Palm's first Windows Mobile-based Treo to hit the UK arrives with something of a splash. It was September last year when the company announced a US version of its Treo, called the Treo 700w. Now we get the Treo 750v, exclusive on Vodafone where it'll cost you from free to £212, depending on the tariff you choose.
Long-serving Palm fans might feel they need to force themselves to forget about the Palm OS and grudgingly live with Windows Mobile, but in fact there are plenty of good things about this smart phone that mean it stands up well in its own right. Unfortunately, there are a couple of bloopers too.
If you refer back to our review of the Treo 700w you'll see that particular smart phone has an antenna sticking out of its head. That design has been ditched in the Treo 750v and the antenna is buried within casing that -- and we have to point this out -- looks rather BlackBerry-ish with its blue and silver decor.
The blue parts of the casing are made of a rubbery material that feels nicely secure in the hand, and the combination of blue and silver all round make for the kind of professional look we're sure Palm was aiming at.
The keyboard is small but the well-spaced keys are easy to find with thumbs. There's an embedded block of numbers for direct dialling, and an Option key that lets you get at the +, ! and other symbols. More symbols, including the £, can be accessed via an Alt key.
Above the keyboard is a button bank. The two softkey buttons are huge, as is the navigation button. They don't scream style at you, but they are certainly easy to get at. Call and End buttons and a Windows Mobile start menu and OK button complete this suite. Between them, they make using the 750v one-handed very simple.
The screen takes some getting used to because it isn't what we normally expect from Windows Mobile devices. It's square: 240x240 pixels and 61mm (2.4 inches) diagonally across. If you aren't used to Windows Mobile you'll probably find everything okay, but if you are more accustomed to a taller 240x320-pixel display you might find the truncation here annoying at times.
Memory expansion is catered for by a very handy miniSD card slot on the right edge, and this is also where you'll find the infrared port.
One of our favourite features sits on the top edge of the casing. It's a slider button that flicks the ringer on and off. With this and the volume rocker on the left edge you can quickly control the noise the Treo 750v makes for the situation you are in. Add in the left edge button, which you can configure to launch any application you like, and you'll see that the Treo 750v hardware has been thoughtfully designed.
But not always. On the bottom edge are two terrors. First, the connector for the headset is a 2.5mm jack, so a converter is needed to use your own favourite headset. We loathe headset jacks on the bottom of phones, and Palm seems to rather like putting them on Treos. Second, the Palm connector for syncing and powering the battery is proprietary. We would much prefer a standardised mini-USB connector.
Flip the Treo 750v on to its back and you'll see a lens and self-portrait mirror for the built-in 1.3-megapixel camera. With no flash, indoor shots are somewhat hit and miss, though the resolution means you'll probably just want shots for email and MMS purposes, not for keeping or printing.
More annoying still, there is no front-facing camera for video calling. The 3G capability of this smart phone, then, is definitely data only. And while we are on that topic, the Treo 750v has the gubbins inside to cope with the high-speed HSDPA standard, but Vodafone has not enabled that. We are told there will be a software upgrade at some stage.
Palm has done some very clever stuff with the Windows Mobile operating system. There's a PDF reader included for those who want to browse email attachments and suchlike in this format, but the real innovations come right at the front end of the Treo 750v and relate to its use as a handset and mobile data device.
SMS messages, for example, can be viewed as 'threaded message' -- you can follow a series of SMS exchanges through as though they were a to-and-fro conversation, which is great if you text a lot and want to keep track.
We really like the way you place voice calls to people in your contact book. When on the Today Screen, just start to type a name and matches are shown on-screen, with the list of contacts narrowing down the more you type. Eventually you'll end up viewing the contact you want. Then you can scroll through the available numbers and tap the Call icon to dial. It's very quick and easy. Even faster, you can put a Picture ID on the Today screen and dial that. Great for the few people you call the most.
When calls come in, it's easy to send them to voicemail and, with just a few key presses, send an SMS to the caller -- you can even use a pre-defined text for speed and ease.
Oh, and did we mention the Google Web-search bar on the Today screen? Tap in a search term and the results are displayed in Pocket Internet Explorer in a flash.
It's not all rosy, though, particularly in terms of connectivity. There's no Wi-Fi, and the Bluetooth is version 1.2, which is a little old hat these days.
On a music rundown battery test we got just under 11 hours of continuous playback from a miniSD card with the Treo 750v's screen forced to stay on continuously. For the last hour, music playback was turned off -- that's when the battery got to 10 per cent of its charge.
Call quality was fine, and we found we were able to use the Treo 750v one-handed much of the time. The relatively small screen size is a major irritation, but something else would have had to be squeezed to make it larger and that would have been a pity.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide