Palmone Inc.s Treo 600 strikes a good balance between wireless handset and handheld computer, improving on previous Treo models in both regards.
The Treo 600s form is more phonelike than that of the Treo 270 and Treo 300, and it ditches the flip-open design that made earlier Treos fairly unwieldy when open and blocked the units touch-screens when closed.
Measuring 4.4 inches long by 2.4 inches wide by 0.9 inches thick and weighing 6.2 ounces, the Treo 600 was pleasingly portable in eWEEK Labs tests yet large enough to carry a useful display and keyboard. It is built with an SD (Secure Digital) slot for peripheral and memory expansion—something earlier Treos lacked.
We tested a Treo 600 with a 1900/800MHz Code Division Multiple Access radio and service from Sprint PCS Group. The unit we tested sells for $599—no small chunk of change, although users can cut $150 from that price with a two-year service contract or get $100 off with a one-year deal.
PalmOnes Treo 600 strikes a good balance between phone and handheld computer, with support for peripheral expansion through an SD slot and a design that allows for one-handed use nearly all the time. However, the units $599 price (before any service contract discounts) is steep, particularly since the unit lacks Bluetooth support and is weighed down by a low-resolution color display.
EVALUATION SHORT LIST
We have two major gripes with this device. First, the Treos old-school, 160-by-160-pixel display doesnt cut it anymore. The newest handhelds from PalmOne have beautiful 320-by-320-pixel displays. The Treo 600s color display also doesnt perform as well in direct sunlight as the transflective screens that most other Palm and Pocket PC units now carry.
Second, the Treo 600 lacks a Bluetooth radio, which all smart phones should, in our opinion, carry. Although the Treo 600 is open to peripheral expansion through its SD slot, there are no Bluetooth cards for Palm OS 5, the operating system that the Treo 600 runs.
Palms previous combination phone/handheld device, the Tungsten W, ran the older Palm OS 4, so the addition of the Treo 600 means a more consistent and modern platform story at the high end of the companys product line. As part of the Palm OS line, the Treo runs a large number of applications designed for Palm OS 5 and for earlier Palm OS versions through a built-in compatibility mode.
The Treo 600s five-way controller pad enabled us to perform most operations one-handed. Instead of pulling out the units stylus to tap through the buttons and links in the Treos interface, we could move through them with the directional pad, and the active link or button was highlighted in blue.
For data input, the Treo comes with a thumb keyboard, similar to those on previous Treo models, but its keys are oriented differently. The new keyboard worked as well as the old one—we found it much better than inputting data with a stylus but not spacious enough for typing anything longer than a brief e-mail message.
The Treo 600 ships with a good bundle of software, including a version of DataViz Inc.s Documents To Go, with which we could view Microsoft Corp.s Word and Excel documents. But to modify these documents, wed have to buy a different version of Documents To Go.
The Treo 600 ships with Blazer 3.0, one of the best Web browsers weve used on a mobile device. Blazers cardinal virtue is that it eliminates horizontal scrolling. However, wed also like to see an instant messaging client ship with this device because its thumb keyboard makes this sort of application a natural fit.
The Treo 600 is powered by a 144MHz ARM processor and ships with 32MB of RAM. Overall, it performed snappily, but some in-depth operations kept us waiting. In addition, Palm OS largely remains a single-tasking operating system. We would like, for instance, to be able to browse Web pages and read e-mail while waiting for our device to synchronize with a desktop machine.
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Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks @ziffdavis.com.