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Appeared on: Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Palm Treo 700p


1. Overview

Palm logoWe have been waiting for the arrival of the Treo 700p for some months now. Now, I can safely say that it is a reality since it is right here in the palm of my hand. In this review I will examine what is new compared to the previous Treo 650, what has changed and whether this Treo is worthy as an upgrade or new purchase.

Overview:

700p

The official specs from the Palm website are as follows:

Product information

What's in the Box?

According to the Palm website, the following are included:

What's included in the box

Included software

I found the included hardware and software to be a bit skimpy. I would have preferred that Palm include a Car Charger, a Bluetooth Headset and an SD card; after all, we are paying over $400 for this thing! The lack of a screen protector and a case are, almost unforgivable.

What' s New:

The new features of the 700p include the upgrade of the OS to Garnet Version 5.4.9, the upgrade of the camera to a 1.3 megapixel camera as opposed to a .3 MP VGA camera, Bluetooth 1.2 (instead of 1.1,) a memory boost to 128MB with 60 MB user accessible and the use of Sprint' s Powervision EvDO High speed network. I' ll deal with each new change in the appropriate context within the body of this review.

The function buttons at the top of the keyboard area are also different on the 700p. There is now a dedicated Green and Red button for placing and ending phone calls. The "home" and "menu" buttons on the 650 are no longer on top of the D-pad. The menu button has been moved to the lower right of the keyboard itself and the home button is now where the "Red" button used to be on the 650. I found it was very easy to get used to these changes.

Design:

650 -750 side by sideThe Treo 700p looks just like the 650 at first glance. Then, after a closer look, it looks just like the 700w with a different button configuration. The edges are rounded on the 700p. The case is a very nice Charcoal Grey with Chrome faceplate and highlights. The rocker switch on the left hand side has been replaced with two buttons for adjusting volume up and down. The small button under those two now activates the included voice recorder.

The Display is a gorgeous 320 x 320 screen that is much clearer than the 700w which is 240 x 240. The D-pad is now "squared off" as are the buttons on the keyboard. It felt to me, like there was "more real estate" on these buttons making them easier to use and type on.

The "silence" button is still on the top but now, when you move it from sound to silence it vibrates once to confirm this. A nice touch. Everything else looks just like the Treo 650 except the "Access Powered" logo on the back is obviously new.

It is the "Feel" of this new device that is hard to explain. In my hand, it feels smaller and lighter than the 650. I re-read the specs but then I asked my wife to look at  it and she confirmed that it just seems smaller and easier to "pocket." The curved edges make it easier for me to hold and more comfortable in the hand.


2. Features

Phone Features/Function:

Depending on your lingo or what you read, the Treo is a "Smartphone" with a touch screen - for many people that means it is a "phone" first. As a phone, there are several important areas of importance to look at.

Call Quality:

I found the call quality on the 700p to be a notch above the 650. Volume in the headset was certainly loud enough. When used as a speakerphone, however, the tiny speaker started distorting at higher volumes. This didn't affect my ability to hear the caller it was just not "crystal clear."

Placing calls is straightforward and easy. Hit the "phone" button and either dial numbers or navigate (using the d-pad) to stored favorite buttons. These buttons are easy to set up - just like on the 650. There is not the delay that many experienced on the 650. Calls go through very quickly and sounded very clean through the Treo itself and also through the Bluetooth devices I tested.

When a call comes in, a picture of the user (if you have stored the contact with a picture) along with the caller ID shows up on the screen. You now have the option of answering, ignoring (sending to voicemail) or responding immediately with an SMS message instead. This is particularly useful if you are in a situation where you cannot talk- but you need to respond to the call.

All calls are stored in your call log for easy retrieval at a later time.

The phone integrates effortlessly with the contacts that you HotSynced from your PC. The treo 700p can Sync with either the included Palm Desktop App or with Outlook.

The Top of the Phone screen shows you your battery life, signal strength (an extra bar has been added,) whether Bluetooth is enabled and active, and the GPS locator icon.

Bluetooth:

The Treo 700p ships with Bluetooth 1.2, an incremental improvement over 1.1 which was standard on the 650. I paired the 700p with various Headsets and Carkits with no trouble. The Bluetooth connection held for upwards of 20-25 feet away from the phone and call quality was as good or better than using the same headset on the 650.

Bluetooth peripherals, like GPS devices, were also easy to connect and use. I was also able to "Pair" my 700p with my computer and use Bluetooth to send and receive files as well as perform a Bluetooth Hotsync with the device. The pro side is that it is quick and cool - the con is that it is much slower than using the included USB cable.

The buzz on Bluetooth 1.2 is that it supports a true "Hands Free" protocol. Most Bluetooth 1.2 phones can use voice tags and voice dialing from a Bluetooth headset. We all know that this wasn't possible with the 650. Sadly, according to my own usage and what I have read, this version of the Treo is NO better in this regard. What a disappointment. Now, I will say that if your Car kit has the ability to have its own voice tags - they will then dial the Treo via Bluetooth. I hope that Palm will somehow fix this in the first of what will be many updates (according to past history) for the 700p.

Camera Features:

The 700p ships with a 1.3 megapixel camera – a huge improvement over the old VGA camera. Pictures were sharp and clear. From the camera screen you can easily navigate to your library, or activate the Video recorder. There is a 1x and 2x zoom feature on the camera but no flash is included. There is a self portrait mirror on the back. You can easily store or view your images on an SD card (not included) or in the main memory of the Treo.

One of the great features of an integrated device is the ability to easily email the pictures you take. I was able to use this feature effortlessly as I was on the 650.

The included video recorder was somewhat of a disappointment - as are most vide recorders on cell phones. The resolution is supposed to be 352-by-288 videos at 13 FPS but is sure didn't look that way in real life.

Email:

Certainly one of the draws to a converged device is the ability to quickly get email and access the web. The included VersaMail POP3/IMAP mail client now is able to sync  e-mail and contacts with Microsoft Exchange 2003 servers. VersaMail also now  remembers recently used addresses, and automatically opens DocumentsToGo for  attachments. The 700p includes a link to Good's GoodLink corporate e-mail system and Sprint's own Business Connection  e-mail. Both of these can be configure for "Push" email technology which makes the Treo act very much like a "BlackBerry."
I found it very easy to configure each of my four email accounts - a mixture of both POP and IMAP accounts.

Messaging:

The separate SMS/MMS app was a joy to use with the QWERTY keyboard. You can easily send text messages and attach media of all sorts. You can also have a threaded, conversation-based view, where your "back and forth" texts with one user appear like an IM conversation.

The Treo can easily configure separate tones for messaging so it is clear when you have a text as opposed to an appointment or a voice mail.

Web:

The Treo 700p is the first Treo to take advantage of Sprint’s Power Vision Network.

The Good:

PowereVision is extremely fast (if you are in a PowerVision coverage zone.) I live on an Island near Boston - while I can sometimes get the full advantage of the Power Vision network on my Samsung MM920 - I had less luck with the Treo 700p. When I did get it, it was very, very fast. The PowerVision Network allows the user to access Sprint TV, Sirius Radio, lots of media content, streaming video and other goodies.

Web browsing was faster on the 700p than the 650. The standard Blazer browser has been updated and streaming media is now handled with a bundled Kinoma media player.

The Bad:

More often than not, I was not able to access the Power Vision Network and utilize its full capabilities. Also, even when at full speed, streaming video was choppy and a much lower resolution than home recorded video.

Music and Streaming Video:

Music is handled this time around with a bundled, stripped down verson of Pocket Tunes. This was welcome news to me since I wasn't a fan of the Real Player on the 650. This version of Pocket Tunes is fine for very rudimentary tasks, music playback (MP3) and playlist organization. If you want to do any of the following you will need to pay $25.00 to upgrade to Pocket Tunes Deluxe:


Online Music Store Support

Access millions of tracks from compatible online music stores*

Internet Radio

Listen to internet radio stations on your Palm® Treo 700p

WMA File Support

Fit more music on your Palm® Treo 700p with smaller WMA files

Bookmarks

Never lose your place again in your audio books or music

Auto-Bookmarks

Automatically create bookmarks

Crossfade

Smoothly fade from one song to the next

Gapless Playback

No skipping between songs recorded from live albums or DJ mix CDs

Play Ogg Vorbis and WAV Files

Play Ogg Vorbis and uncompressed WAV files

Hi-Fi Graphic Equalizer

Optimize your listening experience

Bass Boost

Crank up the bass to enjoy your tunes

So, most of the fun stuff you might want to do with the music player are not included in the "basic" version.

Streaming Video is possible from compatible web sites through a bundled version of Kinoma's media player. Video streams were a bit choppier than on other PowerVision phones I have tested. But, it was still very cool to watch ESPN on my Treo.

PowerVision on the 700p was a mixed bag.


3. Final Thoughts

Overall Conclusions:

This is an amazing device. Is it perfect? No. Is it the best Smartphone you can get? Several key reviewers are saying that it is and I would have to tend to agree. The Palm OS is a bit stale, but it is familiar, stable and easy to use. The Treo 700p can run lots of older Palm apps.

With a boost in memory and with documents to go in ROM , there is plenty of room for programs and files.

The screen is gorgeous and the camera has certainly been improved. Music playback is easy with Pocket Tunes and sound quality through headphones or speakers was good.

The fit and finish is top notch in the 700p. It feels solid and well made. A screen protector and a case should be purchased to protect your investment, however. Using the new, wider keys was easy for me. The new button layout made sense and was a snap to get used to.

Call quality was very good, signal strength and battery life were terrific. Bluetooth 1.2 is an incremental plus over the older 1.1 found on the 650. The Treo still does not allow for voice dialing from a Bluetooth headset, nor does it support Bluetooth headphones for listening to music.

There is certainly room for improvement, but if you are looking for an easy to use Smartphone that can read and edit your Office documents, Sync all your contacts, utilize one handed operation for almost every task and be compatible with Bluetooth headsets and/or GPS units, then this is the phone for you.

Palm did listen to its users and bump up the memory, make Bluetooth a bit better, make the keys wider and offer EvDO support. The fact that you can now use the 700p as a dial up modem is just icing on the cake. This is a very sophisticated piece of hardware that deserves space in your pocket.

Is it worth upgrading to the 700p if you already own a Treo 650? That’s a tough one to answer. For me, the answer would be yes, the increase in memory and the High Speed Net Access make it a winner.

Pros: Great design, Easy to use, Fast EvDO connectivity, compatible with thousands of programs out of the box, stable OS, very cool.

Cons:  No included case, screen protector or car charger. Limited functionality Music Player, still no voice dialing via Bluetooth

You can order your Treo 700 from www.palm.com or www.sprintpcs.com or www.verizonwireless.com Prices seem to range from US$399.00 with a two year contract and incentives to upwards of US$650.00 with no contract.



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