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Palm Treo 500v review

First Looks: Palm Treo 500v

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A Treo Treat

A Treo Treat

The Palm series have come a long way, ranging back from the most basic organizer based Palm I, utilizing the propriety Palm OS, to its current iteration of the Treo series that has made the jump onto the Windows Mobile platform. Today, we take a look at the Palm Treo 500v, a smartphone offering from Palm running on Windows Mobile 6.0 Standard Edition.

Palm-Sized Goodness

The Palm Treo 500v is not exactly the best kept secret, with its Gandolf codename (Gandalf from Lord of the Rings anyone?) and design splashed all over the web in weeks prior to its launch.

The Palm Treo 500v sports a streamlined design, with a predominantly black and silver rim spotted on its body. Specifications labeled its weight at 120g, making it the lightest smartphone from Palm's current lineup. Though smaller than the ASUS M530w, the Treo 500v is thicker at 16.5mm. Its contoured design wraps the device onto your hand comfortably, making single-handed typing possible, an occurrence that's quite rare for QWERTY smartphones.

Sadly, the streamlined and lightweight design is unable to redeem it fully from its deficiently small-sized QWERTY keyboard which can pose quite a challenge for stubby fingers. Thankfully, the navigational keys situated above the QWERTY keyboard are well spaced, with the Call and End button on the left and right side respectively. In between the standard Home and Back buttons and the two shortcut keys is the five-way directional input, which is designed in an oval shape and allows your thumb to fit snugly when you press the Enter button.

Fare thee well, Palm OS

The departure of the Palm OS in favor of Windows Mobile was a disappointment to some loyal Palm users, but it was not for naught on Palm's end. Given the source code for Microsoft's Windows Mobile OS, Palm has been making changes to the basic Windows Mobile interface. The Treo 750 saw one customization and now the Treo 500v is given a different treatment as well.

For the Treo 500v, click on the Start button and you will be greeted with an all new carousel interface instead of the standard Windows Mobile menu.

Scrolling through the interface, you'll find a tabbed categorization of each program, with sections such as Messaging Center, Windows Live and many more. Essentially, this provides a much easier, one click access to the programs of your choice. Our experience with this carousel interface was smooth, but like most smartphones out there, subjecting it to multiple applications could put a toll on its 312MHz 32-bit Intel XScale processor.

The Broken Palm Lines

Pushing itself as a mainstream product, the Treo 500v integrates a whole bevy of popular web applications such as Facebook, Windows Live and many others within. However, perhaps the biggest mystery with the Treo 500v is its lack of a stronger data network support. Granted the Treo 500v is a 3G enabled phone provisioned with EGPRS data connectivity, the lack of both HSDPA and Wi-Fi support means potentially chalking up a huge bill if you find yourself hooked on Web applications, such as Facebook.

Multimedia capabilities on the Treo 500v is a standard fare, with Windows Media Player 10 Mobile fulfilling its dutiful role. A2DP? Yes, it is definitely supported, providing you with wireless Bluetooth stereo headset connectivity. Video quality on its 320x240 pixel, 2.6-inch screen can be regarded as average, and the same can be said for its audio capacity. And what's a mainstream mobile device today if it does not have its own integrated camera? The Treo 500v comes with a 2-megapixel camera capable of 2.5x digital zoom. However, the lack of an onboard flash removes any photo opportunity for less desirable lighting conditions.

Still, the Treo 500v is a smartphone above all else, hence its productivity capabilities are complete with the full Mobile Office application suite for documentation viewing and editing. With various applications, Bluetooth and even EGPRS running, the Treo 500v managed to handle itself well for almost 2 days before its battery died on us.

Concluding Thoughts

As we know, the Treo 500v's ergonomic design, lightweight form factor and innovative carousel interface should please its key demographic. However, the absence of both Wi-Fi and HSDPA connection in the face of its strong support towards multiple web-based applications could be its Achilles' Heel. The Treo 500v was last seen bundled with a 2-year local carrier contract for about S$498 (~US$343), working out to be a decent choice for young professionals or students looking at an entry-level smartphone with all the basic necessities to fulfil their personal organizing needs.