Review posted July 4, 2006 by Lisa Gade, Editor
No one wants a good thing, nay a great thing, to end. So it is with the Palm OS Treo line. It never ends and instead constantly evolves. The Treo 600 was a hit in its day several years back and the venerable Treo 650 did better, defining the PDA phone and smartphone market. It had the ergonomics, great phone usability, strong PDA and Internet features that made it a killer device which nearly every major carrier jumped on and offered. So the Treo 700p builds on the 650's strengths and improves on that device by adding EVDO, a much needed memory upgrade, a 1.3MP camera and bug fixes. Those of you who were hoping for an all-new feature set or redesign will be disappointed. But those looking for an upgrade for a tired Treo or simply one of the best PDA phones on the market will find the 700p most appealing.
The Treo 700p in a nutshell
The Treo 700p runs Palm OS 5.4.9, has 128 megs of memory with 60 megs available and a 312MHz processor to keep things moving smoothly. It's currently available only in a CDMA version and both Sprint and Verizon carry the phone. We received both for review, and they are 97% the same, with carrier software customizations and casing color being the only differentiators. We noted that the displays' color casts were different on our Sprint and Verizon phones but Palm often uses more than one LCD supplier so we can't say that the difference is related to the carrier rather than the LCD supplier for each piece. The 700p has a 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth (with support for DUN) and a 320 x 320 pixel color touch screen. It's compatible with most Treo 650 and Treo 700w accessories such as sync cables, chargers and headsets.
Design and Ergonomics
The 700p shares the same casing as its Windows Mobile brother the Treo 700w, with rounded bottom corners and larger keys that are square rather than the oblique ovals on the Treo 650. The differences between the 700p and Treo 650 are subtle but the rounded bottom corners do make the device feel better in hand— and that's impressive since the Treo 650 feels fantastic. The new button arrangement above the keyboard features larger and thus easier to press buttons for call send, calendar, email and home. The two elongated horizontal buttons just below the display function as the all-important softkeys on the Windows Mobile version of the device but on the Palm OS 700p seem like an afterthought. The left key (labeled with a green horizontal bar) functions in the same way as the green call send button did on the Treo 650: when in the phone screen it brings up recent call history entries. Palm said they felt the old call send button was overloaded, though I'd say it's now underloaded, functioning only to bring up the phone dialer screen. The combined call end / power off / toggle phone radio on and off button has moved to the right side key (labeled with a horizontal red bar) and it thus is as overloaded as ever.
The keyboard is more usable than previous Treo models thanks to the larger keys and less domed surface (your fingers won't slide off as easily). The keys are still arranged in a radial pattern which increases typing ease and allows Palm to keep the Treo small. The backlighting is a soft yet effective white and its brightness and duration are tied to the screen brightness and backlight duration in Prefs.
The call volume control is on the left hand side and is comprised of two discrete keys rather than the Treo 650's one-piece rocker. An application quick launch button lives directly below which you can assign to any application, such as the camera (which lacks a dedicated key) or the voice recorder.
The Treo 700p's 312 MHz Intel XScale processor remains unchanged from the Treo 650 (or Treo 700w for that matter), but the 700p gains a much needed boost in memory to 128 megs with 60 available to store programs and data. Even non-power users who weren't addicted to installing lots of 3rd party applications often butted up against the Treo 650's small amount of internal memory. The Treo 700p has more than enough storage to suit application collectors, those with huge contacts databases and folks who need to carry documents. Of course, you can further expand storage by adding an SD card but now that need not be the first item on your shopping list (unless you're a camera junkie or want to carry a collection of MP3s with you).
The processor is more than up to the task and both the Sprint and Verizon Treo 700p models run just as peppily as the Treo 650. The 700p can handle video playback with TCPMP, the included media player and streaming media from the Net with aplomb, and even large contact databases remain usable. The operating system is modestly updated to version 5.4.9, and these are bug fixes more than anything else. The device is stable, more so than the Treo 650, and we've had only 1 reset in 3 weeks of heavy use (that's with 3rd party software installed, not a vanilla Treo out of the box). Since the OS remains virtually unchanged, we had no compatibility problems with the majority of our favorite 3rd party applications. The only two that had problems were Verichat and Treoguard.
For memory expansion, the Treo 700p has an SD slot which accepts memory cards, even those larger than 2 gigs. The slot supports SDIO but alas, like the Treo 650, it is not compatible with Palm's SD WiFi card.
Phone Features, Internet and Reception
When it comes to phone features, if you've used a Treo 650, you'll feel right at home because little has changed. Pressing the phone button brings up the on-screen dialer whose buttons are large enough to press with a finger. Handy launchers for Contacts, Voicemail, Call Log and web browser live below the buttons on the phone screen. Press down on d-pad to bring up the full palette of apps. You can have five pages of these favorites and customize them as you see fit. This makes one handed operation a breeze: simply leave the Treo in the phone application and you can launch most any app using the d-pad.
Of course the Treo supports dialing directly from your contacts list and it has speed dial, though it doesn't come with a voice dialing application (you can download a demo of Voice Signal). Speed dial is so easy on the Treo that I have never felt the need to install voice dialing software on my Treo 650 or the 700p. You can assign any contact's phone number or any application to a key on the keyboard. For example, I assigned Tong's mobile number to the letter "t" on the keyboard. To call, I need only press and hold the "t" key for a few seconds. As with past Treo phones, if you've dialed a number that's not in your contact list or received a call not in contacts, the Treo will ask you if you'd like to add it to Contacts. New to the Treo 700p is the 700w's "ignore with text feature" which allows you to send a text message to the caller when you can't pick up. If you caller isn't in your Treo's contacts database it will ask you if you'd like to add that number once the call has ended (as it did with the Treo 650), but now you can add the number to an existing contact or tell the Treo to never ask you again.
The phone screen shows signal strength, EV (or 1x) availability, date, time, E911 location services status and the battery level. The signal display is more granular, with six bars total rather than 4. Signal strength on both the Verizon and Sprint phones is good to very good when compared to other phones offered by each carrier in a given location. Incoming and outgoing voice quality and volume levels are very good, and both the Sprint and Verizon versions have louder earpieces than the Treo 650 (which was a tad quiet).
While phone features haven't changed appreciably, data has made a big leap forward thanks to EVDO support. The Treo has a good web browser and excellent email applications on tap, but that gets you only so far with a slow data connection. EVDO is just what the doctor ordered, and this smartphone seems smarter when web pages load quickly and emails with attachments don't take a small eternity to download. Likely EVDO and the Treo 700p's increased memory will be the two factors that motivate folks to upgrade to the 700p, and we can only hope that the GSM version will have 3G as well. Both of our Treos managed an average of 320k in testing download speeds using DSL Reports mobile speed test (tested in San Jose and Dallas). That's not as fast as the 450 to 700k speeds we've seen on other EVDO phones such as the Verizon XV6700 and the Sprint PPC-6700. and we're not sure if that's a result of Palm OS 5's antiquated networking or Blazer, but we're betting it's the OS itself.
The Treo comes with Blazer 4.5, which offers improvements over version 4 included with the Treo 650. Blazer 4.5 (the icon unremarkably labeled "Web" in the program launcher home screen) sports more intelligent caching, which means the phone won't insist on re-loading every little bit of a cached web page before rendering it. We're excited that Blazer can now support streaming media (Windows Media format ASF, WMV as well as MP3) via an embedded version of Kinoma Player. You won't find a standalone icon for Kinoma, you'll only see its splash screen inside of Blazer when you visit a page with the supported media types. Sorry, there's no support for Macromedia Flash or QuickTime in Blazer.
The Verizon Treo 700p, GSM Treo 650 and the Sprint Treo 700p
For mail, the Treo comes with Palm's VersaMail 3.5.1 which supports multiple email accounts, POP3, IMAP and Exchange ActiveSync. It's the icon labeled "Mail", and on the Verizon Treo you'll need to run their Wireless Sync setup on the Treo (even if you don't intend to use it) to have the Mail icon installed in your Palm launcher. You'll also get an SMS and MMS application called Messaging which retains that lovely threaded SMS message view and spiffs up the UI a bit.The Verizon Treo comes with Verizon's Wireless Sync software (a monthly fee applies should you decide to use this service). The Sprint Treo comes with Good and Sprint's Business Connection software. Service which allows you to set up one or more email accounts for delivery to your Treo. The Verizon Treo comes with their Wireless Sync application (the application is free but the service is an optional additional $20/month).
Display and Multimedia
Once again, little has changed from the excellent Treo 650 here. The Treo 700p has a sharp 320 x 320 pixel display capable of displaying 65,000 colors. It's easy to read, has very good color for image and video playback and beats QVGA Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones by a small margin in the resolution department. It beats the 240 x 240 Treo 700w by a wider margin and you really can see more on screen, which is most noticeable when web browsing, reading eBooks and working with MS Office documents.
Pocket Tunes 3.0 is included for your MP3 playback pleasure and this is an excellent application which is skinnable and supports playlists, repeat, shuffle, playing with the screen turned off to reduce power consumption and background playback (the music won't stop when you switch to another application even though the Treo doesn't support multi-tasking). If you register Pocket Tunes you'll be able to download some bonus skins and you can upgrade to the Deluxe version if you wish to play WMA, OGG, WAV or Internet radio stations. The Treo supports stereo output through its 2.5mm jack and the Sprint version comes with stereo headset while the Verizon version comes with a mono earbud headset with mic. You can get an adapter if you wish to use standard 3.5mm stereo headphones.
The Treo comes with a large selection of ring tones, and ring volume is excellent. You can record your own ring tones using the Treo's Voice Recorder application which is a very simple process. It supports WAV and MIDI ringtones but not MP3s out of the box. You can send voice notes using the Messaging app which can be sent via MMS and record voice notes for your own personal use. Voice recordings are saved to internal memory and you can quickly scan forward and back during playback using the d-pad. Call volume through the built-in earpiece is louder than the somewhat subdued Treo 650 and is adequate for all but very noisy locations (the same can be said of most current smartphones, they don't have hugely loud earpieces).
Bluetooth remains largely unchanged, with one very important exception: the Treo 700p supports DUN (dial up networking) out of the box. No kidding. Using the Treo as a high speed wireless EVDO modem for Internet access on a PC or Mac is a joy. When the PC or Mac discovers the Treo, it finds the DUN profile as well, no need to do anything exotic. The one caveat is that you must subscribe to a tethering plan to use DUN (standard unlimited PDA plans don't include DUN on Sprint and Verizon). Verizon charges $15 additional to use DUN and Sprint's DUN plan is $55, while their regular unlimited data plan is $15/month.
The Treo's Bluetooth 1.2 class 2 radio is the same as that used in the Treo 650 and 700w. While it doesn't have the greatest range with Bluetooth headsets, it did behave reliably with usable range when we tested it with the Palm Treo Bluetooth headset, the Cardo Scala 500, Jabra BT250 and Plantronics Discovery 640. In areas with 2.4GHz connection (other Bluetooth devices, WiFi access points and those dreaded microwave ovens) range is about 10 feet with headsets and increased to 15 feet in less wireless-laden areas. Palm kept the same Bluetooth setup wizard found on the Treo 650 and recent Palm PDAs such as the Palm T|X and LifeDrive. The Bluetooth setup wizard asks you what you'd like to connect to (headset or HotSync to a computer), then walks you through the pairing process. Though DUN isn't mentioned in the Treo wizard, your PC or Mac will see that as an available service when you pair computer and phone.
We loved the Treo 650's camera, even though it was a low resolution VGA affair. It simply took photos with excellent color and Palm's image processing software made good photos from a low-end camera. The Treo 700p shares the same camera used in the Treo 700w, which increases resolution to 1.3 megapixels, offering sharper and larger images. However, it lacks the color saturation and accuracy of the Treo 650. That said, your favorite image editor can help things along once the shot is taken. You can crank color and change color balance, but you can't add pixels where non exist (without making a noisy image), so we'll take higher resolution over color fidelity. Still, we wish the colors were as nice as the Treo 650's. Images taken at full 1280 x 1024 resolution look nice and sharp when resized down to sub-VGA size. The sample photos below were taken at 1280 x 1024 resolution and are unedited other than resizing down to 300 x 240.
Color shift, not unusual for camera phones where the blue Crossfire looks violet.
A dramatic late afternoon sky.
Close-ups are a little hard for the Treo since it doesn't have a macro mode.
The Treo comes with ScanR software which allows you to take a photo of text (say a whiteboard) and turn it into text. Pretty neat and actually useful, especially if you hate taking notes at meetings. The camera can take video with audio at 352 x 288 and 176 x 144 resolutions. On both the camera and camcorder, you can disable the shutter sound.
Battery life and capacity is equal to the Treo 650, which is to say very good by smartphone standards. The Treo ships with a beefy 1,800 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's user replaceable. Simply slide off the back cover to swap in a new battery. We found we could go 2 to 3 days on a charge with moderate web browser use (45 minutes/day) and checking email 5 times/day. For the test we talked on the phone for 30 minutes per day and used the PDA functions, edited MS Office documents and played MP3s for 30 minutes per day. If you've got the Treo checking email every 15 minutes throughout the business day, plan on watching lots of videos or Sprint TV (MobiTV), plan on charging more frequently. As with the Treo 650, leaving Bluetooth on will reduce runtimes, though not dramatically.
Palm's keyguard application prevents accidental button presses from initiating calls or running applications by accident. This means you won't open your purse or briefcase and find a drained Treo. Should the Treo's battery run out, the contents of memory will remain intact since the device uses non-volatile memory which doesn't require power to preserve the contents of memory. Phew!
The Treo runs Palm OS 5.4.9 (aka Garnet) and
comes with Palm Desktop for Windows and Mac with support
for syncing to Outlook on Windows. You'll get Documents To Go 8
for viewing and editing Word and Excel docs and viewing PowerPoint
files and PDFs. This is an excellent office application suite that's installed in ROM (it won't take up additonal storage space, and you need not install it). Docs To Go beats Microsoft's own mobile office suite found on Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones when it comes to preserving document formatting and support for advanced editing features. Blazer 4.5 web browser, VersaMail 3.5, Messaging for MMS and
SMS, ScanR, Pocket Tunes, Palm's own Pictures and Videos, World Clock, and Handmark Express. The Verizon version
includes Verizon's Wireless Sync software and the Sprint version includes SprintTV (MobiTV), Good and Sprint's Business Connection.
A smartphone / PDA phone that's set the standard, with key upgrades: that's the Treo 700p. Though evolutionary rather than revolutionary, the Treo 700p doesn't mess with a good thing: it's got fantastic phone ergonomics and usability, an attractive design, strong PDA features and EVDO for fast Internet connectivity. We gave the Treo 650 5 stars in its day, and the Treo 700p would get a full 5, but it lacks the revolutionary jump that would garner that rare perfect (or near perfect) rating given the competitors it now faces.
Pro: Fantastically easy to use in terms of ergonomics and software. Still the best smartphone on the market for one-handed use. High resolution display is a treat as always, and the Treo 700p has the processing power and memory to keep all things running smoothly, including multimedia. Strong software bundle, and Documents to Go offers more advanced editing features and desktop file format compatibility than the competing Windows Mobile Office suite found on Pocket PC phones. Great 3rd party software selection for those who like to customize their device. EVDO is fast, making for fast web browsing and email downloads. Streaming media support is sweet.
Con: Though the 700p is an excellent PDA and phone, it doesn't wow us with new features which will send Treo 650 owners eagerly down the upgrade path. EVDO will likely be the biggest selling point for current Treo owners, and added memory will please power users. Still no WiFi or even SD WiFi card support. While we love Palm OS for its ease of use and general stability, Palm OS 5 is getting awfully tired. EVDO speeds using Blazer aren't as fast as other EVDO smartphones.
Price: ~ $399 to $499 with 2 year contract and data plan
TFT color LCD, 65K colors. Screen size diag: 2.75",
resolution: 320 x 320.
Battery:1800 mAh Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Claimed talk time: 4.5 hours. Standby: 300 hours.
XScale PXA270 312 MHz processor. 128 megs non-volatile flash ROM memory with 60 megs available
memory for storage.
x 2.3 x 0.9 inches. Weight: 6.4 ounces.
in speaker, mic and 2.5mm stereo headphone
jack. Supports ring tones and alarms as well as vibration.
Pocket Tunes included for your
Phone:CDMA digital 800/1900MHz bands.
1xRTT (Vision in Sprint-speak) and EVDO (Power Vision in Sprint's lingo) for data.
Networking:Integrated Bluetooth 1.2 with support for headsets, car kits, HotSync, file transfer and DUN. IR port.
Camera:1.3MP CMOS camera capable of shooting photos
up to 1280 x 1024 resolution. 2x digital zoom. Can shoot
video with audio.
device runs Palm OS 5.4.9. Palm Desktop for Windows
2000/XP and Mac OS X included. Windows only conduits to sync to
Outlook rather than Palm Desktop if you prefer. Documents
To Go 8, Pocket Tunes, Blazer 4.5 web browser, VersaMail
3.5, Camera, Camcorder, Pictures & Videos, World Clock, Voice Recorder, Card Info,
Security, Memos, calculator, eReader, Handmark Express, Bejeweled and Klondike Solitaire. On Verizon Treo: Wireless Sync. On Sprint Treo: Good, Sprint Business Connection and SprintTV (MobiTV).
SD (Secure Digital) supporting
In the Box:Treo, rechargeable battery, stylus, software CD, USB sync cable and charger.