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Saturday, January 07, 2006

First Look at the Palm Treo 700w Smartphone


Palm's Treo 700w Smartphone--the first Windows Mobile-based Palm product--makes some very smart adjustments in melding the popular Treo hardware with Microsoft's operating system for handhelds. Is it a perfect hybrid? No, but it certainly should strike fear into the hearts of other Windows Mobile smartphone vendors.

Like its Palm OS-based predecessors, the 700w (which runs Windows Mobile 5) capably strikes a balance between personal digital assistant and cell phone. It's small enough (4.4 by 2.3 by 0.9 inches) and light enough (6.4 ounces) to fit in most pants pockets, but not so tiny that you can't read the display or type on the integrated QWERTY keyboard.

At $500 (or $400 if you purchase a two-year voice plan for at least $40 a month, plus the $50-a-month unlimited data plan), the price of the Treo 700w is not out of line for a full-featured PDA-phone hybrid.

In many ways the 700w is similar to the Treo 650; both use the same connectors, for example. The 700w is powered by a 312-MHz Intel XScale processor and has 128MB of memory, including 60MB of user-available memory.

At first glance the Treo 700w's button layout doesn't seem much different from that of the Treo 600 or 650 (both of which are based on the Palm OS). On closer inspection, however, you notice that the Calendar button immediately to the left of the central rocker button has been replaced by a Windows Mobile Start button that brings up the main Windows Mobile menu. Meanwhile, the e-mail button immediately to the right of the rocker is now an OK button, which you can use to shut down Windows or processes (instead of tapping an on-screen OK or X). This button is especially useful considering Windows Mobile's proclivity for keeping apps running and using up memory (you can even shut down a bunch of apps in a memory manager by simply pressing the OK button). But I missed the one-touch access to my e-mail and calendar.

The two buttons directly beneath the display, which in the 650 are smaller and bring up the main Palm menu and the current screen's drop-down menu, respectively, now simply activate right- and left-hand on-screen options (something you see on many cell phones).

Instead of the familiar icon-driven Palm home screen, the 240-by-240-resolution screen displays a variant of the Windows Mobile Today screen that adds two empty text boxes--one for typing in a contact's name or phone number (so that you can quickly initiate a phone call) and another where you can type in keywords for a Google Web search.

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