Treo 750 755 vs. Blackberry 8800 vs. Centro

I've been receiving quite a few questions about how the Centro or Treo 755 compare with another slick gadget, the Blackberry 8800. For anyone in the market for a Treo 750 series or Centro, the 8800 series needs to be considered if you are in an area with decent Cingular coverage and a change would be practical.

It comes as a Blackberry 8800, 8820, or 8830.

At face value, the 8800 appears to be a larger Centro or a sleeker 755. The exact specs have it about 1 - 1 1/2 inch taller and wider than the Centro, but very thin. Its thickness of just .55" beats both the Centro and the Treo. Think of the face of the 8800 as very similar to a Treo, except the thickness of the 8800 is significantly smaller.

I was able to get my paws on an 8800 and use it as a business user for a few hours. It didn't rest in my pocket as easily as the Centro, and those who read this blog will know that having a thin, sleek phone is a big deal to me. It is great to have functionlity, but what about the rest of the time when the device is just weighing in your pocket. But its thinness is very impressive.

Email is great with Blackberry's. I use Palm products because my firm has not licensed the Blackberry Enterprise Server, which they need to do in order to have full synchronization with their email domain. Be sure to check email compatibility with your firm's email server if you consider going with a Blackberry. If I could use its email, I would strongly consider making the move to Blackberry for ease of email and all of the aftermarket applications targeted at business users who rely on Blackberries.

The keyboard on the 8800 was good. It cannot be overstated that Blackberry did themselves a huge favor by finding a way to get a full QWERTY keyboard on such a sleek device. The 8800's younger brother, the Pearl, doesn't achieve this. Not as big and comfortable as the Treo 750 or 755, but a step up from the cramped keyboard of the Centro. It also uses a tracking ball, something that you don't miss if you never had, but for those who have grown used to the Blackberry navigation, it is very awkward to go without it.

I have to say I've grown very used to the Centro and Treo's touch screen capabilities. You see the application you want to use, you touch it, and it is ready to go. Blackberry still hasn't gotten to this yet, but most Blackberry users I know are so in tune with the trackball that it doesn't bother them.

Battery life on the Blackberry 8800 is great. 23 days of standby and 5 hours of talk time. That is much better than the Centro, and better than the Treo. For a business travel, battery juice is a big deal. You ever been stuck in the Cleveland airport without a phone connection?

I like Palm's products, and I like Sprint and Verizon. But if you are in a good Cingular coverage area, the 8800 series is definately worth considering.

Centro Reviews from My Colleagues

In addition to my review listed below, business colleagues have been using the phone now for 3 weeks. These are people who are on the road alot, relying on the phone for critical messages and calls, and people who like the bells and whistles more than I do. I've heard these quotes (all anecdotal -- nothing here is scientific):

"I love the new messenger functionality"
"The phone fits way better in my pocket than the Treo"
"This keyboard is so small, I can only type one-word responses with it"
"I thought the battery would be a little stronger"
"I love the way the phone looks"
"The rounded edges make it feel even smaller than it is"

Centro vs. Treo 700 vs. Treo 755: Side-by-side comparison and review

I wanted to compare and review the three popular Palm smartphones, Treo 755, Treo 700, and now the Centro, side by side to allow readers to draw their own conclusions on where the Centro stands. If you are a Sprint customer, these three smartphones are being actively marketed to you. If you are Verizon, you can compare the 700 with the 750 (Verizon's version of the 755).

Size: This is a no-brainer. While the Palm 755 made a significant improvement over the 700 by removing the stub antenna, both are bulky in the hand and the pocket. The Centro, while only about 5% shorter than 7% narrower across than the 755, cuts of nearly 15% of the thickness of the unit. While that may not sound like alot, it is very noticeable in both your hand and pocket. Advantage: Centro

Weight: The numbers speak for themselves: Centro - 4.2 oz, Treo 755 - 5.6 oz., Treo 700 - 6.4 oz. The Centro is the lightest of the three in a big way. Advantage: Centro

Business Features (Email/Calendar): As far as the technical appearance, specs, and performance of things like email and calendars, these phones really are interchangable. The function is nearly identical. I'll have the advantage here to teh 755, however, because of the larger keyboard. While I don't find the Centro's small keyboard problematic like some, I would probably write more thorough emails on a more comfortable keyboard. Advantage: Treo 750/755

Screen: Resolution is identical on the Centro to the Treo 700 and Treo 755. The screens on the Treo's are slightly larger, however. While I really don't notice the size difference and never find myself longing for more screen space on the Centro, some users might. Advantage: Treo 755

Camera: Great quality at over 1 megapixel, but I don't see any kind of change from previous models. I'm also not one to use my camera phone alot, and never for pictures that really matter: No advantage

Phone Sound Quality: Voice quality, both in and outbound, has been good on my Centro as well as the Treo's. No problems in that department. Reception has been good on all three phones, although I may notice another reception bar in problem spots with the Centro. However, I find the speaker on the Centro to be more "tinny" than the others, so I'll give the advantage to the Treo 755.

Keyboard: The small keyboard on the Centro has the world of internet reviewers complaining. But frankly, most internet reviewers are WAY too picky about their tech gadgets. The QWERTY keyboard is fully functional even for someone with chubby fingers like me. I'd like it to be a tad larger, but nice sticky texture of the keys keeps my fingers from slipping off. Still, the larger board on the Treo is easier to use -- in my opinion, the Treo keyboards are the best in the business if you are a heavy emailer from your handheld. Advantage: Treo 700 and 755

Internal Performance: I've had issues with all of my Palm products freezing periodically. However, as long as you get the Palm OS instead of windows (Windows is not an option on the Centro), you'll find the speed just fine. The Centro claims to have an extra 4MB of memory, and it is slightly noticeable to me in some situations. Just don't try to do other functions while your Centro is retrieving wireless email -- it will freeze. Still, for doing one function at a time, it feels slightly faster. Advantage: Centro

Toys: All three phones have built in games, toys, lots of ringer options, etc. I'm not a gadget freak and don't really use ptunes or the texting. However, rumor is that the Centro adapated some of the latest and greatest thinking into their Centro has it is targeted at proficient personal users in addition to business people like me. Very slight advantage: Centro

Battery Life: In my book, this is a terribly underrated aspect of phones. Say you are on a business trip and can plug your phone in once daily in a hotel room. Running out of battery can be a deal killer. Ironically, the oldest model gets the edge on this one. The 4.5 hrs of talk time on the Treo 700 trumps the 4.2 hrs on the 755 and the 3.5 hrs on the Centro. Frankly, this has been my only disappointment on the Centro. Advantage: Treo 700

Overall Comparison: The size and weight improvement on the Centro more than outweighs the losses for the average business user, namely the smaller keyboard and the shorter battery life. This is a nice phone, one that feels much better in your hand or pocket, and one that you will instantly become a fan of. Unless you do tons of long emails from your phone, or absolutely have to have a battery that doesn't require a nightly charge, the Centro is a great addition to the Palm family. Especially when you consider that a Sprint user can get a Centro for $100 after all discounts, it becomes a no-brainer. Overall Advantage: Palm Centro.

The Palm Centro - Review and Analysis

For the moderate user, the Palm Centro delivers on what it set out to do: Create a smaller version of the Treo which contains most of the functionality of its predecessor.

The Centro is a powerful little unit, able to keep up with most functions that an average, or even above-average user requires. I know that I want to get to the Centro vs. Treo comparison on the Treo vs. Centro page, but let me just say this: When held in your hand, the Centro feels significantly smaller than the Treo. The rounded edges, thinner profile, and smaller overall footprint make the difference between the two feel greater than the dimensions would lead you to believe.

I will evalute the Palm Centro on a few basic Criteria below. This review is focused on a moderate user who uses the Centro for both personal and some business use:

Size: The first time Palm has really modified the size of one of their smartphones, they did a nice job with the Centro. At 4.22" by 2.11" by .73", this phone feels like a large non-smartphone. It fits very nicely in one's hand, and can go in a pocket without feeling terribly bulky. While not quite as small as either the Blackberry Blackjack or Pearl, I believe Palm compensated by preserving a full QWERTY keyboard (which those others don't have).

Screen: Excellent resolution and decent size. Basically similar to other Palm products, which is a good thing. Palm always does a nice job on the screen, better than the Blackberry products in general.

Keyboard: When you make a good product smaller, you have to comprimise somewhere. The keyboard on the Palm Centro is small. Now, I'm a decent-sized guy without petite hands, so I notice these things. The keys are small and close together. While it doesn't make me not like the Centro, this is a factor to consider if you are a prolific outbound email sender from your handheld device. For my use, I typically am in read-only mode when checking emails from my Centro, and when I do send one it, it is typically something like "I'm running late", or "Thanks", or "Works for me." You get the picture. I don't care how nice a handheld keyboard is, most of my email manifesto works are composed at my computer.

With all of that said, Palm add a tacky/sticky surface to the keys, which helps immensely. The Treo keys are hard and a bit slick. Your fingers actually have an easy time making contact with a Centro key because of this, and despite the smallish size of the keys.

Phone Sound Quality: Good. I haven't had any major problems with sound quality on my end or on the receiver's end. I would rate the quality as equal to that of the 755p which I used before this. The earpiece is small so it needs to be on your ear just right, but that is a user issue, not a phone issue. The speaker quality is only so-so. Fortunately for me, I don't rely on my speaker other than for checking vmail while driving.

Email and Text Messaging: Palm's email interface is a breeze. I've used Activesync in the past, but now directly have the email connect to my company's home office server. My email and calendar are kept constant through those sync's, rather than routing it through my computer. However, syncing through the computer is also a breeze. This is an area where Palm has done a nice job, and made it easier on small companies by not requiring unique licenses per user.

Appearance: I got the black version, and a red version was just released. There are little sparkles in the black casing -- reminds me of a disco joint or a ride at the county fair. I could live without them, but they are very, very subtle.

Battery: OK. I've been a bit disappointed in the battery life, but it is really what one should expect. While Palm claims that the Centro's battery life is 3.5hrs of talk and 12 days of standby, I find that I need to charge my Centro nightly. The number of calls I receive, in addition to the fact that I have my Centro setup to sync emails regularly, means that I go through battery juice at a good clip. For a typical business user, you'll want to charge daily. This is actually slightly better than the 755, which is rated for only 10 days of standby.

Ringers / Toys / Gadgets: Everything I've tested works out fine: The different ringtones, camera, ptunes, etc. The 1+ megapixel resolution is excellent, and I'm continually astounded by how far smartphone cameras have come so quickly. My only complaint here is the same one I have with other Palm products: The stock ringtones are all fun, quirky attention-getters. As a business user, I want one that is boring and subtle. Who would have thought boring and subtle would be a novelty.

Price: Nice price (as low as $100 with discounts and rebates through Sprint). As of this moment, you can get a Palm Centro for less than a Treo 755 through Sprint. I don't know why anyone would go with the Treo considering they would have to pay more for it.

Connectivity: I've successfully used the Bluetooth, IR, and cord cable hookups for various reasons, and all have performed well. My coverage range with this phone seems a bit better than the Treo's I've had, but nothing significant as that is much more a function of the network than the phone.

Review Conclusion: The Palm Centro is overdue. Palm took a year to catch up with the smaller smartphone movement. While the 755 was basically a 700 without the antenna, this is a significant improvement. The only downside I can see it the keyboard size, and that isn't a big deal if you don't write novels from your phone.

Welcome to the Treo vs. Palm compare page

Many Sprint users have noticed that Palm recently came out with a smaller smartphone, the Centro. The Centro is intended to compete with some of Blackberry's smaller phones, such as the Blackjack and Curve. Until now, Palm's only Smartphones have been the Treo's, which are extremely capable but bulky units.

This is a review of the Centro, and a comparison to the Treo 700 and 755. By reading this review, you might find yourself in a better position to decide between the three smartphones, which are all in current production by Sprint (and the 700 and 755 are offered by Verizon).

I should add that this is written from the perspective of a moderate business user. I'm not at all hardcore techie, but I do rely on my smartphone for important calls as well as email, scheduling, and other basic tasks. I need a phone that is reliable, has decent battery life, and provides an interface that I don't need to study the instructions to understand. I'm a simple person.


A review of the Palm Centro