0 operating system, and thereby avoids many of the annoyances that most personal digital assistants running Microsoft Pocket PC exhibit. So different is Palm's version of Windows Mobile that after a week of testing the Treo 700w in the GCN Lab and out in the field, we realized that we never actually unholstered the stylus pen. We didn't need to.

Like other Treos, there is a QWERTY keyboard along the bottom of the unit, which helps navigation a great deal. But there is also a Windows key assigned to one of the standard function buttons. You no longer have to get out a stylus, tap the Start button on the screen and then select the program you want to run. Instead you just push the Windows key and use the directional pad to select a program to launch.

The 700w responds to commands seemingly in an instant, thanks to the Intel XScale 312MHz processor. There is also 128MB of nonvolatile memory, of which 60MB is accessible to a user for storage or to install applications.

Oddly enough, the screen is not quite as good as the ones we've seen on other Treo models. The 700w's screen has a resolution of only 240 by 240 pixels'it apparently had to be scaled down to meet Windows standards. Still, the display is capable of showing 16-bit color, about 65,000 colors, so it's not exactly hard on the eyes. Our test system came with Windows Media Player 10, and watching video on the phone was not only seamless, but also pretty darn good-looking.

Nice and compact

For a PDA with a backlit QWERTY keyboard, the Treo 700w is surprisingly small, coming in at 2.3-inches wide and 4.4-inches tall, not counting the little nub of an antenna on top. It is slightly less than an inch thick and weighs just 6.4 ounces, so slipping it into the inside pocket on your suit, or even your shirt pocket, is easy.

The unit we tested came with Verizon as the cellular service provider. Calls sounded great with the standard onboard speaker, though much better with an optional stereo headset plugged into the 2.5mm jack.

Verizon connects the Treo to its high-speed EVDO network for data transmission. If you happen to be in an area not covered by EVDO, it will default to the slower 1xRTT or IS95 signal.

There are some innovative features that came out of the Treo-Verizon combination. Instead of putting your phone in silent mode, you can have it roll calls over to SMS text messaging. When this happens, you can answer your phone by typing messages to your caller, assuming that person can receive them. Text-messaging communication might be an option you could use to answer your phone in some situations where actual talking might not be appropriate.

Battery life was pretty good for a unit with a touch screen, which normally makes the batteries drain a bit faster. In standby mode, the Treo lasted an entire week, with half its juice to spare. In constant phone-mode use on a road trip, it lasted more than four hours. It's rated to last a little under five.

The 700w comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera that, while not necessarily a business-like feature, can snap photos at 1,280 by 1,024 resolution, which is much higher than the screen can display. It also records fairly good video, with automatic light balancing that is accurate enough to move quickly from dark to bright viewing without significantly affecting visibility. PDA cameras do not normally impress us, but this one seems quite good.

For expansion junkies, the 700w comes with Multimedia Card, Secure Digital and SDIO slots. There is also Bluetooth 1.2 support, so you can beam and receive contacts, photos or files between devices.

At $399 with a two-year service agreement, the 700w is a little pricey, which could ultimately dissuade buyers. But you could look at it as the price you pay for a popular new handheld device that natively supports the software platform you're probably used to running on your desktop. Eventually, the Treo 700w could become the king of all Palms. If nothing else, it's nice to see someone other than Microsoft improving a Windows interface.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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