Average user rating
- Extremely ergonomic to use, particularly one-handed
- excellent enhancements to the Windows Mobile Today screen
- no ungainly protruding antenna
- threaded SMS views
- Lacks Wi-Fi
- small screen
- 1.3Mpixel camera could be better
- proprietary Palm charge and sync connector
- no front-facing camera for video calls
The UK has waited a long time for Palm to bring a Windows Mobile-based Treo over from the US, but at last the Treo 750v is here. The ‘v’ indicates that this smartphone is exclusive to Vodafone, although we expect it to be available from other operators -- and maybe also SIM-free -- in due course. Palm may have upset legions of Palm OS fans by choosing to license Windows Mobile 5.0, but Microsoft's OS was undoubtedly chosen with more than half an eye on corporate integration. The good news is that Palm has tweaked the Windows Mobile software in some intelligent and compelling ways to come up with an extremely usable smartphone.
The Treo 750v is not dissimilar in size to other small-format Windows Mobile devices such as the HTC TyTN or Orange's SPV M600. Unlike those devices, however, its fascia sports a small keyboard.
Styled in blue and silver, the Treo 750v has something of a BlackBerry look about it, but in everyday use we found the Treo to have better ergonomics. This is not, as you might think, because of its touch screen. During testing we carried out many standard tasks without using the touch screen. This is because of a mix of software and hardware features that combine to deliver efficient one-handed use.
Central to this is the bank of buttons sitting between the screen and the QWERTY keyboard. A large navigation button protrudes from the fascia and curves inwards to its central select key, making for easy movement within and between applications. This is flanked by wide softmenu buttons that perform their functions efficiently.
Below these, smaller Call and End keys are matched up with, on the left side a key that invokes the Windows Mobile Start menu and on the right an ‘OK’ button. Used in combination with some of the software features, these buttons allow you to make calls, create text messages and even, in conjunction with the keyboard, conduct Web searches one-handed.
The keyboard itself is not especially large, but it's quite easy to use because the keys are raised from the fascia and well spaced. Most of the keys are styled in a slightly darker blue than their background, with those bearing the numberpad coloured silver to match the screen surround. An ‘option’ key gives you access to symbols that double up on QWERTY keys. A '$' sign is present here, and an alt key gives access to other currency symbols as well as further symbols from a scrolling picklist.
The screen is relatively small for a Windows Mobile device. It is square, measuring 2.4in. corner to corner, and delivers 240 by 240 pixels in 16-bit colour. Anyone accustomed to using tall-format screens on Windows Mobile devices may find the loss of a few vertical pixels irritating: it certainly took a little while for us to get used to the different aspect ratio.
On the top edge is a button that turns the Treo 750v’s ringer off and on. We don’t use profiles on many smartphones, simply turning the sound on and off as appropriate for different situations, and being able to do so with a button is a legacy from the Treo 650 that we really appreciate.
The Treo 750v lacks the protruding antenna of its predecessor, this component having been internalised. This makes the Treo 750v a more comfortable device to carry in the pocket, although you'll probably notice its 5.8cm by 11.1cm by 2.2cm dimensions and 154g weight.
On the left edge is a hardware button that can be assigned to launch any application you like. Above this is a large -- overly large in our opinion --volume rocker. The right edge has the infrared port and a covered slot for a miniSD card.
Annoyingly, the headset connector is on the bottom edge, and it's a 2.5mm jack. We much prefer top-mounted headset connectors, while using a 2.5mm connector means you'll probably need a 2.5mm to 3.5mm adapter to use your favourite headphones.
It 's also irritating that Palm uses proprietary mains power and sync cable connectors. With so many devices sporting mini-USB connectors these days, its perfectly possible to minimise the number of cables you need when travelling. Palm, however, still requires you to carry its own cables.
Palm provides a long stylus that's comfortable to hold, although we would have preferred a weightier unit. The product box also includes a mains power cable with international adapters, a proprietary-to-USB sync cable, a stereo headset, a screen protector, a software CD and printed quick-start guide and a user manual.
The Treo 750v is a 3G device with support for quad-band GSM, GPRS and EDGE. It's not HSDPA-capable, although we understand that Vodafone will be making this 1.8Mbps connectivity option available in due course as a software upgrade. We can’t speak for other operators regarding HSDPA if they announce this Treo. There is no front-facing camera so 3G connections are strictly for data access such as mobile Web and email, rather than for video calls.
Infrared and Bluetooth (1.2) are built in, but there's no Wi-Fi. This may disappoint those looking for a modern smartphone that can be used across corporate Wi-Fi networks.
After a hard reset our review device had 62MB of free memory for programs and data. If you need to augment this, we’ve already noted the miniSD card slot, readily accessible on the right edge of the device.
The camera, whose lens is at the back of the device, shoots stills at resolutions up to 1.3 megapixels. This is a long way from state of the art, and given the Treo 750v's primary business focus, it's slightly surprising that Palm has included a camera at all. It has a 2x digital zoom, but no flash.
As we noted earlier, Palm has embellished the Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system in some interesting and useful ways. One example is SMS threading: SMS messages to and from a number are shown in sequence as if they were an ongoing discussion. This makes referencing earlier messages relatively straightforward.
Palm has also made several enhancements to the Windows Mobile Today screen. When you want to call someone, with the Today screen in view, you can start to tap out their name on the keyboard. As you do so your contacts list is narrowed down and matches displayed. When you see the person you want to call, you use the navigation button to scroll to the number you want -- all available numbers are shown on-screen. Hitting the Call button starts a call. This is all very easy to accomplish one-handed. You can also populate the Today Screen with a selection of photo contacts if required.
If you don’t want to answer an incoming call, you can easily reject it with an SMS. The right softmenu is dedicated to this feature, and you can either compose a message on the spot or choose from predefined texts.
Another favourite enhancement is the inclusion of a Google search bar at the bottom of the Today screen. You simply type a search term into this and Pocket Internet Explorer launches and displays the results of your search. Finding information on the Web has never been easier on a Windows Mobile device.
Performance & battery life
Testing the battery with our usual MP3 playback test we got 9 hours of music from a miniSD card played through the device's speaker and with the screen forced to stay on. We got a battery low warning when the battery reached 10 percent and music playback stopped. It then continued to deliver warnings at regular intervals for the rest of its life -- which amounted to just under 11 hours in total.
There are some notable annoyances with the Treo 750v, including the absence of Wi-Fi, a cramped screen, the lack of a front-facing camera and proprietary cables. But the enhancements to Windows Mobile 5.0 are well thought-out and overall we like this smartphone a lot.