The Palm Treo 500v is a real departure for Palm. It’s not the first handset it has launched that runs on Windows Mobile rather than the PalmOS, but the handset itself has been radically redesigned. The Palm Treo 500v looks nothing like the Treos of old, which were chunky and solid and traditionally came with a stubby aerial protruding from the top right.

In fact, the Palm Treo 500v looks more like a BlackBerry Curve than anything, particularly in the smart grey livery of our review unit (it also comes in ice white). In some ways, it’s a shame that Palm has forsaken its distinctive Treo design, but it’s also fairly understandable.

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As with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, Palm is keen to broaden the appeal of its traditionally business-focused smartphone handsets, so has gone for a lighter, slimmer design with a 2Mp camera round the back for the Palm Treo 500v. As well as a 2.5x zoom, the Palm Treo 500v has a sensor almost twice the size of last year’s Treo 750v. you can also expand the memory via its microSD card slots.

The Palm Treo 500v's screen is no longer square but a more standard 320x240 pixel 65K colour display and, while the raised, hard keys are retained from older Treo designs, they are now aligned in straight rows, rather than on a slight curve. This allows Palm to trim off a few millimetres and reduce the overall length of the Palm Treo 500v. At 120g, the Palm Treo 500v is still a relatively heavy handset, however.

The 680 is heavier still, at 157g, but has an advantage over the Palm Treo 500v in being a touchscreen model. The Palm Treo 500v does without a touchscreen but does its best to make navigation as straightforward as possible with an excellent software overlay that makes the Palm Treo 500v behave anything but like a regular Windows Mobile device and succeeds in making this seem a step away from more traditional business handsets.

Instead, you press the Palm Treo 500v's left button to bring up the Start menu from whence you can leap from item to item, with a drop down list of Recent Programs always appearing centre screen. You then use the left and right edges of the Palm Treo 500v’s navipad to scroll through the full list of programs and their histories and various settings and other options.

For example, in the Palm Treo 500v's browser, a single right-click displays a dropdown list of options such as Address Bar, Home Page, History and so on.

Pressing the Palm Treo 500v’s right hardware button activates the Vodafone live! Service. Google Maps, eBay, Mobile TV and a Business Email client are offered along with Internet Explorer. After the month-long free trial, it costs £10 a month to enjoy Sky News, Sky Sports News, Paramount Comedy, BBC 1. ITV and C4, or you can pick and mix channels you want from the 39 on offer.

The Palm Treo 500v's whole setup is easy to get to grips with, customisable and a long way from a dull business phone. For times when you do need to go into productivity mode, Palm supplies mobile versions of Microsoft Office applications so you can view PowerPoint and Excel files. Windows Live is another strong inclusion and you can access email (you can set the Palm Treo 500v to check for messages at set intervals) from office or webmail accounts as well as an Exchange server/.

Another strong function is the Palm Treo 500v's inclusion of 3G connectivity as well as GPRS – something likely to come into its own now that several mobile operators are offering flat-rate mobile internet access. You don’t get the faster HSDPA (high-speed data packet access) or Wi-Fi but you do get WAP 2.0 and Bluetooth 2.0, so the Palm Treo 500v certainly offers plenty to get your teeth into.

We were able to make real use of the Palm Treo 500v’s connectivity when our flight was cancelled and we had to make our way from Dresden to Prague by road. Hurtling along at 100mph, we were nonetheless able to get online with ease, search for the name of our destination hotel and look up its address and directions on its Flash-enabled website. With many lengthy tunnels to negotiate while we were downloading data, we were surprised to find no dropped connections or download interruptions with the Palm Treo 500v.

Palm Treo 500v: Specs

  • 3G and GPRS GSM 900/1800/1900 Windows Mobile 6.0 smartphone handset
  • 150MB onboard memory
  • microSD expansion card slot
  • 320z240 colour screen
  • 2Mp camera
  • MP3 and WMA playback
  • WMV recording and playback
  • SMS, MMS, ActiveSync sychronisation software
  • instant messaging, Internet Explorer
  • WAP 2.0
  • 62x17x110mm
  • 120g
  • 2.5mm headphone jack
  • mini USB port
  • 10 day standby
  • five hour talktime
  • 3G and GPRS GSM 900/1800/1900 Windows Mobile 6.0 smartphone handset
  • 150MB onboard memory
  • microSD expansion card slot
  • 320z240 colour screen
  • 2Mp camera
  • MP3 and WMA playback
  • WMV recording and playback
  • SMS, MMS, ActiveSync sychronisation software
  • instant messaging, Internet Explorer
  • WAP 2.0
  • 62x17x110mm
  • 120g
  • 2.5mm headphone jack
  • mini USB port
  • 10 day standby
  • five hour talktime

OUR VERDICT

The Palm Treo 500v has dependability written all over it. It’s not the slinkiest or prettiest of smartphones, but if you need a rock-solid handset with which to keep in touch – by email, SMS, phone or IM – and that can help you idle away lost hours, the Palm Treo 500v is a well-priced and well-built choice.

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