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    Handspring Treo 180
    Author: Drew Lanclos
    Date Posted: June 19th, 2002
    SLRating: SLRating: 8/10
    Bottom Line: A thorough mix of genius and asinine design decisions if there ever were one. It's sleek and lightweight, but Kyocera owners don't have anything to worry about...yet.

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    One of the first things any Palm veteran will notice after examining the Treo 180 is the departure from the Graffiti writing system, and the inclusion of a keyboard.

    Handspring says that the keypad is the way of the future of personal communicator devices (Note: Both PDAs and cellPDAs). After using the Treo 180, I suppose we can agree to disagree. Typing with the keyboard was notably faster than using a stylus, but it had several drawbacks to it. First off, if you get a Treo, read the manual for your own sake. You'll save a lot of time by learning the keyboard shortcuts for basic functionality as opposed to taking out the stylus every time you need to hit "OK" or "Cancel".

    Admittedly, Handspring did a really good job of trying to make the keyboard as functional as possible with the Treo 180. For instance, examine the layout of the keyboard and note where the phone number pad is. One could argue that it should be as close to the edge of the phone to aid in dialing, but there's a reason Handspring put it there. Normally, if you want to type numerals, you have to hold down the blue function key while hitting the numbers with your right thumb. However, if you want to simply stop what you're doing and dial a phone number to call, just start hitting the buttons. The Treo will analyze your gibberish typing and figure out that you're just trying to make a call, and it will go ahead and switch to the phone application after you're about halfway through dialing the number. Smart.

    Also, navigating through the interface is made as simple as possible. Keyboard shortcuts for Home, OK, and Cancel, can all be used by holding the function key and hitting Right Shift, Enter, or Backspace. This makes phone operation with two hands relatively painless, since that's likely how you'll be holding the phone most often.

    Alas, it's not without its problems. First off, there's no way to move the cursor. If you've been typing like mad in Memo Pad and you discover an error (You'll make them a lot) four lines back, you'll have to dig out the stylus, select the position, backspace and correct, and then put the cursor back where you were. And forget about cutting/copying/pasting without the stylus. Maybe other users won't use those functions as often as I do, but judging by the size of the keyboard, they'll definitely make mistakes.

    And that is a problem. This keyboard is so small, the Keebler elves would have problems typing on it. I have rather smaller-than-average hands and finger sizes, and I had my bouts with the keyboard trying to correctly type phrases and whatnot. One thing I believe would have greatly aided typing with the keyboard would have been to make the keys concave instead of convex. One of the more frequent problems I had was with pressing more than one key, or pressing the wrong key as my finger slipped off one button and hit another. Concave keys would not only reduce the chances of this occurring, but it'd also enable Graffiti nuts like me to touch-type with the stylus if we're doing a lot of stylus-intensive operations.

    Ultimately, that's part of what it boils down to. One of the big draws of the Palm platform is how well it can be managed with a stylus, and the openness of the platform. With close to ten years of independent software development oriented around stylus-use, many commercial and shareware applications simply aren't going to work as well because they're geared for use with the stylus. Handspring is definitely taking a chance here. If you don't want to take the chance yourself, you can opt instead of the Treo 180g, which ditches the keyboard in favor of the traditional silkscreen. However, don't count on seeing such generosity in the future; Handspring hath decreed that no future Treo models are planned with Graffiti. It's strictly keyboard from here, folks.

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    Article Navigation

    1. Introduction
    2. Features
    3. Keyboard
    4. Hardware
    5. Software
    6. Wireless Internet
    7. Pros & Cons/Conclusion

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