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Palm Centro - cobalt blue (Verizon Wireless) review: Palm Centro - cobalt blue (Verizon Wireless)

Palm Centro - cobalt blue (Verizon Wireless)

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
6 min read

It's not quite the Palm Treo 850 news we were hoping for, but we're sure Verizon Wireless customers will still be happy to hear that they'll be able to get their hands on a Palm Centro. First introduced on Sprint and then AT&T, the Centro has breathed new life into the struggling company by offering an affordable and easy-to-use smartphone. It's a simple formula, but it's one that's proven successful for the company as Palm has increased market share and reached a broader audience. We suspect this will only continue as the Centro hits Verizon. Sporting a fresh paint job, the Verizon Centro offers the same easy-to-use experience and solid set of productivity and communication features as the other models. Plus, it has EV-DO support and good call quality, making it an exceptional value at $99.99 (with a two-year contract and after rebates and discounts).


Palm Centro - cobalt blue (Verizon Wireless)

The Good

The Palm Centro offers ease of use, a compact design, and a solid feature set at an affordable price. The smartphone is also EV-DO capable and offers good call quality.

The Bad

The Centro's keyboard is small and cramped. There's no support for stereo Bluetooth headsets.

The Bottom Line

Despite some minor shortcomings, the Palm Centro offers Verizon Wireless customers an easy-to-use, affordable, and solid performing smartphone that's perfect for the first-time buyer or anyone on a budget.

The look and feel of the Verizon Wireless Palm Centro doesn't differ much from the Sprint or AT&T versions, though it comes in an attractive cobalt blue color rather than red, black, or white. The smartphone features a 2.25-inch, 320x320-pixel touch screen and retains the same compact dimensions at 4.2 inches high by 2.1 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep, and it weighs 4.2 ounces. For more information on the Centro's design, please read our review of the Sprint Palm Centro.

The Palm Centro offers a compact frame while still fitting in a full QWERTY keyboard. Here it is next to the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330.

Verizon packages its Palm Centro with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phones accessories, ringtones, and help page.

Part of what makes the Palm Centro such a great value is that you get a lot of features for the price. You may be getting a smaller device compared with the Treo, but Palm doesn't sacrifice any of the functionality. As a phone, the Centro offers a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, three-way calling, speed dial, and the "ignore with text" feature. The contact book is limited only by the available memory, and there's room in each entry for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, instant-messaging handles, and birthdays. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a picture, one of 37 polyphonic ringtones, or a group ID. The Centro also has text and multimedia messaging with support for threaded chat view.

The Centro has Bluetooth 1.2 for use with wireless headsets, hands-free kits, serial port, and dial-up networking. The DUN capability lets you use the Centro as a modem for your laptop, but you'll need to subscribe to Verizon's Broadband Access plan, which starts at $15 a month. Unfortunately, there's no support for the OBEX (Object Exchange) or the A2DP profile so you won't be able to use your stereo Bluetooth headset with this device. To be fair, none of the other Centro models offer this functionality. Also, the only way you'll be able to get GPS capabilities on the Centro (aside from e911) is to pair it with a Bluetooth GPS receiver, since there's no built-in radio. On the plus side, Google Maps for Mobile ships on the device and includes color maps, satellite imagery, and traffic data.

The smartphone lacks integrated Wi-Fi, but on the bright side, the Verizon Centro is EV-DO capable, bringing broadband-like speeds on your device--about 300Kbps to 600Kbps--and enjoy faster Web browsing, data transfer, and streaming music and video. Disappointingly, Verizon doesn't offer its V Cast multimedia services. However, the Palm Centro now comes with PocketTunes Deluxe Edition so not only can enjoy your favorite MP3s and DRM-protected music, but you can also stream Internet radio stations from within the application.

The Palm Centro offers plenty of e-mail solutions, but the tiny keyboard might give some users problems.

For messaging, you have several choices as fair as e-mail solutions. There's the VersaMail e-mail app, which has built-in support for Microsoft's Direct Push Technology for real-time synchronization with Microsoft Exchange. VersaMail supports a wide range of POP and IMAP e-mail accounts, including AOL, Apple .Mac, AT&T Global, Earthlink, Gmail, and Yahoo Plus. Alternatively, Verizon offers Wireless Sync that gives you access to up to three e-mail accounts. We should note that the Centro is also the first device to support the carrier's new E-mail and Web for Smartphone plan for $29.99 a month. Unlike the Sprint Centro, there are no preloaded instant-messaging clients on this model.

There is a microSD expansion slot on the right side to supplement the internal memory; the Centro can accept up to 4GB cards.

For better or worse, the Centro runs Palm OS 5.4.9 and comes with 128MB ROM and 64MB RAM. We say better or worse because the operating system is a bit stale, but the good news is that it's extremely easy to use. Plus, it's got the advantage of being compatible with Macs right out of the box, unlike Windows Mobile devices. The smartphone also ships with DataViz's Documents to Go 10, so you can open, create, and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents, and view PowerPoint presentations and PDFs. Of course, you get the standard personal information management tools, including a calendar, a to-do list, a memo pad, a calculator, a world clock, and a voice recorder. There are a couple of extras, such as a Sudoku game, and the Facebook for Palm application was also just announced if you're a user of the social-networking site. For additional titles and suggestions, please check out CNET Download.com.

The Centro's 1.3-megapixel camera took decent pictures.

The Palm Centro is equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera with voice-recording capabilities. Other than a 2x zoom, the camera lacks any type of editing abilities or controls to adjust the picture or video. Despite this disadvantage, the picture quality of the Centro's camera was pretty impressive. There was the slightest fuzziness to the image, but you could still make out the objects. In addition, the colors were accurate and bright. Video clips also looked decent; there was some slight pixilation of course but it wasn't as bad some of the other camera phones we've seen.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900; EV-DO) Palm Centro in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service, and call quality was good. Audio was plenty loud and, for the most part, clear on our end. We had no problems talking with friends or using an airline's automated voice response system, and our callers generally had the same praises. Quality diminished slightly when we activated the speakerphone as there was a bit of tinniness to the call. On the plus side, there was plenty of volume. We also successfully paired the Centro with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

General performance was snappy, and we never experienced any system crashes during our review period. Browsing the Web was also swift, thanks to the EV-DO speed boost. It also helped when we streamed several radio stations using Pocket Tunes Deluxe, which only took a few seconds to upload. Music playback was pretty good with a decent balance of treble and bass. The sound, however, was a bit blown out at the higher volumes.

The Centro's 1,150mAH lithium ion battery has a rated talk time of 3.5 hours and up to 12.5 days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery drain tests, but we will update this section as soon as we have results. According to FCC radiation tests, the Centro has a digital SAR rating of 1.09 watts per kilogram.


Palm Centro - cobalt blue (Verizon Wireless)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7