When rumours surfaced that Palm was making a Treo powered by Windows Mobile rather than Palm OS, you could almost hear the collective sharp intake of breath from Palm fans. It was true though and on 26 September 2005 the Windows Mobile based Palm Treo made its debut in the US.
Here in the UK we’ve had a much longer wait to get our hands on a Windows Mobile Treo, but that wait is now over and it is now available exclusively on Vodafone, at least for a little while, before presumably, becoming more widely accessible.
The Treo 750v is a 3G device, with quad-band GSM, GPRS and EDGE support. There’s no built in HSDPA support, which is a pity, but that aside it is pretty much state of the art in terms of over the air communications.
As I write this review I’ve been using the Treo 750v for a little more than a week. That’s been long enough for me to form some very strong first impressions, and I have to say that overall I really, really like it.
Let’s start with the hardware design. If you remember the Treo 650, you’ll recall the dreadful protruding antenna that the Americans apparently like so much. That has gone in favour of a more usual rounded design we prefer in the UK. The casing is a rather elegant blue and silver design, and there is a very pleasing, almost rubbery finish to the back and edges that helps you hold the Treo 750v firmly in the hand.
There is a definite look of the BlackBerry about it at first glance, but it is only at first glance. A second glance reveals that the Treo 750v a different device altogether. There is no jog wheel, for example, and no need for one well. You can get around one handed thanks to a front facing navigation button, a large central select button along with big soft-menu keys, an OK button, a Windows Mobile Start menu button and a Call and End button. You can tap the screen if you need to as it is touch sensitive in true Windows Mobile fashion.
On the left edge of the casing is a large volume rocker and a side button whose function you can customise so that it launches whatever application you like. On the right edge is the infra red port which complements nicely the Bluetooth that is built in. It is a pity it is Bluetooth 1.2, though and that there’s no Wi-Fi.
There is also a miniSD card slot on this right edge, which you can use to add to the built-in memory – after a hard reset my review unit had 62MB of free internal memory. On the top edge is one of my favourite Treo features – a slider you can use to turn the system volume on and off. I used a Treo 650 for ages and this was always one of my favourite features. There was never any need to fiddle with profiles – ringer on or ringer off was as complex as it needed to get.
On the bottom edge of the casing is Palm’s charge and sync slot. This uses a proprietary connector – the same as we’ve seen in some previous devices. In fact it worked fine with the LifeDrive connector that I had already hooked up to my PC, connecting to ActiveSync through this at the first attempt. Personally, I’d have preferred a mini USB for the connector type, and found the need to carry a separate charge cable for the Treo 750v very annoying.
Battery life was pretty good though, giving me nearly eleven hours of music playback from a miniSD card with the screen forced to stay on. You could probably survive an overnight trip without the charge cable if you are careful.
I found the keyboard responsive and surprisingly easy to use. The keys aren’t particularly large but they are nicely raised from the baseplate and physically a fair way from each other. If I have to complain about anything on the usability front it is the screen. At 240 x 240 pixels its square rendering means you just don’t get the same amount of information at once as you do with most other Windows Mobile Pocket PCs, and I found this pretty annoying.
Still, to be fair, a more standard sized screen would have made for larger hardware, and I think on balance Palm has got it right. But it does take a little getting used to. Take a look at the screen shots and note how much scrolling you need to do to assign button functions, for example.