Palm Pre: The reviews are in


Philip Elmer-DeWitt is a senior editor at Fortune.

The first wave of reviews for Palm's (palm) Pre came in overnight Thursday from the usual suspects -- and they're generally positive, with caveats.

The early reviews cover the basics and make the expected comparisons to Apple's (aapl) iPhone and Research in Motion's (rimm) BlackBerry.

The most in-depth piece we've read is Joshua Topolsky's at Engadget. For sheer length, Dieter Bohn's 20-part epic at PreCentral.net takes the prize.

A sampler:

  • Walt Mossberg, Wall Street Journal: "I’ve been testing the Pre for a couple of weeks, and I like it a lot, despite some important drawbacks that will have to be remedied.... I consider the Pre to be potentially the strongest rival to the iPhone to date, provided it attracts lots of third-party apps, which it sorely lacks at launch. Its design is much better than that of the two other main iPhone-class competitors: the T-Mobile G1, which uses Android, and RIM’s touch-screen BlackBerry Storm."
  • David Pogue, New York Times: "The Pre has the usual feature checklist: Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G (high-speed Internet), Bluetooth (including wireless audio), good camera with tiny flash, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, tilt sensor, standard headphone jack, 3.1-inch touch screen (the same 320 x 480 pixels as the iPhone, packed into less space). The hard part is making it all feel simple and unified --  over all, Palm nailed it.... So do the Pre’s perks (beautiful hardware and software, compact size, keyboard, swappable battery, flash, multitasking, calendar consolidation) outweigh its weak spots (battery life, occasional sluggishness, ringer volume)? Oh, yes indeedy."
  • Edward C. Baig, USA Today: "Pre is easy on the eyes. I can't think of a more comfortable cellphone in my hand. It has a lovely screen for taking in YouTube videos or browsing the Web. The "always-connected" software foundation at its core, which Palm designed from scratch and calls WebOS, is slick and rife with possibilities."
  • Joshua Topolsky, Engadget: "The keyboard has been a subject of tremendous debate. Well, we can put your mind at ease folks -- it's actually pretty good. Now, we won't lie, it's not quite the barnstormer of the Bold or Treo 650, but it is a very, very solid typing experience nonetheless. The keys -- made of a similar rubbery material which the Treo Pro and Centros use -- have a surprising amount of depth given their location, and they're actually somewhat clicky (a surprise to us). Spacing between keys is ample, but we wouldn't say generous -- though in general getting accustomed to typing on the Pre wasn't too painful."

UPDATE: The second wave of reviews include:

And don't miss Gizmodo's clever Palm Pre Review Matrix.

The Pre goes on sale Saturday for $199 after a $100 rebate. Sprint's (s) two-year voice and data contracts range from $69.99 to $99.99.

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