Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Palm Treo 680

(Review) - Palm has been in the smartphone business for quite some time, and over the years, the quality of smartphones from Palm has gone up significantly. But as is the case with a lot of smartphones, they are designed to keep businesspeople as their primary focus and target market. While that’s all well and good, a lot of mainstream consumers realize the value proposition of smartphones in terms of increased productivity and easy handling of tasks. As such, smartphones are now starting to go mainstream, and Palm has just the solution for such consumers in the form the Treo 680.

The Palm Treo 680 is available in a variety of color schemes, the traditional gray and the hip copper, crimson and arctic. This gives the product line a more mainstream feel with interesting color choices that non-business professionals may be interested in. Thankfully, the Treo 680 now lacks the marquee antenna that Palm smartphones are known for. It’s more or less designed to look like the RIM BlackBerry series, Motorola Moto Q and the Samsung BlackJack. We can’t say we miss the antenna. The front of the device is fairly straightforward and very traditional. Other than the bright, crisp 320x320 display with support for 65k colors, the Call and Power/End keys, the 5-way navigation and the four shortcut keys (all programmable), the Palm has improved on the QWERTY keyboard slightly. Although the keys are relatively cramped, they have tactile feedback and a more square shape to make typing considerably easier. Again, the keyboard has a BlackBerry 8700g-like layout with the exception of sufficient spacing between each other.

The left spine of the Palm Treo 680 has the volume up/down and customizable buttons, while the right spine is equipped with the expansion slot that supports MultiMediaCard, SD and SD I/O cards (64MB onboard). As you move to the top, you’ll notice the ringer switch for muting the phone. The bottom, however, is integrated with the multi-connector, a microphone and a headset jack. We can understand everything else, but what’s up with the headset jack location? We would much rather have the headset jack at the top to prevent the awkward wiring. Then, as you swing your way to the back, you’ll be acquainted with the stylus, a self-portrait mirror, the speakerphone and a poor VGA camera (352x288 max resolution, 2x digital zoom, automatic light balance). Although we prefer smartphones that lack the stylus (too much risk in losing it), we can understand the idea behind it. With smartphones like the BlackBerry, it takes quite a bit of scrolling through a long webpage to click on a link, and in that case, the stylus would be a welcome addition. The camera integration is downright poor with the Palm Treo 680. Considering this is Palm’s consumer friendly offering, a decent camera is a must. As you can already imagine, the photo quality was poor, and you may be better off assuming that the camera feature doesn’t exist to begin with. What a pity!

Palm excels at offering a great suite of applications with its smartphones, and the Treo 680 was no different in that regard. Other than the calendar, alarm and the like features, you are also ready to view and edit documents, listen to music and check your e-mail through a variety of programs (personal and enterprise). Although the Palm Treo 680 supports the EDGE network for relatively quick web browsing, the lack of WiFi is a serious drawback. Quite obviously, Palm’s Treo 680 isn’t the only smartphone that lacks this feature. A lot of other companies are conveniently forgetting to bring this feature to the masses.

Despite the rated talk time of 4 hours and standby time of 12.5 days, we managed to push the talk time to 5+ hours. That was a nice surprise during our lab performance testing. The call quality was good with limited hissing and static noises, but the speakerphone quality was subpar at best. As soon as switched to the speakerphone for audio quality tests, our subjects reported that the audio quality dropped significantly, as the phone skipped a few words here and there with a lot of extraneous noise. The music playback quality was iffy at best on the external speakers, and improved very slightly with the headset on. Thanks to the Bluetooth connectivity, we were able to connect our headset and use that comfortably with absolutely no issues. The quality with the wireless headset was good as well.

The Palm Treo 680 is available for free with a 2-year contract from Cingular. All in all, the Treo 680 is a good attempt at mainstreaming an otherwise business tool, and with a price tag of $0.00, it’s difficult to argue against its value. If you can ignore the aforementioned quirks, you may be on your way to owning the first mainstream smartphone from Palm.

Click here to get the latest pricing on Unlocked Palm Treo 680!

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