Reviewed March 19, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The Treo Pro is a Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional touch screen phone with a front-facing QWERTY keyboard. It's nearly identical to the unlocked GSM Palm Treo Pro we reviewed last September. But the Sprint version has a full suite of Sprint software, including Sprint TV, Sprint Navigation, Sprint Music, Sprint Titan (Java VM) and Sprint's software store. Palm added a few key software updates and a faster CPU to jazz up the Treo Pro, a utilitarian smartphone that was indeed in need of a little jazzing.
The most interesting update for the Sprint version is Internet Explorer 6 Mobile with Flash Lite 3.1, a first on a shipping Windows Mobile phone. It offers an improved web browsing experience over the old and tired IE Mobile with better desktop layout mode, zoom with page overview mode, full screen mode, and a deeper selection of settings (browser language settings, default to desktop or mobile mode, play sounds). IE 6 Mobile is slower than the old Pocket IE at rendering pages (understandable since it's doing more complex rendering), and is slower than Opera Mobile (no excuse for that). While it's wonderful to visit the desktop version of youtube.com and watch FLV Flash videos, playback even over WiFi is at a barely watchable 10 to 15fps and the browser (sometimes the phone itself) slows down considerably when playing Flash. It gets so slow it can take a minute to stop it from playing the video. We'll take Opera for its speed, multiple windows and even better desktop rendering. We'll take Flash Lite when it doesn't hobble the browser and phone.
The Treo Pro has a 528MHz processor and it feels a wee bit faster than the GSM version. It has a hefty 512 megs of flash storage with 314 megs free, and 128 megs of RAM (that's a little low for the Treo Pro's tier) with 45 megs free at boot (that's acceptable). Like the GSM Treo Pro, this Treo shows little of that old "Treo-ness" in terms of software customizations and is more generic HTC (HTC built the phone).
The Treo Pro sells for $199 with a 2 year contract after rebates. Sprint has a good selection of smartphones and PDA phones, so the Treo Pro will face some stiff competition in-house from the HTC Touch Pro, Touch Diamond and BlackBerry models for QWERTY-bar lovers.
Phone, GPS and WiFi
The smartphone has EVDO Rev. A for fast data, though our connection was sometimes fast and at other times not so fast. Reception is a bit below average and this may be affecting data speeds. It doesn't pull as strong a signal as the Sprint HTC Touch Pro and occasionally lost signal completely.
Voice quality is very good, even with 1/4 signal strength according to the Treo's bars. The earpiece is clear and the excellent speakerphone is very loud and clear. The Pro plays well with Bluetooth headsets and supports A2DP stereo Bluetooth headsets as well. The Treo comes with MS Voice Command 1.6, a very good voice command and dialing system that doesn't require voice tags. There's also speed dial, smart dial, conference call and call waiting support.
The GPS with Sprint Navigation works well and gets a fix quickly, even indoors near a window. The GPS kept up with our location when driving and the speaker is adequate though not loud enough for top-down or windows-down driving at high speeds. It's an excellent car navigation companion, though the small screen means you'll be listening more than looking when following Sprint Navigation's turn-by-turn directions when driving. Sprint Navigation is included with Sprint's Simply Everything plan, and otherwise costs $10/month.
The Treo Pro has WiFi 802.11b/g for those times you're not in a Sprint EVDO coverage area. WiFi worked well with our router and a public hotspot, and it supports WEP, WPA, WPA2 and VPN connections. We like the one-touch WiFi button on the phone's right side-- no launching and fiddling with connection manager required.
The Treo Pro is one of the few Windows Mobile phones that still has an IR port, for you retro folks.
The Sprint version of the Treo Pro looks identical to the unlocked GSM version (other than the Sprint logo). We're still not thrilled that you have to remove the slippery and tight back to access the SDHC microSD card slot, but at least you don't need to pull the battery. The Treo has a 3.5mm stereo headset jack (yay!), a micro-USB port and a tiny charger. The box is small and iPhone-like, just as with the GSM version. To further the iPhone-copying, a box insert says "Inspired by and designed in California".
This isn't the Treo 800w's keyboard. It's more akin to the Centro keyboard and the keys are small and rubbery. That rubbery texture helps keep fingers firmly on the keys, but the keys are likely too small for large-fingered fellas. It won't win any competitions against vintage Treo models or fully QWERTY BlackBerry phones, but it's usable for quick texts, entering URLs and the like.
The 320 x 320 pixel color display is a bit dull, as we've found with other Treo models. It's not poor but it's not going to wow anyone either. It's a shame that Windows Mobile's own UI (menus, programs window and etc.) runs at 240 x 240 rather than fully supporting 320 x 320, but it does run full resolution in photo and video applications. We do like the looks and usability improvements that the flush screen offers-- no more fighting with the bezel when trying to access items near the edges of the screen.
The Treo Pro comes with the standard Windows Mobile software: mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint (view only) and OneNote for MS Office work. For the Internet there's IE 6 Mobile and Messaging which handles texts and emails including POP3, IMAP, MS Exchange and Direct Push email with the proper Exchange Server versions. The PIM suite syncs contacts, calendar items, notes and tasks with Outlook on Windows desktops and MS Exchange servers (the number of entries is limited only by available memory-- in other words thousands of records). Windows Media Player Mobile handles MP3 music playback and videos, and it still sports a dated user interface and basic features like playlists, shuffle and album art. Sprint and Palm throw in a good deal of extra software including Kinoma FreePlay (a good player for mobile youtube video rather than the Flash format), Pocket Express, Sprite Backup and WorldMate Pro. Sprint's software includes Sprint Navigation, Sprint Music (a front end for Sprint's music store) and Sprint TV.
The Treo Pro's 1500 mAh Lithium Ion battery seems generous enough. We found that it didn't seriously outlast the Windows Mobile competition (other than the HTC Touch Pro whose battery life is its Achilles' heel). The Treo managed a day with heavy use and 2.5 days with very light use. Standby times were relatively short at an average of 4 to 5 days (WiFi off), though Palm claims over 10 days standby.
If QWERTY bar smartphones and touch screens are your thing, the Palm Treo Pro has what you want. Windows Mobile 6.1 may be aging but it's still a very effective operating system for business-minded folks who need MS Office and Exchange support. The Treo Pro is attractive and feels good in the hand, though it's a bit slippery. It has a full compliment of features including EVDO Rev. A, a good GPS and WiFi, but nothing that stands out to beat the competition.
Pro: Attractive and compact. very good GPS, good data speeds when in a strong coverage area, excellent speaker.
Con: Slippery, screen resolution not impressive or well-used by Windows Mobile, not terribly strong cell reception, battery standby life could be better. Keyboard is a bit small for larger hands.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital 800/1900MHz with 1xRTT and EVDO Rev. A.
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 6, Windows Media Player mobile, Internet Sharing, Remote Desktop, MS Messenger, Pictures and Videos. Streaming Media Player (youtube mobile), Comm Manager, Titan Java VM, Sprite Backup, WorldMate Live, Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV, Sprint Music 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.