Palm Centro review, an excellent phone

The Palm Centro is the latest smartphone powered by Palm OS. Some people have said that the Centro is a Treo on a diet. It is slimmer, shorter and lighter than the Treo 680. The Centro has the looks that target the youth, who yearn for a feature packed device with QWERtY keyboard and smartphone features all in a small and light form factor.

Palm Centro looks so small in my hands

Ergonomics and usability

This device weighs at 124gm which is not that light, but considering it being a smartphone, that is not a big figure. It is still lighter than most of the smartphone in the market.The device has nice curves and being small in size, it can easily be operated by one-hand. This is a nice news for the people who don’t want to use both hands to operate the device. The D-pad works well in navigating through the features of the device. The ‘answer’ and ‘end’ are big and easy-to-reach. My thumb was able to get to every part of the screen if I want to use my thumb instead of d-pad. The Centro looks different from other phones. It has front-face QWERTY keyboard but does not look like blackberry. It looks different from the HTC and SE UIQ devices.

It is powered by Palm OS!

Now, the exclamation(!) mark above depicts both happiness and sadness about the Palm OS. Palm OS has been the easiest operating systems ever according to me. It is easier than iPhone. It is simple, fast and stable. Anyone can get accostomed to it very easily as the whole interface is very intutive.
Here comes the bad part. Being powered by Palm OS, it can not multi-tasking. But, due to some nice optimisations done in the device by Palm, it can run media player(Pocket Tunes) in the background while you can do other stuff. Palm OS has great support of applications. For the tech guys, it runs Palm OS garnet 5.4.9

Storage

The device comes with ~69MB of storage out of which ~64MB is user-accessible. The storage memory is non-volatile meaning that the data will remain intact in case the battery is fully drained out. I rememeber that my Palm zire 71 came with 16MB of user avaliable of volatile memory and how frustrating it was to loose data when the battery used to ran out.

Storage can be expanded via micro-SD cards.

Keyboard

The keyboard experience on the Centro is highly debatable. Some liked it. Some didn’t. My friend who has even bigger hands than me didn’t like it much. I’ve got quite large hands and I had no problems typing on the keyboard. Girls with long nails, watch out! If you don’t cut your nails, this phone is not for you. However, with medium nails, girls can type without much problem. I was able to get 35-45wpm on the centro’s keyboard which is nice figure for a smartphone. So, I would say Palm has done a great job in keyboard departpment in keeping the device small and making the keyboard useable too!

The keyboard has decent backlight too, which lets you type comfortably in low light conditions and in dark.

Screen

The Palm centro is equipped with high quality 2.25″ display which has a nice resolution of 320 x 320. The display is clear and is comfortable to read. The touchscreen is very responsive and you don’t need to press it harder to register a tap. Palm has pre-installed a screen protector on the centro. The screen protector seems to be of nice quality. However, no instructions are given to remove it and apply a new one incase it gets scratched. It sound funny that you will have to go to customer service center just to get the screen protector replaced. :!:

Text looks very fine at 320 x 320 resolution

Text looks very fine at 320 x 320 resolution

Performance

It is powered by Intel Xscale 312MHZ processor. This is more than enough considering the fact that it is running Palm OS. This baby flies. It is faster than any device I have used. It sometimes makes me feel how slow the windows mobile devices are. On the Centro, you click on any application and it opens instantaneously. Even a soft-reset does not takes much time. The device is very responsive to whatever task you throw at it.

As a music player

The Palm Centro can work well as a media player. It has SDHC support and this means it can theoritically take up to 32GB of flash based memory cards. This helps it to put itself as potential media player. One glitch is the placement of the micro-SD slot. You have to remove the cover to put the card in there. Atleast, you do not have to remove the battery to take the card out. I know how frustrated are the users of HTC P3300 were when they learnt that the micro-SD slot was behind the battery!

included Pocket Tunes works well

It has a 2.5mm stereo headset jack at the bottom, but sadly no headset is included in the package.

Battery Life

It comes with 1150mAh battery. Palm claims 4h of talk time and 300h of standby time. I got ~3-3.5h of talk time so I’m pretty close to the official figures. Even with heavy use, it can last you a day and still some juice will be left for the next day. In short, the battery life is not great but not shabby too.

Speaker

The speaker is located at the back of the device. It has magnets. So, you are suggested to keep those credit cards and parking lot passes away. The speaker produces loud and clear sound. The speaker works well for loudspeaker conversations. No problems here.

Communications and Networking

The Palm Centro is a quad band phone(850/900-1800/1900) and gets nice reception. As a phone, it wakes up immediately and starts ringing as-soon-as a calls comes in, which I was happy to see. Windows Mobile phones esp professional ones(touch screen) take ~3-4seconds to start ringing. The reception is great. I would say, it is at par with the Nokia. In the networking department, there is Bluetooth(version 1.2) which has support for headset, handsfree, Obex, DUN and HotSync. Again, there is no wifi. Since, the price is cheap, I’m not complaining much about it.

Other miscelleneous stuff

Unlike it’s Sprint and cingular versions, no IM software is included. The only third party applications that are included in the unlocked GSM version are Pocket Tunes and Dataviz Documents To Go Professional Edition 10. For web browsing, Blazer is included.

Palm OS quick overview

I’ve included screenshots of the Palm OS too:

phone application

phone application

quick launcher integrated into the Phone app

quick launcher integrated into the Phone app

I also installed Resco Explorer on the Centro(just because I’m a great fan of it’s windows mobile version). It looks awesome at 320 x 320 resolution.

Some random screenshots from the Docs To Go

Camera

Camera

Specifications:

Display 320×320-pixel Transflective colour screen; supports 16-bit colour (up to 65K colours)
Radio Quad band (850/900-1800/1900) GSM/GPRS/EDGE Class 10
Platform Palm OS 5.4.9
Bluetooth® Wireless Technology Version 1.2
Memory 64MB available user storage
Camera 1.3 megapixels with 2 x digital zoom and video capture
Battery Removable 1150mAh, lithium-ion up to 4 hours talk time, up to 300 hours standby time
Expansion microSD card (up to 4GB supported, sold separately)
Connector Multi-connector
Dimensions 107.2 mm (L) x 53.5 mm (W) x 18.6 mm (D); 124 grams
Colours Glacier White, Onyx Black
System Requirements Windows® XP
Windows Vista™
Mac OS X v10.2-10.4

What I liked about the device:

  • Reliable phone module
  • Fast: Thanks to the Palm OS speed and fast processor
  • Looks great. Girls will love this thing!
  • 320 x 320 resolution looks great. Font is so much crisp than QVGA windows mobile devices
  • SDHC support
  • Built-in QWERTY Keyboard is nice
  • Small and great form factor
  • Good battery life
  • Awesome phone integration with the rest of the OS
  • Can be controlled with one hand
  • Decent stylus size
  • Quad band GSM module
  • Reasonable price
  • Removable battery(take that iPhone!)

What I didn’t like:

  • Palm OS is very old now! The OS has not changed at all since the last time I used it
  • No file explorer bundled. I was forced to install Resco Explorer due to it
  • No wifi. Why Palm, why?
  • Poor camera. Just 1.3 MP and pathetic quality
  • No 3G

Gallery:

Thanks to 20:20 Media, esp Mr Ashwani for providing the device for the review

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