Palm Treo 650 - Silver (Unlocked) Smartphone Reviews
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Palm Treo 650 - Silver (Unlocked) Smartphone

175 ratings (118 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Very Good
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If only my husband were as versatile as this baby!

Dec 13, 2004 (Updated Dec 13, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Bluetooth, display, good battery life on the user-replaceable battery, non-volatile memory, nice all-in-one

Cons:Sprint (only version out so far), no WiFi, memory issues, Price

The Bottom Line: Not worth the upgrade if you're coming from a 600, but if you're hopping into the smartphone market fresh, I'd absolutely recommend it. My price included a 'new customer' rebate.

UPDATED seven hours later: the original review was written in an insomniac haze at 5:00 a.m. (read: I was very tired and very bored).

Two full weeks with the 650 and I'm one hell-of-a happy woman. I've recently become convinced that I'm a technology addict, and the 650 is my latest fix.

The 650 comes to me after a rollercoaster experience with the 600 (the 600 review has more details). Briefly: the 600 worked fabulously for a few months, then choked. Three refurbed replacement units failed--the last one plagued with a now-infamous 'network search' issue. However, you know you have a winner when despite issues like that, you *still* love the phone! After a short battle involving a wonderful Executive Services Cust. Service rep, Sprint agreed to refund my money, and shortly after Thanksgiving, I placed my order with PalmOne for the latest and greatest Treo. I was worried about feeling like a sucker--but hope the bugs have been worked out. It's gone with me everywhere over the last couple of weeks, and so far, so good.

The basic specs can be found by following the "View Details" link at the top of this page, so I'll mostly leave them out. Also, I originally compared the 650 with its younger sibling, the Treo 600. I've left most of the comparisons, but tried to tweak the review a bit for the Treo-newbie.

A word about the "view details" specs
Epinions says the Treo 650 has a built-in voice recorder. I can't find it anywhere on the phone and neither can I find it documented anywhere. If anyone knows if there's a built-in app, please email me! I do have an application that does this (SoundRec), but it's not a PalmOne application and it doesn't come with the Treo.

And off we go
I bought a first-generation Treo 650 directly from PalmOne, as noted above. I scored a bluetooth Jaba headset for free by providing them with my Treo 600 serial number. It arrived one business day later, and upon ripping into the box, I found:
1 Treo 650 Smartphone (Sprint version, supporting 800 and 1900 MHz digital network, data speeds of about 75K)
1 stylus
1 battery
1 corded headset
1 synch cable
1 charger
CD with software (and a warning that my old Treo 600 hotsync software would not work)

The Software
From what I remember, the 650 comes with the same preinstalled software as the 600, with a few minor changes (notably, RealPlayer and Versamail). Since I synched and installed my Treo 600 software without paying attention to what was already on the thing, this list may be off slightly, but I think it's right:
The operating system: Palm OS 5.4.5/Garnet.
Palm Desktop 4.1.4--supports Outlook sync (at least with Windows XP Pro, my desktop/laptop OS).
Documents to Go
Web Browswer: Blazer 4.0
eReader for PDF viewing
Tetris (added this from the CD)

To have and to hold: The design
The Treo 650 is just about the same size and shape as its predecessor. That means it's not a brick and you can actually hold it up to your ear without feeling silly. It also slips right into my coat pocket without weighing me down. Although the specs say it's a tad wider than the 600, my 600 skin-tight leather case fits around it without trouble, although changes in the layout of the charging/synch connections mean I can't have the case on while I sync. Basically, if you have a 600, expect to recognize the 650--they share the same basic design. The biggest out-of-the-box differences in appearance are the steel blue/chrome color scheme as opposed to the black and chrome of the 600 and the reversal of the thumbpad coloring. On mine 650, the number keys are black and the rest are white, although I've seen photos in which this scheme is reversed. At the top of the phone sits the familiar antenna, the sound on/off control, the SD card slot and the infrared window. Missing is the phone power button (which just turned off the wireless mode on the older version), which is now integrated into the Call/end button. More on that later.

The phone speaker is just above the display, although the system speaker (for music, alarms, ringer, etc) is still on the back. The microphone is at the bottom right, and the volume control is still on the left edge of the treo, although it's now a rocker button instead of two separate up/down buttons. Beneath the volume control is a dedicated MP3 button--hitting it calls up RealPlayer. The right side is still control-free.

The Display
The next big difference was obvious the moment I turned the phone on: the new transflective color screen is spectacular! The 600, with a 160 x 160 passive matrix looks horrid in comparison. My T600 had a blue and pixelated haze, which I didn't even know I was unhappy with until I saw the new screen. PalmOne definitely gets big points for this upgrade! The screen still displays icons which monitor signal strength, date, time, battery level and service. A big change is the bottom of the display, which now shows small favorite buttons (preconfigured for contacts, web, voicemail and the like).

Official (but truncated) form factor specs:
Weight:6.30 ounces
Display: color LCD, 320 x 320 pixels, TFT/65,000 colors.

Under the display are the programmable buttons: Send/End, the 5-way, home, menu, calendar, mail and 'phone off.' The layout is a bit different from the 600, which had the wireless on/off button on top of the phone. It only took a day or so to adjust to the slightly different layout of the keys (notably, the home and menu keys are moved up).

The QWERTY thumbboard seems a little different as well, although I don't have the 600 next to me to compare. The keys feel flatter, larger and overall easier to type on. They're backlight with white light and give a satisfying 'click' when struck. Despite this, it's not a 'real' keyboard, so whether you have large or small fingers, you'll want to be sure you know where the backspace key.

The Camera

As before, the camera lens sits on the back of the phone, only now it's beside a useless mirror. PalmOne says the mirror is for self-portraits, but unless you're REALLY close, you can't see yourself anyhow. It seems to me they were planning to put in a flash but changed their minds at the last minute and had this hole to fill in the case. Some designer said "oh, I know. Let's just stick a little dinky mirror there and call it a feature!" Just a guess.
As with the 600, do not expect to take dazzling pictures. This is a phone/PDA after all. The camera basically stinks. If you're in a car accident or happen to be in a minimart when it's robbed, the .3MP camera will help your insurance company or the local police. It's much better than the T600 camera and it does have a 2x zoom, but it's not a Sony (see my review :)) and it *still* doesn't have a flash. The camcorder is nice touch, but again, don't expect to document your child's life with it.

And it gets better
A replacable battery!! Whoohoo! Although I haven't had to, I could now carry a spare. Yay!! I can't imagine ever really replacing the battery (will we still be using these when the battery finally gives up the ghost?), but it was nice of PalmOne to give me the option. Plus, it saves them the hassle of having someone make a big deal about it (is anyone following the Ipod 'dirty little secret' non-replaceable battery issue?).

And other new stuff
I'm not thrilled that my older accessories are somewhat useless, but I'm happy with the upgrades. For example, the new power and hotsync connection seems more substantial and the earphone connector is universalized. However, because the power connector has little wingie things on the side, I have to turn on the light to plug it in. No biggie for most people, except that I usually don't remember until I'm nearly asleep and then try to fumble with the cord on my nightstand in the dark. I used to plug it in and fall asleep almost in one movement; now I have to turn on the bedside light. I've read that the hotsync alone will charge it (albiet slowly) from the computer's usb power, but still...

The Memory

I should probably note that others have complained about the memory loudly enough that PalmOne has support knowledge base articles about it. When designing this smartphone, they didn't upgrade the memory--but because of the mirroring of data required for non-volatile memory (so that if your battery dies, your data isn't lost), the amount available to users is actually less than it was with the 600. I haven't had any memory issues, although I've heard others complain about it. Specifically, the Treo 650 has 23 MB of memory available to the user (32MB built-in shared NAND flash ROM memory). For me, the addition of an SD card provides what I need. I carry a few SD cards around, one full of PDF files, another with applications, and a third for everything else. Perhaps they could have made life easier for me, but I really don't have too much of an issue here. For those who do: if you purchase a treo 650, PalmOne will give you a 128MB SD card-- BUT YOU HAVE TO ASK FOR IT!

The only problem I've had with the memory is that the use of NAND instead of RAM makes applications and dialing take just a bit longer to start than I'm used to. I think I'll get used to the change, but more than once I've thought an application wasn't pulling up and hit the 'home' button to start over just as the application started.

And does it work?
Yes, it does!

As a phone, the Treo allows you to dial directly, from your call log, and from your contact list. It is yet again noticably missing a voice dialing feature built in, although you can download a demo version of a voice-dialing application from PalmOne. I haven't tried it--I'll wait for someone to come up with shareware and use that when it's out. It's annoying that it's not built in, but I'll live. Also, the treo now asks you if you'd like to add an unknown number to your contacts when you're through with a call that you've either placed or received from a number not already in the list.

I've had great reception on the 650--even in the lab at work (where I had NO reception on the 600). The volume levels, a problem I had with my old Treo, are much improved--even on speakerphone.

My data connection appears to be consistently good to. As a webbrowswer, the Treo is functional. My first choice would be a desktop or laptop, but last weekend I was able to make hotel reservations from Priceline while driving. Very cool. The Blazer browser is as functional as any other webbrowser I've ever used, with the exception of not supporting all plug-ins (Flash isn't supported, for example). While data speeds are only acceptable, I never expected to use it as a full-fledged computer. You do have the option of viewing webpages in wide screen mode or optimized mode; the latter eliminates the need to scroll right and left. The ability to dial phone numbers directly from a webpage that displays them is pretty nifty, and helps when you use an online directory to look up numbers.

And finally--my bottom line

I really like this gadget! Really, really. My bluetooth headset set up easily, my MP3s play fairly well, the selection of ringtones is adequate, my data won't die if my battery does, and it does it's job as a PDA/phone well. If you're thinking about taking the plunge and getting a smartphone, this is definitely one to put on the shortlist. If you're thinking about upgrading from a 600, however, I'd wait until the next version rolls in.

Recommend this product? Yes

Amount Paid (US$): 499

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