• 10/28/2004
    7:04 PM
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Treo 650: Widely Anticipated and Almost Here

PalmOne formally introduced the Treo 650 smartphone, successor to the popular 600 model. In my experience, the Treo provides the best combination of voice and data functionality. Here's the big
Details about the new device have been leaking for several months, so there weren't any huge surprises. That's disappointing to the extent that PalmOne's decision to include embedded Bluetooth but no Wi-Fi support is a significant limitation. If you are a real road warrior who takes advantage of Wi-Fi hotspot services, you'll probably prefer the iPAQ. But most times when I am in range of a Wi-Fi signal, I am toting my laptop anyway.

For those of you who were hoping that the device's SDIO interface slot would allow for a Wi-Fi add-on, it doesn't look like that's the case. In a recent review, we were shocked to learn that PalmOne's own SDIO Wi-Fi adapter was incompatible with the Treo 600 (reportedly because of power limitations and driver issues). We've not yet been able to verify that the situation is the same with the 650, though the absence of any mention of Wi-Fi in the press release or on PalmOne's Treo 650 product pages would appear to confirm that suspicion.

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But enough of the bad news. There's plenty of good to report, including a faster processor, a much better display, a removable battery, an improved keyboard and the aforementioned Bluetooth support. The Treo 650 uses a 312-MHz Intel XScale CPU, which doubles the clock speed of the 600, so performance should be improved significantly. The display also is much improved. Although it isn't any bigger--display real estate has to be traded off for portability--it sports 320-by-320 resolution compared to the 600's 160-by-160. That should make navigating Web pages that aren't optimized for mobile devices a slightly less painful experience.

The removable battery offers about the same life as the old one (five to six hours of talk time and 12 to 14 days of standby time, depending on radio interface), but the modularity allows you to carry an extra battery on the road, which could save you in certain situations. The keyboard is now backlit, and PalmOne has added dedicated keys for basic phone functions--a small detail that will significantly improve usability. The integrated Bluetooth support should enable wireless synchronization capabilities, cable-free headsets and external keyboards while also facilitating the use of the 650 as a wireless WAN modem when you want to connect your notebook on the road. The integrated snapshot camera, which is decidedly ho-hum, now sports a 2x digital zoom and the promise of better images in low-light conditions.

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