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

The BlackBerry, iPhone, and T-Mobile G1 may be the kings of smartphone cool, but if you ask me, they all share one big shortcoming: They don't run Windows Mobile.

I know that statement puts me in a distinct minority. But I love the way Windows Mobile supports push e-mail from Microsoft Exchange Server and easily syncs with Outlook. Not to mention several other business-friendly features the competition lacks -- including VPN software and the ability to view and edit Microsoft Office documents.

The Palm Treo Pro -- an unlocked, quad-band, Windows Mobile 6.1 device with a physical QWERTY keyboard and 2.5-inch, 320-by-320-pixel display -- isn't the first Windows Mobile handset by Palm. Some models in the 700 and 750 series also run the Microsoft OS. But the HTC-manufactured Pro is the smallest Treo (0.7 ounce less than the HP iPaq 910c). Most important, it overcomes a number of hardware and software problems that plagued earlier Palm designs.

The lean Treo Pro -- with its rounded edges and recessed screen -- has a modern look. It fits comfortably in your hand, and I think the ergonomics are a bit better than the iPaq 910c's. For a size comparison, it has about the same footprint as the iPhone and is just slightly more petite than the BlackBerry Bold. Although the Pro's case is plastic, the build quality is very good. My biggest gripe is the shiny black surface, which really shows fingerprints and scratches easily.


For a look at other hot smartphones, see a review of the T-Mobile G1, and a review of iPhone 3G. For tips on bringing the iPhone into the office, read "How to make the new iPhone work at work."

Unlike similar devices, where configuration changes require an excursion into the operating system, Palm's hardware gives you quick access to a number of common functions. For example, around the case's edge are dedicated buttons for power, wireless connection, and volume -- plus a ring silencer and a camera. On the bottom, there's a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB connector. Front-mounted buttons provide quick access to e-mail, calendar, and Windows menus.

The keyboard is a little cramped, and the keys will be too recessed for some. But with my medium-sized hands, I had no problems typing accurately. That said, it's not on par with BlackBerry keyboards or the Palm Treo 750's keyboard. Of course, you also can interact with applications using Window Mobile's on-screen keyboard or via the Pro's five-way navigation wheel. One nice touch: Besides functioning as a Select key, the center of the navigation wheel softly blinks white when you have a message waiting.

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Mike Heck

InfoWorld
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