First impressions of the Palm Treo 800w with integrated WiFi and GPS

Summary:Mobile fans have been asking Palm to add WiFi to the Treo devices for a couple of years now and as of today, we finally have a model that includes both a WiFi radio and a GPS receiver. It looks like Sprint isn't very good at keeping a secret either as some stores were selling it last week and it was even up on the Sprint site yesterday so there is not much of a surprise here. The Treo 800w also ships with EV-DO Rev. A support out of the box so you get all the latest and greatest in wireless connectivity. I had the chance to spend several days with the Treo 800w from Sprint and think it is undoubtedly the best Palm Treo on the market.

Mobile fans have been asking Palm to add WiFi to the Treo devices for a couple of years now and as of today, we finally have a model that includes both a WiFi radio and a GPS receiver. It looks like Sprint isn't very good at keeping a secret either as some stores were selling it last week and it was even up on the Sprint site yesterday so there is not much of a surprise here. The Treo 800w also ships with EV-DO Rev. A support out of the box so you get all the latest and greatest in wireless connectivity. I had the chance to spend several days with the Treo 800w from Sprint (check out the full press release) and think it is undoubtedly the best Palm Treo on the market. Check out my photo gallery for product shots.



In the box: The Palm Treo 800w from Sprint comes with the device itself, micro USB sync/charge cable (I'll talk about this later), travel charger, wired stereo headset, stylus (no extra in the box), lithium ion battery, CD with ActiveSync and User Guide, recycle phone return bag, and several printed materials (Get Started guide, Basic Guide, Set Up Your Email, Experience SprintSpeed, etc. There is no case included in the box.

Specs: The Palm Treo 800w is the first Treo with WiFi and GPS and many faithful Palm Treo fans are finally breathing a sigh of relief. Specifications of the Treo 800w include:

  • Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional
  • EV-DO Rev. A CDMA network support
  • 128MB RAM and 256MB flash ROM (about 170MB available to the user)
  • TI OMAP 2430 333 MHz processor
  • 110MB internal dynamic memory
  • 1.74 inch square 320x320 high resolution display
  • Integrated 802.11 b/g WiFi radio
  • Integrated Bluetooth 2.0 radio with A2DP
  • Infrared port (Hmm, another device like the Nokia E71 with IR)
  • Integrated A-GPS receiver
  • 1150 mAh Lithium ion battery with reported 4 hours of talk time
  • microSD card slot with microSDHC support
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • micro USB port for syncing/charging/wired headset
  • Weight of 5 ounces
  • Size of 4.41 x 2.28 x 0.73 inches

The major new features of the Palm Treo 800w are the integrated WiFi radio and GPS receiver. Palm has also added their own "special sauce" to Windows Mobile to improve end user functionality and let you navigate the device with a single hand. This is also the first Windows Mobile device that ships with EV-DO Rev. A support out of the box, while other devices have been upgradeable.

Tour around the device - overall appearance and form factor: The Palm Treo 800w comes in a classy slate blue color that works well for a business device. The keyboard keys are a gray color with the number and Option key in bright white.

The device is smaller than other Treo devices and has a Centro rounded look to it with the larger Treo keyboard. It has a soft touch finish on the back and a slick plastic finish around the display and keyboard.

Tour around the device - front: After you turn on the device, you will find that the 320x320 display is presenting you much more information compared to the rather lame 240x240 display found on the Treo 750. I personally considered the Treo 750 a couple of times, but the 240x240 display kept me from taking the plunge. While the 320x320 display is quite nice, I find the 240x320 display on the HP iPAQ 910 Business Messenger to have bolder fonts and richer colors that make it a better display IMHO.

Above the display is the status indicator light and phone speaker.

Below the display you will find two soft keys that are designed to work with Windows Mobile. The soft keys are the same color as the device casing and blend into the device to give it a cleaner look, IMHO. Below the soft keys are buttons for Start menu, OK, Calendar, and Messaging. You can also program Option>Send/Start/OK/Calendar/Messaging for 5 more actions so you have a total number of 10 actions/programs that can be assigned to hardware buttons that further reduces the need for stylus usage. The send and end keys are on the outboard side of these 4 buttons with a very nice directional pad and action button in the middle. The directional pad has Palm etched into it and is quite large and highly functional. Palm makes a lot of effort to help ensure users can manipulate the device with the 5-way Navigator and Center button so it is important to have a well designed layout.

The QWERTY keyboard can be found below these buttons and is well laid out and very similar to that found on the latest generation Palm Treo devices. The number keys are arranged in a traditional phone keypad manner on the left side of the keyboard and all alternate characters are clearly visible with the backlight on or off. The space bar is also about 3 keys wide and the shift key is about 1.5 keys wide so it is easy to hit as well.

Just to the left of the shift key is where you will find the phone microphone.

Tour around the device - top and bottom: Palm Treos are well known for their dedicated ringer on/off switch that lets you quickly turn off the ringer when you go into meetings or do not want an audible alert to an incoming call. In addition to this slider, Palm added a One Touch WiFi button to the Treo 800w that lets you quickly switch the WiFi radio on and off. This is something I look for on notebook computers and I think it is great that Palm added this to the Treo 800w. You normally have to launch the wireless manager and then tap on the display or select WiFi to turn WiFi on and off, but I think this simple hardware button is a better solution.

The top of the stylus is also accessed on the top right side of the Treo 800w. It is a standard Treo plastic stylus and is black in color.

When you look at the bottom of the Treo 800w, you will find something not seen before on a Palm device and that is a micro USB port that is used for syncing, charging, and for the wired headset. I am pleased to see a more standard port being used by Palm and hope that other Windows Mobile devices that currently use mini USB move to the micro USB standard for syncing and charging as well. I still prefer a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio since I do not like having to buy adapters for the different connection ports. The Treo 800w package comes with a micro USB stereo headset, but I am unaware of what can be added as far as an adapter goes that may allow you to use your current headphones.

Tour around the device - sides: The volume rocker and a programmable hardware button (hold for voice recorder by default) are found on the upper left side of the Treo 800w.

The stylus silo extends down a bit into the right upper side with an infrared port below this. Down near the bottom of the right side is a silver cover for the microSD (supports the microSDHC format) card slot.

Tour around the device - back: You will find a 2 megapixel camera and self-portrait mirror on the back center of the device with the rather large mono speaker below this. It is unfortunate that the speaker is on the back, but I understand as these devices get smaller and smaller with more radios packed into them that space becomes a factor so locations are limited for speakers. There is also a rubber cover for an external antenna to the right of the self-portrait mirror.

Just over half of the back, the lower part, constitutes the battery cover. Underneath this cover is an 1150 mAh battery, which is a bit undersized for this device with all of these wireless radios and receivers.

Software: The Palm Treo 800w runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional with optimized Palm features and functionality. All of the Windows Mobile 6.1 applications, utilities, and settings are included out of the box, including Office Mobile with support for Office 2007 documents, Windows Media Player, Windows Live Search and Messenger, Internet Sharing, Internet Explorer Mobile, and more.

I can't believe I also learned something new with Windows Mobile 6.1 and that is all of the available shortcuts in the email application. Within the email application you can also press and hold "d" to delete the selected email or "k" to toggle between read and unread status. You can also press and hold on "h" to view all of the press and hold keyboard shortcuts that include reply, move, forward, and more. This functionality should really improve my productivity now that I know about it.

Palm and/or Sprint also included Aces Texas Hold'em Limit and Astraware Sudoku games in addition to Bubble Breaker and Solitaire, Sprint Instant Messaging (supports AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! IM), Maps utility that allows you to search right from your Today screen, Picsel PDF Viewer, Pocket Express, link to the Sprint Software Store, Sprint Navigation (Sprint-branded TeleNav application for GPS-enabled driving directions and one of my personal favorite navigation and traffic update programs), SprintTV (allows you to watch live TV and it actually performs quite well if you have a good connection), and Sprite Backup (excellent backup program).

Palm also included a new WiFi Prefs utility that helps you manage your WiFi connection, including power settings and status indicators.

Some of the Palm "special sauce" features that I have found so far include the point of interest lookup utility on the Today screen, speed dial utility (supports photo speed dialing) on the Today screen, right soft key Menu option on the Today screen that gives you quick access to Contacts, Dial Pad, Call Log, Speed Dial options and additions, Wireless Manager shortcut, and quick link to preferences for the phone and Today screen. You can also select to hide the Lookup Field.

Thoughts and conclusions: I don't think I said anything about the speed of the device above, but this Palm Treo 800w is super fast and responsive when switching applications, opening applications, and just moving around the device. With the Palm Treo 800w and the HP iPAQ 910 that is also very responsive, we see that Windows Mobile can be a good operating system for a pleasant user experience. You almost forget that the Treo 800w is a touch screen device because you are able to use the navigational pad and hardware buttons so well to navigate and manipulate the device.

I am quite pleased to see Palm finally release a device that has integrated WiFi and GPS and think it will probably do well since there are lots of enterprise customers who like to use Palm's Windows Mobile devices. Right now you can only find this on Sprint so it is not a device I will personally be purchasing since I already have T-Mobile and AT&T accounts. I also only get 1xRTT service at my house so I can't use the EV-DO Rev. A network unless I am out on the road.

I think the US$249 price with a 2-year activation is a very good price for such a powerful mobile device. And you can purchase it with the US$99.99 Simply Everything plan to get unlimited data, messaging, Sprint TV, phone calls, etc. You can also buy it with lower priced voice and data plans, but the Simply Everything is the best deal if you use a lot of data and want to take advantage of the Sprint optional services.

Topics: Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Telcos, Wi-Fi, Windows

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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