Treo 700p good for work and play

Editor’s note: The Treo 700p will be launched in Canada this year sometime before the Holiday Season, according to a Palm Canada spokesperson.

Beach umbrella. Check. Sunglasses. Check. Trashy summer reading. Check. Treo 700p. Check.

Packing gadgets for summer vacation? I never leave home without ’em. And since the newest Sprint-branded Treo recently landed in my mailbox for review around vacation time, I decided to bring it along.

Sure, the latest Treo is loaded with features that will keep you in touch with the office, including zippy Evolution Data Optimized (EV-DO) network access, support for a wide range of e-mail accounts, Palm OS and organizer applications, Bluetooth 1.2, and more.

But is Treo 700p vacation-worthy? (Tip: When your significant other frowns about you bringing a gadget on vacation, repeat the following line: “But honey, it takes pictures and video, too!”)

Indeed, I found the Treo 700p’s 1.3-megapixel camera with 2x digital zoom and camcorder easy and fun to use. The device’s 2.5-in., 320-by-320-pixel, 65,000-color display makes a great viewfinder for shooting stills and video as well as playing back multimedia slide shows.

Palm Inc. has beefed up the included Pics & Video application, making it a breeze to create albums and slideshows with voice narration, transitions and background music. You can even use the “Draw on Picture” feature to create title and credit slides. I put together a vacation photo show in couple of minutes, drawing “ooohs” and “ahhs” on a visit with relatives.

Like many camera phones without a flash, don’t expect the Treo to work miracles in low-light situations. It produces acceptable snapshots and video of outdoor and well-lit indoor scenes.

The 128MB Treo 700p offers 60MB of available storage for photos and other files, but if you need more, the device sports an expansion slot that accepts MultiMediaCard, SD and SDIO storage cards.

Chances are you’ll want to listen to some tunes while you’re kicking back on vacation. The Treo 700p comes with the Pocket Tunes MP3 player. It’s simple to use, but note that this version doesn’t play rights-protected music. (An upgrade that plays more formats and subscription music is available at this Web site .

The Treo now includes a full version of the user manual right on the device, where you’ll find instructions for converting files to MP3 format and transferring them to the Treo with Windows Media Player or iTunes.

And forget about listening to your music through the tiny speaker on the back of this handset. You’ll have a better listening experience with headphones.

The Treo’s Web browser, Blazer, has been updated to better handle JavaScript and streaming video and audio. Clicking a link to streaming content in a Web page launches a built-in media player called Kinoma, which plays a variety of standard formats including WMA and MPEG4.

I’m not a huge fan of browsing scrunched Web pages on small phone displays and slow, choppy video, so I was curious to see what Blazer would do with Sprint Nextel Corp.’s pumped up EV-DO network.

In general, Web browsing was pretty zippy, and audio streaming was excellent. However, I’m still on the fence about video via cell phone. Once the novelty has worn off, watching small blotchy images with sound and picture occasionally out of sync just isn’t that enthralling.

That said, if you are a fan of video on the tiny screen, Sprint’s Power Vision package offers access to and a wide range of channels on Sprint TV as well as movies and other entertainment options. Fees vary.

I particularly liked the On Demand service, which offers an attractive interface for browsing news, weather, sports and other information that’s useful on vacation, like maps and directions. Two thumbs up for streaming music from Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. as well. It worked like a charm.

Stuck at your parents’ house or a hotel with dial-up? The Treo 700p supports dial-up networking over the EV-DO network, supposedly at near-broadband speeds. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test this feature because the review unit I received wouldn’t connect, and we didn’t get it resolved by my deadline.

Windows users can use the 700p to connect to the Internet via Bluetooth or Universal Serial Bus. Mac users are limited to a Bluetooth connection. During my attempts to set a USB connection, I was miffed to find that the Sprint connection software isn’t included on the setup disk that comes with the phone. It requires a download from the Web, which is tough to do by dial-up. If you’re planning to use this feature, make sure to configure and test it before you hit the road.

Finally, it’ll be tough, but try to resist the urge to check the work e-mail. For personal mail, the 700p’s VersaMail application works with a wide range of accounts, including Yahoo, Gmail, Comcast and Apple.Mac.

I quickly configured VersaMail for my Yahoo and Gmail accounts, but the application inexplicably stopped downloading from the Gmail account. Since I was in vacation mode, I didn’t bother to troubleshoot.

If someone from the office insists on calling you, I recommend the 700p’s new “ignore with text” option, which lets you dash off a text message to shoo ’em away.

Now for the reality check. Gadgeteering like this on vacation doesn’t come cheap. Verizon Communications Inc. and Sprint offer the 700p, but to use it as a modem, it’ll will cost you US$40 to $60 a month on top of your service plan. And once you throw in fees for premium content, it’s pricey enough to ruin your mellow vacation vibe.

-Michelle Johnson is a freelance writer in Boston.

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