Hands-On: HP Pre 3 and Veer
Phone Scoop goes hands-on with the new HP Veer and Pre 3 smartphones. These fresh webOS handsets pack more of a punch than their predecessors did.
HP and Palm have updated the Pre line of smartphones with the latest Pre 3. The Pre 3 builds on the same design language and functionality of the Pre and Pre 2, but takes things a few steps further.
The look and feel of the Pre 3 is very similar to that of the original Pre. It is a stone-shaped vertical slider that has a full QWERTY keyboard for messaging. Button placement is about the same, as is the mirror on the back side of the slider. Most other controls remain nearly unchanged.
The fit and finish of the pre-production units they had on hand was much better than I expected it to be. The slider worked well, the seams were smooth and matched nicely, and the gesture area for swiping works as it does on the Pre Plus. If production units are as well-made, HP has done at least one small thing right.
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One aspect of the hardware I was not pleased with is the keyboard. The keyboard of the original Pre was widely bashed by everyone as terrible. Palm has *not* updated the keyboard enough. It offers a little bit more space between the keys, but the keys have the same terrible rubber feeling to them and the minimal travel and feedback. It's been two years, HP, you can't design a better keyboard?
The display looked absolutely gorgeous. At 3.6-inches, with 480 x 800 pixels, images, graphics, icons and text looked luscious. It really makes a big difference in the overall impression you get when using the phone. (One complaint about the original Pre was is less-than-spectacular display). The added real estate is a major help, too. Giving webOS more room to breathe really makes the OS feel better.
On the user interface side of things, there's not much to set webOS 2.x apart from 2.0 that we've already discussed. What's most noteworthy is that the user interface absolutely flies. The Pre3 has a 1.4GHz processor on board, and it makes all the difference in the world. The OS is smooth, fast, and doesn't hang up or crash like it did on the original Pre.
On the whole, the Pre3 is a better device than its predecessors, but I still worry for it. The Pre was announced more than two years ago. The design of that phone was OK, but not compelling, especially in today's world of Android super phones. HP / Palm did not go far enough to set the Pre2 (and the Veer) apart from their under-performing older brothers.
I was hoping to see genuinely new hardware today, and that's not what HP delivered. The phones are nearly indistinguishable from the Pre, Pre Plus and Pre 2. While the Pre 3 does offer the best version of this form factor, it would have been great to see HP really go all out with a brand new super phone of its own. Alas, it didn't.
The Veer is the smaller brother of the Pre3. It uses the same basic form factor, but ratchets down the size to elfish proportions. It is small, light, and smooth. It also feels much cheaper than the Pre 3, and the build quality isn't as good (though, it's worth pointing out that these are pre-production units).
The Veer is vertical slider, with minimal buttons and outer controls. The slider mechanism felt pretty good, but the fit and finish was a bit off. Some of the seams weren't smooth, and the slider had a bit too much wiggle room for my comfort.
Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.
In an odd move, HP ditched any sort of USB port. Instead, the Veer features an Apple-style magnetic connector that allows the Veer to charge. This same magnetic connector is used (with an accessory) to provide a 3.5mm headset jack -- the Veer doesn't have one without the accessory.
The microscopic keyboard is nearly useless. It is smaller than that of the Pixi/Pre devices, and offers even less travel and feedback from the rubber-covered keys. What's the point of including a QWERTY keyboard if the experience of using it is going to be so miserable?
The display is a smaller 2.6-inch job with 320 x 400 pixels. It looks about as good as the display on the original Pre. The Veer has an 800MHz processor, which is faster than what was originally offered on the Pre, and the small clock bump was enough to overcome the Pre's sluggishness. As with the Pre3, the Veer performed quickly and flawlessly. I noticed no hiccups with the user interface.
The Veer will only be made available with support for GSM networks, which earmarks it for either T-Mobile or AT&T in the U.S. Frankly speaking, this device would fit in perfectly with AT&T's line of quick messaging devices, despite its smartphone operating system.
Here's a video of the Veer in action.
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