Review of the Palm Treo 700wx


The Treo 700wx is the CDMA Windows Smartphone edition of the Treo 700. As usual, this review is not to critique the non-phone aspects of the device, which means I wonít pass judgment on the Windows operating system or on any of the data-centric things that you can do with this model. My focus, as always, is on the phone portion of the device.

Last Updated: 25-Sep-2007

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

I would like to thank TelecomZombie for lending me the phone for this test.

RF Performance

RF Sensitivity: The review gets off to a good start with excellent RF sensitivity. I compared the Treo to the Pantech 3200, which in turn had been compared to the excellent Nokia 6265i. All three phones can pull in weak signals with the best of them. Sadly, this is where the accolades end.

Over-the-road Performance: I was absolutely shocked at how poorly the Treo handled network issues during my tests. I wanted to make sure that the problem wasnít just network-related, and so with Howard Chuís help I made a comparison between the Nokia 6265i and Treo 700 on a fixed route just east of Square One in Mississauga. Due to all of the tall buildings in that area, the level of interference on Telus PCS is about as bad as it gets.

Both phones seemed to suffer from similar problems in similar locations, but the big difference was how the phones dealt with those issues. The Nokia glossed over them with aplomb and nary a syllable went astray. On the other hand, the Treo magnified each of the network issues and turned them into distinct disturbances in the flow of the audio that cut out syllables and made the phone sound as though it was going to drop the call.

During tests in open areas, where network issues are relatively minor, the Treo seems to do a credible job, but just about any phone sounds good under similar conditions. You have to hear the phone for yourself to really appreciate just how horrid the problems can become, and then compare it to an excellent performer such as the 6265i to bring it home to you. Without a doubt, the over-the-road performance of the Treo was one of the worst Iíve ever experienced.

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

Audio Performance

Tonal Balance: I can sum up the tonal balance of the native earpiece in two words: harsh and tinny. While listening to the sample voices provided on the Telus test line I found that some of those voices were so harsh and grating that I wanted to pull the phone away from my ear to escape the torture. When it isnít sounding harsh however, it just plain sounds tinny and cheap. Fortunately the phone sounds markedly better when used with a headset (Bluetooth or wired). For this reason I recommend that if you do plan to buy a Treo, you use the provided stereo earbud or you buy a good-quality Bluetooth headset and use it all the time.

Sound Reproduction: I had no complaints about sound reproduction however, though it wasnít any better than the average CDMA phone when it came to reproducing nuances of speech. It had virtually no detectable background hiss, and so on that score the phone actually did okay for itself. Just the same, itís hard to appreciate the sound reproduction and low hiss when your ears are being assaulted by the horrendously poor tonal balance.

Earpiece Volume: There is no problem here, but chances are youíll want to turn down the volume to reduce the effects of the harshness. However, if you need the extra volume to compensate for a loud environment, the Treo 700 does come through for you. And maybe itís just me, but the earpiece on the phone is horribly uncomfortable.

Outgoing Audio: When used in a quiet environment the outgoing audio is actually quite nice and your callers will find it pleasant to listen to your voice for prolonged periods of time. However, when there is background noise present the phone had a nasty habit of cutting out frequently, which resulted in the loss of syllables. Your callers will likely be asking you to repeat yourself frequently if you attempt to have a conversation in noisy areas. Even in moderately noisy conditions, the cutting out is still evident.

Speakerphone: On one hand the speaker in the Treo 700 provides more than enough volume to be heard in quiet and mildly noisy areas. On the other hand, it takes cheap and tinny to a new level. The sound quality of the speaker is about as bad as any phone Iíve tested in quite some time, but if you absolutely must use a speakerphone, at least it works well enough to be useable, which is more than can be said of phones with excessively quiet speakers like the Pantech 3200.

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: The ringer on the Treo is loud enough to be heard under most non-extreme situations, but when used in a noisy environment however, the ringer just doesnít have enough oomph to be heard over the din. This is especially true if you donít choose the loudest ringtone available. To compensate, the phone does have a fairly potent vibrator, and so if you donít hear the phone ring, you might feel it.

Keypad Design: What else can I say about cramped itty-bitty little QWERTY keypads that hasnít been said before? Using the black keys designated for phone use is like trying to use a standard telephone that Recucto has shrunken down to the size of a prop for a large doll house. People with large fingers are going to find using these keys is next to impossible.

Display: The 240 x 240 display is actually very good, though it isnít quite bright enough to be usable in direct sunlight. I have no complaints about the screen, except to say that anything that large is going to be easy to scratch. Palm does provide a protective sticker, but they want something like $20 each for replacements.

Icing on the Cake

Camera: The camera in the Treo 700 is a 1.3 megapixel unit, but the quality of the photographs is very disappointing. All of the pictures I took using the Treo and my Motorola i580 (which also has a 1.3 megapixel camera) revealed that the one in the Treo is fuzzy-looking. Itís almost as though the image sensor has lower-than-1.3-meaapixels resolution and then the image is sampled up to 1280 x 1024. I ensured that the lens was spotless before taking the shots, but they still came out fuzzy. Here are links to a few of the samples and their associated shots taken with the i580.

Shot out my window with the Treo
Shot out my window with the i580
Food court at Square One with the Treo
Food court at Square One with the i580

WiFi: The Treo 700 offers optional WiFi, but only as an add-on. In order to use WiFi you must plug the provided WiFi adapter into the SD card slot. This means you cannot have any expanded memory available while connected to the Internet via WiFi, though I'm told you can get a WiFi card with memory built into it. Nonetheless, the arrangement smacks of afterthought, which is exactly the impression I got from the phone functionality. Plenty of other Smartphone and PDA models have WiFi built directly into the device and do not subject you to such limitations.

Conclusions

Any other uses notwithstanding, the Treo 700wx is possessed of one of the worst CDMA phones Iíve tested in ages. Itís horrible sound quality, atrocious over-the-road performance, frustrating little keypad, and inability to cope well with background noise during conversations makes it a terrible choice for those looking for a quality phone to go along with their data-centric device. While it seems endemic throughout the industry to provide second-rate phones on PDA devices, the Treo takes this to a new low. Unless you absolutely want a Palm running Windows, youíd do yourself a big favor to look elsewhere.

Home