Palm Treo Pro: A sweet Windows smartphone

Review: If you're partial to Windows Mobile, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than the new Treo Pro from Palm

No extra baggage

Palm backed away from a lot of its past Windows Mobile add-ons, instead opting for a few from HTC. It's hard to tell if this has cut down on Windows crashes -- I did have a few unexpected reboots during two weeks of testing -- but the Treo Pro's stability was about the same as other Windows Mobile handsets I've used.

The nifty Communications Manager conveniently manages all the radios. And there's a great utility to quickly exit running applications so that you maximize free memory.

For GPS, Palm loads Google Maps and there's a trial version of TeleNav for turn-by-turn directions. The Treo Pro includes a QuickGPS utility that speeds up GPS calculations by downloading GPS data from the Internet. Overall, the Treo's Assisted-GPS hardware (which uses a combination of cellular tower and GPS satellite information) achieved initial fixes within 30 seconds and worked well.

The 2-megapixel autofocus camera's quality is nothing to rave about. With up to 1,600-by-1,200-pixel resolution, shots outdoors are fine for, say, documenting construction jobs or insurance claims. My tests shots had accurate color and good saturation, but displayed pronounced jagged edges. Indoor photo quality is poor. The bright spot is the HTC camera utilities, which go beyond what Microsoft includes with Windows Mobile. I appreciated the many camera tweaks, such as brightness and sharpness, that are easily set.

Nice phone!

The Pro's triband 3G radio should work with most networks around the world. I tried it on AT&T's HSDPA high-speed network in the Northeast United States. Voice quality was clear, and I didn't experience any dropped calls. On the data side, I got 3.5G speeds that were at the top end of the range, averaging 1,400Kbps downloads and 325Kbps uploads.

I also tested several Bluetooth headsets, which also produced high voice quality. To evaluate music quality, I listened to MP3 audio files though Windows Media Player 10 Mobile; quality was on par with my Microsoft Zune. This application also plays video files saved in MPEG-4 and WMV format. Moreover, a separate application will play streaming video, which might be useful to view corporate Webcasts.

Palm doesn't match the IT management services offered by HP. Still, the Treo Pro works with Microsoft's Mobile Device Manager 2008 (which increases security and offers remote management).

For Palm users, the Treo Pro introduces a number of sought-after features in contemporary packaging. The larger screen is welcome, as are dedicated hardware switches, GPS, and multiple radios. However, a so-so keyboard and camera, plus the lack of anything really special about the Windows Mobile 6.1 implementation, will likely turn some prospective buyers away -- as will the high price, compared to other unlocked devices with similar features.

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