Sprint Palm 700wx Pocket PC Phone

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In my mind, 2006 is going to be the year that Hell
froze over because Palm finally released a Windows
Mobile powered handheld.  The 700w was released
on Verizon in early January of 2006. I was lucky
enough to be allowed to review the device

here
.  You may also recall that I had a
number of different issues with the device and wrote
follow-up articles on the experience with it

here
and

here
.  Keep these articles close, because
we’ll want to see how far the Sprint powered 700wx
is going to move from this mark. Let’s take a quick
look…

WHAT’S HOT


    The
Sprint powered Palm 700wx is the 700w remade. 
The 700wx has three distinct improvements over the
700w:

  1. 64MB instead
    of just 32MB
  2. The ability to
    use the device as an EV-DO modem
  3. AKU2.x and the
    new Communications Manager comes preinstalled

That’s pretty much
it, kids.  Yes, there are some software
differences between the two devices because of the
difference in cellular carriers (Sprint vs.
Verizon); but the devices are pretty much identical.
As such, I’m going to refer you to the Palm 700w
review that I wrote in early 2006 for the bulk of
the information you’re going to need on the 700wx. 
This article is going to concentrate on the three
points, above. I’m also going to refer everyone to
the device blog entries that I’ve posted over the
last few weeks as well:



Sprint 700wx Blog: Sprint 700wx in the House!



Sprint 700wx Blog: I’ve Got no Strings to Hold me
Down…


Sprint 700wx Blog: Microsoft Direct Push


Sprint 700wx Blog: EV-D-ehh

Device (no cover)
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
Palm Treo 700w/700wx4.40" x 2.30"
x 0.90"
180 | 6.40
Palm Treo 650
4.44" x 2.32" x 0.91"
178 | 6.28
Palm Treo 600
4.41" x 2.36" x 0.87"
168 | 5.92
Motorola Q
4.56" x
2.48" x 0.45"
115 | 4.05
4.60" x 2.79" x 0.82"

165 | 5.82

4.25" x 2.28" x 0.93"
160 | 5.64
4.92" x 2.81" x 0.71"
210 | 7.40
4.18" x 2.31" x 0.68"

150 | 5.30

4.70" x 2.90" x 0.70"
175 | 6.20
4.60" x 3.21" x 0.58"

138 | 4.80

5.17" x 3.03" x 0.59"
187 | 6.60
4.50" x 2.80" x 0.64"
158 | 5.57

   
The first thing you need to know is that the 700wx
and the 700w are effectively identical. They use the
same case, and are almost identical in weight. There
are some negligible weight differences due to the
increased RAM, but other than that, they have the
same guts. The only difference that you see from the
outside, is the carrier logo in the upper right hand
corner of the device.


The Verizon 700w The Sprint 700wx

You can see
extensive photo comparisons of the 700 series and
other PPC’s by checking out the bottom of page 1 of
our review of the 700w,

here
.



Increased RAM

    Over the last 9 months or so, Leonard at
Pocket PC
Techs has been trying to find some way of
getting an additional 32MB of RAM in the 700w. It
hasn’t been an easy road, and to my knowledge, he
hasn’t been successful as yet. With the release of
the 700wx, I’m not certain if he’s going to continue
trying or not.


   
Anyway, as I suspected, the additional 32MB of RAM
(for a total of 64MB of RAM, with 57.45MB available
to the user to run programs in), did the trick. The
device, even with a 312mHz PXA272 xScale processor
is just as snappy as you’d expect from a WM 5.0 device.
I’ve been using it for about a month or so, and
honestly, from a device/hardware performance
perspective, I couldn’t be happier with the way the
700wx is working for me. Fast, reliable, and
everything Treo veterans have come to expect from
the Palm Treo.


   
All of the RAM based issues that I cited in the 700w
review are basically gone, and the device is
functioning the way I would expect it to. Good job,
Palm. I’m very pleased with the way the device
functions at the hardware level. This is what you
should have done with the original device instead of
handing me the line, "our research has shown that
32MB is the sweet-spot."

AKU 2.x and the New Communications Manager

    Unlike the 700w, the 700wx comes with the MS Feature and
Service Pack/AKU 2.x preinstalled on the device.
With the 700w, you had to upgrade the ROM yourself
in order to get MS Direct Push.  Out of the
box, the 700wx supports MS Direct Push; but I’ve
found that while the feature is there, the device
doesn’t perform as it should. There are signal
issues that I’ve noted below, that prevent the
device from being the slam dunk that I know Sprint
was hoping it would be.  Without a strong
enough signal to support the feature, the pulse that
Direct Push needs to keep itself going just doesn’t
get received by the Exchange Server, and therefore,
you don’t get push e-mail. When the device has
adequate signal, things work as they’re supposed to.


   
The Communications Manager also isn’t the standard
Communications Manager that you’ve come to expect
from a WM5 based, AKU2.x device. Its a customized
version that I’ve never seen anywhere else. While
that in and of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing,
its not a good thing in this case, either. The
applet is only accessible via the Control Panel’s
Communications tab, (there isn’t a hardware button
that gives you access to it) and you don’t get the
same options with it as you do with every other WM5,
AKU2.x Communications Manager.

Treo 700wx
Communications Manager
Standard WM5
AKU2.x Communications Manager

   
While this may not be an issue for some, I’m not
that crazy about it. I’d like to have access to
Direct Push, Volume, ActiveSync etc. on the Treo as
I do on every other WM5 device that I have.

EV-DO Modem
(and Carrier Issues)

Please Note: Your mileage may vary. Signal strength
in your area may be better than the two cities I’ve
been using the Sprint PCS Powered 700wx in.

   
Over the past 4 weeks or so, the Sprint Powered Palm
700wx has been my only link to the outside world.
I’ve been using it as my main Internet connection
while I am staying with friends and relocating from
Nashville to Chicago.  This has given me a
unique opportunity to evaluate Sprint’s EV-DO
implementation, its signal strength, and performance
as a cellular carrier and potential ISP. I can sum
up my experience and opinion in two words:



NOT impressed.



…and its a shame, too.  I’m registering
230.4Kbps on the connection as an EV-DO modem.
According to the

Speed Test
at
WUGNET.com
(shameless plug), my download speed
is 638Kbps (just shy of DSL speed) and my upload
speed is 89.6Kbps (a little slower than good ISDN
speed). In reality, though, it really isn’t that
great.


   
I often sit and wait for Sprint’s PCS Connection
Manager to connect via the device. I’ve also noticed
that if I hibernate my laptop and then try to
connect again after waking it up (without
restarting) I can’t get access to the internet.
While this problem is sporadic, I do have connection
problems after hibernation usually 90% of the time.
To get around this, I’ve just taken to shutting down
the laptop instead of hibernating. I end up saving
time and frustration in the end by just restarting.


   
While the device has the right amount of RAM, and
functions much better than its step-sibling, the
700w, the Palm Treo 700 series devices are all about
connectivity. If the 700wx can’t get access to
Sprint’s EV-DO network I don’t care how great the
hardware specs are, the device isn’t going to
perform as needed.  I’ve had a great deal of
trouble with signal reception in both Chicago and
Nashville, which I find very puzzling.


   
Chicago is a high signal saturation area for almost
every major cell carrier.  Sprint also shares
many of Verizon’s cell towers, and therefore, one
would think that the coverage would be much better
than it is. I’ve been very disappointed with
Sprint’s service here in Chicago.  I can’t
carry a signal above 35% (according to Hudson Mobile
Phone Dashboard 1.9.2, originally reviewed

here
on pocketnow.com back in 2004 as version
1.1), inside ANY building or home. Outside, I’ve got
more than adequate signal, 4 bars and signal
strength in the 80-95% range. Go inside, however,
and I drop to 1-2 bars and 30-35%.


   
While I’m glad that the 700wx comes with the
MSFP/AKU2.x and MS Direct Push preinstalled (as
mentioned above), without adequate signal strength,
the device is a dud.  Everything that the 700wx
from Sprint is supposed to be good at, Push e-Mail,
surfing the web, etc. requires adequate signal
strength to support. I often go through an entire
day with only one or two e-mail notifications from
my Exchange Server on the 700wx. I’ll get them when
I walk outside or near a window; but when I’m at my
desk, I often don’t receive any notification of any
e-mail.  I’m also very tired of crummy
connectivity and speed from the EV-DO modem. The
speed I sited above is definitely NOT the norm, its
the exception.

BUGS AND WISHES

   
The device, in and of itself, is great. I like the
WM Powered Treo. If I wanted more phone than PDA,
but still wanted a touch screen, this is definitely
a device I’d seriously consider.  However, I
still have the following issues:

  • Keyboard:
    I said this with the 700w.  The Treo’s
    keyboard is a little cramped, and isn’t the
    easiest to type on. I’d rather have a wider
    device than such a cramped keyboard.
  • Signal
    Strength:
    Sprint needs to get it together
    and bump up the signal strength. If it can’t do
    it in the next year or so (and it can’t get past
    the problems I’ve heard regarding the Nextel
    merger), its going to be a target for
    purchase/take-over from Verizon (but this is
    simply personal speculation as far as the
    purchase take-over thing is concerned). However,
    the issue with signal strength and coverage are
    accurate.

PURCHASING

   
The 700wx is currently offered by

Sprint
for $399.  There are

rumors
that the 700wx will be offered by
Verizon, as reported by our own Tim Adams. 

PROS

  • Treo form
    factor
  • 64MB of RAM
  • EV-DO modem without an extra fee or the need
    for special dongle
  • AKU2.x/MS
    Direct Push out of the box

CONS

  • Weak
    Sprint signal strength (though your experience may
    be better than mine)
  • Poor push email performance
    (due to weak signal; but again, your experience may be better than
    mine)
  • Flakey Sprint connection
    manager vs. XP Pro hibernation issues
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?


OVERALL IMPRESSION

    The ONLY thing that I didn’t like about
the 700wx was Sprint’s performance as a wireless
carrier.  Their signal strength issues really
take away from the performance of this device; and I
am really disappointed. When I was offered this
review, I bounced off the walls for a while because
I thought that my time had finally come. The 700w on
Verizon has issues due to device performance. The
700wx resolves those issues, but Sprint’s signal
strength leaves everything to be desired.  I
suspect that if the 700wx is released on Verizon’s
network that it will be the device that the 700w
should have been on their network.

   
However, I have concerns regarding the 700wx’s
success on Verizon’s network as well. People that
purchased the 700w aren’t likely to purchase the
device unless VzW offers an upgrade path for current
owners (unlikely), or people just get ticked off,
dump their 700w on eBay and go after the 700wx.
Problem is, VzW won’t likely subsidize the purchase
of the 700wx for current 700w customers due to the
pricing break they got when those customers
purchased the 700w. They are only going to get the
device if they pay full price. I don’t know about
you, but I’m not paying THAT much (as much as $699)
for a device locked to a single carrier. 
Therefore, only new customers or those that qualify
for an upgrade or some sort of pricing assistance
are likely to purchase the device on Verizon…but I
digress.

  
The Palm Treo 700wx is a great device that suffers
from poor carrier performance. With the right
carrier, the device could be simply awesome. 
I’ll be interested to see a 64MB WM Powered Treo on
a GSM carrier. It will be interesting to see how the
device performs on either Cingular or T-Mobile
(though I suspect that that comparison will be
similar to my VzW-Sprint comparison).




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About The Author
Christopher Spera