Review: Palm Treo 650

Posted by james on Feb. 28, 2007

First, I wanted to get something that would keep me organized. I tried a Blackberry 7100t <a href="rant.108">(my take on it)</a>, but I just didn't like the austere business-like UI design. I'd owned a few Palm handhelds before and liked the calendar and touchscreen, so I figured I'd give it a go with the <a href="http://www.engadget.com/2004/10/24/treo-650-is-official/">Treo 650</a>. And it would've been ok, if it actually worked...

The overall software design is ok, although it's a bit dated now. The UI is simple and easy to get used to, the only real drawback being that it's a one-program at a time system. You're browsing the web (or trying to... more on that later) and a text message comes in. So you go to the text message, which really means that you exit your browser and open the text program. When you're done with that, open the browser back up and reload the page (wait ... wait... 3 minutes goes by) and keep going. Fun! It's like someone slapping your book closed every time you look down to write something in your paper. The system even handles videos well, especially with the free players (TCPMP, etc) and even does a halfway decent mp3 job (albeit with TCPMP's horrible interface).

By far the worst thing about the Treo is the unreliability of the whole thing. Make a call, hang up. Send a couple text messages, then open the internet browser... CRASH! The phone reboots, wait 20 seconds, the phone has to reconnect, wait another minute, then reconnect to the network, browse to a page, start reading. The phone will crash at the simplest functions (though thankfully not often during a call), making it a huge pain in the butt to use. I'm on the road and I missed my turn or can't find my street. No worries! I'll just fire up Google's incredibly awesome (no joke!) GMaps for Palm (the flat-out best app for palm, almost saves the Treo) and look myself up on the map and find the nearest... CRASH! Some crashes are due to 3rd party programs (not Palm's fault) but most are due to the OS itself and the built-in apps. Come on Palm... it's been years, and you still can't figure this out?

The hardware is alright, comfortable and useable although a bit think. The keyboard is bad at first, then you get used to it. It's never great, as it's hard to hit the incredibly tiny buttons right on without hitting a few others too. How's the sound quality? Tin can + windtunnel.

So the good programs: TCPMP (free video/mp3 player, does good but a bad interface), Opera Mini (unstable, but loads faster than the built in browser), Google Maps for Palm (Awesome!). Bad programs: everything built-in (with exception of the actual phone bit, and the text messenger... but even those sometimes). Overall, it has almost completely disillusioned me with smartphones and makes me wish for a well built flip or slider that just does phone, can look up some email and maps, and keep a rudimentary shopping list for a few hours.

So we have a decent bit of hardware crippled by Palm's complete lack of support for the softare. Why even bother to build something nice if you're just going to fill it with garbage? It's like building a BMW, but then coming to the interior and covering the seats in garbage bags. And then crashing every time you try to check internet (which, taken literally, is probably pretty likely).

So, anyone want to buy a used Treo 650? Call me up!

PS. After using an old <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1674081,00.asp">Dell Axim x50</a> (running Windows Mobile 2003) for just a few days, I can say; there's better out there than Palm, much better. Palm has had it's day and it passed a long time ago.