Palm Treo 680
At a Glance
With its distinctive candy-bar design and carefully crafted thumb keyboard, Palm's Treo has become an iconic PDA phone--but new models generally debut at prices that only serious mobile professionals can easily stomach. The Treo 680 arrives with a lower price tag, a sportier and slightly svelter look, and features intended to attract a much wider audience. Unfortunately, this successor to the aging Treo 650 has some drawbacks that hobble that effort.
Cingular will sell you a Treo 680 for $300 if you commit to a two-year contract with a voice plan that costs at least $40 a month. You'll also have to spring for a data plan; unfortunately, the 680's data speeds are limited by the dial-up-like EDGE service the Treo 680 supports.
The 680 looks jazzier than its predecessors, in large part because it lacks the antenna stub found on all other Treos. Some subtle sculpting has giventhe case a softer, less boxy look and a nicer feel in the hand. Palm has tweaked the keyboard, too, making the keys slightly larger.
As a phone, the 680 is reasonably comfortable to use, with adequate voice quality and volume. The integration with Palm contacts remains a strong feature; and the five-way navigation button lets you easily initiate calls with one hand, whether you're working from an address book entry or from call logs. Talk-time battery life is average, at 6 hours, 25 minutes in our lab tests. That's better than the battery life of the Treos we've tested in the past, but not as good as most PDA phone models.
The 680 comes with a robust bundle of software; some items come preinstalled and others are available on the Palm desktop setup CD. Cingular's included Xpress mail application makes getting most standard forms of corporate e-mail on a Treo easy: Using a desktop redirector, I even managed to get my Lotus Notes mail and calendar on the 680. For standard POP3 and IMAP e-mail, you can use the included VersaMail client. For productivity, Palm throws in the Microsoft Office-compatible DataViz Docs to Go 8.0; for playing music and video, you get the basic version of NormSoft's Pocket Tunes, a much nicer app than the Palm version of Real's player. The speaker on the 680 seemed nicer than the one on the 650, and its audio quality seemed superior.
Overall, the 680 makes for a decent entry-level Treo that improves on the 650. People who've resisted trading in an older phone and a Palm for a single device should check it out.
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