- The Washington Times - Monday, May 28, 2007

An overnight jaunt of about 400 miles, round-trip, brought the chance to check out some new traveling companions.

Nice, er, phone: Palm Inc.’s recent entry into the hand-held market is officially billed in a brochure as the “Palm Treo 755P smart device.” I’m not making that up: it’s a “smart device,” not a smart phone.

Whatever. I like the new model, which sells for $279 with a Sprint PCS contract or $579 without any service. While Sprint’s network isn’t the global-girdling GSM standard favored by AT&T; (nee Cingular), I’m assured that the new Treo will work in plenty of places outside of North America. For me, I was glad it worked along U.S. Route 29 in Virginia.

Though I have been enamored of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry 8800 of late, the Treo 755P, which uses the Palm operating system, isn’t a bad substitute — and then some. Unlike the 8800, the Treo has a 2-megapixel camera built in. It also offers streaming media, including video, albeit at an additional charge to the user. This was first seen on Treo smart phones — er, devices — last year, and it’s a cool thing for frequent travelers.

The new device also offers Google Maps, a great way to find directions, as well as a “push” service for Microsoft Outlook e-mail, presumably from servers running Microsoft Exchange. These are designed to meet similar features found on BlackBerry devices.

What Palm has that BlackBerry doesn’t match is a truly wide range of applications. You can install just about any program you want with the Palm operating system, including ones to link your expenses to Quicken or other financial programs. And the device comes with Documents To Go, the DataViz “standard” that lets you view and edit Word and Excel files, and view PowerPoint and PDF files on the go. That makes the idea of a hand-held as a notebook replacement not so much of a dream.

I’m also impressed with the speed of Sprint’s EVDO data service. Advertising touts a “near broadband” experience, or words to that effect. My experience was that it was plenty fast when needed.

In short, the 755P may well have room for improvement in this or that feature, but for the road warrior, it’s far more than adequate. Figure in the Palm add-on software and the wide, wide range of accessories, and you’ve got a good mobile platform.

Great overnighter: Although I was driving, not flying, the $325 Briggs & Riley Carry-On Computer Upright was a great help on my trip. The concept is simple: Create one piece of luggage to hold clothing for a one- or two-day trip, as well as a notebook computer and some accessories, and let it fit in most overhead compartments.

In addition, the laptop compartment is on the outside of the bag for faster, easier access during security checks. The front-loading computer pocket fits most 17” laptop screens, and there’s a zippered cord pocket on the interior lid to store electronic accessories. The only drawback might be not having a supplied means of carrying the computer separately, but you can buy a laptop sleeve for that purpose.

The notion of having just one piece of luggage to carry on a short trip is great; that the Briggs & Riley product is made to be rugged — the firm’s guarantee even covers damage caused by an airline — is even more encouraging. I’ve had to trash a couple of suitcases after the rigors of overseas travel; I have the feeling this unit won’t be one of them and I can highly recommend it.

Read Mark Kellner’s tech blog at www.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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