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PalmOne Treo 600 Palm OS Smartphone from Sprint PCS

Posted Oct. 28, 2003, by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief
Also check out the Treo 650, released late Fall 2004.

The first Handspring Treo Palm OS smartphones were very popular and well-loved. When they came out, most smartphones looked more like PDAs than mobile phones, and the same was true of early Treos. But the new Treo 600 sports a radical redesign and has the looks and ergonomics of a phone, making it an instant hit. The Treo 600 is available in GSM and CMDA models, and we received the Sprint PCS CDMA version for review. The Treo comes with desktop software for Palm and Mac, a USB HotSync cable (USB cradle and serial PC cable available separately), charger and a basic slip case. PalmOne purchased Handspring, so the Treo 600 is now branded as a palmOne device.

The Treo 600 has a bright color display, thumb keyboard, SD slot and an integrated VGA digital camera. It runs Palm OS 5.2.1H on a 144 MHz ARM processor. The features and processor make it one of the most powerful and feature-rich Palm OS smartphone currently on the market. While smartphones generally lag behind their PDA-only counterparts, the Treo 600 keeps up and won't force you to compromise on many PDA features.

Handspring Treo 600
Handspring Treo 600 back view

 

Design and Ergonomics

Mobile phones come in two basic designs: candy bar and clamshell, and the Treo is a candy bar phone. It's mid-sized when compared to other current mobile phones, and fits nicely in the hand thanks to its narrow width and curved design. Most all operations can be carried out one-handed using the excellent 5-way directional pad.

The Treo 600 feel solidly built and looks both professional and well-made. It won't weigh you down at 6.2 ounces, and will fit in most pockets (unless you wear tight clothing). The CDMA version of the Treo comes in a "carbon" finish, while GSM models are silver.

On the top of the phone you'll find the IR port, ringer switch, stylus, SD card slot, power button and antenna. The volume up and down buttons are located on the left side. As you'd expect the sync/charge connector is located on the bottom edge, as is the 2.5mm headset jack. The phone has a key guard feature which prevents accidental application launching or call initiation when the unit is in your pocket or purse.

 

 

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Horsepower, Expansion and Battery Life

The Treo runs Palm OS 5.2.1H (the "H" stands for Handspring-customized) and has a 144 MHz ARM processor with 32 megs of RAM (24 available). That competes well against current Palm OS PDAs, and beats out the Kyocera 7135 and Samsung i500 which run Palm OS 4 on considerably slower Dragonball processors. Since Palm OS is very streamlined, you often won't need lots of processing power, but it never hurts when running intensive games, playing videos and manipulating photos.

The Treo 600 has an MMC/SD slot supporting SDIO, which means you can use memory expansion cards as well as networking cards such as WiFi cards when drivers become available. If you wish to play MP3s, you'll need to add an MP3 player application and store your music on SD cards. You can use stereo headphones if you get an adapter for the mobile phone style 2.5mm headset jack.

size comparison

Comparing phone sizes: The Nokia 3650, Treo 600 and Kyocera 7135.

 

Unfortunately, the Treo 600's rechargeable Lithium Ion battery isn't user replaceable. That said, it's a large capacity 1800 mAh battery that offers good run times, improving greatly on earlier Treo models. The battery should certainly last you through the day, and palmOne claims 4 hours of talk time. I got at least 3 hours of talk time on the Sprint CDMA version and the GSM version should run a bit longer since GSM radios use less power (the tradeoff is that GSM devices aren't quite as fast for data). A 1250 mAh external battery pack will be available from Handspring, and that unit slips onto the bottom and back of the Treo like a sled.

Wireless

Wireless service is provided by Sprint PCS, and the phone supports PCS Vision, Sprint's name for their high speed 1xRTT data network capable of speeds up to 144k and averaging about 60 - 70k these days in metro areas. Note that the phone doesn't support data connections to corporate RAS, VPNs or faxes. It will only connect to the PCS Vision network for Internet connections.

The Sprint CDMA version offers a dual band phone supporting both US CDMA bands (1900 MHz PCS, 800 MHz). It doesn't support analog, which is still used in some unconverted rural areas. The GSM version is a quad-band world phone, running on 850/900/1800/1900 MHz frequencies.

The voice quality has been good on the Sprint PCS Treo 600, even when it showed only 1 or 2 bars of signal strength. While it's not the strongest signal I've seen on a PCS phone, it's middle of the pack and it worked even in low signal areas and didn't drop calls. It has an excellent speaker phone and offers speed dialing in the form of "Favorites".

Wireless Software Included

The Treo 600 comes with Handspring's web browser, Blazer, which is quite fast and using a proxy server can optimize web pages for quick download and viewing on a handheld. You can also view web pages unoptimized in "Wide Screen Mode" to get a more desktop-like rendering of sites, but you will have to scroll to see the entire page. Blazer supports JavaScript, SSL, frames, bookmarks and cookies but doesn't support plug ins such as Macromedia Flash. It also supports dialing phone numbers on web pages and downloading of applications from sites that offer Palm OS software. You'll also get an SMS application called Messaging which supports SMS messages and also emails when used in conjunction with Sprint's PCS Business Connection software and service and your company's Exchange Server.

Since Palm OS 5 dropped support for web clipping applications (WCAs/PQAs) you won't be able to use web clippings on the Treo or any other Palm OS 5 PDA.

Keyboard

The Treo 600 has an integrated thumb keyboard with an embedded numeric keypad to make entering phone numbers easier. While the keyboard is small, the keys are domed, making it less trying to type. After a day, you'll get used to it and won't have problems unless you have long fingernails. The keys are backlit, and there are dedicated keys for commonly used items such as the Home button and menu button. There are four buttons above the keyboard which surround the d-pad. These buttons launch Calendar, Phone Book and Messages, while the 4th key turns the screen on and off.

Display and Sound

The display resolution is 160 x 160 pixels and has 3,375 colors which is an unusual 11.5 bit color depth. PalmOne states that it's compatible with 16 bit (64,000) color apps, and indeed all applications we tried, including games, did run. The screen is exceptionally bright and folks we handed the Treo to immediately commented on that. Jeff Hawkins of Handspring stated that they went for the brightest, easiest to read display rather than offering a high res 320 x 320 pixel display. I can respect that decision, but with most mid to high end Palm OS PDAs running at 320 x 320 resolution or better, it would be nice to have the Treo offer the same, especially given the fast processor which is well-suited to multimedia and gaming. The screen is easily viewable indoors and outdoors.

The Treo 600 supports audible and vibrating alerts and ringers as well as polyphonic sound. The speaker volume is quite loud and can be heard even in noisy environments. The volume controls are located on the side of the phone and there's a ringer silencer button on top of the unit. The Treo comes with a standard 2.5mm headset with an ear bud and in-line mic. If you want to play MP3s, you'll need to install an MP3 player, get an SD card for the tunes, and an adapter that will allow you to use a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the Treo (Radio Shack offers one as does Handspring). If you register your Treo, you'll be eligible to receive two free apps and one of those apps is Pocket Tunes MP3 player, so go for that if you're an MP3 fan.

Camera

The Treo 600 has an integrated VGA CMOS digital .3 megapixel digital camera capable of taking still photos at 640 x 480 resolution with 4,096 colors. The lens is located on the back of the unit and just as with most phone and PDA cameras, there is no flash. The Treo comes with a camera application, and this is what you'll use to snap photos, view them and even email them using Sprint's Picture Mail service. If you like, you can use photos you've taken with the Treo as your caller ID photos (take a picture of someone, then assign it to a contact in your phone book) or use a picture as wallpaper for your phone. How's the image quality? Similar to other VGA cameras built into cell phones in the US. They're great for capturing special moments when a full-fledged camera isn't available, and more than adequate for email. However, it won't come close to the quality of a stand alone digital or film camera.

Software Bundle

The Treo 600 comes with Palm Desktop 4.1 for Windows and Mac and support for syncing to Outlook on Windows. You'll get Handspring's capable Blazer web browser, Documents To Go for working with Word and Excel docs, SplashMoney, SplashShopper, SplashID, Klondike and Zap! 2016. That's a decent software bundle that will get you started with the basics and more.

Conclusion

Pro: A mid-sized phone that will suit many users in terms of weight and proportions. Attractive, solid and well-made. Has integrated keyboard and a VGA camera. Fast processor and a decent amount of memory which you can expand with SD storage cards. Has an SD slot that supports SDIO. Con: Low res display is getting old now that most dedicate Palm OS PDAs have 320 x 320 displays. Battery is not user replaceable. No voice dialing and no voice memos. You'll need to get your own MP3 player app and a headphone adapter to use the Treo as a portable music player.

www.sprintpcs.com, List price $479 (less with new activation)
www.palmone.com

 

Specs:

Display: Backlit, 160 x 160 pixel color CSTN display with 3375 colors (that equals 11.5 bit color, but is compatible with 16 bit color apps). Adjustable brightness and contrast).

Performance: 144 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP ARM processor. 32 megs of RAM with 24 available to the user. Palm OS 5.2.1H.

Size: 4.4 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches. 6.2 oz.(CDMA version), 5.9 oz. (GSM version).

Audio: Built in speaker. 16-channel MIDI polyphonic ring tones. Supports alarm sounds, LED alert and vibrating alerts.Can use standard 3.5mm headphone jacks on the 2.5'' jack with an adapter that's not included.

Expansion: 1 MMC/SD slot supporting SDIO.

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. Not user replaceable.

Software: Palm OS 5.2.1H. Includes the usual suite of Palm applications, including Address Book, Date Book, Clock, To Do List, Memo Pad and Advanced Calculator. Blazer web browser included. SMS, MMS/Picture Mail, CityTime world clock, for email you get a POP3 email client (GSM/GPRS) and PCS Business Connection for the CDMA Sprint version. 3rd party software includes Documents To Go, SplashID, SplashMoney, SplashShopper, Klondike, Zap! 2016.

Network: Either: CDMA (Sprint): 800/1900 MHz, supporting CDMA 2000 1xRTT for high speed data
or GSM/GPRS (AT&T Wireless, Cingular Wireless, T-Mobile
and others): 850/900/1800/1900 MHz world phone. Class 10 GPRS.

Camera: VGA 640 x 480 camera (.3 megapixels).

 

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