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REVIEW: Palm Treo 500v Windows Mobile 6 Standard Smartphone
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 15.10.07 - 00:04:00 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 26965x
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For two weeks, I had the pleasure to test Palm's new Treo 500v smartphone which the American PDA veteran introduce mid last month. The Treo 500v marks a quite historical milestone in Palm's long history since it is the first non-touchscreen device because it's using Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6 Standard instead of the previously used Windows Mobile Professional (aka Pocket PC Phone Edition). Therefore, I was even more curious how the device performs. Another interesting fact is, that the device is, until end of 2007, on sale exclusively from Vodafone. This means, that the smartphone sports some Vodafone typical features which makes it unique once more.

Designed as an entry-level smartphone for Vodafone, the Palm Treo 500v doesn't sports the latest and greatest specs but it's quite up-to-date by featuring Windows Mobile 6 Standard, triband GSM/GPRS/EDGE at 900/1800/1900 MHz and singleband UMTS at 2100 MHz as well as Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. The Treo 500v unfortunately lacks WiFi as well as quadband GSM and triband UMTS and HSDPA which limits its useful use to Europe and Asia and also limits the Internet speed to 384 Kbps.
The Treo 500v features 256 MB of ROM (with 150 MB accessible for the user) and 64 MB of RAM which can be extended by microSD cards. On the back, the Treo features a 2 megapixel camera. A front facing camera for UMTS video telephony isn't available. Last but not least the QWERTY keyboard, which should make the device a great messaging smartphone.
The 1200 mAh Lithium-Ion battery is said to have 10 days standby time and up to 4 hours talk time.

I've tested the silver/white Palm Treo 500v which is the only version on sale in Germany. Other countries might also get the grey/silver Treo 500v which looks a little less fancy but more serious.

The sales pack includes everything typical your get with today's Windows Mobile smartphone and includes the Palm Treo 500v smartphone, the battery, an 110 - 220 Volt AC charger, a USB to mini USB sync cable, a stereo headset, some user documentation as well as a Getting Started CD-ROM.

For further information, please watch our unboxing here.

The device is design straight forward without any curlicues but the round corners makes it holding a pleasure. On the front you have on the top, right to the speaker (not visible in the photo bellow) an LED which indicates GSM/UMTS availability as well as giving you and indication about charging status and Bluetooth activity.
Bellow the QVGA screen with the typical Windows Mobile Standard keys bellow. The last third is occupied by the QWERTY keyboard. On the back, the device features the loudspeaker which is used for media playback and below the 2 megapixel camera:

On the left, the device features the volume key and an application launcher key which isn't assigned to the camera, as you might expect but assigned to the Internet Explorer Mobile. The right side doesn't holds any keys:

The device features a mini USB connector which is used for synchronizing (and thankfully it also charges the device if connected to a PC) as well as a 2.5 mm stereo headset jack:


The on/off button is located on the top - as you can see above.

The Palm Treo 500v looks and feels like a typical Windows Mobile powered smartphone. It's well built and feels rock-solid. It's well balanced and the QWERTY keyboard, even if it looks somewhat small, is good to use and I wrote many E-Mails and SMS with it. However, you better use your thumbnails since the keys are a little bit too small to be used with the fingertip. But that's quite typical for smartphones of this size and it's not a Palm Treo 500v problem at all. The keyboard itself has a pleasurable feeling and a well balanced keystroke. Even if it is plastic, it doesn't feels cheap and in the night it's well illuminated.

The size and weight of the device is perfect to fit into a pocket. However, it's a little bit to thick to fit into a shirt pocket and I preferred carrying it in my trouser pocket instead.

As mentioned above, the Palm Treo 500v is Palm's first Windows Mobile Standard smartphone, lacking a touchscreen and therefore I was quite curious, how Palm enhanced the Smartphone platform to add it's own value to the Microsoft Standard platform. If you expect something fancy, other than the new Home screen, you will be gutted. Unlike with the Palm Treo 750 (see our review here), where Palm added some fancy and usefull add-ons like the threaded SMS application or the Today screen enhancement to make Windows Mobile even better, Palm hasn't changed anything with the Treo 500v. Even the new Home screen isn't a Palm invention but it's Vodafone's new TPP Home screen (see our video view here). It offers a brand new way of navigation, which is however quite similar to Samsung's SGH-i600 Carousel implementation.
But it also adds a unique functionality we haven't seen with Windows Mobile Standard Smartphones so far, beside the option to open the menu by pressing the Start key, another menu can be opened by pressing the action button (indicated by the non-centered icon between the Start and live! button):

As I said above, the new menu isn't a Palm invention but it's Vodafone's new TPP menu structure, which we might see on other smartphones soon as well. Please watch the video view for further information.

Application-wise, the Treo 500v is pretty complete and includes every program, Microsoft offers for the Windows Mobile 6 Standard platform which also includes Windows Live Messenger as well as Internet shortcuts to Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Spaces and Live Search. Furthermore, the latest version of Office Mobile 6 (which also supports Microsoft Office 2007) is part of the software package and allows you to open and edit Office Word, Excel and PowerPoint files:

In addition to the Microsoft applications, Palm also added a J2ME engine, a PDF viewer and a Task Manager. Vodafone typical applications are also added, including Google Maps Mobile (in a kind of Vodafone branded version), a streaming player which allows to watch Vodafone live! TV streamings and a Java based eBay client:




Somewhat disappointing is the camera integration. Microsoft ships a pretty basic camera application with Windows Mobile, which cannot do too much, and Palm decided to use exactly this application and therefore you don't get too many options for photos and video recording:

Also it results in the quality of photos. Sure, so far I haven't seen a single Windows Mobile device which snaps good photos, compared to other non Windows Mobile devices and the Treo 500v doesn't makes an exception here (click to view the the original and unedited 2 megapixel results):


Anyway, the camera GUI is a kind of loveless integration and shows that the focus of the Palm Treo 500v isn't on multimedia, even if it's supported. But if we are talking about multimedia, it surely needs to be mentioned, that the Treo 500v supports Bluetooth stereo headsets (A2DP and AVRC) which allows you to use a wireless headset instead of the original wired stereo headset.

Last but not least the voice quality, the standby and talk time. As a phone, the Treo 500v works quite good, the speakers sounds clear and loud enough and the signal reception is fantastic. In rural areas, where I normally have problems to get a good UMTS reception, the Treo 500v staid attached to UMTS all the time without falling back to GSM. And also the data speed is quite good. Streaming TV via UMTS was possible up to 2:35 hours with a constant bit rate between 300 and 350 Kbps.

Final Conclusion

The Palm Treo 500v is an interesting smartphone. It's not Palm's masterpiece everybody expected but it's a good Windows Mobile Standard Smartphone anyway. Feature-wise it's not complete, international travelers will definitely miss quadband GSM and triband UMTS support and the lack of HSDPA, especially where Vodafone is doing so hard to upgrade its networks to HSDPA, is questionable. On the other hand we have the value for money and the price can be expected to be between free and 99 Euro with a 24 months contract. That's a pretty good price for a Windows Mobile UMTS smartphone.

While I was quite skeptical about the design, when I saw the first shots on the Internet, I've changed my mind when I saw it first time in real. It nicely fits into the palm of your hand, feels rock-solid and doesn't looks to bad in reality. As a matter of fact I even like the white/silver design which looks different to other mobile phones. The keyboard worked pretty good for me and I can tell you, that I'm a heavy text message user and therefore I've tested it under real circumstances. While it feels somewhat plastic, it's a pleasure to write on it as long as you get used to use QWERTY-equipped mobile phones.

All together I can definitely recommend the Palm Treo 500v to everybody who isn't in need for a quad-/triband GSM/UMTS device. And if basic UMTS speed is enough for you (which is if you don't use it as a wireless modem for PCs), you can even pass on HSDPA as well as WiFi (as long as you don't have any special data needs).

The Palm Treo 500v gives you a good value for money. While it's not the latest and greatest feature equipped smartphone, it's also not tearing a hole into your wallet.

Cheers ~ Arne


 
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