The Palm Treo Pro integrates Centro design elements with the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system, with features of contemporary BlackBerrys, to produce a sleek smartphone built with the image-conscious corporate user in mind.

Palm has changed tack with the Treo Pro, offering a high-end smartphone for business users. The design is a real pull. Previous Palm Treos have been functional and not a little pedestrian, whereas the glossy black finish and gleaming circular central button, complete with prominent Palm logo, suggest this is something of a statement phone.

It costs £399 for the contract-free Palm Treo Pro handset, or can be bought pay-as-you-go for £169. Running Windows Mobile 6.1, it has a similar form factor to the Palm Centro models but with more connectivity options - GPRS/Edge, Wi-Fi and 3G are all supported, as are WAP 2.0 and Bluetooth 2.0.

Of particular note is the option to efficiently kill needlessly running applications (and hence preserve battery power) using a constantly available dropdown menu button - Palm's response to an issue in Windows Mobile which should help keep the Treo Pro running longer.

Palm has stuck with the TeleNav navigation service we've found so effective on other smartphones, although you do have to pay to use it - around £60 a year. There's an assisted GPS receiver on the Palm Treo Pro, and you can get as-you-travel instructions rather than relying on Google Maps to show you where to go.

We were surprised to find a very limited 256MB of storage here - and only 100MB actually available to the user. This is expandable via a microSD card up to 32GB, but storage this limiting on a smartphone is an odd decision, when most smartphones offer 8GB or 16GB as standard. Upgrading the Treo Pro with a 16GB Sandisk will cost you around £40.

The Palm Treo Pro has the same size 320x320-pixel screen as the BlackBerry Bold (although this is standard for Treos) with a bright, sharp high-contrast display. What may attract business users to the Palm Treo Pro is the Windows Mobile interface with its contact management and the ability to receive, open, edit and resend Word and Excel documents.

Apps are accessed with a press of the Windows icon to the left below the screen, while the button just below this brings up a list of today's appointments.

The main screen shows the SIM, battery, messaging and Wi-Fi status. You can scroll up and down to view menus, but a (firm) thumb press on the Palm Treo Pro touchscreen also works.

One menu button on the Palm Treo Pro initiates Google Search, while the taskbar at the bottom of the screen takes you to either the Internet (using Microsoft IE), Contacts or event Notifications.

Text entry is via Palm's familiar raised keypad, which has been pruned back to accommodate the large screen. This Palm Treo Pro keypad requires two-handed use, and a firm key press to operate. Pressing the large spacebar at the bottom of the Palm Treo Pro's keypad brings up the soft number pad for phone calls, or you can enter numbers via the keypad.

Call quality was distinct and fairly loud through an elongated hands-free speaker on the Palm Treo Pro's reverse, next to the 2Mp camera lens.

We got four hours talktime from the Palm Treo Pro before hearing a high-pitched musical warning that a recharge was needed.

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The Palm Treo Pro integrates Centro design elements with the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system, with features of contemporary BlackBerrys, to produce a sleek smartphone built with the image-conscious corporate user in mind.

Having enjoyed success with its sporty Centro models, Palm is taking some of the lessons it learned there back to its Treo business line: the Palm Treo Pro integrates certain Centro design elements with the Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system and with the more robust features of contemporary BlackBerrys to produce a sleek smartphone built with the image-conscious corporate user in mind.

All of that style and power doesn't come cheap, however. The Palm Treo Pro debuts at £399. In part, that's because it's being sold unlocked, meaning that you don't get the type of carrier subsidy that has made the iPhone 3G so affordable.

But on the other hand, you can use the Palm Treo Pro on any GSM carrier worldwide simply by inserting that carrier's SIM card into the unit. This flexibility is great for frequent travellers - you're not tied to a carrier or a long-term plan, and you can pop in an overseas carrier's SIM card to keep costs down (if you don't mind changing your phone number).

The Palm Treo Pro supports virtually all of the wireless connectivity a person could ask for today: Wi-Fi, GPS, quad-band (world) voice, and high-speed HSDPA/UMTS data networks.

In our tests, the Palm Treo Pro delivered adequate (although not outstanding) phone call quality. Unlike the iPhone 3G, the Treo Pro has a removable rechargeable battery, which is rated at 1500 mAh. The Treo Pro's battery provided 4 hours, 25 minutes of talk-time in our lab tests - poorer than the average PDA phone we've tested recently, but 3G phones tend to have a shorter battery life than non-3G phones.

The Palm Treo Pro is exceptionally small, skinny, and light for a business phone, checking in at 114x60x13mm; it weighs 130g. The glossy black phone includes both a hardware keyboard and a transflective 320-by-320-pixel touchscreen, which looks crisp and bright. A handy dedicated button on the right side lets you turn Wi-Fi off and on.

The unit comes with 256MB of built-in flash ROM and 128MB of RAM, so most users will want to add a microSD card to accommodate more music, images, videos, and apps. The Palm Treo Pro supports expansion cards with up to 32GB of capacity, far more than most people will need (even the iPhone 3G supports only up to 16GB).

The Palm Treo Pro's keyboard, in particular, reflects the Centro influence. Though small, the keys have a plastic veneer that helps prevent fingers from sliding about. We did find the Palm's button layout confusing at times. We kept tapping the blank area below the screen's softkeys, which never produced a response. The Palm Treo Pro also got warm rather quickly.

Palm's home screen provided some welcome tweaks to Windows Mobile. Most notably, an icon in the upper right corner of the Today screen lets you view all running apps and shut down ones you don't need. This addresses an ongoing annoyance with Windows Mobile: it doesn't automatically clean up after itself, which can drain memory and slow the device down.

Palm Treo Pro provides a standard 3.5mm stereo headset jack and a reasonably good earbud headset. In our hands-on experience, the quality of audio and video playback was acceptable. The included 2Mp camera was adequate.

Palm preinstalls TeleNav navigation software, but you have to pay to use it. In our tests, it worked well, delivering good turn-by-turn voice guidance. The Palm Treo Pro also includes GPS-assist software to help it get fixes faster, plus Google Maps, which can use GPS to show your location. Google Maps can create driving directions, but it doesn't provide turn-by-turn voice navigation.

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Palm Treo Pro: Specs

  • Quad-band GSM: 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz
  • Tri-band UMTS: 850MHz, 1900MHz, 2100MHz
  • HSDPA/EDGE/GPRS
  • Qualcomm MSM7201 400MHz processor
  • Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition
  • 320x320 transflective colour TFT touchscreen
  • 802.11b/g with WPA, WPA2, and 801.1x authentication
  • built-in GPS
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate
  • Infrared (IR)
  • 256MB (100MB user available), 128MB RAM
  • 2Mp camera with 8x digital zoom and video capture
  • 1500mAh lithium-ion battery
  • up to 5.0 hours talk time and up to 250 hours standby
  • microSDHC cards (up to 32GB supported)
  • MicroUSB 2.0 for synchronisation and charging
  • 3.5mm stereo headset jack
  • 114x60x13mm
  • 130g
  • Quad-band GSM: 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz
  • Tri-band UMTS: 850MHz, 1900MHz, 2100MHz
  • HSDPA/EDGE/GPRS
  • Qualcomm MSM7201 400MHz processor
  • Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition
  • 320x320 transflective colour TFT touchscreen
  • 802.11b/g with WPA, WPA2, and 801.1x authentication
  • built-in GPS
  • Bluetooth 2.0 with Enhanced Data Rate
  • Infrared (IR)
  • 256MB (100MB user available), 128MB RAM
  • 2Mp camera with 8x digital zoom and video capture
  • 1500mAh lithium-ion battery
  • up to 5.0 hours talk time and up to 250 hours standby
  • microSDHC cards (up to 32GB supported)
  • MicroUSB 2.0 for synchronisation and charging
  • 3.5mm stereo headset jack
  • 114x60x13mm
  • 130g

OUR VERDICT

Though far from a true touchscreen phone, we had little trouble operating the Treo Pro with its onscreen software buttons. It’s an easy to navigate, fully primed smartphone with all the connectivity you’re likely to want. One quibble is whether customers will want to stump up £400 outright for a handset with minimal onboard memory.

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