The Palm Centro Review, Part One

Things have been so crazy today (in a good way, thanks for asking), that I am just now getting settled down to tell you about the package that showed up this morning. Inside that FedEx box was the brand new fire engine red ruby Palm Centro, the $99 Palm OS smartphone that was announced earlier this month, and that has been showing up all over the web as other review sites have also been receiving theirs.


I honestly didn’t know if I would be getting the onyx (black) or ruby to review, but I’ll admit that I am glad I got the red. This is the first fashionably colored PDA phone I can ever remember trying, and it is definitely eye-catching. (Added later: no one pointed it out to me, but I did forget about the hot pink HTC Star Trek! My bad!)


In the box are:
* Palm® Centro™ smartphone
* Removable battery
* AC charger
* USB sync cable
* User documentation
* Software Installation CD


Display – 320×320 pixel Transflective color touchscreen,
supports 16-bit color (up to 65K colors)
Radio – Dual-band CDMA2000 EvDO backward compatible
with 1XRTT and IS95
Platform – Palm OS 5.4.9
Bluetooth® Wireless Technology Version 1.2
Memory – 64MB available user storage
Camera – 1.3 megapixels with 2x digital zoom and
video capture
Battery – Removable 1150mAh, lithium-ion
3.5 hours talk time, up to 300 hours standby time
Expansion – microSD card (up to 4GB supported)
Connector – Multi-connector
Dimensions – 4.22? (L) x 2.11? (W) x 0.73? (D); 4.2 oz
Colors – Ruby and Onyx
System Requirements – Windows® XP, Windows Vista™, Mac OS X v10.2-10.4

I have to admit that for a popularly priced item, the Centro is very nicely featured.

The Centro measures exactly 4.25? long x 2.11? wide x 0.77? thick, and it weighs 4.4 ounces. I’ll admit it, I was fully expecting something cheap and cheesy for $99 (subsidized, $399 without a plan), but the Centro surprised me. It feels quite solid, and even with a bit of torquing and squeezing, I couldn’t get the case to creak. Well done, Palm.

Let’s play ring around the gadget for a moment, shall we?

Starting on the right side, there is a volume rocker switch and a customizable side button – for the moment set to voice recorder. On the front of the device there is the newly designed button cluster, which yeah…I’m still getting used to. Starting with the long button on the left and traveling clockwise, the buttons are as follows: Talk, Phone, the D-Pad (with push to select center), Applications, Power / End, Messaging, and Calendar. I like the buttons’ layout, I like having everything so nicely labeled and available, I’m just not quite used to it…but then, I have only had the device for a day.


The new keyboard is small and the keys are placed very tightly together. The buttons seem much smaller than what I’m used to, but they are usable. My accuracy is hovering around 70-75% when messaging, but as anyone who IMs or texts me regularly knows, that is about par for the course anyway. ;-) I’m using the edge of my thumbnail to type one-handed, and that seems to work quite well, but those of you that are used to keying with your fingertips will need to rethink your method.


I was actually surprised to learn that the sync & charge port on the Centro’s bottom takes the same size connector as all of the current Treos; I guess I just figured that with it being a budget device, Palm would cut a corner there…but they didn’t. Kudos again, Palm. Also on the bottom are the 2.5mm headset jack, microphone, and lanyard holes.


On the right side, you can again see the lanyard holes, the covered microSD slot, and the Infrared port.


On the top of the Centro there is a sliding switch to turn the phone’s ringer on or off, and on the device’s upper front you can see the ear speaker’s long cutout.


Flipping the Centro over for a moment reveals the rear speaker and the 1.3 megapixel camera, as well as a small mirror for checking your teeth after meals.


Removing the battery cover reveals the 1150mAh battery and the fire engine red ruby stylus in its silo. Noticeably absent is the reset hole I was used to with the Treo 700wx, in fact…I can’t seem to find a reset hole anywhere. It is either perfectly camouflaged in plain sight, or it doesn’t exist. If that’s the case, then I suppose a soft reset is performed by pulling the battery...lame!


Here are some comparison shots of the HTC Mogul, the Palm Centro, and the AT&T Tilt (HTC TyTN II). In them, you can see that the Centro is about the same length, a little bit thinner, and a little bit less thick.


Another couple of shots showing just how thin the Centro is…



Considering that the two WM6 phones have full sliding keyboards, one could argue that they are actually twice the size of the Centro, since its keyboard is always exposed.


Of course, the Windows Mobile devices have QVGA screens and completely different specifications; so realize that I am comparing apples to oranges here.


That just about wraps up the hardware portion, I’ll cover additional features like the camera, all of the included software, and whether or not I still like the basic design after weeks of use in the next installment, which should follow sometime in the next 30 days.

After all, I have to actually use it… :-)

Update 11/12/07: I have posted Part Two of the Centro Review here.

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