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Palm Pre 2 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £399.00

Sporting a relatively small 3.1in touchscreen and overall specs that hardly set the pulse racing, the Palm Pre 2 probably doesn’t immediately appeal to those looking for the latest and greatest smartphone. However, with some nice hardware touches and possibly the best mobile phone operating system available, WebOS 2.0, this is still one handset that’s well worth considering.


Now, we’ve already covered the merits of WebOS 2.0 so we encourage you to give that a read as well if you’re thinking of buying this phone. As such we won’t dwell on the software here but instead we’ll take a look at the hardware the Palm Pre 2 brings to the table and how the software’s been implemented on it.


The most immediately obvious thing about the Palm Pre 2 is that its design hasn’t changed much from that of its predecessors the Palm Pre and Palm Pre Plus. The same pebble-like stubby design is present, along with the same size screen and, when you slide the phone open, a very similar looking keyboard.


For those hoping Palm would finally release a touchscreen-only smartphone this is obviously a disappointment but on most other levels it’s not a problem. While a tad thick, with dimensions of 100.7mm x 59.6mm x 16.9mm, it’s more pocketable than many of the monster phones we’ve seen of late and the rounded back and sides makes it wonderfully comfortable to hold, as does the soft-touch plastic finish that replaces the glossy black of old.


One particularly neat (and unique) trick up the sleeve of the Palm Pre 2 comes courtesy its back plate, which covers the 1150mAh battery and SIM slot. Incorporated into this is wireless charging technology that when coupled with the Palm TouchStone wireless charger (available separately for £39.99 from the Palm store) allows you to simply place the phone on the charger and it will start charging – no plugging in necessary. The charger houses a magnet so keeps the phone securely in place. Once on the TouchStone, the new WebOS software allows you set the phone to start a TouchStone mode, whereby it can display various information like calendar entries, emails and the time, for reading at a glance.

The one major change is the screen, which rather than having a curved plastic finish that mirrors the curve of the back, as on the Pre and Pre Plus, now has a flat glass finish. This breaks up the rounded design somewhat, taking away slightly from its charm, but overall it still looks great and more importantly improves usability. Because it’s glass, it will resist scratches well, its flat surface is less likely to pick up distracting reflections, glass tends to be better at hiding fingerprints, and it better transmits light giving a brighter, more colourful picture despite the display using the same LCD panel as previous phones.


Yet, despite many other phones sporting 4in+, 480 x 800 pixel displays the Palm Pre 2 is stuck in the past with a 3.1in display with a relatively miserly 320 x 480 resolution. While the superb software largely makes up for this, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a small display.


For productivity work like reading emails, reading documents or browsing the web it’s not ideal but is perfectly manageable thanks to decent clarity and sharpness. However, for videos, picture viewing and games, it really is a bit too small, though it does provide a decent level of contrast with punchy colours and good viewing angles.


For some reason Palm (which, let’s remember, was bought by HP recently) has put the hole for the microphone straight through the bottom left corner of the screen, which looks a bit odd. Quite why it couldn’t manage to come up with a more subtle solution like adding a hole to the bottom edge or in between the glass and the surround, we do not know.


It’s all the more of a shame as the rest of the hardware is very nice. Below the screen sits a gesture zone, which is a touch sensitive area that is used to perform actions like swiping back and forth or up and down to open and close program cards. It’s sensitive and easy to reach and is marked by a thin strip of white LEDs that pulsate along with your gestures then disappear into the darkness when not in use.


On the left side is a microUSB socket for data transfer (you can just drag and drop files to this phone rather than needing specific software) and charging, which is thankfully left uncovered rather than previous versions that had an awkward plastic flap covering it. On the top edge is a headphone jack along with a mute switch (a very useful feature) and the screen lock / power button, which unlike some devices is easy to reach when holding the device in one hand.


Equally easy to do one-handed is open the slide mechanism, which reveals the keyboard on the front and a large self portrait / makeup mirror on the back.

The camera is a 5 megapixel unit with an LED flash, however it lacks autofocus and video is only standard definition, not HD. In use the camera is easy enough, but it has no settings whatsoever, bar turning the flash on or off. Combined with the lack of autofocus it makes for a very limiting photography tool. Results are okay in terms of detail and colour but, despite the small lens meaning the lack of autofocus has a less dramatic effect than on a ‘proper’ camera, overall they’re a step below the competition. Switching to video and things don’t improve a great deal. You get smooth enough motion and decent colours but the lack of HD really is a let down in this day and age.


The keyboard is quite narrow and has small rubber keys that some people will find are too tiny. However, with what we’d consider average man hands we had no problems. Indeed, thanks to a great layout, it’s quite a nice typing experience and in WebOS 2.0 Palm has finally added predictive text which works well. Nevertheless, we would still like to see an all touchscreen version of the Pre with a decent onscreen keyboard. As it stands, WebOS, even in its second iteration, and despite many people’s protestations, remains without even an option for an onscreen keyboard.


Using the Palm Pre 2, its 1GHz processor (up from the miserly 500MHz one on the Pre and Pre Plus) and the software’s support for GPU acceleration makes for a super snappy and slick interface, indeed it’s second to none in this regard. You also get both Wi-Fi, for fast local browsing, and 3G for data on the move, and there’s 16GB of internal memory, though no microSD slot for adding more.


Making a few calls on the Palm Pre 2, it threw up no causes for concern, though the deceptively large looking speaker doesn’t actually return as good quality sound as you’d hope. Battery life is okay, with up to two days average use obtainable, but it seems to be particularly poor at retaining charge when in standby with us regularly returning to a dead phone when left over the weekend. This was presumably because of background activity like syncing emails so potentially life could be extended by turning a few of these options off, but we couldn’t work out how to.


So the hardware is competent but not exactly market leading. What makes the Palm Pre 2 so appealing though is that currently it’s the only phone that runs the stupendous WebOS 2.0. That software is simply a joy to use and puts almost all alternatives to shame. From messaging through email, web browsing, listening to music, running apps, social networking, and of course making calls, there are few areas where it slips up and is beaten by the competition. Certainly if you’re after a smaller than average phone mainly for productivity and purposes, its superb multi-tasking makes this well worth considering.


Unfortunately, you’ll have to have deep pockets up front as currently the phone is only available direct from Palm for £399. Just as when the original Pre launched with exclusivity to O2, this could actually be the biggest problem for this phone. Were you able to pick it up for free on a £20pm contract it would at least be good value, however at £399 it’s just a tad too pricey to recommend.


”’Verdict”’


While the software of the Palm Pre 2 is on a par with anything else out there, the hardware still doesn’t do it justice. It certainly has some great features – like wireless charging – and is generally easy to use but its small screen, lack of onscreen keyboard, small physical keyboard and poor camera means it trails the competition by some way.





Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 8
  • Design 8
  • Value 7
  • Features 7

General

Height (Millimeter) 100.7mm
Width (Millimeter) 59.6mm
Depth (Millimeter) 16.9mm
Weight (Gram) 145g
Available Colours Black

Display

Screen Size (inches) (Inch) 3.1in
Screen Resolution 320x480
Touchscreen Yes

Battery

Talk Time (Minute) 330m
Standby Time (Hour) 350hr

Storage

Internal Storage (Gigabyte) 16GB
Camera (Megapixel) 5 Megapixel
Front Facing Camera (Megapixel) No Megapixel
Camera Flash LED

Connectivity

Bluetooth Yes
WiFi Yes
3G/4G Yes
3.5mm Headphone Jack Yes
Charging/Computer Connection microUSB

Processor and Internal Specs

CPU 1GHz

Misc

App Store App Catalog
GPS Yes

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