Back in September, Palm, Microsoft and US network Verizon Wireless released a few tantalising details on the Palm Treo 700w -- then called the Palm Treo on Windows Mobile 5 -- but left us wanting much more information on the long-awaited handheld organiser. Finally, at CES 2006 in Las Vegas, the three companies have announced its availability and many more details, including the final name. The Treo 700w is now available in the US through Verizon for a pricey $499 (£280). We don't expect it to be available in the UK for several months, as it has been built to operate on US networks.
We've been able to spend only a short amount of time with this hot device at CES, but here are our initial impressions. We'll update the review nearer the UK release with extended battery tests, which may slightly change our final rating.
Part of what makes Palm's Treo line so successful is its form factor, so we're glad to see that the company didn't mess with a good thing when designing the Treo 700w. Like its Palm OS-based sibling, the Palm Treo 650, the Palm Treo 700w measures 58 by 112 by 23mm and is a hair heavier at 181g. Although the dimensions of the two devices are the same on paper, the 700w feels heavier and looks thicker. The heft may be a turnoff to some, but the device feels solid in the hand and comfortable while held up to your ear for calls. The Treo 700w sports a classic silver and charcoal-grey colour scheme that will look good in any boardroom.
Unfortunately, the Palm Treo 700w doesn't share the same sharp resolution as the Treo 650 (320x320 pixels). Rather, it has a 240x240-pixel resolution, so images and text don't look as defined as on the Treo 650, and though the 700w displays 65k colours, they look washed out. Below the display is a navigation keypad similar to the 650's. There are two action keys that give you quick access to various functions, depending on which screen you're in. For example, from the Today screen, you can launch your Messages or the Menu.
Beneath the soft keys are the Talk, Start, OK and End buttons, split into pairs by the four-way navigation toggle and the central Select key. All controls are well spaced and easy to use, and we love the fact that you can operate the smart phone with one hand -- you don't have to rely on the stylus to access menus and applications.
Of course, the Treo 700w's Qwerty keyboard is even handier (are you reading, email fanatics?). The device sports rectangular buttons instead of the oval-like keys found on the 650, but the two smart phones have something in common: a squashed layout. Users with larger digits should take note, but on the upside, the keyboard is well backlit and provides a tactile feel. There's a volume rocker on the left spine of the smart phone, as well as a customisable quick-launch button just below it.
The infrared port, the MMC/SDIO expansion slot and the ringer/silent switch sit atop the 700w, while the MultiConnector port and the 2.5mm headset jack line the bottom. As noted in our review of the Treo 650, we find the placement of the headset jack inconvenient -- you have to have it upside down in your pocket if you're listening to music -- but it's not a deal breaker. Finishing out the design elements of the Palm Treo 700w are a camera lens, a self-portrait mirror, a speaker and a user-replaceable battery on the back. The smart phone comes packaged with an AC adaptor, a USB ActiveSync cable and a wired headset.
Now, on to the good stuff. The Palm Treo 700w comes chock-full of new features not found on the Palm Treo 650 -- the most obvious being the Windows Mobile 5 operating system. With it, you get the new Microsoft Office Mobile Suite, including Word Mobile, Excel Mobile and PowerPoint Mobile. The first two apps add support for charts and tables -- an enhancement to previous versions -- while the last is completely new. Although you can't edit slides in this version of PowerPoint, it's handy to be able to view presentations on a portable device.
The biggest draw for many, however, will be Outlook Mobile. With support for push email, you can now receive Outlook email (along with POP3 and IMAP4 accounts, including Hotmail and Yahoo), appointments, contacts and tasks directly on your device via a connection with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. You also get Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, so you can listen to music and watch videos -- the 700w supports WMA, WMV and MP3 files, among others. If you want to take photos of your own, the 700w comes equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera.
There's 128MB of memory -- 60MB of which is user-accessible -- onboard, but thanks to the SD expansion slot, you can load a memory card with such multimedia content and save the internal memory for other apps. For wireless connectivity, there's Bluetooth but unfortunately no Wi-Fi. Palm says the 700w will support its Wi-Fi card, so you can gain access that way.
Beyond its improved operating system, the Treo 700w includes some new phone features that should make mobile professionals smile. First, say you're in a meeting and an important call comes through, but you can't get to it. The 700w lets you reply with a text message to let the person know you received the call but were otherwise engaged (you can now do this on the Treo 650 with a plug-in called SharkMsg). The 700w also includes photo speed dial -- which you can quickly access from your home screen, letting you call contacts by photos -- and a user-friendly, icon-based voicemail app that supports numerous systems at work or at home.
We tested the Palm Treo 700w in Las Vegas using Verizon's network, and call quality was excellent. Conversations were loud and clear on our end, and our callers reported the same. Powered by a 312MHz Intel XScale processor, we had no problems surfing the Web, and load times were fast.
The Palm Treo 700w's battery is rated for a talk time of 4.7 hours and a standby time of 15 days, which is decent for a handheld with a built-in phone. In our tests, we met the rated talk time, but standby time fell short by about 5 days. According to US FCC radiation tests, the Treo 700w has a digital SAR rating of 1.26 watts per kilogram.
Edited by Lindsey Turrentine
Additional editing by Nick Hide