Although the Treo 800w is likely the best Treo smart phone Palm has delivered to date, Palm’s late adoption of technology now standard on many competing mobile devices leaves the Treo 800w as a middle-of-the-road option for many casual buyers. But for corporations looking to standardize on a Windows Mobile device that has speedy network connections and is out-of-the-box ready for integration with an all-Microsoft back end, the Treo 800w is definitely a worth a look.
At long last, Palm has added Wi-Fi connectivity to a Treo, as the 800w features an 802.11b/g radio in addition to a new integrated GPS receiver. Given how astronomically long it has taken Palm to implement Wi-Fi in any of its devices, it is gratifying to see that the company gone the extra mile to improve upon the basic software functionality that comes with Windows Mobile.
For instance, users can toggle the Wi-Fi radio on and off by holding down a hardware button found on the top edge of the device. Similarly, a quick press of this same button will take the user directly to the Wi-Fi configuration page to conduct a quick scan for nearby networks-allowing the user to create profiles and join WLAN networks. I like this button so much that after a few days I found myself wishing there were a similar hardware button that could toggle power on the wide-area radio as well.
As is commonly the case with new-generation mobile devices running Windows Mobile 6 Service Pack 1, the Treo 800w supports both certificate and preshared key-based Wi-Fi security.
For the wide-area connection, the Treo 800w is among the first devices shipping ready for use with Sprint’s EvDO (Evolution Data Optimized) Rev A data network (along with the HTC Nomad and the Samsung Instinct), with a Qualcomm MSM6800A chip set providing dual-band support for 800MHz and 1900MHz bands. With the EvDO data connection, using DSL Reports speed tools I found that my download speeds varied between 350K and 650K bps from various locations in and around eWEEK’s San Francisco offices.
Memory, Battery and Audio
With its 333MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 2431 processor and 128MB of program memory, the Treo 800w may be underpowered compared with many platforms available today. However, the unit’s MicroSD card slot allows for add-on storage of up to 8GB, and in tests I found the device to be snappy and responsive under most circumstances, with Web browsing being the most notable exception.
The slate-blue Treo 800w is slightly thinner and lighter than the last new Treo for Sprint that I reviewed, 2007’s Treo 755p. The 800w measures 4.41 by 2.28 by 0.73 inches and weighs 5 ounces, compared with 4.4 x 2.12 x 0.84 inches and 5.64 ounces for the 755p.
The Treo 800w uses the same 1150 mAh battery found in Palm’s consumer-class smart phone, the Centro, a seeming downgrade from the 1600 mAh battery that came with the Treo 755p. The Treo 800w makes adequate use of the smaller battery, as Palm rates the 800w’s battery for 4.5 hours of talk time or 200 hours of standby time (compared with 4.2 hours of talk time for the 755p).
My battery tests showed that the 800w falls slightly short of those expectations-running out of juice after 3 hours and 58 minutes-leaving Palm’s new flagship device lacking compared with the iPhone 3G and Nokia e71, according to similar tests eWEEK Labs has run recently on both.
Palm standardized on a common connector type, as the power cord, synchronization cable and headset all connect via a MicroUSB connector, which leads to my biggest gripe with the Treo 800w. While I’ve come to expect that I can’t use any of the cabled accessories that worked with previous Treos, I cannot abide the fact that I could only connect one accessory at a time. In other words, I could not use the cabled headset while charging the phone. Users who want to charge the Treo 800w while using a headset will have to turn to a Bluetooth headset (not included) or they will be out of luck.
However, Palm has done what it can to provide a richer audio experience for Bluetooth users, as the Treo 800w supports Bluetooth 2.0 with A2DP-and therefore stereo sound-for Bluetooth headsets that are similarly capable.
Available only for the Sprint network at this time, the Treo 800w retails for $600, but with various instant and mail-in rebates plus a two-year service commitment, the device can be acquired for around $250.
Because the Treo 800w comes with Windows Mobile Professional 6.1, it is ready out of the box to work with Microsoft Exchange mail systems for over-the-air synchronization of mail, contacts and calendars. It also supports over-the-air management and configuration via Exchange ActiveSync and will tie in to Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 deployments for Active Directory integration.
Web browsing was one place where I experienced sluggishness with the Treo 800w. I found that the device would occasionally lock up for periods of up to 30 seconds while pages loaded in the included version of Internet Explorer. I experienced these slowdowns on both the EvDO and Wi-Fi connections, and found that I could not do anything with the device until the page fully rendered. I also found that the browser would sometimes lock up completely on pages generating script error messages.
Palm has brought some nice touches to the familiar Windows Mobile Today screen. Users can dial numbers manually or speed-dial contacts by pressing a photo on the main screen, access the built-in Instant Messaging client (which supports AIM, MSN and Yahoo) or see if there are unread SMS (Short Message Service) messages right from the Today screen. Users can also locate and map businesses from the Today screen, as a search will fire up the included Maps application, basing search decisions on the location findings from the GPS receiver.
Unlike the iPhone, the Treo 800w offers full capabilities for reading and writing documents using the included Office Mobile applications: Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote. In tests, I was able to read and write Word files in both .DOC and .DOCX formats, although I was not able to convert a document from one type to the other. I also found that I was not wild about the built-in PDF reader on the Treo 800w, as I found it inconvenient to zoom in and out on a page and to move from one page to another.
eWEEK Labs Senior Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at [email protected]