Palm Centro Review

Palm Centro

“The Palm Centro is a good Smartphone for the average consumer, but not”
  • Light and compact
  • easy setup; solid Internet and music access; nice camera
  • Tiny keys; strange control stick; small screen for stylus

Summary

Like Blackberry, Palm has established itself as a generic term for any Smartphone geared towards businesspeople. Over the past couple year’s mainstream consumers also began wanting more than the average, stripped down cell phone. (Indeed, 2007 could be called the year of the Smartphone.) From feel to easy-of-use, Palm seems to be gunning directly for this audience with its new Centro. It is cute and colorful – perhaps too much so for the traditional Palm customer.

Features and Design

The Palm Centro resembles a Tic-Tac. It is small in dimensions, about 2 inches wide and 4 inches tall, and about a half-inch deep. The model we reviewed was a cough syrup red. Most of the front is dedicated to the screen, which is about 2 inches squared. The bottom half has a full QWERTY keyboard, with a squared-off section, starting at E, dedicated to the number pad. The other keys have an additional subset of characters, like slash, asterisk and parentheses. They are accessed by pressing the Alt key. There is also a surprisingly long space bar. The remaining keys are small, like rows of corn on a cob.

A silver band separates the top and bottom of the phone. On the band’s far left and right are the call and hang up/power buttons. Towards the center are quick buttons for call dialing, calendar, home and email. In the very center is a round, wide control pad to traverse menus.

There are few buttons on the side, which gives the phone a smooth appearance. On the left are the volume buttons and an auxiliary “side” button (which is a programmable quick key). The top has a simple volume on/off switch. The bottom has holes for various jacks and accessories.

Palm Centro
The Palm Centro has a large screen and tiny buttons

Setup and Use

The Palm Centro is a snap to set up. It comes with a step-by-step CD for the PC or Mac. Start the CD, connect the phone (using the included USB wire) and, after waiting for about 10 minutes, the phone is ready to be used. Like other Palms, it will HotSync to your computer. It can link to Microsoft Outlook or create its own independent address/email listings.

The CD also has the Sprint Music Manager, an iTunes-like program that seems to be coming standard on all Sprint phones. After a quick setup, it will spend several minutes finding all the music on your hard drive. The Sprint Music Manager then lets you listen to the music within the interface, get new music via the Sprint store or transfer tunes to the Centro. Transferring music to the Centro is a simple drag-and-drop process.

Unfortunately, the Centro music interface itself is quite ugly. Music is found by digging into file folders, as opposed to a straightforward music listing, and the cluttered music display is hard to look at. Once you get past the view, you’ll find the Centro pipes out decent sound. A nice speaker is located on the back of the phone. The Centro also has enough memory to keep the music playing while you do other functions (albeit with an occasional one-second delay).

Another surprise is the crisp camera. The lens view, situated next to the speaker, stays precise, even while in motion, and the colors seem to pop right off the screen. The short movie recorder is just as impressive. It is hard to believe the Centro’s camera is only 1.3 megapixels – it looks better.

The phone quality and web speed were good, at least equal to other Palms, the important quality being that the Centro is smaller and lighter than most previous models.

The Palm Centro has three immediate problems, both stemming from physical design. First, the keyboard buttons are much smaller than the average pinky. Loquacious consumers should avoid this phone. Second, the fat control stick is awkward, as if it is too sticky with certain pushes and not sticky enough on others. Finally, the screen is a little too small to handle a stylus. Most people will probably end up using their hands, particularly fans of Sprint’s touchscreen phones.

Price

The Centro is $399.99 USD, about average for a Palm. During the holiday season Sprint has a $250 instant rebate and an additional $50 discount if you buy it through the Sprint website. As usual, these require a 2-year commitment. The Centro falls under Sprint’s Power Pack plan for Smartphones. It comes with a microSD card and the necessary wires.

Conclusion

The Palm Centro is a good Smartphone for the average consumer, but not – ironically enough – physically large enough for the hardcore Palm acolytes. The tiny keyboard poses a real problem. That aside, the multimedia qualities – fast web, excellent camera and solid music capabilities – make it a good buy for those looking for a compact Smartphone.

Pros:

• Compact
• Easy to use
• Great camera and multimedia capabilities

Cons:

• Baby keys
• Weird control stick
• Useless stylus