Review: Palm Treo 800w

Intuitive design and a tool belt of features make this smartphone great for enterprise use

Executive Summary: The Palm Treo 800w offers a fresh blend of a simple user interface combined with a plethora of features. Notable offerings include: Windows Mobile 6.1, Microsoft Exchange support, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. The phone’s biggest drawbacks are battery life and lack of audio/video support.

Palm Treo 800w
PROS: Sleek interface, Microsoft Exchange support, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, IM.
CONS: No audio port, short battery life.
RATING: 4.5 diamonds
PRICE: $599, $250 with subscription
RECOMMENDATION: If you’re all business and need an easy-to-use phone to manage your life, the Treo 800w is worth a look. If you’re seeking bells, whistles, and bragging rights, you should pass on this one.
CONTACT: Palm • • 408-617-7000 • 866-373-9162

If the Treo 800w had a mantra, it’d be ‘you can’t be all things to all people.’ As a company that has recently lost attention to more high-profile devices in the smartphone market, Palm intelligently positioned the 800w with everything it needs for business use. While this model won’t acquire its own fan club anytime soon, it holds its own in an end-to-end run-through.

Form and functionality
When I first picked up the Treo 800w, I liked what I saw. The design is sleek and attractive, and the 320x320 pixel screen is a sight for sore eyes. The stylus (or pointer) is a little flimsy but tucks nicely into the top of the phone. The full QWERTY keypad isn’t bad, but takes some work to use comfortably. (If you’re lacking in dexterity or have thick fingertips, you can bring up a keyboard on the screen to hunt and peck with your stylus.) One caveat to the external design is the plastic cover for the microSD expansion card slot—this piece is connected to the phone by a thin bit of plastic that I doubt would hold after fiddling with it a few dozen times.

In addition to a big, attractive display screen, the screen layout makes using the Treo 800w a cinch. The base screen has all the vitals: enter a name or number to make a call; notification for new emails or text messages; space to enter a directory search or web search; and your most current calendar item. All of this information is well-blended with white space (or blue space) and does not appear crammed. Additionally, you have a familiar Windows Start pull-down for settings and programs; small icons that quickly tell you about Wi-Fi access, wireless connectivity, and battery life status; and two boxes (Messaging and Menu) for additional options. What’s great about these two boxes (located at the bottom of the display) is that they remain through all the applications and features of the phone. Granted, their options will change, but anytime you’re looking for an additional option or command, those buttons hold the key. For someone who easily gets lost in a new interface, this is a huge help.

New features, new connectivity
Two exciting new features that the 800w brings to Palm’s line are Wi-Fi and GPS. For quick searches, directions, and emails, it couldn’t be any easier. And while on email, the Treo 800w makes sending quick messages cake, with basic sample messages ready to enter and send (you can create your own template messages too), smart word-completion and auto-capitalization, and virtually no lag. Microsoft Exchange support is also a plus, and fans of Windows Mobile will be pleased to see version 6.1 Professional sported on the phone. The 800w also has Bluetooth.

Mobile versions of Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word are available, which should come in handy in a business setting. But, don’t expect these programs to run very quickly, and I wouldn’t recommend using them for anything but file viewing.

Call quality
Call quality was, for the most part, very impressive. Both regular and speaker phone were crisp, and oftentimes it was difficult to tell that I was speaking on a cell phone. However, calls between the phone and my brother’s landline consistently sounded terrible—background noise–congested, muffled, echoing gibberish. I should note that calls between this number and both my regular cell phone and landline have always worked perfectly fine. I’ve never used Sprint before, so I assume their network is poor in this area.

Battery life
The Treo 800w is not well-suited for frequent, long phone calls, as the battery will only last about 4 hours talk time. However, the phone does do well in standby—battery drain in standby is slow, and the 800w wastes no time hopping over to standby after a short span of indecision (to the benefit of those who are power-conscious, and chagrin of those who don’t make quick decisions). Fortunately, the Treo 800w battery charges quite fast.

Lack of bells and whistles
By design, the 800w isn’t trying to be overtly cool or sexy. The 2.0 megapixel camera is mediocre but acceptable for most uses, and support for video is only so-so. One drawback is its lack of a headphone jack or a standard USB port (just a mini USB port), so you’ll have to go the extra mile and purchase an adapter if you want to take it on your morning jog. However, the phone does come with Sudoku and solitaire (among other games), in case of boring budget meetings or a sudden urge to keep your mind sharp.

If you’re looking for a well laid out device with seamless email, IM, GPS, and Wi-Fi, you’ll find it in the Treo 800w. Running basic programs and managing your daily activities is easy, even for someone who isn’t accustomed to hi-tech gadgets. However, if you’re looking to merge this phone with your everyday, gadget-demanding lifestyle, try again. Long chats on the beach? Forget about it. This phone is strictly business.

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