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Second Thoughts: Palm Treo 700w

One of the dangers of reviewing hot new products is that you may not have time to really settling in and learn all the quirks of a new technology before being required to formulate a very public opinion. What may seem like a cool feature after a day or two of playing around may turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth, while real warts may not become apparent until weeks later.

Such, unfortunately, is the case with the Palm Treo 700w. I received my evaluation unit on the first evening of the Consumer Electronics Show, and after some limited messing around with it at the show, had to have my review in the following Monday (the original review is here). I was impressed enough with the unit to actually buy one from Verizon a week or so later. Now, three months later, I’ve compiled a list of issues that would have probably kept me from buying one had known about them.

Before we look at the Treo 700w "bad" and "ugly," let’s talk about the one truly "good" feature that keeps me relatively happy with it. That would be Wireless Sync, the service that lets you keep your contacts, calendar and e-mail in sync with your home desktop. It’s worked pretty much flawlessly for me, and lets me read my mail or schedule a meeting pretty much anywhere I have cell service, and not have to worry about the last time I hotsynced the unit. In fact, I don’t hotsync my Treo at all except to install new software or Audible content. The battery life has also been awesome. I never run out of power.

Now for the "bad" and "ugly." Let’s start with the “what-was-Palm-thinking” items. The unit may have 60 MB of memory available to the user, but only 24MB of that is available to run software (the rest is storage.) I’ve found that typically, with nothing run, I only really have around 4-6MB of available memory, and both I and other users have reported memory leak issues that require you to reset the phone occasionally to get even that. At least under Windows Mobile 2003 you could set how much memory you wanted to assign to programs and how much to storage, under WM5 you’re stuck with the division Palm chose.

The 240x240 screen is also too small, especially since both the Treo 650 and rumored 700p have 320x320 screens. It’s almost like Palm has deliberately crippled the 700w to make the PalmOS versions look better. Very few programs run flawlessly in the 240x240 footprint, although some vendors such as Mapopolis have made the effort to port their software. Prepare to be disappointed by the selection of software that runs without glitches.

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