Reviewed September 25, 2008 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Editor's note, March 2009: Interested in a US carrier version? check out the Sprint version of the Treo Pro.
When we reviewed the Palm Treo 750 more than 1.5 years ago, it was a good phone with great ergonomics and Palm's usability touches that lacked competitive features like WiFi and a GPS. 1.5 years is a very long time in terms of consumer electronics and cell phones, and now we finally have a Windows Mobile Treo with all the trimmings, but minus the original Treo's wonderful palm-friendly (no pun intended) design, great keyboard and software tweaks. Funny how we can't have it both ways. That's not to say that the HTC-built Palm Treo Pro is a bad product by any means, but for those of you who are in love with Palm's special sauce-- it ain't here. There's no VCR-like screen controls for voicemail, no photo speed dial on the home screen and the custom applications like Comm Manager and the streaming media player are HTC's, not Palm's.
The Treo Pro is an unlocked GSM world phone with triband 3G HSDPA that works in the US on AT&T and in Europe. Currently, there's no US carrier for the $549 Pro, so there's no carrier subsidized price. The good news is that you need not sign a contract if you already have a GSM SIM card (that means T-Mobile and AT&T in the US). It runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional on a 400MHz Qualcomm processor and it has 128 megs of RAM and 256 megs of flash storage. The Treo has Bluetooth, WiFi and an internal GPS. There's a 2 megapixel camera and an SDHC-compatible microSD card slot. Like the Treo 800w recently released on Sprint, the Pro has a 320 x 320 display but it has one wonderful improvement: a flush display with no raised bezel, which makes it easier to use the touch screen with fingers. The Treo Pro is Palm's thinnest phone to date, and it's the same thickness as the US unlocked GSM HTC Touch Diamond and the Sprint Diamond.
The Treo 755p (same design as the Treo 750) and the Treo Pro.
The Treo Pro has been Centro-fied: it's got the Centro's basic design and less ergonomic keyboard. The $99 Centro has sold like hotcakes, so maybe that's not such a bad thing, though we suspect the hearty sales have a lot to do with the Centro's bargain price. Though clearly made of plastic (most phones are indeed made of plastic though they may sport coatings that attempt to hide it), the Treo Pro is a nice enough looking smartphone. The gloss back simply screams "iPhone 3G", as does the Treo's small box that's pretty much the same shape and size as the iPhone box. Some Apple folks joined Palm awhile back, and we can see the influence.
That gloss exterior looks great when you take it out of the box, but it's one of the worst fingerprint magnets we've seen, though the Euro HTC Diamond gives it a run for the money. Thankfully, the phone's shape does wonders to keep it firmly in hand despite the 100% slick surface. It's not easy to get that slippery back off (press down on the lower right corner while pushing the back upward) and unfortunately, the SHDC microSD card slot is under the back cover (though you need not remove the battery).
The keyboard isn't as ergonomic as prior Treo's since the "smile" curve is gone and the key rows run in a straight horizontal line. The keys are also small and more slippery than the Treo's. If you use and like the Centro keyboard, the Treo Pro keyboard should suit you, but if you've been using a Treo for years, you might not like the Pro's keyboard. The application buttons surrounding the d-pad are completely flat, which looks nice, but there's no tactile way to tell which button you're on. Palm has done away with the Windows Mobile soft keys since their functionality is always duplicated on-screen. But there's enough space above the application keys that some folks in our office kept pressing on the dead spot assuming they were unmarked softkeys.There's a layer of clear plastic over the display (and most of the front face) that seems durable though we're not sure if it would pick up scratches over time.
Palm's wonderful ringer silencer switch is up top: slide it to completely silence the phone, slide it back to enable sounds. The power button is also up top: gone is the overloaded call end button that did double-duty as the power switch. Unlike most Windows Mobile Professional phones (but like other Treos), when you press and hold the power button to turn the device completely off, the Treo just turns the phone radio off. The volume up/down rocker is on the phone's left side as is the user-assignable application button. By default the side button (press and hold) launches the camera since there's no dedicated camera button.
There's only one button on the right side, and it turns on WiFi. Once WiFi is on, it opens the Windows Mobile access point listing/connections page. The button doesn't turn WiFi off, but the connections page has a menu item that does turn off the radio. Otherwise, you can use the Comm Manager to turn WiFi, Bluetooth, the phone and data connection off or on.
The Treo uses a micro-USB connector rather than the old Palm-style connector for syncing and charging. There's a dedicated 3.5mm stereo headset jack (yay!) and the phone comes with an earbud headset.
The 320 x 320 pixel display is decent, though like prior Treo models, it's not particularly sharp or vibrant. It's easy enough to read text and photos look OK, and we're happy to have the extra 80 pixels in height when browsing the web or viewing MS Office documents. Most front-facing QWERTY WinMo phones have 320 x 240 displays, so the Treo Pro ups the ante a bit. As with the Treo 800w, the drawback is that the Windows Mobile operating system runs at 240 x 240, so you don't see more icons on screen compared to the Treo 750's 240 x 240 display. But you can zoom in the Office mobile apps to take advantage of the higher resolution display, and Internet Explorer mobile uses the higher resolution as does Windows Media Player mobile. The Treo Pro has a standby screen that shows the time and date instead of going completely dark. It's not terribly bright, so it won't be a distraction if you keep the phone on the nightstand.
Alas, video playback is weak. The Treo lacks graphics acceleration, but we still expected more of its 400MHz Qualcomm MSM7201 CPU. While the OS and the Windows Mobile user interface are responsive, even low bitrate video drops frames using Windows Media Player mobile and our usual selection of test videos in WMV, MPEG4 and AVI formats. We tested 300kbps QVGA video and noticed significant frame drops. Our 500kbps MPEG4 video files that generally play a few frames short of 30fps on other recent Windows Mobile Pro phones, played at about 8 fps on our Treo Pro. Mobile youtube playback was much better and the Palm uses HTC's Streaming Media Player 3.0 to handle mobile format youtube content. It played well over HSDPA on AT&T's network as well as WiFi.
Phone and Data
The Treo Pro is an unlocked GSM quad band world phone that will work with any carrier's SIM and anywhere GSM service is available. We tested it with a T-Mobile and AT&T SIM, but our focus is on AT&T given the Pro's support for AT&T's 3G network. Voice quality is good as is volume, and we heard just a little background hiss (enough to know the call was still connected during conversation lulls). The Treo Pro has average reception, on par with the HTC Touch Diamond US version and the Samsung BlackJack II, but not as good as the Nokia E71 US edition.
The Treo supports standard call features such as call waiting, conference calling, speed dialing, voice dialing (Palm includes the excellent MS Voice Command 1.6) and call barring. There's an option to have the white LED ring that circles the d-pad pulse when voicemail is waiting, though we couldn't test this feature because our review unit's voicemail account wasn't set up correctly. The Treo Pro played very nicely with a variety of Bluetooth headsets including the JawBone II, Jabra BT530 and the new version of the Callpod Dragon. Call quality was good with the headsets we tested and range was about 15 to 20 feet (much better than older Treo models!).
HSDPA AT&T Data speeds averaged 610kbps on the DSL Reports mobile speed test, which is at the low end for a Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional phone. Side-by-side, our US HTC Diamond got 1140 kbps and the Mwg Zinc II got 660kbps.
The camera application is similar to some recent HTC Windows Mobile phones, with large on-screen icons for basic settings such as resolution, and menus for more advanced settings. The 2 megapixel camera has a fixed focus lens and no flash. Images aren't exactly impressive, but they're no worse than some 2MP feature phones on the market. Indoor shots often have a strong blue/cyan color cast that's unusual since most cameras err toward too much warmth (yellows, orange) indoors. Outdoor shots generally had proper color balance and pleasing colors, though details looked artificial thanks to the low resolution and in-camera sharpening.
Video did much worse: it's blocky, dark and records at only 7.5fps. The Treo Pro can record video up to 352 x 288 resolution, 7.5 fps in H.263 format and 320 x 240, 7.5fps in MPEG4 format.
The white wall looks blue through the Treo Pro's eye.
The Treo Pro has an internal GPS that's a part of the Qualcomm chipset, and it works with most GPS applications. We tested it with CoPilot Live 7, Google Maps and Windows Live Search, all of which worked well and required no tinkering to get running. The QuickGPS application downloads satellite data to speed up acquisition times and in our tests the Treo Pro had 1 minute cold start times and sub-20 second warm starts outdoors. The GPS had a hard time getting a signal indoors near a window in a suburban location, so urban jungles might be a challenge.
The phone ships with TeleNav GPS Navigator 5.2, a $10/month mapping and navigation service that's one of our favorites. If you're moving from a BlackJack II, Moto Q9 Global or Tilt and already have a TeleNav subscription, it will work fine with the Treo Pro. In our tests TeleNav and CoPilot both tracked our location accurately and quickly in areas with decent access to the sky.
We're thrilled to see a Treo with a very current and competitive feature set. No more longing for WiFi or a GPS-- they're here! We've even got a flush screen for better access to the touch screen and improved looks. We do wish Palm had done a better job with the keyboard and application buttons-- they're just not top notch like older Treo phones. We want to see Palm evolve and move on from the now too thick and stodgy older Treo design, but the Treo pro's "Centro-ification" make the Pro seem a little cheap and less amiable toward those with serious messaging needs. In the end, the Palm has a good set of features, and they all work as advertised: WiFi, GPS, 3G and telephony. The trouble is the field is wide and there's not much that makes the Treo Pro stand out against competitors like the BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Curve, HP iPAQ 910c and Nokia E71.
Phone:GSM quad band unlocked world phone 850/900/1800/1900MHz with GPRS and EDGE. Triband 3G HSDPA 850/1900/2100MHz.
Camera:2 MP, 1600 x 1200 resolution for photos. Can shoot video with audio at 352 x 288 resolution, 7.5 fps in H.263 format and 320 x 240, 7.5fps in MPEG4 format.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 pleasure.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR (profiles include headset, handsfree, PAN, FTP, serial port and A2DP with AVRC).
Mobile 6.1 Professional operating system. MS Office Mobile suite (mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote), Outlook mobile (Messaging, contacts, calendar, tasks, notes), IE Mobile, Windows Media Player mobile, Internet Sharing, Remote Desktop, MS Messenger, Pictures and Videos. Streaming Media Player (youtube mobile), Comm Manager, Esmertec Java VM, Sprite Backup, WorldMate Live, QuickGPS, TeleNav and MS Voice Command 1.6. ActiveSync 4.5 and Outlook 2007 trial included for Windows PCs.
microSD card slot, SDHC compatible with cards up to 32 gigs.