Review: Palm Treo 800W

Palm fans can relax for a little while: the handheld giant delivered a fine catch-up business phone with the Treo 800W, finally offering Wi-Fi and GPS to a grateful user base. While this model isn't the bold innovation that many are waiting for, it's strong enough to keep Palm competitive.

The Treo 800W, surprisingly, is the first Treo to offer Wi-Fi connectivity (802.11b/g). How Palm let something so basic go for so long is a mystery, but it's here now so the past is forgiven. Palm has even added a convenient Wi-Fi button to the top of the 800W, which lets you turn Wi-Fi on or off with just a push.

Also new, and not nearly so long overdue, is GPS reception. The device can pinpoint your location and even find nearby businesses (give it a long time to lock onto your position, the first time you use it). The 800W is only carried by Sprint, and for $2.99 per day or $9.99 per month, you can add turn-by-turn GPS navigation to your device.

To surface the connectivity options, the Treo 800W offers a well-designed new start screen. Users can instantly run an address book search (begin entering a name or number to call up results), a GPS search for nearby businesses (or ones in other cities), or an Internet search. The start screen also shows the number of unread e-mails and text messages, as well as upcoming calendar entries.

The 800W manages to offer new abilities while coming in just slightly smaller than other recent Treos. It measures 2.28 x 4.41x 0.73 inches, which makes it slightly thinner. It weighs 5.0 ounces.

We were happy to see that the 800W has a 320 x 320-pixel screen, which is a first for a Windows Palm. The previous ones were 240 x 240, so the new Windows models now match the resolution of Palm OS Treos.

The 800W runs off a 333-MHz TI processor and runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Edition. We found is a fast performer, as it includes support for EvDO Rev. A. We also like that it offers Bluetooth 2.0 and the stereo headset profile.

Aside from the Wi-Fi button, the Treo 800W doesn't offer any design surprises. The case is deep blue and the shape is slightly rounded for comfort. Buttons on the front offer quick access to the Windows menu, the calendar, and the in-box. You'll get a full QWERTY keyboard, although the keys are quite small.

The left side offers volume buttons and a voice note button. The right side has an infrared port and a slot for a microSD card (you can use up to an 8GB card). On the top you'll find the Wi-Fi button, a ring silencer button, and the plastic stylus. The back holds a 2 megapixel camera lens, round self-portrait mirror, and speaker.

Call quality wasn't ideal in our testing (in the New York City area). Voices often sounded a little muffled. We were happier with the EvDO service, which delivered smooth streaming video (using the pre-installed Sprint TV application) without a blip. GPS reception was slow the first time, but better after that.

Business users who prefer Palm should definitely pick up the Treo 800w, which is available for $249 from Sprint with a two-year contract. GSM users, however, will want the sleek new Treo Pro, which we'll be reviewing in the next couple weeks. Check back for more.


Microsoft, Palm, Windows Mobile, Sprint, Treo