The Palm Treo 500 is the first of the Treo smartphones that breaks with tradition in terms of the PDA handset design.

The Palm Treo 500, is in essence, an identikit version of the Treo 500v that was launched to some fanfare in September 2007.

The Palm Treo 500 is the first of the Treo smartphones that breaks with tradition in terms of the handset design. Having lost the stubby aerial that were all but a trademark of Treos, Palm fans now get a flatter, more visually pleasing device without sacrificing the all-important large screen.

In fact, having spent the past week using the BlackBerry Pearl 8110 in a couple of different guises, it was refreshing to move on to the Palm Treo 500 and its 51x38mm screen.

Of course, the Palm Treo 500 retains more of the PDA (personal digital assistant) legacy than some users will relish – this is a Windows Mobile 6.0 device – and its relatively large size will immediately deter some.

Against this, however, are the compelling reasons for choosing the Palm Treo 500. First, it has a clean, usable navigation setup. The silver bar below the screen hosts a four-way navipad plus access buttons for the Home screen, the Start menu (familiar to Windows XP and Vista users).

Either side of these are large switches clearly labelled with green and red lights respectively and which are used to either confirm or reject items and progress through menus. These are easily large enough to ensure the Palm Treo 500 can be used one-handed.

The Palm Treo 500's keypad itself consists of hard, raised buttons with a single key per qwerty character except for the 10 buttons to the left of the centre that double up as number keys.

You have to press fairly firmly to enter each letter or number, but it's always easy to see what's what – not something we could say with any great conviction about the BlackBerry's two-letters per button approach which can take some getting used to.

We found the call clarity on the Palm Treo 500 very good. Even in our busy office where people shout to make themselves heard over the roar of the air-conditioning, we didn't have to strain to pick up what was said in voicemail messages. When making mobile-to-mobile calls, we also found the voice clarity good.

The Palm Treo 500 also betters some others we've tried in its implementation of business applications. Microsoft Office Mobile covers Word, PowePoint and Excel and you can edit and save new documents as well as simply reading ones colleagues send you.

Editing cell text involves right-clicking, choosing Edit and then choosing Edit Text, so we wouldn't want to make extensive use of this feature, but it's handy for occasional use.

NEXT PAGE: managing your life with the Palm Treo 500 > >