Palm Centro review
We review the Palm Centro to see if it hits the right notes
Verdict: Somewhat behind the times, but will appeal to fans of the Palm OS
Pros: Facebook client, small and neat
Cons: Poor camera, small and fiddly keyboard, not 3G, 2.5mm headset jack
Operating System: Palm OS 5.4.9
The Centro from Palm is a consumer-focused smartphone running the Palm OS, with a Facebook client built in to pander to those who simply can’t be out of touch with their FB friends for more than a few hours at a time. Pity the poor saps, eh?
For those who want to know about the Facebook client right away, we’ll say that you can use it to respond to messages, view and upload pics, get status updates, browse profiles, search and more.
The Centro runs the Palm OS, so don’t expect to see an operating system you instantly recognise. There is plenty it can do, and much of it very well; it's just that the conventions of how things work might not be immediately familiar.
For example, there is mobile email for both personal and Microsoft Exchange systems, a web browser, Google Maps, and text creation via Documents To Go. With Documents To Go you can view and edit Word and Excel documents and view PowerPoint and PDF documents.
Palm’s operating system might be a bit long in the tooth and difficult to find in live products these days, but there is still plenty of third-party software you can add to it. Though with no on-device app store, you’ll need to download what you want to a PC and then sync it to the device.
The Centro is small and neat, measuring 107mm tall, 53mm wide and 19mm thick. It weighs a pocket-friendly 121g. About half of the front is taken up with a square screen. This measures just 2.2-inches across diagonal corners and by today’s standards it really is pretty small for a smartphone screen. Its 320 x 320 pixels are crammed quite tightly together, so that it is readable and sharp, but it just isn’t big enough for some activities. Looking at Google Maps pages or reading from websites is a bit tedious, and there is a fair bit of squinting and scrolling required to get the most out of both.
The keyboard is not all that wonderful. Its keys are individually separated which usually makes for easy hitting, but in this case the keys are a little small and feel somewhat cramped. Also, they are made from a rubbery, gel-like material which we found a little awkward under the fingers. You’ll definitely need fingernails to be accurate with this little keyboard, and if you have flat, flat or stubby finger tips you might want to give the Centro a wide berth.
The rounded edges of the Centro make for a modern-looking smartphone, and the design is unusual but not outlandish. Black and sliver, or white and sliver, are the chassis colours of choice, with the sliver being one strip round the edge and another strip on the front of the device between screen and keyboard. That front strip houses the shortcut buttons, Call and End keys and a lozenge-shaped navigation key.
Limited network options
The general specifications are a little behind the times. If you are looking for a 3G smartphone, then the Centro is not for you. The Centro is a quad-band handset with GPRS, but not 3G. Most unusually it has infrared built in, but no WiFi or GPS either.
The built-in memory is a little on the short side with just 64MB being user accessible. At least you can bump that up with microSD cards; the slot is under the battery cover.
The most disappointing feature is the camera which shoots stills at a mere 1.3 megapixels. It really is only good enough for the odd point and shoot photo, and with no flash you probably won’t be able to use it to good effect indoors.
Palm says the Centro's battery life is good for up to four hours of talk and 300 on standby; hardly inspiring. With no WiFi or 3G to thrash the battery you should get through a day between charges, though you may need to keep an eye on things if you are a keen music fan. In which case, you’ll need to buy a converter from the built-in 2.5mm headset jack to a more suitable 3.5mm.
These negatives are countered by an excellent mute button on the top of the casing that turns the ringer off (and back on) with a single button press, and a side mounted customisable button which you can set to launch any application you like. Little things, maybe, but they assist with ease of use.
We do rather like the Palm Centro, but have to admit that it is a generation or two behind the leading edge.