Summary of Multimedia and camera
The Camera is an excellent quality 1.3 mega pixel chip. It can take a variety of resolution stills, and videos. To my disappointment, the great camera interfaces of past Treos have been abandoned for a camera interface reminiscent of a cheap cell phone.
The photo viewing software is much better, offering sorting capabilities, basic editing (crop rotate), and a nifty small map of the image when zoomed in.
Windows Media Player is where Windows Mobile shines, and on the Treo 700w it is no exception. It natively plays mp3s, wmas, and wmv formats, and streams audio and video just as well over the super-fast EVDO connection.
After horrendous experiences with the Treo 600 camera and blue dot syndrome, Palm engineers went for quality of image over quantity of pixels. That is why the Treo 650 only had a VGA camera, when its competitors were all releasing products in the mega pixels.
Technology has continued to evolve though, and in the Treo 700w, Palm is finally able to offer the long awaited 1.3 mega pixel camera at equal, and I think better, quality. Jpeg images are taken at 1280x1024, 640x480, 320x240, 230x180, and 160x120 resolutions, and at high, medium, and low compression qualities. (At default settings, most photos come in under 80 Kb a piece).
Like with browsing the web, the hardware has improved, but the user interface has taken a sore turn for the worse. I feel like Im using a cheap Motorola cell phone when taking photos with the Treo 700w; gone is the well thought out IDEO designed camera interface.
On the 700w, instead of having easy access to options, video and zoom using the five-way navigator visually indicated a click away, everything, save taking the photo, is done through the right hand soft menu. In fact, there is no visual indication of how you take a photo no capture button, no highlighted circle, nothing. (To take a photo you press the center of the five-way).
The same interface is used to take videos at 176x144 or 352x288 resolutions in a Windows Media format. Yet again, I feel that a application has been shoehorned into a generic interface with little to no thought of how the application is actually used.
The Pictures and Videos application also includes easy to use photo viewer software. Photos can be sorted by name, date, or size, and once a photo is open, the soft menu provides easy access to sending the photo, or turning it into your Today screen background.
A simple edit menu allows you to rotate and crop photos, but not draw notes on them. Perhaps the best feature of the photo viewer software is the zoom. When zoom is activated, a mini-map of the photo is displayed in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, allowing you to pan the photo while being zoomed in, without being blind to what you are looking at.
A feature like the zoom map exemplifies my frustration with Windows Mobile. Great, innovative features exist, but they are overshadowed by a lack of attention to detail elsewhere, like when you want to take the photo.
Windows Media Player
Gasp! If anything differentiates Windows Mobile Pocket PC from Palm OS, it is the built in Windows Media Player. Out of the box, the Treo 700w can play Microsofts multimedia formats including, mp3s, wmas, and purchased music from Plays For Sure supporting stores.
It can do this from files synced to onboard flash memory, files on an external SD card, and even stream from most websites. It is this last feature that the Treo 700w is groundbreaking, because out of the box, it will work with most any internet radio stream, and streaming trailers and other video.
EVDO provides the bandwidth to make this all possible, but it is Windows Media Player that provides the software backend to make it happen. I love it. In Vegas, as I review this Treo 700w, I am currently listening to my local public radio station from Minnesota in near full quality.
DRM video support should be coming sometime this year to enable Treo users to play purchased videos as well.
Current technical Treo owners know that they can do much of this on their Treo 650 with Pocket-Tunes, but the bandwidth of EVDO allows for far greater quality streams, and by including it on the device, every Treo user can easily use this feature.
Windows Media Player has one of the better interfaces that I have seen for mobile media. It is split into two separate parts; browsing and playing.
It is no iPod as the physical interface of the Treo does not lend itself to browsing music well, but I would have no qualms browsing smaller collections of music or video.
Like with images, video has significantly poorer quality as opposed to the Treo 650. For users who want even more media flexibility, the popular Core Media Player for Palm OS also has a Pocket PC port.
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