Palm Pre strong but not revolutionary, says electronics repair company

The Palm Pre is a device on the cutting edge of smartphone technology, but phone's hardware is not "light years ahead" of what rival smartphones offer

Not content to merely fiddle around with the Palm Pre's operating system and software, the electronics repair specialists at Rapid Repair opened up the Pre and dissected its guts.

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What they found, says Rapid Repair cofounder Aaron Vronko, is a device on the cutting edge of smartphone technology. However, Vronko stops short of calling the Pre revolutionary, as the phone's hardware is not "light years ahead" of what rival smartphones offer.

The key feature that differentiates the Pre from other smartphones, Vronko says, is that it is the first to use Texas Instruments' OMAP 3430 processor, which runs at 600MHz and integrates several different functions, such as graphics processing, onto one single chip. The advantage to this, Vronko claims, is that the Pre can reduce the number of chips it uses in the device, thus lowering its power consumption and making its design more compact than other smartphones. To put it into perspective, Vronko notes that the OMAP 3430 processor is "almost 50% faster" than the same class of processor used in the rival Apple iPhone.

In addition to its processing capabilities, the Pre also features 256MB of memory from Elpida Memory, which Vronko says is "twice as much system memory than what's in the current iPhone."

The combination of a faster processor and larger system memory has allowed Palm to implement its webOS operating system that is layered to allow users to keep several applications open at once and to let them flip seamlessly between them. The Pre's main button, at the bottom center of the device, acts as an all-purpose "zoom out" button that shrinks applications in use and gives users the ability to browse through other applications.

"The hardware is why the Palm Pre is able to support multitasking and multiple processes at the same time," says Vronko. "It's something that Apple has not chosen to do yet, and we believe that if Palm had used the same hardware standard as the iPhone, they wouldn't have been able to support multitasking."

Vronko says the Pre's hardware has "definitely lived up to expectations" of delivering a new and innovative type of smartphone and he expects that "in six months you'll see smartphones with similar if not matching specifications coming out." He also says that the device is well positioned to improve its specs in the future, as the company is likely to use Texas Instruments' 45-nanometer processor for the Pre's next iteration, which will further improve its power-saving capabilities.

"The Pre's implementation is excellent," he says. "As a first attempt at making this class of device I would rate it as best first attempt I've ever seen, even better than the first iteration of the iPhone."

Two other notable features of the Pre are its dual-band support for both EV-DO and HSPA 3G networks that gives Pre users the option of more easily switching wireless networks, and its user-replaceable battery, which Vronko says will make it vastly easier for users to install new batteries without having to send the device into the manufacturer.

Nationwide, Sprint is reported to have sold around 50,000 Pre devices this past weekend, well short of the estimated 1 million iPhone 3G units that AT&T sold last year during the first two days of its release. The Pre is expected to get further competition later this month, when AT&T begins selling the Apple iPhone 3GS on June 19.

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