I got up early, went down to very sketchy Sprint store and bought a Palm Pre on Saturday. I've been playing with it and testing it ever since and before I finish the full review I thought I'd share some data with you all.

First, battery life:

Phone Web Browsing (Cell Network) Web Browsing (WiFi) Talk Time
Apple iPhone 3G 218 minutes 400 minutes 289 minutes
Palm Pre 219 minutes 351 minutes 312 minutes
T-Mobile G1 398 minutes (on Edge) 435 minutes 218 minutes (on Edge)

 

T-Mobile doesn't have any 3G coverage in NC yet so all of my tests for the G1 were on Edge, thus we get a much longer web browsing battery life. The thing that surprised me the most however was the eerily similar battery life results between the iPhone 3G and the Palm Pre. The Pre didn't do so well in WiFi web browsing but in the other two tests it lasted around as long as the iPhone 3G.

Performance

The Palm Pre uses TI's OMAP 3430 processor, clocked somewhere around 600MHz. The OMAP 3430 uses an ARM Cortex A8 core. The iPhone 3G uses an ARM11 based processor running at somewhere around 400MHz (thank you guys for the correction). The ARM11 in the iPhone 3G is a much older design than the Cortex A8 in the Palm Pre. Both processors are in-order architectures, but while the ARM11 was a single-issue chip the Cortex A8 is dual-issue.

The ARM11 has an 8 stage integer pipeline compared to a 13 stage integer pipeline in the Cortex A8, so the A8 loses some of its advantage there but makes up for it with its superscalar nature. There should be no contest when it comes to performance between these two chips, the Pre's Cortex A8 has the clear advantage. It's why Palm is able to enable pre-emptive multitasking while the iPhone pretty much can't.

The recently announced iPhone 3GS does address the performance issue, presumably by introducing a Cortex A8 based processor to the iPhone 3G. Apple is claiming significant improvements in battery life for everything but 3G talk time with the new iPhone. What this tells me is that Apple did a great job squeezing the most performance per watt out of its ARM11 based processor in the iPhone 3G. The new iPhone 3GS should have performance levels simliar to the Palm Pre, but if Apple's numbers are to be believed it means that battery life will go up significantly.

For Palm this means that there is a lot of room left on the table to improve battery life. In most of my interaction with the Pre I've gotten the impression that if Palm only had a few more months the Pre would be significantly more polished, I suspect that battery life falls under that observation as well.

Other Pre Notes

When I compare the T-Mobile G1 to the iPhone 3G it's no contest, Apple's smartphone takes the cake. The G1 feels more like the smartphones that existed before the iPhone rather than something competitive with it. With the Palm Pre however, it's difficult to make such an apples-to-apples comparison. In many ways the Pre falls short of the iPhone, but in others it's completely untouched by Apple's offering. I'm nowhere near my conclusion but I don't think I'll see a clear victor in this review.

The Palm Pre brings multitasking to the smartphone market better than any of its predecessors. It's almost as if Apple did it. I say almost because the implementation isn't as polished as I'd like. Despite the significant performance advantage of the Pre's CPU, the multitasking just isn't as smooth as I'd want it to be. I'm guessing battery life isn't the only thing Palm could stand to optimize on the Pre.

What the Pre lacks is what the original iPhone had going for it: mastery of key features. The Pre does many things but it does very few things well. The original iPhone on the other hand didn't do a lot, but what it did do, it did better than any other phone on the market. Palm comes very close to achieving that, but I think it needs another 6 months with the Pre to produce the level of polish I feel is necessary to pose a true threat to Apple.

What is truly striking about the Pre is how far Palm was able to take it. Going from Palm's position to truly out-innovating Apple is a serious accomplishment. There are things about the Pre that even Apple's iPhone 3GS can't touch.

More in the review to come...

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  • fabarati - Friday, June 12, 2009 - link

    The Cortex A8 in the Pre is acutally clocked at 500 MHz. At least that's how I read this

    root@castle:/var/home/root# cat /proc/cpuinfo
    Processor : ARMv7 Processor rev 3 (v7l)
    BogoMIPS : 498.07
    Features : swp half thumb fastmult vfp edsp
    CPU implementer : 0x41
    CPU architecture: 7
    CPU variant : 0x1
    CPU part : 0xc08
    CPU revision : 3
    Control reg : 0xc5387f
    Aux control reg : 0x42
    L1 instruction cache:
    features : read-alloc
    size : 16 KB
    assoc : 4
    line length : 64
    sets : 64
    L1 data cache:
    features : write-through write-back read-alloc
    size : 16 KB
    assoc : 4
    line length : 64
    sets : 64
    L2 unified cache:
    features : write-through write-back read-alloc write-alloc
    size : 256 KB
    assoc : 8
    line length : 64
    sets : 512
    Cache LoC : 2
    Cache LoU : 1

    Hardware : Sirloin OMAP3430 board
    Revision : 34304332
    Serial : 0000000000000000

    taken from here

    http://forums.precentral.net/web-os-development/18...">http://forums.precentral.net/web-os-dev...84378-ok...

    Reply
  • nomagic - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    I am a little confused. Maybe someone more knowledgeable can help me.

    Anand mentioned that Cortex A8 has longer integer pipeline stage than ARM11 does, therefore putting itself in disadvantage. However, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Having longer pipeline stage also has its advantages. Length of pipeline usually do not make one design better than the other. Maybe Anand could elaborate a little more on this in the full article?
    Reply
  • anandtech02148 - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 - link

    Anand should consider changing digital cameras into smartphone category, he has a lot of knowledge in hardwares and what a perfect to disect all these phone's OS. Pc has become such a commodity, the only excitement in today's economy is the smartphone war with a lot of different stuff to explore. Reply
  • L1FE - Tuesday, June 09, 2009 - link

    When you guys are testing the Pre, you will see a significant decrease in battery life if you setup a POP3 email account (like Hotmail). A number of users have noticed that after removing the Hotmail account, they saw dramatic battery life increases.

    Before, my battery was draining at a rate of about 1% every 4 minutes with light use, which is pretty abysmal. After deleting Hotmail completely, I was seeing a drain of about 1% every 8-9 minutes. Still nothing to write home about.

    You HAVE to remove the POP3 account entirely. Users were reporting that even when setting the sync interval to manual, their inboxes were being updated in real time. I'm guessing it was introduced in the 1.0.2 fw during release since most reviewers, while they scorned battery life, never had the 3 hour complete drains that a lot of new users have been getting.

    For those who care, I had my interval set to 30 minutes for my Hotmail account with GPS/Wi-FI/Bluetooth disabled. Anyway, thought Anand+team should know about that...
    Reply
  • VooDooAddict - Tuesday, June 09, 2009 - link

    Picked up a Pre. Generally I like it. My one gripe is I miss the 5 way rocker from earlier Palm Phones. Correcting text entry with only a touch screen to move around the cursor is difficult.

    But the contact management is simply great. I used to have duplicate entries for many people in order to hold all the addresses, emails, and/or phone numbers. It automatically combines them into a single contact.

    The contact Syncing with facebook is also very nice. I'm not a big facebook user day to day, but I have many friends that are. This automatic sync keeps the phone numbers, addresses, and incoming call photos up to date.
    Reply
  • macs - Tuesday, June 09, 2009 - link

    I suggest to use HTC G2 instead of G1. I have a G2 I'm very happy with it and Android in general (version 1.5 "cupcake" instead of 1.1). Android is the best mobile OS; has everything and is fast and stable. The only downside is that require a little bit of tweaking compared to Palm Pre and Iphone.
    p.s. Sorry for my English but I'm Italian
    Reply
  • ZPedro - Tuesday, June 09, 2009 - link

    "It's why Palm is able to enable pre-emptive multitasking while the iPhone pretty much can't." WTH?! How do you think iPhone OS switches between the kernel, the current app, the daemons, and the one or two apps that can run in the background? Cooperatively? The iPhone does pre-emptively multitask; however, it is not able to multitask more than one application (all of these beside the current app are specially designed to be extremely mindful of resources, especially to allow hardware resources to sleep whenever possible), but I don't think the processor is the main bottleneck, and at any rate it does pre-emptively multitask - just not between apps. Reply
  • sprockkets - Tuesday, June 09, 2009 - link

    The bottleneck is Apple and Steve's level of service he demands from an iphone. Most everyone else doesn't care and expects a battery life decrease upon using apps in the background such as IM. Reply
  • halcyon - Tuesday, June 09, 2009 - link

    Will we be seeing more phone reviews @ AT?

    WinMo 6.1 w/ TouchFlow (HTC Touch Pro 2 is looking really good)

    Android phones?

    Why not even the Symbian kludges :)

    It'd so nice to see *real* comparisons here at Anand.

    So tired of reading 'reviews' and 'comments' at most Mobile phone blogs, where the reviewers can't do anything critical and don't know how to objectively test.

    And don't even get me started on news sites like Enga... barf :)
    Reply
  • The0ne - Tuesday, June 09, 2009 - link

    I rather Anandtech stay away from phones altogether and stick to computers :) Heck even the camera reviews don't interest me and I like photography :D But since Anand's birth many years ago I come here mainly for computer reviews and I'm sticking to it :)

    hahaha funny comment I know but meh :P
    Reply

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