Palm Treo 650 Review

By: Ryan Kairer
March 29th, 2005

The Treo 650 is the third incarnation of the Treo smartphone series. It builds upon the successes of it's past siblings and adds many requested features and enhancements.

The Treo 650 is primarily made of plastic but has a overall solid feel. The front of the device houses the status LED, earpiece speaker, screen and the keyboard. Unlike previous palmOne handhelds, the status LED on the Treo 650 is quite functional and can indicate a number of different states as shown here. The edges and corners of the device are all smooth and slightly rounded. Below the display lies the central navigation ares with the application buttons and the 5-way navigator. The full qwerty thumboard lies below the screen completing the data centric smartphone design.

The right side of the device hides the infrequently used stylus silo, while the left has large volume rocker and a configurable application button, which was likely placed with a push to talk feature in mind. The bottom contains the new palmOne multi-connector and a smaller 2.5mm headset jack. The top of the device holds a rounded exposed antenna stub the SD card slot, SIM card bay (on GSM versions), the IR window and a convenient silent mode switch.

The rear of the Treo contains the VGA camera, with a small circle mirror for self portaits. Underneath the camera is a speaker-grill for the speakerphone and music playback. Next to that is the button to remove the battery door, which exposes the removable battery and reset hole, which can be triggered by the stylus tip.

The Treo 650 has physical dimensions of 4.4 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches (11.3 x 5.9 x 2.3 cm) and weighs 6.3 ounces (178g).

palmOne Treo 650 smartphone review palmOne Treo 650 smartphone review Cingular Treo 650

The 650 is powered by a 312 MHz Intel PXA270 processor and runs Palm OS Garnet v5.4.5. It has 32 Megabytes of non-volatile memory, of which 23.7MB is user accessible. The non-volatile memory allows the memory contents to be preserved even when the battery is removed or out of power. The Treo also incorporates a SD memory expansion slot which can accommodate MMC, SD and SDIO memory cards. However, it does not yet support the palmOne WiFi SD card at launch. palmOne claims to be evaluating the situation, so there is only a slight potential the card will eventually be supported.

The Treo 650 has a very sharp 16bit color, 320x320 pixel TFT screen, which measures just under 2 x 2 inches. palmOne outfitted the 650 with a high resolution screen in about the same spacial area as the Treo 600 making for a very crisp text and graphics experience. The fonts are extra smooth and photos and graphics look great. The screen also offers improved visibility in direct sunlight, though slightly washes out. There is a backlight slider which can also turn the backlight completely off.

The Treo 650 has a improved thumboard over the Treo 600. The keys are now slightly larger and flatter and are arranged in a curved smile pattern. This new design is much more ergonomic and makes thumb typing on the 650 a more effective and smoother experience than its predecessors. It also has an improved backlighting system for the keys. The keys glow a sharp white color that is especially bright at night and consistently well lit. One minor complaint is that there is no option to adjust or turn off the keyboard backlights and they always remain on when the device is in use.

The Treo 650 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. The camera's quality is vastly improved over the Treo 600's. Photo's are more realistic and colors and light balancing are much more accurate. Pictures can be automatically stored in configurable photo albums to either the handheld memory or preferably an SD card. Below are three unedited shots taken with the 650's camera under various lighting conditions from indoors to sunny and cloudy:

Treo 650 photo Treo 650 photo Treo 650 photo

Phone & Wireless Specs
The GSM Treo has a quad band wireless radio that uses the 850/900/1800/1900 MHz frequencies. The CDMA model uses a digital dual-band CDMA/1xRTT radio operating on the 800/1900 MHz bands. The GSM model also support high speed EDGE networks with data speeds averaging up to 135 kilobits per second (kbps). It also features E911 compliance with a built in GPS chip that is solely used for the enhanced E911 emergency location service.

In addition to its wireless phone network capabilities the Treo 650 has built in Bluetooth wireless. Bluetooth enables a number of new accessories including wireless headsets, bluetooth GPS, wireless hotsyncing etc. When enabled, with Bluetooth Dial up networking can use your Treo as a mobile modem taking advantage of its data connection to use on your laptop or PC. However, certain carriers have disabled Bluetooth DUN by default, but fortunately there are patches available to re-enable this feature.

The Treo 650 has a dual speaker design, with the front earpiece speaker used for phone calls only while the rear handles the sysytem sounds, games and music. If you want to listen to digital audio via a headset you'll need the 3.5mm stereo adapter. The rear speaker is well placed just under the camera and can be very loud. There is an excellent selection of ringtones that can also be used as alarms. (finally some new and modern alarm sounds!)

The Treo 650 comes with a 1900 mAH Li-ion rechargeable battery that can be removed via a cover on the back. Additional replacement batteries are sold by palmOne for $59.99 USD each. Battery life for GSM models is rated at 6 hours talk and 300 hours standby, while the CDMA version gets 5 hours of talk and 300 standby. Tapping on the small battery icon will tell you how much battery life is left percentage wise. With my own personal usage pattern, which included heavy internet usage and a few phone calls a day, I am able to charge up every 3-4 days or so, which is very impressive for a high end phone.

The Treo 650 runs Palm OS Garnet v5.4.5. This is the latest version of Palm OS 5 and is mainly a maintenance release from v5.2. It also includes palmOne's excellent Updated PIM applicationa, which have been previously covered in our Zire 72 review.

Treo 650 phone applicationPhone Application
The phone application is the centerpiece of the software that controls calls, contacts, dialing and jumping to a list of your shortcuts or favorite applications. It allows you to simply start punching in numbers to dial or you can access your contacts with ease. The favorites function allows you to setup quick links to applications, contacts, lists of contacts and web links. It has a neat scrolling animation when you expand the list, which can store 70 shortcuts.

The phone application also shows your signal and battery strength, bluetooth status and has an option to list your next calendar appointment. You can also easily set a background photo or have a standard dialing pad. Another feature I found useful was that it asks you to store new contacts and numbers when you make or receive a call from a number not already stored on your device.

With the addition of the new more phone like, green and red send/end buttons initializing and ending calls is much more straightforward. You can also tap the green phone button from within the phone app to bring up a shortcut list of your recently dialed calls and can find shortcuts to your call history or the dial pad.

One Handed Navigation
One thing the Treo 650 really excels in is its one handed operation. The 5-way navigator and on screen cursor make it possible to perform many tasks without needing to use the stylus. In fact it's pretty rare that I even find myself pulling out the stylus when using the Treo. There is a light blue glow that highlights dialogs and form elements, that acts much like an on screen cursor. It really makes using the handheld with one hand easy and much more intuitive. It works well within many of the included apps and is also compatible with many existing old and newer third party programs.

The Treo 650 includes palmOne's Blazer browser v4.0 for wireless web surfing and Versamail v3.0 for email and messaging. Blazer is an excellent and very speedy browser. It renders web pages significantly faster because it displays the text first, before loading the formatting and images. It has both an optimized and a widescreen mode and support javascript and VPN connections (with VPN software). The browser also has excellent support for bookmarks and offers proxy and proxyless browsing modes

With VersaMail's support for POP and IMAP email servers, users can download mail wirelessly or by synchronizing with their desktops. For Enterprise users whose organizations run Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, the Treo 650 has built in Exchange Server ActiveSync that will directly import and enable corporate email and calendar synchronization. The Treo 650 lets users send and receive sms/mms text messages, photos or video clips right away from one application with a single inbox. Text messages are threaded in a IM chat-style view.

Three Treo'spalmOne bundles the latest v7 release of Dataviz's Documents to Go on the included CD. Docs to Go supports creating and editing native Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint files. You can use files received from email, Bluetooth, stored on SD or beamed to the device.

One the desktop side of things, palmOne includes their Quick Install program for Windows. Quick Install simplifies installing programs and converting documents and photos for handheld use. Users simply 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 for windows and Mac as well as the palmOne Outlook Conduit.

The Treo 650 is a true rich smartphone experience combining the best phone and PDA aspects. I can say with ease that it is the best phone as well as PDA that I have used. The rich built in software suite and excellent hardware combined with the large catalogue of Palm OS software makes for an excellent mobile communicator platform.

The Treo 650 can be purchased from the Palm online store. Prices vary based on carriers and commitment plans and typically range from $449 USD to $699 for the unlocked GSM model.

PIC Bottom Line

  • Excellent out of the box experience
  • Great Screen
  • Rich Software, One handed operation
  • Good Battery life; removable
  • Small Internal Memory
  • No WiFi Drivers
  • Slow Carrier rollout for some

RATING: 9 / 10
Design: 4.5 Elegant Industrial Design
Features: 4 Thumboard, Wireless
Screen: 4.5 Vibrant, Crisp Display
Battery: 4 Lasting Battery Life, NVFS RAM
Value: 4 Best Smartphone on the Market

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RE: Woo Hoo!

Frenchie @ 3/29/2005 7:43:45 PM # Q
Good review. Oh and there are wifi drivers availible ;) Shadomite did an awesome job getting the T5 drivers to work on the 650. A suggestion, could you add a link to the page that Mr. Kessler has so willingly written. Good job again.

The world will end in 2006. Just as it was predicted in the bible along with the release of Microsoft Longhorn.... :p
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Shame on you PalmOne!

lorettaboy @ 3/29/2005 9:22:56 PM # Q
32MB of RAM is simply a joke.
No Wifi? Please! PalmOne is about 2-3 years behind every other handheld manufacturer in this regard.
A .3 MP digital camera? With other phones now having 5-7MP cameras, this really makes the new treo look bad.

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
twizza @ 3/29/2005 10:05:43 PM # Q
For the target market, they either dont know what the rest are doing, or dont care.

Outside of those that frequent boards, you rarely hear the too little space argument.

The 650's camera at .3 is tons better than most any camera, except for a few, stress that few, Nokias. PalmOne did a great job with making a camera that takes quality pics and wont kill your $$ when you go MMS with it.

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
LiveFaith @ 3/29/2005 11:08:34 PM # Q
5-7mpx on a phone! Link please?

Pat Horne;
RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
joad @ 3/29/2005 11:49:29 PM # Q
I believe this is one of the best overall reviews of the 650 I've read. The memory problems are even acknowledged.

But enough about the 650... anyone have any good rumors on the Treo 700 yet? Springtime's here!!!

7 Megapixel cameras on phones? You betcha...
The_Voice_of_Reason @ 3/30/2005 2:11:46 AM # Q
5-7mpx on a phone! Link please?

Does your Mama still wipe your bottom, too? Google is your friend, man.

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”

TVoR's Razor: "Teach a lazy biotch to use Google and maybe you won't have to see as many useless questions from him/her as the Lord now forces us to endure."

Can I get an "Amen", Brothers and Sisters? Glory, Hallelujah!



And to give you an idea what Palm is competing with (and why Palm doesn't appear to have a hope in Hell), take a look at these phones:

Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Motorola, etc. don't fcuk around. They're going to eat Palm alive.


Press release: CUPERTINO, California — February 11, 2005 — Apple® announced today that Steve Jobs will begin selling his own feces to Apple Cultists beginning March 1. Apple's new iPoo™ lineup is expected to easily surpass the iPod shuffle as the company's most popular product. Yes, Apple Cultists can already easily create their own iPoo™, but feces didn't seem cool until Jobs told them it was cool. Remember, kids: the ONLY cool feces is Jobs' highly individualistic, rebellious iPoo™ (coming soon in six different colors/flavors, including the red [hematochezia] and black [melena] U2 GI bleed model)


Sony CLIE UX100: 128 MB real RAM, OLED screen. All the PDA anyone really ever wanted.

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
MovableTechnology51 @ 3/30/2005 8:08:50 AM # Q
I've never read such drivel in all my life. Maybe when you learn to type will your posts seem intelligent. Maybe you're just an employee of the other companies and you're trying to do a "hatchet job" on PalmOne.

All of the above devices have problems working in the US either because of network problems and a lack of software. Treo has one singular advantage over ANY Windoze device and that is the availability of third party software. I've used both PocketPC devices and Palmone and the Treo wins hands down. I don't trust Windoze on my PC, why should I trust it run on my phone? The same critique goes for Blackberry, a really stupid device. My wife's cousin could not use a Blackberry for infrared beaming of a phone number even though the Blackberry has an infrared port!

To all those who critize PalmOne for not building in a WiFi radio, my response is: have you checked the availability of Wifi sites lately? There are few Wifi sites except within the major US cities, and those of us who live in the country find Wifi useless. The Treo 650 from Cingular works even in the country.

I rest my case.

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
scyber @ 3/30/2005 8:25:14 AM # Q
Ahhhh.. yes, I always forget that technology from 5 months ago is supposed to match technology from the past month.

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
relyons @ 3/30/2005 9:55:48 AM # Q
Read those links from "The Voice."

I quickly discovered that "The Voice" is comparing the camera in a product available today (Treo 650) to the cameras in products that aren't available in this country or aren't available period.

The Samsung seven megapixel hasn't been released anywhere. The Samsung five megapixel is only available in Korea.

The LG phones are just announcements. They aren't available anywhere.

The Sony cameras are previews. They aren't available anywhere.

RTFA yourself and discover how "The Voice" misleads people.

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
dstrauss @ 3/30/2005 2:42:12 PM # Q
RGHT ON. Look at the "Great" Samsung i550; announced almost 18 months ago; multi-megapixel, OS5, hi-res - you name it - and now CANCELLED by Samsung before it even hit the street. COmpare apples to apples folks. The 650 has been on the street since NOVEMBER 2004 - where are all these hot shots you're comparing to the 650?

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
Calroth @ 3/30/2005 6:57:10 PM # Q
Guess why there is a camera on the Treo 650?


Its primary purpose is NOT to replace your digital camera, it is NOT to take high-quality photos, and it is NOT to win photography contests. It is to send via MMS to other mobile phones, thus earning money for your telco.

Given that, what the hell is the point of a higher-resolution camera? Sure, a camera with better quality for the same resolution is fine, which is what PalmOne did when upgrading from 600 to 650. But there is no way that you can send a 1MB 2048x1536 pixel image over the phone network to your buddies.

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
lorettaboy @ 4/1/2005 8:54:30 AM # Q
"Its primary purpose is NOT to replace your digital camera, it is NOT to take high-quality photos, and it is NOT to win photography contests. It is to send via MMS to other mobile phones, thus earning money for your telco."

Its NOT all of those things simply because it's quality is pretty terrible.

"Given that, what the hell is the point of a higher-resolution camera?"

The point of having a higher-resolution camera in a phone, IS to replace your dedicated digatal camera. The several products mentioned above are evidence enough of this. If you have a 5MP camera in your phone, why would you need another digital?

don't wish for big worthless numbers
hotpaw4 @ 4/3/2005 3:58:20 PM # Q
Megapixel count is irrelevant if the lens can't resolve that detail. A so-called 5 megapixel camera with a small aperature diffraction limited lens just wastes memory. A high resolution lens is big (it's a simple law of physics). Most people like their cell phones small and thin.
RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
Calroth @ 4/3/2005 6:50:45 PM # Q
"The point of having a higher-resolution camera in a phone, IS to replace your dedicated digatal camera. The several products mentioned above are evidence enough of this. If you have a 5MP camera in your phone, why would you need another digital?"

This would be all well and good if YOU dictated the requirements of the camera.

However, you do not!

The telephone companies do. Why? Because they are the ones making money off this every time somebody sends an MMS. They are the ones giving PalmOne a kickback for including a camera. And they sure as hell do not want 5MP images going across their data networks.

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
Calroth @ 4/3/2005 6:53:21 PM # Q
I should also say that PalmOne would rather DROP the camera than introduce a 5MP one. Why? Because businesses do not want it. Because it costs extra money to put one in (especially an expensive 5MP one). And because they already offer a camera-free option, so it would be simpler for them to drop the camera option and only offer one choice.

RE: Shame on you PalmOne!
billjw @ 4/22/2005 9:04:14 PM # Q
Interesting perspectives from everyone.

Just as a thought what are the specs on the Samsung et al camera phones with regards to their PIM functions?

I am assuming they have a pretty robust OS too? I hope so cos I'll look into it more seriously if they do.


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oneself @ 3/30/2005 5:37:00 AM # Q
Whould be very good to make review of TREO with present and future competitors=)

iPaq6340 (haha)

BenQ P50

HPC great new device

I personally do not see any _real_ competitors to 650. Hi-res, Bluetooth, SD, great one hand operation, qwerty and palm OS together in one device? PRICELESS!=)

RE: competitors
lorettaboy @ 3/30/2005 10:31:58 AM # Q
You don't see these devices as good competition, come on?
The Benq device has twice the RAM, larger screen, Wifi, and a superior 1.3MP camera.
HP Mobile Messenger HW6715 will have 64MB RAM, 520MHz processor, 1.3MP camera, Bluetooth, Wifi, and GPS built-in!
If these aren't good examples of decent competition, then I don't know what is?
And let's not get into the whole "why do people want wifi in their devices" argument. The simple fact of the matter is, people DO want wifi in these devices. This is why thousands of users switched to PPC devices when the T5 came out.
Deny it all you want, PalmOne is notorious for releasing new products with specs. you would expect from devices 2 years ago.

RE: competitors
jamesgood72 @ 3/30/2005 11:31:22 AM # Q

You can't compare the amount of RAM on PalmOS and PPC devices... I consider myself a power user, and yet haven't had problems with the amount of RAM in my T650.

Wifi? My UX50 had it, and it was nice, but only because GPRS was so slow through BT on my T68i. Saying that, the only thing I used Wifi for was hotsyncing. I haven't yet felt the need for Wifi on the Treo, since the Edge GPRS is quick enough for web browsing on that small screen. Always on email via Edge is much quicker than on demand checking via Wifi.

Obviously, the danger is PalmOS efficiency is losing out in the 'feature comparison wars'.

What device do you use on a day to day basis?


RE: competitors
lorettaboy @ 3/30/2005 12:17:03 PM # Q
Hey James,
I am currently using an HP hx2750 for my daily needs. It has 128MB of RAM and is the fastest handheld device on the market. I use wifi, on average, about 2 hours per day.
The only problem with using GPRS for internet is that it costs $20-$30/month (unlimited) on top of the normal cell plans, whereas wifi is almost always free. In Canada, where wifi has not caught on as much as in the US, my university still has about 30 AP's on campus.
Also, in Canada, cell phone carriers do not yet have unlimited data plans like US carriers do. Here in Ottawa for instance, we pay $25 for only 4MB of activity. I do more than 4MB of activity using my wifi on a daily basis.

RE: competitors
jamesgood72 @ 3/30/2005 1:29:36 PM # Q
Hey Loretaboy,

Yeah, I have unlimited data, so it's really convenient. Whereever I am, I can use the Internet, and my email comes at me!

So what kind of Internet access are you doing for 2 hours? Just general browsing?

THe one thing I wish I had more RAM for would be cache within Blazer (the browser). That should have the option of using my SD card.


RE: Competitors
Chanbingo @ 12/2/2005 2:19:17 AM # Q
You can't compaire PPC to Palm RAM amout. I have been a real poweruser of Palm handhelds for years and now the Treo 650 for six months. 32 MB means a lot for Palm applications. For media files you can use up to 2GB SD card storage without a fuss.

I have had had hands on experiences with most recent Nokia models. The things is you can't compaire Treo 650 to those phone or PDA since this is converged device.

Only now there are NOKIA and SE models coming out which are on far with Treo 650.


If you consider having a PC on your hand that has phone features then only think of Treo 650.

See more:


Life is a rollercoaster. I love the free fall!

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Versamail = bad email client.

jamesgood72 @ 3/30/2005 10:02:14 AM # Q
Pretty good review, although I think you should have concentrated more on the supplied software. That's what makes the hardware useful...

When I got my phone, to be honest, I was almost dissapointed. The problems were with the supplied software. Versamail was completely rubbish, kept crashing, very unstable. How could they ship a wireless smart phone with such a bad email client?

Then I found Chatteremail! I have to say, the Treo is the best thing I've bought in ages now. Always on, push email is the best, and Chatter is nice and stable. Works well with one handed operation, and is memory efficient. Why Palm have not snapped up this software is beyond me.

The SMS client shipped with the device was pretty good though. Quick, usable, nice looking and creates a log of all your messages, organised by sender.

The Real MP3 player was pretty bad. Pockettunes does a very good job though, and was much more usable on the 650 compared to how it was on the UX50. Use it all the time, hooked up my MINI's H/K audio system.

Documents to Go is pretty good, although a bit memory hungry. I can easily my pilots log book in it's native Excel format, which is pretty cool. I haven't tried the work processor part very much - I usually just use the memopad.

The much hyped (usually by people who don't use PalmOS machines any more) memory problems were not even close to being an issue, and that was after syncing my 7 years worth of Palm data. All my pictures, MP3s and Emulator ROMS went on my 1GB SD cards.

With the Versamail sync, and DTG sync, the Hotsync is getting a little bloated. Pity about that.

Battery life has been excellent, even with Chatteremail connected all the time. With about an hour of MP3 playing per day, and always on email, plus usual PDA use, I can easily run for one day (with plenty of reserve) or just about push to two days without charging.


RE: Versamail = bad email client.
rgg55 @ 2/10/2006 8:38:20 PM # Q
Your knowledge and experience with the 650 leads me to think you may be able to answer my question. For the last 2 years, I've been using my m515 to keep statistics at my son's baseball games on a software app called 'Scorekeeper." (The data is then loaded into separate software on my laptop where it is broken down, compiled, etc.) In the course of a game, I'll make between 3 and 10 entries per pitch, for a total of 500 or more per game. My 515 would handle two games a day, sometimes 4 per weekend, with only an overnight charge (if I kept the backlighting on the screen off.) Alas, the 515 is on its last microchip and i'm considerine the 650 smartphone, to kill a number of birds with one stone. My questions are (1) will the 650 hold up to this kind of use and (2) is the screen visible in sunlight with backlight reduced or turned off? Any help you can offer would be appreciated. Thanks.


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Data manager fixed yet?

Tuckermaclain @ 4/2/2005 8:12:23 PM # Q
It is unuseable to me with the bugs in the data manager patch. Any word on if it was fixed yet?

Reply to this comment

Phone features are incomplete

hodari @ 6/27/2005 3:06:17 PM # Q
Having read the review, I went out and bought a GMS unlocked TREO 650. I have used SonyEricson P800 and P900 - brilliant phones but less on PDA.

I started using the TREO650 and taking it for a spin. Some issues:

1. I tried to send a contact from address book via SMS - Error comes up that the interface is not supported. What? This is a basic feature of all mobile phones that I know of ie NOKIA and SONY

2. SMS is incomplete. No option for receiving a confirmation that the message has been delivered. This is a standard SMS feature on all GSM Phones.

3. When I make a call or receive a call I have the option to add the record. The Phonesoftware is not smart enough to open an existing record and just add the new number to an existing record

4. Overall the phone software is not smooth.

The PDA stuff is as good as it has always been on PALM. I last used PALM Vx. The address book, the calendar hardly have changed...

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techno nerd @ 5/4/2006 5:40:57 PM # Q
dont know if this has already been said but, u can get wifi on the 650

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