Sunday, April 22, 2007

In Praise of the Treo 680

Well, it's been nearly a month with my new Treo 680, and I'm pleased to report it's been a significantly better device than I had anticipated. I was moving from a Palm TX, with it's big screen and integrated WiFi, with a Bluetooth connection to my Sony Ericsson Z520 as backup. My biggest concerns were the sacrifice of speed of WiFi and the lack of screen real estate, as well as the purported disastrous Treo 680 battery life. I'm please to report that all of those concerns have been addressed.

Ok, let's start with the obvious. The keyboard is phenomenally easy to use, and makes mobile email a reality. Yes, I am now getting enticed by the prospects of checking email at any moment, but even for things like Twitter or detailed messages, it's extremely workable. The form factor of the Treo is the right balance of size and sleekness to me: it allows me to slip the Treo in a blazer pocket or the front pocket of my jeans, equally. Having never had another Treo, I can't comment on the lack of antenna that people praise the 680 for, but it certainly feels smaller than it is. Battery access is readily available (more on this later), and the stylus is VERY well integrated into the body. I also appreciated the ports being the same as the Palm TX, so I could use my chargers, etc. Other nice touches: a physical switch that allows me to switch the 680 to "vibrate" mode, without having to navigate menus, etc. VERY handy for meetings with clients. Advantage: 680.

Let's get the speed stuff out of the way: I hadn't realized that I was only on GPRS with my Sony, not EDGE. It makes QUITE a difference. Is it like DSL? No, but it is absolutely equally as fast as my TX's WiFi connection. And, without the overhead of the Bluetooth connection, it seems to be even more responsive. The keyboard, responsiveness, and EDGE performance do not make me miss my TX at all. The one concern I had was in downloading podcasts, but QuickNews lets you sync on HotSync updates, so no real impact. Advantage: 680.

Screen real estate. Yep, the 680 is noticeably smaller. Watching widescreen movies is a joke, though downloaded TV shows are perfectly acceptable. The screen is incredibly vivid, and very high resolution, even with a screen protector. Still, for multimedia, it's a hard adjustment. Advantage: TX.

SD card support. The 680 adds a very helpful cover to make the SD card slip unnoticed into the body. Despite my trepidations, it supports my 4GB card…most of the time. About once a week it can no longer "see" the card, and I need to reset it. Can be very frustrating, especially when it happens on a bike ride where I'm using PocketTunes to stream to my Bluetooth headset. Advantage: TX.

Bluetooth. My Sony phone was not all that comfortable with the Jawbone, but did offer voice dial support for Bluetooth headsets. For some reason, this is not a function allowed by Treo's (asinine). I'm trying some software solutions to see if they will help, but the phone at least keeps the pairing with the Jawbone. The Motorola Bluetooth headset is definitely more troublesome: it frequently loses the connection, but this may be more of a result of the updated software program. It does, however, stream sound from movies over Bluetooth, whereas the TX choked. Advantage: Tie.

Other miscellaneous issues have been reported as poor battery life, though I don’t have an issue with it: I have chargers at work and home, so it's fine. It does get a little addled with a lot of activity, but that's OK.

Downsides:
  • The case is smooth. Too smooth. When one-handed typing, I am always afraid it'll slip out of my hand like a bar of soap. There is one rubberized point, but it only helps if you hold the Treo in your left hand. I'm probably looking at a "skin" case in my future.
  • What the hell is with the radiation this thing throws off? Every had your cell phone close to a landline telephone or a speaker, and heard that buzzing? You quickly move your phone away, and all is fine, right? Not with the 680: this sucker needs to be FEET away from the interfering speaker. It seems just OK if I have in my pocket, and I sort of push my body between it and the phone, but it's amazingly stronger interference than any other phone or device I have ever had. I have to solve this, as clients are getting tired of having their eardrums ripped apart.
  • Who stole the reset button? Look, I know we all want Palm devices to never need a reset, but with the crap I load in, it is an unfortunate necessity. Granted, the unplanned resets are less (not nonexistent, however) with the 680 compared to the TX, but the only way to reset the Treo is to pop out the battery and put it back in. Pain in the ass.
  • Laggy UI. When the Treo gets bogged doing multiple things, it starts responding sluggishly to the keyboard. Yes, it catches up, but very frustrating.


Overall, I am extremely pleased with the 680. The convenience of having an all in one device, along with the enhanced data usage and keyboard, and the elegant form factor, make me very happy with the choice. Do I miss the TX? Well, with it's broken reset button and overtaxed OS, it was getting long in the tooth in any case, but no, overall, I do not. I highly recommend the 680 for anyone.

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