Palm Pre 2 (Verizon Wireless) review:

Palm Pre 2 (Verizon Wireless)

Meanwhile, Exhibition is something that will come in handy for those with a Touchstone Charging Dock, as it will allow you to continue using apps or access information when the smartphone is placed in the dock. Unfortunately, we didn't receive a Touchstone dock with our review unit to test out Exhibition with, but a couple of examples provided by Hewlett-Packard and Palm were viewing a slideshow of your Facebook photos, stock, news, and sports tickers, and interacting with a virtual pet.

As a phone, the Palm Pre 2 offers a speakerphone, speed dial, conference calling, airplane mode, and text and multimedia messaging. Voice dialing still eludes WebOS, though. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS are all onboard, and the smartphone can be used as a mobile hot spot for up to five devices.

The hot-spot function will require Verizon's Mobile Broadband plan, which costs $20 per month and has a 2GB data cap (Verizon charges 5 cents per megabyte for overage fees). We connected the Pre 2 with our MacBook Pro and averaged download speeds of 1.06Mbps and upload speeds of 0.57Mbps, which was speedy enough to allow us to comfortably surf the Web.

The Pre 2 also ships with a number of personal information management and productivity apps, including Quickoffice for viewing Microsoft Office files, a PDF reader, a memo pad, a task list, an alarm clock, and a calculator, as well as Verizon's VZ Navigator GPS app. Of course, additional apps are available from the Palm App Catalog.

As for multimedia, the built-in media player supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, EAAC+, AMR, QCELP, and WAV music files and MPEG-4, H263, and H264 video formats. You can transfer music and video to your Pre 2 via USB cable and dragging and dropping your files onto the phone. In addition, you can download new music from your phone using the Amazon MP3 Store or check out YouTube videos with the dedicated app. The Pre 2 offers about 15GB of user-available storage, but be aware that there's no expansion slot.

The Pre 2's camera lacks editing options, but we were happy with the picture quality.

Last but not least, there is the Pre 2's 5-megapixel camera. It offers an LED flash, video recording capabilities, and geotagging, but you can forget about any editing options. Fortunately, picture quality was pretty good. Photos came out sharp, and colors were mostly bright and rich, even when taken in low-light environments.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) Palm Pre 2 in New York using Verizon Wireless service, and call quality was OK. Overall, we thought the sound was clear, but we could hear some slight static during lulls in the conversation and voices could sound a bit muffled at times. On the other side, friends had mostly good things to say about the audio quality. There were a couple of mentions of some static, but they appeared to be isolated incidents and not enough cause to end a call.

Palm Pre 2 call quality sample Listen now:

Speakerphone quality was rather hollow, and there wasn't enough volume to hear callers in a louder environment. We had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones and were able to make calls and listen to music with them.

We didn't experience any dropped calls during our review period, and we logged some good data speeds using Verizon's 3G EV-DO Rev. A network. CNET's full site loaded in 30 seconds, while the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN both loaded in 4 seconds. The Pre 2's Web browser now supports Flash Player 10.1 out the box. It took a few seconds to load, but the smartphone was able to play video correctly and without interruption.

The Pre 2 is powered by a 1GHz TI OMAP processor with 512MB RAM. General performance is certainly improved over previous versions of the Pre, as apps and menus launched slightly more quickly. Streaming media and game play was also smooth, and we didn't experience any crashes during our review period. However, there were still moments of sluggishness, with one instance where the delay was long enough to make us think the phone was frozen. Though the Pre 2 wasn't designed to compete with some of the higher-end smartphones, it does certainly make us wonder how much better the performance will be on the Pre 3, which will have a 1.4GHz Qualcomm processor.

The Palm Pre 2 ships with a 1,150mAh lithium ion battery and has a rated talk time of 5.5 hours and up to 14 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 6 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. In general, we were able to get a full day's use out of the battery before needing to recharge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Pre 2 has a digital SAR rating of 0.962W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M4.

First off, it's been a while since we've had a WebOS device in for review, so it was really great to have one back in our hands. It reminded us how much we love the mobile operating system for its multitasking abilities, data management, and search functionality, and the new enhancements only make it better. That said, it's really a shame it took so long for the Palm Pre 2 to land with a U.S. carrier given that the HP Pre 3 is just a few months away.

Due out this summer, the Pre 3 brings a faster processor, a larger touch screen and keyboard, world roaming capabilities, and a front-facing camera, among other things. It's not just about specs, either; we were genuinely impressed by the Pre 3 when we got some hands-on time with it at the launch event and at Mobile World Congress. Sure, there's still uncertainty about carrier support, ship date, and pricing, but if you can afford to, we think it's worth waiting to see how the Pre 3 plays out. At the very least, the price of the Palm Pre 2 might drop by the time its successor comes to market.

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