A new approach from Palm
- Size, QWERTY keyboard, touch screen, intuitive and user-friendly interface, price
- No 3G, no back button, plastic build feels a little tacky, keyboard may be a little small for some
The Centro is definitely an interesting concept, and it represents a new target market for Palm. It's not perfect, but on the whole this is a nifty device that is tailored well to its demographic.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
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The first smartphone with a full QWERTY keyboard to be sold in Australia on pre-paid, the Centro represents a new approach by Palm. This compact and sleek handset has been designed for people who have never used a smartphone before. Despite its aggressively low price, the Centro offers plenty of features, making it a smart buy in terms of value.
The Centro is Palm's smallest and lightest smartphone on the market. It has a stylish look thanks to a 'glazier white' finish, and its compact size means it feels comfortable in your hand and it easily slips into your pocket. Our only complaint is that the lightweight construction does tend to make the Centro feel a little cheap, although it was solid enough during testing.
Two distinctive features that may not cause such a fuss on a regular smartphone but deserve to be applauded on a device in this price range are the full QWERTY keyboard and the touch-screen display. At first glance, the keyboard looks small and squashed. However, after a few days use, we were typing comfortably at reasonable speeds. (Those with large thumbs may have a frustrating time typing, however.)
The Centro's touch screen is excellent — it's not large, but Palm has designed the interface so most operations can be accessed by using your finger or the five-way navigational pad. There is also a stylus included, but you shouldn't need to use it too often. We found the touch screen very response to finger presses; it didn't require much force when attempting to make a selection. The display is also bright and clear and has a surprisingly good viewing angle.
The Centro has been released exclusively to Telstra and is only available on a pre-paid plan that includes $10 of credit. It's not a 3G-capable handset, instead running on slower GSM/EDGE networks. With Telstra the only network in Australia offering EDGE speeds, the partnership was a logical choice. Surprisingly, we were quite impressed with EDGE network speeds on this unit. Although it is still ultimately much slower than a 3G network, the Centro performs well enough for all of its applications — particularly impressive was the Google Maps feature, as most of the maps load in just a few seconds. We were also impressed with call quality.
Palm deserves a lot of credit for the Centro's user interface. Although you'd naturally expect it to be user-friendly considering the target market, this isn't always the case. For those familiar with the Palm OS, using the Centro will be a breeze. More importantly, we'd have no qualms recommending this handset to someone who has never used a smartphone before — exactly the intended target. All menus are clearly labelled, so using the handset is straightforward and easy.,
The convenient shortcut controls just below the display, along with the five-way navigational pad, only increase the Centro's user-friendliness. Our only complaint is a minor one — the lack of a back button does take some time to get used to.
The Centro is feature packed, especially when taking into account the low price. In addition to options commonly found on smartphones, such as a document viewer e-mail access, memos and voice recording, Palm includes a Google Maps application. This allows users to look up nearby points of interest and get directions — the ability to use your finger to move the map is an excellent feature.
Another excellent feature is threaded SMS messages, first introduced by Palm on the Treo 600. All messages to one contact are shown in a chat style view, reducing the number of individual messages cluttering up in your inbox.
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For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
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