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Palm Treo review: Palm Treo

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Simply put, the Treo 600 is an e-mail machine. The Mail program handles up to five POP3 accounts; you can even add new POP3 e-mail accounts directly to the device and start using them instantly. You can also download and install new applications (PRC files) or MIDI polyphonic ring tones--a huge plus over older models. SMS lets you send text messages up to 160 characters in length and includes a nice, new chat feature that basically mimics instant messaging.

The Blazer Web browser has several new tricks. It reformats Web pages in a single column so that you don't need to scroll from left to right; you can also save pages for later reference and beam bookmarks to other devices. We installed PDAapps' VeriChat, an excellent IM client for AIM, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo that works with the five-way control but is not included. Handspring also did not bundle a desktop redirector for do-it-yourself access to Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes e-mail, though corporations can still give employees access using server-based solutions.

Since the phone is MMS ready, you can use the integrated VGA camera to send pictures (with sounds or notes) via POP3 e-mail or to attach images to contacts in your phone book for photo caller ID. The Treo works fine for these basic tasks, but it really struggles in low light and will hardly replace your digital camera. To get the MP3 player, NormSoft's highly rated Pocket Tunes 2.0.5 (which supports MP3, OGG Vorbis, and WAV files), you have to register your Treo 600, and you'll need to purchase an adapter for the mini stereo headphone jack if you want to use your standard, Walkman-style headphones.

Handspring says its first objective with the Treo 600 was to build a good phone, and the company has largely succeeded. In our tests of the GSM world phone (850/900/1800/1900; GPRS), the sound quality was consistently solid whether we held it to our ear, used the included earbud, or activated the speakerphone. Using GPRS, we found that data service in both the San Francisco Bay Area and the New York metropolitan area was reliable and fast enough for e-mail, though it dragged a bit downloading Web pages.

In our tests, the Treo 600 easily outlasted older models, thanks to its rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which runs nearly the entire length of the unit and is about twice the size of an average cell. We managed to get 4 hours, 54 minutes of talk time--an hour shy of the 6 hours that Handspring promises. In our tests for standby time, the Treo 600 fell well short of the rated 10 days, but actual battery life varies widely depending on how hard the phone has to work to pick up a signal in a given area. One reason to get this Treo 600 over the Sprint's CDMA version, officially dubbed the PCS Vision Smart Device Treo 600, is that the GSM phone offers longer battery life. On the other hand, Sprint's 3G data network is a bit speedier than the GPRS data networks with which this phone is compatible.

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