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PalmOne Treo 650 smart phone

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PalmOne could have been more generous with memory, especially since it bundles RealPlayer which requires separate storage to hold its MP3s. Not that 32MB is too small for a phone, but it's not enough if you want to make the most of the 650's PDA-oriented multimedia features, all improved and more tightly integrated than they were in the 600.

PalmOne Treo 650The company could also have bundled an earphones adaptor. The 650 uses a 2.5mm socket, not the more common 3.5mm type. If that's necessary because of the Treo's size, fine. But it's downright mean not to bundle stereo 'phones or provide a way to use regular headphones. You do get a mono earpiece handsfree set, however.

Visual media benefit not only from the 650's higher resolution screen but also from its faster CPU, up from 144MHz to 312MHz. Again, it's not as if the 600 was a laggard, but the 650 certainly feels more sprightly.

I tested PalmOne's own 650, rather than Orange's implementation, so I only saw the basic software bundle. DataViz's Documents To Go is still there, now with the long-absent support for Mac-sync'd PowerPoint presentations.

PalmOne Treo 650PalmOne's VersaMail continues to improve too, here providing Microsoft Exchange Server compatibility and including set-up data for many of the world's biggest ISPs. Of more use to me is the inclusion of mail filters. The system's not a full-scale spam-sorter but it's good for getting rid of the stuff your ISP or corporate junkmail filter lets through.

A nice tweak to the 650's Messaging app is the ability to thread SMS conversations into IM-style chats. A full IM client would have been a better addition, though, but perhaps PalmOne is awaiting cheaper GPRS tariffs...

Flaws? Well there's no Wi-Fi, which leaves it second fiddle to HTC's Windows Mobile-based devices. You can argue that Wi-Fi isn't a necessity yet, but if others can add it cheaply, so should PalmOne if it doesn't want to look behind the times.

Which brings me to price. Yes, the 650's a very good smart phone, but it doesn't come cheap. You're looking at the best part of £450 for an unlocked version. At the time of writing, Orange had yet to publish a subsidised price, but I'd expect it to come to around £150 if the 600 was anything to go by.

The 650 does have the advantage that it's running the Palm OS, but its size is more than matched by the i-mate JAM and other HTC 'Magician'-based handsets. However, you'd be hard pressed to find a better compact keyboard than the 650's - the JAM is for stylus-junkies only.

Verdict

The Treo 650 is a superb smart phone that delivers all the 600 should have done and more. It's not packed with new features, just improvements on the older model. Price notwithstanding, I've always preferred the 650 to just about any other smart phone, with the possible exception of the i-mate JAM. For me, the 650's keyboard gives it the edge. And while the JAM is a better PDA, the 650 is the better phone. Bar none. ®

PalmOne Treo 650
 
Rating 90%
 
Pros Great screen; Bluetooth on board; nifty keyboard; removable battery; good battery life; Flash memory to safeguard data.
 
Cons No Wi-Fi; ungenerous amount of memory; not the slimmest smart phone around.
 
Price £450 (unlocked)
 
More info The PalmOne Treo 650 site

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