Review: AT&T's Palm Centro

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The British are coming!

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The Palm Centro for AT&T is one of the better smartphones on the market today for first-time buyers, or so-called “casual smartphone users”. Its low price, familiar form factor and full QWERTY keyboard with touchscreen make it ideal for those who aren’t into navigating through messy menus — though it’s not for everyone.

The Centro

The Centro is Palm’s follow-up to the highly successful Treo 600 series of smartphones. Running the Palm OS, it’s an object-oriented interface with simple click-what-you-want icons that are familiar to any computer user.

The Good Stuff

The 320×320 touchscreen is bright and clear, with little pixelization and a very accurate digitizer. That means you don’t miss what you’re aiming for often.

The full QWERTY keyboard has a good feel despite the small size, and is quite usable. You won’t be writing a novel with it, but it’s great for emails or text messaging. Speaking of texting, Palm’s unique threaded text messaging is intact, giving you an IM-like interface for texts.

The included apps are many, and the built-in IM client is great, supporting AIM, Yahoo!, and MSN’s networks. The 1.3-Megapixel camera is adequate, though we would have liked to have seen a flash included.

The PTT feature works surprisingly well, but if it’s not your bag, you can remap the button to the application of your choice.

We were glad to see Palm maintained the ringer mute switch at the top of the device, one of our favorites.

Palm also included City ID, a neat service that tells you the city and state that a call’s coming from or going to.

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Not so good

For being a data-centric device, it’s slow. It’s not so much the processor, but rather the network. The Centro uses AT&T’s slower 2.5G EDGE network instead of the faster 3G network. That means for those looking for the best Web experience out there, this isn’t your device.

While the keyboard is usable for most people, this reviewers fat fingers sometimes found it hard to hit their mark. That being said, a little practice made it easier, but it might discourage first-time users.

The stylus, while adequate, has a cheap, flimsy feel to it. There are replacement styli out there, but the users this phone is marketed to likely wouldn’t know where to start.

The review unit’s navigation buttons were janky, for lack of a better word. They had to be pushed just so to make them engage. That being said, we’ve tested other Centros and didn’t have the problem, so we’re guessing it’s just a problem with this singular handset.

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Conclusion

The Centro is Palm’s consumer smartphone, and in that regard, it’s really great. If you’re a power user or require a faster connection, look elsewhere.

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