It is not easy to produce a device that functions well as both a phone and a PDA. Many have tried, but few have come as close to success as Handspring has done with the Treo 600.
The Treo 600 comes along after Handspring made a few false starts with earlier communicators, and just as the company – which was a breakaway from Palm – rejoins its progenitor as part of the newly-named PalmOne. There are some faults with the Treo 600, but the overall impression is positive.
Several elements need to unite to make a good PDA/phone combination. Most important of these are ergonomics; processor and other technical features; and software support, particularly for the PDA side of things. Let’s take each in turn.
As a phone the Treo 600 performs well. While on the large side (60 x 112 x 22mm), it doesn’t feel too big in the hand, and at 168g it is just about manageable when you are travelling light, though the protruding antenna can be a nuisance in the pocket.
The directional cursor and application shortcut buttons are positioned under the screen, where they can be used with a thumb. The keypad is tiny – those with larger hands will find it testing to use – and although the Treo 600 runs Palm OS 5.2 there is no Graffiti handwriting software, so try this before you buy.
Technical specs are fair though there are some notable issues. The 160 by 160 pixel, 2.5-inch screen is usable, though its low resolution, small size and 12-bit (4,096) colour may annoy those more used to better featured PDAs.
The processor is ARM-compliant and runs at 144MHz. This may sound slow but we had no trouble with it on test. More annoying in the longer term will be the fact that there is only 24MB of RAM available. You’ll need to use the SD card slot to add more. Also, the built-in stills camera is frankly poor. There’s no Bluetooth either, and no MP3 player in the ROM, which will annoy those who want a true all-in-one device.
Orange provides a number of applications in addition to what you get from Palm, and the voice and data telephony features are for the most part well implemented, though not entirely. The phone caters for up to five e-mail accounts, which is good.
On the Web side, we have never liked the way Blazer (the Handspring Web browser) organises favourites. You can have plenty of them on multiple screens, but can’t change their order to have your most visited sites on the first page. On the other hand we love the way Blazer reformats Web pages to require vertical scrolling only.
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