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Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Reviews

Palm Treo 700w

Editor's rating (1-5):
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Reviewed Jan. 19, 2006 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

The Treo 700w will undoubtedly, like the Palm OS Treo 650, be one of the most hottest smartphones on the market this year. It boasts the extremely popular Treo design and usability married to the power of Windows Mobile 5.0. If you're a Pocket PC fan who always longed for that Treo look and feel, you may just find yourself in heaven. Palm and Verizon tell us that Verizon will be the only carrier to offer the Treo 700w for the first 6 months. Verizon's selection of PDA phones, feature phones and their EVDO network continue to impress us in the last few months. The Treo 700w exclusive will surely further their appeal in the US.

Treo 700w Palm Treo 700w back

The Treo 700w was announced at CES in Las Vegas by Verizon Wireless and Palm on Jan. 4th, 2006 andwas available in Verizon stores beginning Jan. 5th. It costs $499 with a two year contract and you'll get $100 off if you get both a voice plan costing $39.99 or more and Verizon's unlimited data plan ($40 to $45/month). Verizon's data plan entitles you to use their 3G EVDO high speed network as well as 1xRTT. EVDO gets between 400 to 700k and 1xRTT gets around 100k/sec. We're using the Treo 700w in an EVDO market and page loading and email download speeds are superb. It feels like WiFi, yet you need not be in range of an access point. Sprint introduced their version, the Treo 700wx (with 64 megs of RAM) on September 3, 2006.

For those of you considering cross-grading from the Treo 650, you'll be happy to hear that the 700w uses all the same accessories including cables, chargers and batteries. Since the two devices run very different operating systems, Treo 650 software won't work on the 700w and vice versa.

We're big fans of Windows Mobile Pocket PC phones here as well as the Treo 650, and in terms of usability, this is a marriage made in heaven. Much as we love the power of Pocket PC phones, they are often a pain to use as a phone, though great as data devices and PDAs. The 700w is easy to hold, a reasonable size to hold to your head when in conversation and hosts many Palm customizations that allow you to use the device easily with one hand.

Palm sees the Treo 700w as a phone first, and it shows in their tweaks. The Today Screen has a speed dial plugin with shortcuts similar to the Treo 650, and there's even a photo dialer (thumbnails of any contacts you wish) on the home screen. Simply tap the photo to dial that person. As with the Treo 650, you can also assign any letter on the QWERTY thumb keyboard to a contact for speed dial-- so you can press "o" to call the office if you desire. To dial someone in your contacts, start typing the first few characters of their name to bring up their name. You can even type in their first initial, a space, then their last name's initial to lookup and dial a contact.

Treo 650 and Treo 700w

Left: Treo 700w, right Treo 650.

Treo 700w and the XV6700

The Treo 700w and Verizon XV6700

Design and Ergonomics

If you've seen and held the Treo 650, you'll note only the most minor of differences. They are virtually identical in size and weight, with the 700w having more rounded bottom corners and squarer keyboard keys. The device feels great in the hand with excellent ergonomics. Most tasks can be done one-handed, such as selecting a number to dial, looking at call history, opening the calendar, contacts or even Internet Explorer. Simply use the 5-way directional pad, keyboard keys and the dedicated Windows Start Menu and OK keys (for you Palm folks, OK generally closes a window).

Below the Treo 700w's 2.5" display you'll find dedicated soft keys which offer contextual actions in applications and the Today Screen. Microsoft added soft keys in Windows Mobile 5.0, and the Treo is one of the few to offer the hardware to match that feature. The Windows Start Menu key sits to the left of the d-pad and the OK sits on the right. The call send and end buttons flank the Windows and OK keys.

Palm tweaked the keyboard from the Treo 650 design and the keys are squared and less domed compared to the 650. I find both equally easy to use and with some practice the Treo keyboards are usable, though not as roomy as the Verizon XV6700 Pocket PC Phone. Though the 6700's keyboard may be better, with the Treo 700w you need not slide out and rotate the device to begin typing.

top of Treo 700w

Like the Palm OS Treos, the 700w has a slider switch up top to turn all sounds on or off (the device will automatically vibrate rather than ring or sound an alarm when the slider is set to off). The SD card slot (supporting memory cards and SDIO cards such as Palm's SD WiFi card) is also located up top along with the IR window. On the left side you'll find the volume up and down buttons which control both system and ring volume when not in a call and call volume when in a call. Below these you'll find another application button which you can assign to whatever you like-- i.e. MS Voice Command or the camera. The user replaceable battery lives under a door on the back of the unit and the camera lens and self portrait mirror are on the back as well.

Phone Features, Reception and Data

The Treo 700w is a CDMA phone supporting the 800 and 1900 MHz bands used in the US. Like all recent Verizon phones, it doesn't have analog which is being phased out. Call quality and reception were impressive: incoming voice is full and rich with good volume and outgoing call volume is good as well when using the handset directly as well as the included mono ear bud headset. Call recipients occasionally complained that their voice echoed when we used the Treo Wireless Bluetooth Headset but never when talking using the handset or wired headset.

Palm customized the user interface in several ways to improve this Pocket PC's usability as a phone. Two Today Screen plugins ease the process of making calls. Though you can simply start entering a phone number while in the Today Screen to make a call using any Pocket PC phone, that fact isn't obvious to new users. The Treo 700w has a plugin with a field that says "Type a name or number": start entering the number or any name in your address book and matches will appear in that field. You can use the d-pad to move down to the correct match. If it doesn't find an address book match after you've entered three numbers, it will show the numbers you've entered and dial that number when you hit the call send key. You need not hit the option key to put the keyboard into numeric mode since the phone assumes you're dialing a number if it finds no match in Contacts. The drawback with this feature is that you won't see the usual on-screen dial pad as you would with a non-enhanced Pocket PC phone or Palm OS Treo. You'll need to hit the right soft key and select dial pad, and that dial pad is featureless compared to the standard dialer. Likewise you'll need to close the on-screen dialer to then select speaker phone, mute, notes or call history which are available while in the dialer screen on other devices.

The next plugin is more elaborate and impressive. It's a two part affair, both of which offer speed dial functions. The first is photo caller ID: tap your contact's photo on the home screen to dial their number. The second are button-like shortcuts labeled with the name of the person they'll dial with one tap of your finger or stylus. These look similar to the Palm OS Treo's favorites, but only speed dial numbers may be added (for you PPC folks, the palm OS version supports application and documents as well as phone numbers). To add photo or speed dial shortcut buttons, tap and hold in the plugin's area on the Today Screen and select "New Speed Dial". Select "Speed Dial Options" to edit or delete existing speed dials.

today screen

The Today Screen with Palm's plugins: dial field, photo caller ID and "favorites" (shortcuts to speed dial numbers) . That Search box you see below the calendar is a Google search box.

Display, Sound and Multimedia

While nearly all Pocket PCs have QVGA 240 x 320 pixels displays (with the exception of a few VGA models), Palm followed HP and took the lower road, using a 240 x 240 display. The Treo 700w and HP iPAQ 6515 / HP iPAQ hw6915 Pocket PC phone are the only devices with that lower, square resolution; each doing so to accommodate their thumb keyboards. Alas, 320 x 320 doesn't seem to be an option with Windows Mobile 5 so far, so you will see less on screen compared to the Palm OS Treo 650 which does run at 320 x 320. Will the lower resolution bother you? If you're a power user who needs to see the most on screen when browsing the web or viewing a spreadsheet, then yes. If you love to play games (not many support 240 x 240) or run lots of third party apps (only some of which currently support 240 x 240), then yes. If you just want to use the phone lots, don't plan on adding lots of software or watching movies for long periods of time, then the resolution should work fine for you.

The transflective display itself is bright and colorful and at 2.5" daigonally, text is easy on the eyes. Though not as bright as the Treo 650, it's plenty bright enough. The display has a slight blue cast compared to the 650 but the color bias is not heavy and images, including photos, look good. Since the operating system supports both portrait and landscape orientations, you can flip the display to landscape but this is pointless given the square resolution and the keyboard being utterly out of place for landscape use.

The Treo 700w is a loudmouth. Alarms, ringtones and general audio out through the large rear-firing speaker will get your attention. The speaker is located on the back so you're not accidentally deafened when an alarm goes off while you're holding the phone to your head in conversation. The speakerphone is very loud and clear as well. The phone supports MIDI, MP3, WMA and WAV ringtones (just drag new ones into the Rings folder inside the Windows folder on the Treo).

Like all Windows Mobile phones, the Treo can play MP3s using the included Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, even DRM protected Play For Sure content. Windows Media Player also handles WMA, ASF and WMV videos for movie playback. If you want to watch AVI, DIVX and various other MPEG formats or listen to OGG music, download The Core Pocket Media Player (TCPMP), an excellent free open source player which works fine on the Treo.

We use TCPMP to run our video playback benchmark test, and threw our usual test file at it: "The Chosen" (a neat BMW flick with Clive Owen) which is a 4:26 minute long, 10 meg MPEG1 file recorded at 320 x 240, 308 kb/s. The results aren't stunning for a file encoded at a fairly low bitrate but it manages just fine with videos under 550 kbps.

Average speed: 157.92%
Bench Frame Rate: 37.90
Bench. Data Rate: 489 kbit/s
Orig. Frame Rate: 24fps
Orig. Data Rate: 310 kbit/s

Horsepower and Performance

The 700w runs on a 312 MHz Intel XScale processor with ~25 megs of available RAM to run programs and 128 megs of flash ROM where the OS lives and where you can install programs and data. There are 62 megs of storage memory free on the Treo, which is a generous helping of space. Since it's a Windows Mobile 5.0 device it features persistent storage which means your data will survive a complete battery drain.

The unit feels fast and responsive, in fact it feels a bit faster than the Sprint PPC-6700 Pocket PC Phone which has a faster processor and benchmarked faster than the Treo. Speaking of benchmarks, the Treo handily lost nearly every Spb Benchmark test, yet it feels more responsive when opening menus, scrolling through windows and running core apps than other Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PCs and PPC phones. Palm must have done a great job caching frequently used core apps and related files.

RAM is precious on the Treo 700w, of the 25 megs available at boot, all but 10 are used by the operating system and other programs that run at boot. Unlike most other Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC PDAs and Pocket PC Phones, the Treo has 32 megs of internal RAM rather than 64. The Sprint version (Treo 700wx) which was released on September 3rd, 2006, has 64 megs of RAM so it doesn't have memory issues. Power users who run several applications concurrently won't be thrilled by the short RAM. For you Palm folks, Windows Mobile multitasks, which means you can have several programs running, unlike Palm OS which runs one app at a time. This is likely why Palm created a shortcut to the Memory settings applet (press the option and OK keys simultaneously), so users can manage and end running applications. Again, for you Palm folks: the "x" close box at the top of the screen doesn't close an application, rather it minimizes it and runs it in the background. You must use the Memory settings applet or a 3rd party task manager to exit running programs.

So what does this mean to you? If you run the Mobile Outlook email application, Internet Explorer, calendar and contacts, you'll have about 3.5 megs of free RAM after a few hours and the device will run fine for several days: no crashes, no low memory warnings and no slow downs. Great for the "average" user who doesn't add lots of memory-hungry apps and just needs to keep on top of their schedule, email and use the phone. In fact, you can even run Windows Media Player on the Treo and things will still run smoothly, with RAM going down to 2.5 megs free. But if you have TextMaker, TCPMP (The Core Pocket Media Player), Voice Command, and a 3rd party PIM replacement application on top of email, IE, contacts and calendar, you'll likely run into a memory low warning, will definitely see the Treo slow down and will have to kill an app or two or soft reset the Treo.

Bluetooth

Like most high end Verizon feature phones and smartphones, the Treo 700w supports Bluetooth headsets. Like the Palm Treo 650, Bluetooth doesn't have the best range and you'll want to stay within 15 feet (or 10 if you're in a WiFi-polluted environment) of the phone when using a wireless headset. We tested the Treo with Palm's own Treo Bluetooth Headset and the Plantronics Discovery 640, both of which offered good voice quality and volume within a 10 foot range.

Again, like most Verizon phones, the Treo 700w doesn't support Bluetooth DUN (Dial Up Networking), though Verizon tells us they will be offering EVDO tethering for a relatively modest fee (perhaps $15/month) in the coming months, and will offer a patch for the Treo 700w when the tethering service is available.

The Treo 700w uses Microsoft's no-frills Bluetooth stack which lacks Wizards or any other user-friendly way of walking you through the connection process. Though spartan, it gets the job done and you can use it to pair with any supported device (since there's no wizard listing devices you might connect to, guessing at supported devices and Bluetooth profiles is par for the course). The Treo supports headset, handsfree, serial port (used for GPS) and HID (keyboards and mice) profiles. We tested the Treo with Think Outside's Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard using only the built-in drivers from the OS and it worked fine.

Sorry, there's no WiFi but those who live and work in EVDO coverage areas might find little need for it when using Verizon's $40 to $45/month unlimited data plan. The SD slot supports SDIO so you can use SD WiFi cards such as Socket's E300 WiFi card should you prefer that to Verizon's EVDO service cost.

Benchmark Results, comparing Windows Mobile 5 PPC Phones

 
i-mate K-JAM (HTC Wizard) (195 MHz)
Verizon XV6700 HTC Apache) (416 MHz)
Treo 700w
Spb Benchmark index
258
344
166
CPU index
934
1669
1264
File system index
108
138
63.4
Graphics index
1439
2178
1765
Platform index
288
375
221
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
570
692
679
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
3.13
4.27
1.99
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
660
612
495
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
115
265
235
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
1.83
2.16
1.04
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
206
246
223
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
0.992
1.23
0.521
Internal database read (records/sec)
592
1611
1225
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
35.1
204
330
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
12.3
33.1
40.5
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
509
266
185
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
5.72
7.77
6.33
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
7.37
6.55
5.81
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
86.2
109
113
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
335
449
277
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
165
197
185
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
244
516
364
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
145
157
112
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.032
0.08
0.059
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
25.9
57.8
43.1
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
2.2
5.12
3.83
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
62.2
107
73.6

Camera

The Treo 700w's 1.3 megapixel camera has improveed in resolution compared to the Treo 650's VGA affair. However, we liked the Treo 650's photos better for their pleasing colors and low light prowess. The 700w takes reasonably sharp photos by camera phone standards, with relatively low noise. Our only complaint is that the photos lack color saturation. Your favorite desktop image editor can crank up the color saturation to good effect, adding little distortion in the process, so we won't complain too much.

The camera can take photos up to 1280 x 1024 resolution and supports lower resolutions such as QVGA and 160 x 140. The application offers 7 brightness settings (normal and up to + or - 3 EV) along with 2x digital zoom. You may save images to internal memory or an SD card in one of three quality settings and set the image prefix as you wish. The Treo can shoot video with audio (you can turn off audio if you like) and you can set a 15 second, 30 second or no limit on duration. The phone saves videos in .3g2 format in 176 x 144 or 352 x 288 resolution and also offers 7 brightness recording levels. Like still shots, video is lacking in color, and is of average quality compared to other US camera phones with less jerkiness than most. Audio is recorded at 8kHz and our samples reported video at 26 fps. You can view videos on the Treo using the included Windows Media Player and on the desktop using QuickTime or other applications.

 

Sample photos, taken at highest resolution, unedited but resized to fit this page.

sample photo

The strong reds in the Macworld sign are very under-saturated despite good lighting.

sample photo

Sharp photo with little noise and distortion but the colors are dull.

 

Software

The Treo 700w comes with the usual Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC phone applications, including Mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, MSN and more. Word and Excel can both view and edit documents (some advanced formatting isn't supported, but all the basics work well) while PowerPoint is a viewer only. Palm includes the excellent MS Voice Command, which handles speaker independent voice dialing and a variety of commands. For example, press the assigned Voice Command button, ask "what's my next appointment?" and the Treo will read it to you. To learn more about Voice Command, read our review here. Though VC is a memory hog, it plays well with the Treo causing no slow-downs or other problems.

The application suite formerly known as Pocket Outlook are included. These are Messaging (for email, SMS and MMS), Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Notes. Each syncs with Outlook on the desktop (sorry no Mac support, for that get MissingSync). You can sync your emails to and from your PC and download and send them directly using the Treo's data connection. Messaging supports POP3, IMAP and Exchange servers along with multiple email accounts, SSL, different authentication for outgoing servers, HTML formatted email and attachments. There's no push email support built into the OS until Microsoft's AKU 2.0 which includes their Messaging Security and Feature Pack service pack is released for the Treo. Until then, you can set Messaging to check for new email at specified intervals or use Verizon's $20/month Wireless Sync for push services.

In addition Palm includes Picsel's PDF viewer, Cubis (game) and a basic camera application for taking photos and videos. You'll use MS' Pictures and Videos (a part of the WM5 package) to view photos and videos taken with the camera, or your favorite third party alternative such as Resco's excellent Photo Viewer.

Battery Life

Inside the 700w you'll find the same 1800 mAh Lithium Ion battery used in the Treo 650. The battery is user replaceable, so you can swap in a spare should you be away from a charger for long periods of time. By PPC standards, the Treo 700w has great battery life. I used it as my main phone and email device while covering the CES trade show in Las Vegas for two days straight and the battery lasted. During that time I accessed the web for more than an hour each day using Verizon's EVDO service, checked email for several accounts 20 times per day, watched two short videos, played a few games of solitaire and spoke on the phone for 30 minutes each day. Not bad. If you're a Palm OS Treo user, you won't be wow-ed , but you won't be horrified either. The only other Pocket PC phones we've tested that could compete are the E-TEN M600 (which uses a slower, less draining data connection) and the UT Starcom XV6700 which isn't quite as strong as the Treo 700w. The power-hungry Samsung i730, Audiovox PPC-6600 and Siemens SX66 can't compete.

Conclusion

The Treo 700w is the best phone in Pocket PC clothing to date. Its superb ergonomics and usability tweaks make it a joy for calls and one-handed operation. While not as streamlined as the Treo 650, Palm did a more than admirable job making the Pocket PC super phone-friendly. And the 700w isn't that far behind the Palm OS version in one-handed operation. . . just a keystroke here and there. Windows Mobile brings a great deal of power and strong networking muscle to the table, which is worth the small usability tradeoffs if you're hankering for a bit more than the 650 can do.

However, the 240 x 240 resolution is a big minus: most all applications are designed for 240 x 320 so you'll deal with basic incompatibility hassles if you're a third party software fan. While software developers are updating their software to support 240 x 240, nothing ameliorates the lack of screen real estate: you're seeing less on screen compared to other Pocket PC Phones, Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphones and the Treo 650.

The Treo's other shortcoming is memory: the device has only 32 megs of RAM when 64 is the standard these days. RAM is used by Windows Mobile 5 in the same way a computer uses RAM: it's where running programs live. Run too many and you'll get an out of memory error or slow downs. Though we ran IE, Messaging, File Explorer, Pictures and Videos while Voice Command was running in the background and had no problems. A caveat: WM doesn't actually stop a running program when you press the close box, it merely minimized it. After a few days, you may well have ten programs running without knowing it. Use the memory applet or a third party utility to close programs when you're done with them or plan on rebooting the Treo every few days to clear out memory.

Is the Treo for you? That depends. The Treo 700w is a phone first and a PDA second, while competitors like the XV6700 are a PDA first and a phone second. If you're a heavy phone user and not an uber-PDA geek, the Treo is a fantastic choice. If you're a serious Pocket PC user who's accustomed to running several applications at once, like to watch videos, have a lot of apps that haven't been updated to support 240 x 240 or simply can't live with even less resolution than your current Pocket PC, then the Treo likely isn't for you.

Pro: Fantastic usability by Windows Mobile Pocket PC phone standards and not bad at all compared to regular phones and the venerable Treo 650. Good keyboard that's always ready (no need to slide it out and perhaps wait for the screen to rotate), feels great in the hand and its size is manageable. Fast EVDO for high speed data. The phone has Bluetooth for you headset, carkit and GPS fans (Verizon says DUN is coming). The SD allows you to add on more storage, though the roomy 62 megs of flash memory will suit most folks. The slot also supports SDIO so you can use an SD WiFi card. Excellent speaker and speakerphone. Battery life is quite good for a Pocket PC phone, though not as good as the Treo 650's.

Con: 240 x 240 resolution means you'll see less on screen and will have to wait for some third party applications to support that resolution. 32 megs of RAM is low— this is the only Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC we can think of that has less than 64 megs. This means you'll have to keep an eye on running programs lest the phone run low on memory and slow down (Palm has a shortcut to take you to the running program list: press the OK button and the option keys simultaneously). For a business class device in this price range, the lack of WiFi hurts especially when the less expensive XV6700 on Verizon has it.

Price: $499 with 2 year contract

Web Site: www.palm.com, www.verizonwireless.com

 

Specs:

Display: Transflective TFT color LCD. 64K colors, screen size diag: 2.5". Resolution: 240 x 240.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1800 mA.

Performance: Intel XScale PXA 272 312 MHz processor. 32 MB built-in RAM, 128 MB Flash ROM with 62 megs available for your use.

Size: 4.4 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches (not including antenna). Weight: 6.4 ounces (180g).

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and 2.5mm stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Media Player Mobile 10 included for your MP3 pleasure.

Phone: CDMA 800 /1900 MHz bands, all digital. 1xRTT and EVDO for data.

Networking: Bluetooth 1.2.

Software: Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Phone Edition operating system. Microsoft Mobile Office suite including Mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint (view only), Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC, Windows Media Player 10, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (game), Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. Additional applications: Camera, Picsel PDF viewer, MS Voice Command and Cubis. ActiveSync 4.1 and Outlook 2002 for PCs included.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot, supporting SDIO and SDIO Now!.

 

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