Palm Centro

Anthony Caruana
17 June, 2008
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Picture a company in the doldrums — innovation’s lost and the market is anticipating the death knell to be sounded any moment now. If this were 1995 we’d be talking about Apple — but it’s 2008 and it’s Palm. However, the new Palm Centro might go some way to turning Palm’s fortunes around.

The Centro looks like another in the long line of Treo smartphones although, at 54mm wide, it’s a little narrower and consequently easier to hold than its Treo forebears. There’s the familiar Palm QWERTY keyboard sitting below a very nice 320×320 display. Typically, entry-level smartphones skimp on the screen but Palm has delivered an excellent touchscreen with good colour depth and brightness.

Communications are fairly well covered, although there’s no 3G or WiFi. However, EDGE is supported and there’s quad-band GSM for voice. Essentially, that means that the Centro is best for making calls, SMS and remote e-mail. Web browsing over EDGE is acceptable on the Telstra network but those accustomed to 3G will notice the difference.

Storage starts with a paltry 64MB of in-built memory but can be expanded with a microSD card. While the availability of the memory slot is a good thing, I was annoyed that you need to remove the back cover to switch cards because the cover over the slot is so tight. Also, the additional memory is limited to 4GB — suggesting that the slot is not SDHC compatible.

Palm OS is getting a little long in the tooth and has had only minor tweaks since its release back in 2002. However, one significant benefit of its age is that it’s very stable. Mac users will be glad that Palm’s included its own OS as there are plenty of sync options including the bundled Palm Desktop and Hotsync. You can connect either by Bluetooth or using the USB cable with Palm’s proprietary connector.

Palm’s PIM applications remain excellent. Even though they’ve not been updated in some time there’s not been any need to. They’re easy to use and display data clearly.

Battery life is quite good. Palm rates talk time from the 1100 mAh Li-Ion battery at four hours and stand-by at 300 hours. My own testing suggested that you’d need a trip to the battery charger every couple of days with moderate usage.

Rounding out the Centro are its multimedia options. There’s a 1.3 megapixel camera that, by today’s standards, can only be described as barely adequate. It can shoot video with sound but its photos are only fair. The media viewing application is very good. Rounding things out, there’s a voice memo recorder and Pocket Tunes for listening to MP3 tracks.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice. The Palm Centro is an unspectacular smartphone but I can see it appealing to first-time smartphone buyers. At just $299 (with $10 of call credits) on Telstra NextG PrePaid is represents great value. It comes with Mac sync software in the box making it a ready-to-go option. However, whether it can withstand Cyclone iPhone remains to be seen.

Palm Centro

Cons No WiFi or 3G
Pros Screen, performance, full Mac support
Rating 3.5
Type Smartphone
SRP $299
Manufacturer Palm
Distributor Brightpoint 1300 300 213

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