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Treo 270 Review
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Treo 270The Handspring Treo 270 is a combination PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) and cell phone. The wireless components of this unit are for use with GSM +GPRS wireless networks. Many thanks to KORE Wireless who allowed me to review this unit.

Earlier in the year I reviewed the Treo 180, which is essentially the same unit, with the exception of the colour screen that is present on the 270. If you'd like to know how the Treo 270 performs as a phone then please see the Treo 180 review. In this review I will talk about what else you can do with this unit beyond making a phone call.

Getting Organized

I'm not a terribly organized person. If it's important, then it goes on a calendar on the wall or maybe on a post-it note that ends up in my pocket. Lately I've also been using Outlook as well to post important events, but overall I have a hard time keeping track of things. Last year I ended up purchasing a little calendar notebook similar to a 'Daytimer', but I just found it a pain to carry around, boring to use, and to top it all off, it wouldn't fit in my pocket.

Being unorganized can lead to problems, so when I first tried out the Treo I knew that it could keep me organized. Am I am more organized now than a few months ago? I'd say yes, based on this handy little unit, but there's more than just being organized to the Treo unit as I found out.


To use the Treo 270 as a phone, you have to turn wireless mode on by holding down the power button until you hear a confirmation tone. Because this unit is more than just a phone, controlling the wireless mode allows you to use the Treo in places where phones are not allowed, such as during a flight. This also means immediate savings for the battery if you're the type of person that only has their mobile phone on when outside home or the office.

The Treo 270 is slightly larger than typical cell phones, such as this Audiovox handset. A Canadian $2 coin is shown for scale.
To be honest, the Treo is not as small as most cell phones on the market these days. It weighs about 30g more and is wider than average. The Treo does, however, sit on par with other combination cell phones/PDA's in both weight and overall dimensions.

Making a call is easy: flip open the panel and hit either the menu button for the phone or the phone navigation key at the bottom of the phone. When entering phone mode, the Treo 270 immediately lights up the keyboard to assist either in dialing numbers or entering additional information for a speed dial entry. The dialing screen can be set to default to one of three modes: a dialing phone pad with numbers, a speed dial list with up to 50 entries, or a contacts list with potentially hundreds of numbers that you could download from MS Outlook or another contacts application.

The Treo also features a decent speakerphone function that can be activated by hitting a button on the screen once a call is in progress. The unit does not hold as well in your hand as as regular cell phone due to its wider dimensions, which is a tradeoff between a larger screen and a smaller phone. If you do not like the width of the handset in your hand and if you're not a fan of speakerphones, the Treo 270 also includes a hands-free earpiece and microphone that you could use instead.


As mentioned in the Treo 180 review, the Treo 270 runs on Palm's Operating System. The unit comes with 16M of memory that you can fill with Palm-based applications, contact information, or just about anything else. The memory is internal and cannot be upgraded, but seeing that most applications are at most a few hundred kilobytes, you would be hard pressed to fill the memory to capacity. Various sites support free and pay Palm downloads, such as Palm Pilot Archives and Palm Gear. Applications can be downloaded to your computer and then uploaded to the Treo via the included USB cable during a HotSync operation.


You likely keep some appointments on a calendar, others you receive by email, and maybe a few you would enter on your PDA. A HotSync operation is a connection between your main computer and your PDA unit that is performed on a regular basis. HotSync allows your computer and PDA to compare your schedule and make updates on both units. Therefore after a HotSync operation, whatever appointments that were present on your PDA will now also be present on your computer and vice-versa.

I performed my HotSync operations using MS Outlook, which includes the calendar, to-do list, plus your contacts file. You may also use the Palm Desktop application to do the same thing or even find a third-party software application that suits your needs better. Whichever application you choose, all you do is set-up the HotSync software and connect the USB cable to your computer and then connect the other end of the cable to your Treo and hit the HotSync button. As mentioned above, a HotSync downloads and synchronizes whatever tasks you have chosen plus uploads any new software to your PDA.

Wireless Surfing

The Treo 270 also comes with GPRS, so besides a phone and PDA you also have access to wireless data services through GSM networks. GPRS access is activated separately from wireless access and you'll need a GPRS access account set up with your GSM wireless service provider. Note that GPRS access is usually charged on a per Kbyte basis and there might be a minimum of 10 Kb's charged per GPRS session, but this depends on your service provider. The Treo 270 unit that I tested was with Zero Gravity's GSM/GPRS services. Similar services are available with Fido and Rogers in Canada and several American GSM providers. Seeing that this unit is able to use both 900 and 1900 MHz GSM services, you can also use it for overseas travel as well.

To surf the web you need a application that is an interface between the Treo (or any PDA) and the GPRS network. One application that comes with the Palm OS is called Blazer, but some service providers offer their own, such as the SkySurf application from Zero Gravity. Regardless of which application you use, the Treo has a nice large colour screen that allows wireless surfing fun. If you're visiting wireless-optimized websites (e.g., CBC.ca, Canada.com, etc) then a special low-bandwidth page loads and you can surf quite fast. Non-optimized sites will not load as fast or you'll find yourself scrolling more, but you can see a lot more than using a typical cell phone screen for wireless data access.

One of the tests I did with the Treo 270 was to use it as a wireless modem with my laptop. This might be important if you are using a laptop in conjunction with a PDA and would like to surf the web or download information though a GPRS connection. This could be done in your car office, at an airport, or on a ferry where you have the space to use your portable computer, but lack a wired network.

I used software called PDANet to enable the Treo to connect to my laptop as a wireless handset. Setting up a new connection on my computer and hitting the 'connect' button on the Treo allowed me to surf at speeds up to 9.6Kb/second. Downloading email or surfing was comparable to using a dial-in connection and rather convenient when you don't have a wired connection, but want to use your portable computer.

PDANet allows you to use GPRS services with your portable computer.

Integrated PDA and Wireless Services

The Treo 270, along with many of the other combination PDA and cellphone units on the market, is geared towards the business user that needs to take part of the office with them whereever they go plus stay in touch with the office. Some service providers offer enhanced services, either as part of a basic wireless GPRS package or for an additional monthly fee that makes office portability easier.

As mentioned before, I tested the Treo 270 with Zero Gravity's GSM +GPRS, so below I mention some of the things that they offer as part of their GPRS package. Other GSM +GPGS and CDMA +1X service providers offer similar services, so it is always good to comparison shop for these additional features when you are choosing a service provider to go with your combination PDA and cell phone.

Zero Gravity's SkyDrive allows you to securely access and store files on an external server that you might need to retrieve later. The SkyDrive allows you to store up to 30M of files in any combination of private, public, or shared folders that are accessible to anyone else that also subscribes to SkyDrive and that you give access to. The use of the public folders would allow you to upload a document, either from your computer or the Treo unit for others to view. The shared folders would allow anyone to upload a document that you or anyone else with permission can view. For business users, this is a great way for an office to share time-sensitive documents with staff that are always on the go or need access to a file that might just have been updated back at the office.

Files can be managed either through the SkyDrive website or through the Treo SkyDrive interface and files can also be emailed to any address from the SkyDrive service.

Like HotSync operations with Outlook, you can also set up services to store both your Calendar and Tasks (to do list) online. If you wish, you can even have Outlook sync directly with the SkyDrive services. Your Treo can notify you of the event and you can even have the SkyDrive send you a reminder either via email or SMS. Tasks can also be private or public, so if your office or another user needs to set a meeting time then they can and add it to your calendar via the SkyDrive service.

The SkyDrive also comes with an email account, so you can give out an address for people to reach you and email will be delivered directly to both your Treo and to the SkyDrive website. Like other email accounts you can set filters, search messages, add folders, set signatures, set a vacation message and more.

Some service providers offer enhanced services, such as Zero Gravity's SkyDrive, to better manage and securely share documents via a wireless connection.

SkyZones are essentially bookmarks for your wireless web surfing. These can be set via the SkyDrive website and then are downloaded to your handset or alternatively you can set them on the handset and upload them to the SkyDrive website. Managing several bookmarks might be easier when you have a wired connection and a computer and will also save on your wireless bandwidth.

All of the above services are available from a wired desktop computer or wireless-enabled PDA device (e.g., Handspring, Palm, PocketPC, Blackberry, or WAP device)


I've had the Treo to test for a few months and I must admit that it is a very nice unit, especially if you have a need to surf the web and gain access to the internet in unconventional places. Not only did I try out this unit as a phone, I also used it to access my email while on a research ship in the Strait of Georgia, and took it traveling to the U.K., Southern Africa, and Australia.

As a phone, the Treo 270 is a little larger than the average cell phone, but the trade offs are in the large and easy-to-see screen. The Treo package includes the handset unit, a USB cable, travel charger, earpiece, and depending on your service provider, some additional software and a SIM card. Of course, you can customize the unit to your needs with whatever software you require from any site that offers Palm OS downloads.

Checking my email using a wireless GPRS connection on a vessel in the middle of the Strait of Georgia.