Handspring Treo 270

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For several months, Handspring has been talking about unveiling a colour version of its well-received handheld/cellphone hybrid. Now, the company has finally made good on its promise with the release of the Treo 270, which, like the Treo 180 and 180g, works on GSM networks. Handspring was unable to get us a final production model in time for a complete review on the day that the product launched, but we have examined a beta unit and have some first impressions to impart.

The first thing to know about the 270, which comes in a North America GSM 900/1900 version and a Europe/Asia GSM 900/1800 version, is that it's virtually identical to the Treo 180 except that it has a colour screen. Handspring has managed to fit the colour display into a case that's the same size –- 11cm by 6.9cm by 1.8cm -- as those of previous Treos, but the 270 weighs 6g more for a total of 153g.

The screen is 12-bit (4,096 colours) and bright, but it's not nearly as sharp as the high-resolution screens found on Sony's CLIE handhelds. Still, it's a big improvement over the monochrome screen found on the Treo 180, and it doesn't seem to adversely affect battery life. After hearing complaints about the original Treo suffering from lacklustre battery life, Handspring went out and boosted battery life in this model -- the company says that you can now get up to 3 hours of talk time and 150 hours of standby time. The 270 also features a backlit keyboard, which should make thumb typing in the dark much easier.

The 270 offers the same blend of phone and handheld features as Handspring's monochrome models. It's worth noting, however, that Treo Mail, which allows you to send and receive your business or personal email from your Treo, has just come out of beta trials and has been officially released. You can add it to the Treo 270 or the Treo 180.

The Treo 270 will initially be available for purchase from Handspring's Web site, costing £549 (inc. VAT) without an airtime contract. The company has not yet announced which carriers will offer the product. Handspring will also offer a free downloadable software patch that makes the phone compatible with GPRS networks, hopefully by the end of the summer.

Handspring's Treo tries colour