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Palm+Treo+680+Review

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					                      Palm Treo 680 Review
                      By: Ryan Kairer
                      December 4, 2006

                      The Treo 680 is the fourth and final new Treo promised by Palm
                      prior to the start of 2006. When it was announced it was billed by
                      Palm as a lower cost, more affordable Treo. Palm has hopes that
                      more customers migrate from the realms of feature phones and
                      choose a Treo. To date price, complexity and the larger form factor
                      of smartphones have held back most average users from choosing a
                      smartphone. The Treo 680 addresses these points and debuts with
                      the lowest introductory price of any new Treo smartphone.

                       Besides the nice price, the best new aspect of the Treo 680 is its
                       slimmer and lighter form factor. While it doesn't seem like much of
                       a difference on paper, the new size feels absolutely great and won't
                       weigh down your pocket. Compared to the Treo 650 or a 700p,
                       there is a very noticeable difference in weight, not so much with the
thickness. The 680 is 2.3mm slimmer, but still a bit on the thick side for a mobile phone.
It holds well in hand and grips better due to its more angled in sides. It also looks much
more attractive, though slightly less distinctive without its external antenna, however that
won't be missed by most.

The top of the 680 has a smooth black portion that contains the IR window and the silent
mode switch. The silent mode switch now vibrates when activated, giving you a physical
confirmation that it is engaged. It's also been made flush against the top and the notch
shows a red strip to let you know its in the on position. The left side has the volume keys
and a customizable side key, which is set to activate the voice recorder by default.

The right side is free of buttons and holds the SD card section in the center. The SD slot
is now tucked away behind a small plastic door. The door is easy to access and remains
hinged to the side via two flexible rubber joints. On my unit the cover seemed a little
flimsy. When closed it doesn't always stay totally flush with the side and the cover pokes
out a bit. While not a huge problem, I wonder if it would get worse over time.

On the top of the front-side is a small LED that simply now indicates battery charging
status and also lights up when the phone is booting and when the radio powers up. In the
center to the right of that is the main phone earpiece speaker. Thats followed by the
display, the application and phone buttons, 5-way navigator and the thumb keyboard.
Along the very bottom is the 2.5 mm headset port, charging and hotsync connectors and
the phone mic.
The center 5-way navigator is a bit larger and has more of a inward curve to it making it a
little easier to grip and thumb around with. The row of application buttons below the
screen are user changeable and by default take you to the Phone app, Agenda view
(calendar), email and home (programs). Hitting the blue option key before tapping a
button gives you a few more shortcuts which you can also customize. The app buttons are
now literally paired up together on each side, though they still operate independently. The
home button has a new feature if you hold it for a few seconds it brings up a pop-up list
of your last 8 apps.
                                                                The Treo 680 has the now
                                                                standard green and red
                                                                dedicated send/end call
                                                                buttons just below the
                                                                display. The red end key
                                                                also turns the screen on and
                                                                off and activates the
                                                                keyguard. The end key is
                                                                now the only means to end
                                                                a call, as the onscreen
                                                                display icon option has
                                                                been removed.

                                                                 The keyboard has square
                                                                 thumb keys in a smile
                                                                 pattern arrangement. This
time around the keys are a little smaller and packed in slightly closer together. Palm has
even changed to font used on the keys to fit better. I didn't notice a big difference in
typing speed or accuracy. The overall thumboard experience wasn't any more difficult
than earlier models, but its worth pointing out even if the changes are relatively minor.
The backlighting on the keyboard and buttons is bright and consistent and the keys have a
nice white illumination.

The stylus silo is in the usual top rear corner the back, while on the other side of the top
back is a black rubber cover for the internal antenna. Just below that in the top center of
the back is the speaker grill, camera lens and portrait mirror assembly. On my standard
color Cingular unit, the grill is a lighter silver color with a square row of speaker holes in
a 6x6 pattern. The included stylus is mostly a thin black plastic rail with a small metal tip
portion. It's pretty flimsy and can actually bend a bit with pressure.

The Treo 680 has dimensions of 2.29" x 4.40" x 0.8" inches (58.4 x 111.8 x 20.3 mm)
and weighs in at 5.5 ounces (156g).

One interesting design change is the removal of the reset button. You're simply expected
to disconnect the battery in order to reboot the Treo now. The same procedures apply for
hard resets, simply remove the battery while holding down the power button as the device
reboots.

The 680 is the first Treo to be made available in a variety of colors. The colored editions
are sold as "Unlocked devices" exclusively from Palm.com. The SIM unlocked version
denotes that it can be used with just about any GSM service provider with an existing
GSM/GPRS/EDGE service plan. Cingular only offers the "graphite" color model and it is
SIM locked to the Cingular network. Palm is currently offering the 680 in four colors:
graphite (gray), copper (orange), Arctic (white) and crimson (red).
Hardware

The Treo 680 is powered by a 312 MHz PXA270 Intel XScale processor. It has 64MB
non-volatile internal flash memory available for user storage. The dbcache is now up to
24 MB and the dbheap has a 10 MB capacity.

The Treo 680 has a SD/MMC memory expansion slot. It includes a FAT32 driver which
adds support for SD cards up to 2 GB in size. Most standard 4GB cards will also work,
but there may still be some incompatible ones out there. While the SD slot does support
SDIO accessories with Palm OS device drivers, Wi-Fi via an SD card is still not
supported. Palm has stated they have no plans to support WiFi on this model. The new
SD slot cover provides an extra bit of security as you won't have to worry about about
lost cards from tragic pocket ejections or accidental bumps.




Display
The Treo 680 has a 2" x 2" inch square touchscreen display. It is a 320 x 320 pixel TFT
screen that supports 65,000 colors. The display is plenty bright, even at the middle
brightness setting, and holds up well outdoors and in direct sunlight. The screen is a
slight, but noticeable improvement over the Treo 650's. Colors are richer with better
overall color saturation, improved depth and whites stand out better when compared side
by side.

Having more pixels than most other smartphones is a definite selling point. People are
often impressed at the quality of digital video the small Treo screen. CorePlayer supports
pretty much all the formats including avi, mpeg, divx and mp4 (video iPod) files. You
can convert your own videos using VEMoDe and there are a number of DVD mobile
conversion programs. There is also a free app available that can automatically convert
content from a Tivo DVR.

Camera
The Treo 680 has a built in VGA camera with 640x480 (0.3 megapixel) resolution and
automatic light balancing. It has 2x digital zoom and can also capture movie clips in the
.3gp format. Pictures are captured at a max 640x480 size, and movie clips have a
352x288 resolution. The camera's performance is equal to the Treo 650's. The resolution
is very low and shots almost always end up being a little blurry and soft. It is
disappointing Palm couldn't fit something a little better in here, but it works fine for
quick shots on your phone and for creating picture contacts. Here are a few unedited
example shots taken with the 680:




Bluetooth
The Treo 680 has built in Bluetooth wireless capabilities. This allows for accessories
such as wireless Bluetooth headsets, GPS navigation kits and using the 680 as a wireless
modem for your laptop. The v1.2 spec allows for faster device connections and adds the
ability to use multiple Bluetooth devices concurrently. There is a new option to leave the
device in discoverable mode for a short time period.

Phone

The 680's phone is a GSM/GPRS/EDGE Class 10 device. It has a quad-band
(850/900/1800/1900) capable radio. Data speeds on EDGE networks in the US usually
average around 80 - 130kbit/s. When an EDGE connection is not available the 680 can
fall back on GPRS data speeds. Palm says the internal antenna has better RF reception
than the Treo 650's external stub antenna. In my informal tests the 680 matched the 650
in signal strength wherever we went and I never noticed a big difference in signal
strength.
                        The 680's phone is powered by a new Broadcom BCM2133
                        chipset. The overall call and sound quality was a lot better than
                        what I was used to with the GSM Treo 650. The call quality was
                        much clearer and calls dialed out and connected quicker. The
                        volume is also improved and now works at a satisfactory level.
                        This was a big concern seeing that VolumeCare and other Treo
                        utilities that increase the call volume limits have been some of
                        the most popular Treo apps out there.

                        The 680 has some other notable improvements to its phone
                        hardware. It has a reduced Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)
                        rating. SAR is a value that corresponds to the relative amount of
                        RF energy absorbed in the head of a user of a wireless handset.
                        The GSM Treo 650 was one of the highest-radiation mobile
                        phones in the US with a SAR of 1.51 W/kg. The Treo 680 has
                        almost half that with a 0.780 W/kg rating. I also had a annoying
                        issue with my GSM 650 interfering with many stereo speakers
and some CRT monitors. It would often produce a buzz when the radio was active or
when a call was about to come in. I also hear this effect some car and personal radios.
Thankfully the 680 does not exhibit this same interference behavior and coexists
peacefully with my speakers while resting on my desktop.

Audio
The 680 has the usual Treo dual speaker design, with the front earpiece speaker used for
phone calls only while the rear handles the speakerphone, sysytem sounds, games and
music. If you want to listen to digital audio via a headset with standard headphones you'll
need to use a 3.5mm stereo adapter accessory. The rear mono speaker is well placed next
to the camera on the back and can get quite loud. There is an varied selection of ringtones
that can also be used as alarms. You can even record your own sounds to be used as a
custom ringtone via the voice recorder. You can transfer wav and midi files via
Bluetooth, beaming or hotsync to your device for use as ringtones as well.

Phone Functionality

The phone application is the centerpiece of the phone functionality that controls calls,
contacts, dialing, call log and accessing your shortcut favorites buttons. The Treo 680
includes v3.0 of the Phone app, which sports a new five tabbed simplified user interface.
It integrates all the common phone functions and makes it easier to jump between the
various screens. The phone application is also the main place that displays your phone
signal and battery strength, bluetooth status, data status as well as the number of new text
or email messages. You can customize the wallpaper and there is also an option to show
your next upcoming calendar appointment.

From the main phone screen you can simply start typing in letters and it will display your
matching contacts, or just tap right on the d-pad to browse all of your contacts. You can
also press the green send button when on the main phone screen to bring up a quick list of
         your recently dialed calls. The favorites tab allows you to setup quick shortcuts
         to frequently dialed numbers, groups of contacts, device applications, emails and
         also web links. It now shows the list of shortcuts in a single horizontal list that
         grows as you add new favorites. The phone dialing pad with the large onscreen
         numbers and call history log each have their own tabs as well.




The call in progress screen has also been revised with some nice new features. When a
call made, the screen shows a small treo icon next to the name or number. If the current
number has a picture stored in the contacts it will show their personal picture as an icon.
Call related options and functions are available as large on screen buttons and now have a
small text bar along the bottom that describes the current highlighted option. With one
click you can activate the speakerphone, start a conference call, mute, switch lines on call
waiting or exit out to the device to lookup something in your datebook or other
application and remain on the call. When a call ends with newly dialed or unknown
number, the Treo will ask if you want to save the number as new contact or add to an
existing contact. It's a nice feature and you can also shut it off if you don't need it.

When you have an incoming call, the phone displays the name and caller picture (if you
have one assigned). Underneath the answer and ignore options is a large button that
allows you to "Ignore by Text." This is a popular feature taken from the 700w that
enables you to decline a call and quickly type in an sms message letting the caller know
you are busy.

One Hand Operation
Even though it has a touchscreen and stylus available, the 680 really excels at one-handed
operation. The 5-way navigator and on screen blue cursor combine to make most actions
and tasks work without having to tap on the screen. In fact, it's pretty rare that I even use
the stylus, except for games. Its a well implemented feature that really makes using the
smartphone more intuitive and enjoyable.

Battery
The Treo 680 has a 1200 mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery that can be removed via the
cover on the back. Official battery lifetime is rated at 4 hours talk and 300 hours standby.
I can tell you that you won't get anything near 300 hours standby as battery performance
was disappointing. It was a step back from what I was used to with the 650's decent
battery life. Even with light phone use I would have to charge every other day.
Sometimes just leaving the phone on overnight I would find it drains by about 15 - 20%
by the next morning when it wasn't being used. (UPDATE: This problem has been
remedied by the Treo 680 Camera Update.)

The 680 doesn't seem any more power hungry, it just uses a much smaller battery that has
less capacity that its predecessor. Unfortunately that's the trade-off Palm had to make to
design a smaller and lighter model. While the battery life is not totally terrible, it will
seem a lot shorter if you're used to the 650. Even with heavy use you'll at least get a days
worth out of it, which is comparable to other smartphones currently on the market. Larger
capacity aftermarket batteries will eventually be released, but in the mean time you'll
likely need to keep the charger close by or pack a spare if you're a heavy power user. Of
course, battery life varies greatly with how you personally use the device and its features.




Software

The Treo 680 runs the Palm OS Garnet operating system v5.4.9. While this is still the
same Palm OS 5 Garnet core, there have been a number of improvements to the Palm
Treo platform that extend the functionality and multimedia capabilities of this device.

Besides the new phone app, the included software is virtually identical to the Treo 700p.
Present is the usual Palm PIM suite which includes the Calendar, Contacts, Memos and
Tasks (ToDo). Voice Recorder is present for voice memos, Pics&Videos does a good job
organizing and displaying your photos and videos shot with the Treo. The whole user
manual is included in the MyTreo app, which is a good way to get to know the ins and
outs of the device and it also provides some basic tips and tricks for getting the most out
of the device.
Pocket Tunes is included on the device for MP3 digital audio and music playback.
Owners will have an option to upgrade to Pocket Tunes Deluxe for WMA/PlaysForSure
support to subscribe to online digital music stores. Pocket Tunes works well and has
robust support for playlists, background play and sorting through artists and tracks on SD
cards. The 680 also has some of the nice streaming media features that debuted on the
700p. Both video and audio streaming over the Internet is now built in. You can access
many common live radio and video streams. For instance, you can navigate to npr.com in
the web browser and click on the 'live audio link' the media player will launch and start
streaming NPR's live radio feed to the Treo. You can also visit a some movie preview
websites such as Netflix.com and watch the streaming movie trailers.

Documents to Go v8.003 is included for office support. Docs to Go supports creating and
editing native Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint files. v8 also includes PDF to Go,
which is a native Adobe PDF viewer. You can view and edit office files received from
email attachments, stored on SD or beamed and transfered to the device. Docs to Go also
comes with a hotsync client that can keep your documents in sync with your desktop.

Email
Versamail v3.52 is included as the default email client, and has been renamed to simply
"Email." It supports POP, IMAP and Microsoft Exchange accounts. The program also
has preset support for Gmail, Yahoo Mail, .Mac, AOL email and others. For Enterprise
users whose organizations run Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, the Treo 680 has built in
Exchange Server ActiveSync that will directly import and enable corporate email,
calendar and contact synchronization. Versamail is a fairly good email program, and if
you are looking for push email options or other clients there is a wide selection of
alternatives available.

Web
Blazer v4.5 is included for browsing the web. Blazer has been enhanced with new
caching rules that make browsing both mobile device optimized and full size websites a
more pleasant experience. Instead of having to refresh and reload the entire page each
time you exit the browser or use the back and forward buttons, the page is reloaded from
the device cache. This enables much faster navigation and rendering when browsing the
web or jumping from the browser to another application and back. Palm has also
improved JavaScript support, which increases the number of sites accessible and usable
on the device. Previously on the 650, sites that used Javascript would render many sites
inoperable and would sometimes even cause the treo to reboot. The browser is also better
at loading and displaying larger, designed for desktop sites.
One the desktop side of things, Palm includes their Quick Install program for Windows.
Quick Install simplifies installing Palm OS programs and converting documents and
photos. Users can drag zip files, prc application files, photos, videos and even MS office
files into the app and it will preform the necessary conversion and install the the files on
the next hotsync. The software CD includes the Palm Desktop v4.2 for Windows
XP/2000 and Mac OS X (10.2 and above) as well as the palmOne Outlook Conduit.

Don't forget, there are thousands of commercial, freeware and open source applications,
games and utilities available for the Palm OS platform that you can download and install
to your device in addition to what is built-in. There is a active developer community that
creates some very handy treo specific programs and utilities that can enhance your
device.

A unique new service that comes with the 680 is that Cingular and Palm will offer free
telephone customer help desk support for 90 days after purchase. This is meant to help
new customers get setup smoothly and answer questions. They will help users do
anything from setting up email to customizing ringtones.
Summary
Treo 680 brings a much needed slimmer look and feel to the Treo line at a very nice price
point. While still not the flashiest or thinnest smartphone out there, the Treo 680 still
demonstrates why the Treo leads with its ease of use, large software library and powerful
functionality. To trim the size a significant battery life compromise had to be made which
may be a deal breaker for some. However the lighter load on your wallet and pocket
make up for keeping a spare battery close at hand. Technical nitpicking aside, the Treo
680 is a very powerful smartphone that is a very capable and easy to use.

The unlocked Treo 680 is available in four colors exclusively from Palm.com for $399
USD. It is available from Cingular for as low at $199. The $199 price applies after a two
year contract agreement and a unlimited data plan. It will also be available for $279 with
a one year agreement and $449 with no contract commitment.

				
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