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PalmOne Treo 600 CDMA PDA Phone

Reviewed by James Sams on 05/10/2004
Phone provided by Sprint PCS.

Included Functionality

This is where the Treo 600 really shines. While it has similar functions to other smartphones, its execution is innovative and nearly flawless. The ease of use of the keyboard, for example, is amazing. It does take some getting used to, but one can start quickly typing text messages much more easily than with normal phones or with handwriting recognition and a stylus. Many users, however, have complained that there is no handwriting recognition software, such as Graffiti, on the Treo 600. While a legitimate complaint, it almost seems as if Handspring is acting as a benign but stern parental figure in this regard. There are few, if any places where writing with the stylus would be quicker, and using a keyboard does not require the user to learn special input methods for certain characters. I've seen numerous people stumble around with text entry with the stylus-based entry on my Visor, and seen virtually no problems with other people adapting to the use of my Treo.

Part of the greatness of the keyboard is not just the rounded keys, which makes hitting just one of the small keys much easier, but the software. Every time I thought I'd be annoyed by having to hit an option button for a number in a particular field, the software knows that it is a numerical entry space and makes input automagically be the numbers. No extra button hitting is required. Also, there is much quicker access to international characters and accent marks than is normal. By hitting the letter then the Alt key, you are presented with a list of characters and accent marks that use that letter. If only typing in another language was as easy in all programs.

The browser is also a fairly impressive piece of software. Instead of using a proxy that converts the pages to a PDA digestable form, the software on the palm is capable of doing this itself. However, often times this severely breaks the website. Have no fear, the browser has another mode, which is easily enabled, that displays the page as it would be rendered in a normal, PC-based browser. While this ensures that the page will not be broken, it also makes reading a pain, forcing the user to scroll horizontally as well as vertically. The fact that Handspring incorporated this into a PDA software is impressive; however, it does make browsing a bit hard on the device. Also, while email may be acceptably snappy, browsing speed is on the same level as that of dial up.

The calendar software is also extremely easy to use, with quick access to daily, day, week, month, and year views. To create a new event, simply click new, set the times, choose if you want an alarm, make any notes (and type them quickly on your speedy keyboard), click ok and you are done. A flaw that was encountered was that an appointment would not save without a note/description being attached. If the note was deleted, the appointment was saved. While this makes some sense, for things like simple alarms, it is inconvenient to have to enter a note for an entry to be saved.

Speaking of alarms, the volume output of the Treo 600 was a bit disappointing. The test I used for the volume was whether the phone would wake me up. Most cellphones I have used as alarm clocks have not had any problems waking me up, but the Treo failed four days in a row, even after 5 repeats of the alarms 5 minutes after another. Though the volume may not be loud enough, the volume switch is really quite convenient. On top of the unit is a switch that turns off all sounds, making the phone ready to take into class without the professor stabbing you in the heart with his eyes. On the other hand, I am still of the opinion that ringers should not be included on cellphones. I am simply sick of hearing other people's phones ring. Vibrate mode, people, vibrate mode.

treo top
Notice the switch to turn off all volumes on the phone. The design of the switch makes it impossible to accidentally hit. There is also the wireless switch, to turn on/off the phone part of the device, an IR port, and a SD slot.

When the Treo 300 came out, most were looking forward to improved resolution on the next model, a 320x320 screen to be exact. When it Palm OS 5 came out, just about everyone expected the next Treo to have a 320x320 screen, since the new Palm OS is native to that resolution. However, Handspring disappointed many with the 160x160 screen. While this is sufficient for all of the included applications, many addon applications made to work with PalmOS 5 will break due to their requirements for a 320x320 screen. In its basic functionality, this is not a problem. In its, extendibility, the lower quality screen is the single biggest drawback to the Treo 600. We hope to see improvements in this area in future version, sooner rather than later.

Hot-syncing on windows is a fairly painless activity. The Treo 600 uses the same Hot-Syncing software that other Palm based devices use, so there is not much to say that is particular to the Treo here. But we must ask, why is personal information saved in the program folder and not the OS's user directory. Program directories are not the place for storing this type of information. Update the software, make it make use of the features of multi-user operating system. Stop doing things the Windows 98 way. How syncing is done varies widely from person-to-person. Many have particular programs that they hot-sync with, some just use the default software. I have seen several computer's registry become severely corrupted due to hot-syncing with the default software, forcing the users to reformat their OS to repair the problems; so, I must recommend finding another program for hot-syncing. Besides, the Handspring software isn't the most intuitive ever.

treo bottom
The non-standard headphone/mic port requires you to buy an adapter to use your favorite buds with the device. Also shown: recharging/Hotsync port.

A significant change from the Treo 300 is the switch to a candy-bar style phone. No more flipping to answer the calls. While this does not make the newer model significantly smaller, and it is actually heavier, it does make the phone feel smaller and fit in the pocket more easily. For the most part, the change is a good idea. Having to deal with the phone flipped out would make using the keyboard significantly more difficult as it would shift the center of gravity, flipping the phone out of your hand while thumb-typing. However, the inclusion of a miserable case makes the screen extremely susceptible to dust, scratching and fingerprints. We highly recommend getting a viable case, or at least dealing with the included one (though if you can afford this phone, you should be able to afford a case for it).

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