By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2006-01-23 Print this article Print

Palm Inc.s Treo 700w marks the marriage of Microsoft Corp.s Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system and the slick and functional smart-phone design thats made previous Palm OS-powered Treos a fixture in the fists of so many always-connected mobile workers.

The Treo 700w isnt as good-looking as its year-old Palm OS-powered sibling, the Treo 650, but the new device is certainly worthy of consideration at companies that have standardized on Windows Mobile—perhaps as a client for applications built with Microsofts .Net Compact Framework.

Click here to read eWEEK Labs review of the Treo 650.
eWEEK Labs would find the Treo 700w more compelling if its costs—both for the device itself and for wireless data service—were a bit lower. With a voice plan from the units current sole provider, Verizon Wireless, the Treo 700w costs $619, or $499 with a two-year commitment. Verizons unlimited PDA/smart-phone data plan costs about $50 per month, in addition to a standard voice plan. Theres also a 10MB monthly data plan available for $25 per month.

Probably the Treo 700ws best quality is its form factor, which has remained more or less the same during the past few years (after Handspring Inc. switched from the flip-phone design that marked the first Treo models). The Treo 700w is larger than a typical cell phone, at 4.4 by 2.3 by 0.9 inches and weighing 6.4 ounces, but its not unwieldy, and it uses its size to serve well both as a phone and a handheld computer.

Powering the Treo 700w is a 312MHz Intel Corp. PXA272 processor, a close cousin to the 312MHz PXA272 chip that powers the Treo 650. We had no complaints with the performance of the Treo 700w, which is on par with that of the smart-phone devices weve seen in the last few years.

The Treo 700w carries an SD (Secure Digital) slot for memory card and peripheral expansion. Its possible, for instance, to add 802.11b wireless connectivity to the Treo 700w with Palms SD Wi-Fi expansion card.

One of the aspects of the Treo 650 that pleased us most was its crisp, 320-by-320-pixel color display, which represented a significant upgrade over the 160-pixel-square display of the Treo 600. The Treo 700w takes a step backward, however, with a 240-by-240-pixel display thats readable but noticeably less so than that of the Treo 650.

Along similar lines, we prefer the interface of Palm OS over the Treo 700ws Windows Mobile environment: The Palm OS-based unit manages to fit more information into its screens and does so more clearly.

However, the Treo 700w does manage, for the most part, to maintain the one-handed operability on which previous Treo devices have hung their hats. Between the units five-way controller and the menu buttons that sit to the controllers left and right, we were able to perform most tasks without pulling out the Treo 700ws stylus.

We also liked the Web search box built into Windows Mobiles trademark Today screen, which brought us to Google Inc.s rather nice PDA-optimized Web search page.

The Treo 700ws EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) radio is one of the units highlights and one of the few attributes that the Palm OS-based and either GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)-connected or 1xRTT-connected Treo 650 cant match. We experienced good data transfer rates while using the Treo 700w, but the speed boost we perceived wasnt large enough to really set the Treo 700w apart from the EDGE (Enhanced Data for Global Evolution) and 1xRTT devices weve tested.

We used the Bluetooth headset that comes with the optional, $200 Treo travel kit and managed to pair the Treo 700w with the headset fairly easily. We found call quality to be good with the headset and the units built-in speakerphone function, as well as in old-fashioned phone-to-head mode.

While the Treo 700ws Bluetooth 1.2 radio served acceptably with the headset we tested, the radios most promising function—a way to access the 700ws speedy EvDO connection from a notebook computer—ships disabled on this device.

Battery life

Palm lists the life between charges for Treo 700ws removable lithium-ion battery at up to 4.7 hours of talk time and 15 days of stand-by time.

We started testing the Treo 700w on a Wednesday afternoon with a fully charged battery. We used the device and its wireless Internet connection off and on during the next day and a half, and picked up the 700w on Friday morning to find it completely drained.

Fortunately, the 700ws flash memory is of the nonvolatile sort, so after swapping in a backup battery and waiting a few seconds for the device to boot again, we were up and running—with our data intact. But we would like to have seen the 700w hold back enough juice to preserve access to the units PDA functionality for a short time.

Palm sells replacement batteries for $60 each, and an extra battery came with the travel kit we tested.

The 700w also packs a 1.3-megapixel camera. We found that it takes nice-looking pictures and, as with most digital cameras today, can record short videos.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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