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The Palm Centro measures 4.22 × 2.11 × 0.73mm. It's the smallest smartphone offered by Palm till date, and weighs just about 119g. The phone's compact size is one of its major advantages and will attract both men and women, since it's small and slim enough to fit into a trouser pocket or a small purse with equal ease. It definitely beats the bulky Treo, and is pretty compact considering that it is equipped with a transflective 2.4-inch 320x320 colour touchscreen and a full QWERTY keyboard.
The 5-way navigation button offers the main browse functionality. 'Talk' and 'End' buttons, shortcuts to the Calendar, Inbox, Phone, and Home Page are very well spaced out, and are easy to use. As far as shortcomings are concerned, the keyboard is cramped and feels as if it's designed for users with either long nails or small fingers. But that's the price one pays for compactness.
A volume leveler can be found on the left side of the handset, while a push-to-talk button, an infrared port and a microSD expansion slot are placed on the right. We were happy to see that the microSD slot is protected by an attached cover, but our glee faded a bit on realising that one cannot open it unless one removes the back cover. To add to the annoyance, the SIM card can be inserted only if the stylus is removed. They could simply have allotted more space for the card holder, which would have made the process of inserting and removing the SIM card much easier.
A slide button on the top lets you switch the phone between mute and ring mode; no longer do you have to unlock the keypad and move through complicated menus. On the bottom of the handset are a 2.5mm headset jack and multi-connector ports. At the back you'd find the camera lens, a self-portrait mirror and the speaker. The camera is not exposed, which will help to keep the lens clean.
The Centro is a combination of vital hits and misses as far as features are concerned. It runs on Palm OS 5.4.9 and comes with 128MB ROM and 64MB RAM. Thanks to the backward compatibility of this OS, many applications released for previous Palm PDAs/smartphones will also work with the Centro. That’s especially useful if you already own a Palm and don’t want to give up using any of your favourite applications.
This phone has been streamlined to work with many popular applications and services. In fact, searching for freeware third-party applications is a breeze; you can easily lay your hands on the most commonly used apps for free on the Internet.
The Centro is a quad-band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) phone and supports both GPRS and EDGE, but not 3G. The voice features include services like speakerphone, three-way calling, voice dialing, speed dial, and the 'ignore with text' feature, which allows you to reply to a call with a text message if you can't or don't want to take the call. The Centro also supports text and multimedia messaging with the usual text chat view, which is quite a famous feature on the Palm OS.
Wi-Fi is lacking, which means you could miss out on an essential part of your business communication, while you are left surfing on EDGE speeds. Though Internet on EDGE is good, Wi-Fi would have been even better. The phone has integrated Bluetooth Ver 1.2 for use with wireless headsets, hands-free kits, object exchange, and dial-up networking, but misses out on the A2DP factor, which enables Bluetooth Stereo Headset use. You could thus miss out on wireless music.
Equipped with several choices to access your corporate and personal email accounts, the Centro offers more than meets the eye. The VersaMail application supports Microsoft's Direct Push Technology, which enables real-time synchronisation with Microsoft Exchange Server. VersaMail also supports a wide range of POP and IMAP e-mail accounts. We tested a Gmail account and a corporate account and were quite satisfied with the push technology; it worked well with both.
Email setup was easy; we used it on a Vodafone account. We tried it on a normal GPRS connection, which did not work; but it connected well with the advanced GPRS package that allows the phone to act as a modem too. As soon as the setup was complete, the detection was quick and email started arriving right away.
Multimedia and Camera
The Palm Centro comes bundled with PocketTunes Deluxe Edition, which is capable of playing MP3, WAV and DRM-protected music files. However, the in-box accessories were disappointing – all we detected was a mono headset. That said; the music quality was decent.
The Centro comes equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera with 2x zoom and video recording capabilities. However, just as with the Treo's camera, there are no options to tweak the white balance, resolution and brightness. The camera is really basic, with no settings or special effects of any kind except 2x digital zoom. Click and capture, and you are done. It does auto-adjust to low light levels, but the lack of a flash was evident. Despite all this, we were impressed with the picture quality; images were sharply defined and exhibited good color in both natural and artificial light.
The Centro has a tiny button on the QWERTY keypad that at first glance seems user-friendly, but falls short of the required size. However, the keys are coated with a squishy plastic that keeps fingertips from slipping, which is nice. Just when you start getting used to the Centro, its OS could hang (as we found out). This was tolerable initially but later got annoying. Such an instance might occur when you are attending calls or when you may be about to make a call. Still, this may well be a rare phenomenon as the OS gave a good performance overall in terms of speed and browsing.
The Centro is powered by a 312MHz Intel XScale processor, whose performance was good. We did not experience any significant delays. The applications were quite fast; and the most important feature that the Centro boasts of is the Document viewer/editor (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF). It was very easy to view and edit documents with this.
If you're used to pressing the 'End call' key after any action to go back to the main screen, please don’t try it here as such a move not only locks the keypad but also blanks the screen immediately. Features like the Organiser are very basic and do not require any time to get used to. Appointments, Tasks Scheduler, Notes etc. are basic too, but easy to use. One feature exclusive to the Palm Centro is the Agenda View in the Calendar, which puts the whole day ahead of you in appointments, tasks and even unread messages.
The transflective display is decent and the screen is fine, especially if you view it in broad daylight. The stylus has a rough exterior that prevents it from slipping down. We found the screen responsiveness a notch lower than what we expected from a touchscreen phone. If it helps to set your mind at rest, the screen comes equipped with a permanent scratch guard.
A smartphone with no Wi-Fi doesn't mean the end of the world; EDGE is quite fast. In fact, the Centro’s Internet browser application, called Blazer 4.5, is faster than most mobile browsers we've tried. It has two modes: Fast and Normal. The difference is quite apparent. In Fast Mode, the web page removes images and disables cascading style sheets, making the pages load faster.
Disabling images helps you cut down on your data usage, which in turn should facilitate faster web browsing. However, on using the normal mode we realised that the speed difference was not drastic and the page loaded quickly enough. So it's up to you. The Centro also has support for streaming videos. Overall, the browsing experience is satisfactory and to be honest, we did not miss Wi-Fi much.
With a price tag of Rs 13,990, we would say the Palm Centro is a deal. Its appeal is universal; it's not targeted only at hardcore businessmen. With such an attractive price and with loads of freeware available online, we recommend a buy. If you're looking for a decent smartphone that will let you call, text, chat and browse, this phone is just right for you.
Check out the video review here.