Hands-on: HP Palm Pre 3 – webOS done bigger, faster, better

HP Palm Pre 3 with webOS 2.1 and larger display and faster Snapdragon processor
HP Palm Pre 3 with webOS 2.1 and larger display and faster Snapdragon processor

The HP webOS event today went off like gangbusters, and we were excited to see that HP has been busy building out their next generation of Palm devices, powered by webOS – the Palm Pre 3, the TouchPad, and the smaller Palm Veer. We had a chance to go hands-on with the all-new Palm Pre 3 during the demo session immediately following the webOS event. In comparison to the Palm Pre and the Palm Pre 2, the new Pre 3 is significantly larger. That’s not a bad thing, though, because the 3 boasts more power, more screen real estate, and a new version of webOS that throws even more functionality into the innovative mobile OS that Palm created not too long ago. So, how does the 3 size up against the competition? Well, to put it simply, the competition should be worried.

Starting from the hardware, the Pre 3 is one solid piece of kit that’s painted in a black, soft-touch finish.. The handset feels heavier and bulkier than its outgoing predecessors, but in a way that makes the smartphone feel like more of a premium product than previous smartphones bearing the “Pre” brand. With that heavier in-hand feel, the device also feels like it’s made from higher quality materials – that could just be a trick of the mind, but the point is that the 3’s material quality is top notch. Industrial design is likewise impressive, although the latest addition to the Pre family bears an aesthetic that’s more of an evolution than a revolution. Smoother edges, like the elongated lip under the keyboard, give the 3 a more natural hold.

The Pre 3 features a 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor, 3.6-inch WVGA display, 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, GPS, WiFi (B/G/N), EVDO 3G data connection, HSPA+ data connectivity for world roaming with full 3G, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, GPS, and will come in 8GB and 16GB onboard storage options.

The slide-out QWERTY keyboard slides vertically, which is, in our opinion the most comfortable and usable orientation for a physical keyboard. Fortunately, the keyboard keys are now larger and easier to type on. It may not be as noticeable from the side-by-side picture of the Pre 2 and the Pre 3, but the keys are indeed larger – just enough to feel a difference under your fingertips. The slide mechanism feels and solid as the rest of the phone. It slides up smoothly and confidently, with no real play or “wiggle” in the hinge hardware. That’s a really good thing, considering the keyboard’s much improved feel – there’s nothing worse than pulling out a great keyboard, only to be reminded of the shoddy hinge construction every time you want to shoot out an email.

As for the display itself, the higher resolution (WVGA 800×480) makes images, videos, and graphics on the handset really shine. The clarity of the screen translates well into a higher-end webOS experience, which is what Palm was going aiming for. And, speaking of graphics, the 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor within the Pre 3 finally brings webOS hardware up to speed with its software. Whereas previous Pre offerings were underpowered and not quite up to the task of handling all that the multitask-heavy webOS threw at it, the new Pre is more than capable of multitasking with abandon with no noticeable speed lag. Seriously, webOS 2.1 running on a Pre 3 almost feels like a completely new OS.

The ability to stack cards, send tweets (or Facebook updates) from the photo gallery, and the integrated wireless printer support are just some of the new webOS features that help cement Palm’s position as a user experience maven rivaled only by the likes of Apple.

In the end, the Pre 3 is as impressive as webOS 2.1, which is to say that it rocks. Enjoy the photo gallery and HD video (currently processing on YouTube) below!

  • Mrballer2009

    NEVER… buy a palm product! I’ve had my palm pre and I would honestly say this is the worst phone I have ever had, once my contract expires I’m getting an HTC Evo.

    • Mr A

      I’m not quite that sure, I think is a step forward to the new era of smartphones.

      • I am quite sure that Palm/HP left us in the lurch after promising to upgrade the Legacy Pre’s. We are livid. I highly recommend against using these products these companies have lied to us repeatedly and now render our hardware effectively obsolete. It is a travesty what they have done to us fanboys. It’s all yours if you want it. But, myself and scads of loyal Palm fans are done.

        • Anonymous

          I was livid until I got webOS 2.1 on my device. That made me much happier. I’m definitely considering a Pre3 (or whatever’s beyond, since my upgrade is next year).

    • Anonymous

      I have to say, I’m really impressed with the Pre 3. The hardware is finally catching up to webOS’s needs. Now, if only it had a dual-core Tegra 2….

    • Tjtom

      I used the HTC EVO 4g for 2 months. Does not compare to the Pre. Yet the Pre is 2 years old. If you don’t like the Pre, you will hate the EVO. It is simply not as smart a phone as the Pre. It does have lots more apps and a bigger screen though.

  • I’ve got the original Pre, so I’m well due for an upgrade. The hardware on the Pre 3 looks pretty good, but the thing I’m worried about is apps. It seems like software companies are staying away from WebOS in droves. It’s kind of disappointing. And now with Enyo, they’ve thrown developers a curveball.

  • Bbsalisbury

    I just recently tried to exchange my Pre for a new one since I had some issues and the company I go thru no longer carries it. I would love to have a Palm Pre 3 where can I buy one???

    • the pre 3 will be up for sale in june/july … most probably on at&t and verizon … or unlocked from HP’s website.

  • Anonymous

    Those keys still look crappy. I think if you value a keyboard on a phone a BB is the only way to go. Also HP should drop the Palm name.

  • Stone

    I’m really looking forward to the Pre 3.  I loved my Treo until it grew long in the tooth.  I then dallied with the BB Pearl before settling on the iPhone for several years now.  The iPhone is a great handheld computer, but a sucky mobile phone and an even worse digital camera.  webOS appears to be a killer business oriented mobile OS which means BB needs to be worried.  As for apps, that is the million dollar question.  A business phone doesn’t need a million apps, just the top ones – games, social network support, news, and utilities (Google Maps, Mapquest, etc).  My iPhone 3Gs is nearing the end of its service life, so the Pre 3 is going to get a really good look from me.

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