For a brief moment three years ago Palm topped the smartphone tree with the Treo 650, but since then the company has taken its foot so far off the gas it’s hurtling backwards down a hill. Windows, Symbian and BlackBerry rivals have lapped Palm with turbo-charged multimedia smarties and even last year’s Treo 500V couldn’t muster a George Foreman style comeback.

Rather than hit back with another all-singing smartphone Palm’s latest model, the Centro, is going for the younger, budget market. But can a phone with no 3G or Wi-Fi and a frankly prehistoric 1.3MP camera win a new legion of fans?  

Compact and cramped

The Centro’s design will certainly be familiar to the old crowd. Palm has essentially squeezed the Treo 500V into a more bijou form, making it highly pocketable considering it harbours a full QWERTY. Unfortunately, the new compact look has cramped the keyboard’s style and, while it’s not totally unworkable, it’s not great for accurate speed typing.

After flirting with the Windows Mobile dark side on the Treo 500V, Palm has rightly returned to its own OS. It remains incredibly user-friendly and along with a five-way navigation pad, you’re also afforded a stylus-driven touch-screen for the more fiddly operations.

Easy email

Built-in VersaMail software takes the faff out of setting up your personal email account and synchronisation with your Outlook is straightforward via the bundled PC Palm Desktop software. The Centro’s threaded text-messages conversation is also a neat touch.

With no 3G or Wi-Fi web speeds are reliant on plucky but languid EDGE technology. The Blazer browser prunes full fat pages to fit the display and improve load times, although the wait will still have you grinding your teeth in frustration.

Multimedia caveman

Both the music player and camera are scarily bare-boned and the fixed-focus 1.3MP camera is bereft of any effects or flash to adapt to low-level lighting. Similarly, the Pocket Tunes music player has no equaliser to beef up its audio and only a mono headset is supplied. Really, not including stereo earphones is a poor show.

Sadly, the Centro is not a return to former glories for Palm and on this evidence it’s still falling way short of today’s high smartphone standards. It’s not all doom and gloom, because the Centro is an efficient emailer with strong PIM functionality and a reasonable price tag. But despite this there are many better multimedia smarties worthy of your attention.


Stuff says... 

Palm Centro review

The Centro is not without its Palm charms but it’s too pedestrian to register on your smartphone radar