Palm Treo 680 review: Palm Treo 680

The Palm Treo 680 for Cingular will come packaged with a wired headset, a USB cable, an AC adapter, desk synchronization software, and reference material. There's also a user guide and support articles preloaded on the device.

Features
The Palm Treo 680 doesn't include an overhaul of features but rather some nice refinements and upgrades that result in a solid set of tools for mobile professionals and consumers. Starting with the voice features, the Treo 680 offers a new five-tab view for the phone app where you can easily move among the onscreen dialer, your favorites list (with shortcuts to your voicemail box, bill balance, minutes, and other apps), phone book, and call log. The phone book is limited only by the available memory, while the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. Each entry has room for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, instant-messaging handles, and birthdays. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a picture, one of 29 polyphonic ring tones, or a group ID. As a quad-band GSM phone, you can use the Treo 680 overseas while a speakerphone, three-way conference calling, speed dial, and a vibrate mode round out the calling options. You also get the "Ignore with text" feature first introduced in the Treo 700w, which allows you to reply to a call with a text message if you can't take a call. You simply hit the Ignore with Text icon that appears during an incoming call and a message that says something like, "In a meeting; call you later." We've always been big fans of this feature, and it worked well in our tests with the 680. Finally, if there is a number listed on a Web page or e-mail, you can dial it directly from that page. Unfortunately, it isn't capable of voice dialing.

The Treo 680 also supports Cingular's EDGE network, which means you should enjoy faster Web browsing and download times, but it doesn't operate on the carrier's UMTS or HSPDA networks for broadband-like speeds. Both Palm and Cingular felt the 3G capabilities weren't necessary this level of device and its target audience. The Blazer 4.5 Browser app now features improved caching for a better Web view experience. That said, we're still irked by the lack of Wi-Fi and the fact that the Treo 680 won't work with Palm's Wi-Fi card either. Yes, the EDGE support largely takes away the need for it and while Cingular's network is now available in more than 13,000 cities, there are still pockets where it isn't available and for those customers. On the bright side, the smart phone does have integrated Bluetooth 1.2 for use with wireless headsets, car kits, OBEX, and dial-up networking. The latter means you can use the 680 as a wireless modem for your Bluetooth-enabled laptop; it's a feature often disabled on other smart phones, so this is a nice benefit of the Treo 680. The mobile also works with Cingular's TeleNav GPS Navigator service so if you have a Bluetooth GPS receiver, the 680 can double as a handheld GPS device. It does not, however, support the A2DP profile for stereo headphones.

The Treo 680 offers several e-mail solutions, including VersaMail 3.5, Cingular Xpress Mail, and GoodLink. The latter allows for real-time access to your Microsoft Outlook e-mail, contacts, tasks, and notes. If your company uses Good Mobile Messaging, just contact your IT department for help setting up the 680 with the server. Both Xpress Mail and VersaMail also allows you to access your corporate e-mail (though without the wireless push delivery), and your personal accounts (POP3, IMAP). We used VersaMail to connect to our SBC Global account; set up was painless. We scheduled it to retrieve messages every 30 minutes and it worked like a charm. If you have Web-based e-mail, such as Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL, you can check those accounts via the Web browser. The Treo 680 also supports text and multimedia messaging, including the new threaded chat view that lets you see all messages between yourself and the receiver--sort of like a slower IM. This feature worked just fine for us. There are no preinstalled IM clients, but they are available through third-party apps.


The SD expansion slot has been moved to the right side of the device and can accept up to 2GB cards.

For working on the go, the Palm Treo 680 is preloaded with Documents to Go 8.0, so you can open, create, and edit Word and Excel documents and view PowerPoint presentations and PDFs. You get the standard PIM tools, including a Calendar, a to-do list, a memo pad, a calculator, a world clock, and a voice recorder. Of course, you'll also have access to the extensive library of third-party applications available to the Palm OS. While we're on the topic, the Treo 680 runs Palm OS 5.4.9 and has 64MB of SDRAM and 64MB of user available memory, which should be enough for the average user. In addition, the expansion slot accepts up to 2GB SD cards.


Boo hiss. The Treo 680 is equipped with a lowly VGA camera.

Much to our disappointment, the Treo 680 is only equipped with a VGA camera, rather than a megapixel camera. When we asked Palm about this, they said it was to keep costs down and there wasn't much of a difference between the two, but we think that's a pretty weak excuse. RIM was able to put a 1.3-megapixel lens in the Pearl, as did the Motorola Q and Samsung BlackJack. Heck, even most camera phones today have a megapixel resolution, so we're not sure what Palm was thinking here. The 680's camera does have video-recording capabilities and a 2X zoom, but there are no options to tweak the white balance, effects, color saturation, or any other camera settings found on most camera phones today. You can, however, view your photos as a slide show and create albums. Overall, the Treo 680 took subpar pictures. While objects were defined, there was a yellowish undertone to the images.


Treo's camera produced some sickly looking pictures.

Finally, for entertainment, the Treo 680 comes with PocketTunes preinstalled on the smart phone, so you can enjoy your favorite MP3s. If you crave support for other music formats, such as WMA/PlaysForSure, you'll have to upgrade to the Deluxe edition ($34.95) of PocketTunes. You also can stream music and videos from the Web, and for a limited time, if you purchase the 680 directly from Palm, you get a 30-day free trail to Yahoo Music Unlimited To Go and Yahoo Music for Mobile.

Performance
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Palm Treo 680 in San Francisco using Cingular service and call quality was good overall. We had absolutely no problems carrying on a conversation as we experienced crisp sound and good volume, and our callers were impressed by the clarity of the phone. Unfortunately, things took a dive when we activated the speakerphone. Our friends said we sounded scratchy and we had a hard time hearing them, even with the volume at its highest level. On a brighter note, we were able to pair the Treo 680 with the Logitech Mobile Traveler Bluetooth headset and the TeleNav GPS Bluetooth receiver.

The Treo 680 was fairly responsive, though there were some slight delays when opening Office documents and activating the camera. The smart phone doesn't break any speed barriers in terms of Web browsing, but it's acceptable, especially with the improved caching feature. Music playback through the phone's speakers wasn't great, but plugging in the included earbuds improved the situation.

The Palm Treo 680's battery is rated for 4 hours of talk time and 12.5 days of standby time. Despite the smaller battery, we were still able to get 5.2 hours of talk time on a single charge.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Talk Time Up to 240 min
  • Technology GSM
  • Combined with With digital camera
  • Service Provider Unlocked
  • Weight 5.5 oz
  • Sensor Resolution 0.3 pixels
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