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Handspring Visor Deluxe PDA Review

Handspring Visor Deluxe PDA Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: Aside from the cell phone, one device that has become very popular among the business professional is the personal digital assistant, or PDA.
 80% Rating:   
Filed under: Computer / SFF PCs Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Handspring Aug 20 2000   D. Deveaux  
Home > Reviews > Computer / SFF PCs > Handspring Visor Deluxe

Springboard Modules

For example, by simply sliding a module into the slot, the Visor can instantly be turned into a portable MP3 player (complete with 32MB of storage) or a digital camera. You may be thinking, "so what? My Windows CE based Pocket PC does that too? What makes this different?" True, these particular PDA's also serve similar functions, but come at the cost of ease of use, speed, and more money out of your pocket. To further add icing to the cake, the Springboard offers true Plug & Play.

All drivers needed for a Springboard module are loaded into the Visor's memory upon insertion, and unloaded upon removal. Try that with a Compact Flash or PC Card device (other than a flash memory module).

Note that the Visor Deluxe is available in five various colors (all but the graphite is translucent). Very useful for the designer crowd, it definitely does attract attention. For the current time however, none of the Visors are available in a super slim design (such as the Palm V series), or has a color display (Palm IIIc).

Bundled Applications

The calculator includes a scientific/metric conversion mode, which is VERY useful, and one that I'm surprised isn't included with the Palm organizers. The World clock is useful for travelers, and the Date Book has been enhanced to display both a week at a glance and a yearly view. The yearly view is extremely small, which limits its usefulness, but the week at a glance is perfect. This mirrors similar layouts common in most paper based organizers. Aside from these, the rest of the bundled applications are the same as what is found on the regular Palm OS.

Installation

Being a USB device, I naturally assumed the Visor would be easy to connect to my computer, and luckily this turned out to be the case. Upon connecting the sync cradle into my system, Windows 98 automatically detected the device and prompted me for the drivers. After pointing it to the included CD ROM, the drivers were loaded with no problems at all.

Installing both the Palm Desktop software (for synchronizing) also proceeded flawlessly. After instructing the installer to sync with Palm Desktop to store my address book and appointment data, and Outlook Express for e mail, I was all set. After entering a few names and phone numbers on the Visor itself, I simply inserted the device into the cradle and pressed the Hotsync button. Just like a Palm, the Visor automatically synchronized all the data, and it was immediately accessible on my desktop.

Next came time to install some applications onto the Visor. Rather than install one app at a time, I told Palm Desktop to install a keyboard driver (for the Stowaway keyboard), Avantgo (an offline web browser), and OmniRemote (a utility that turns the Visor into a universal remote control). Upon pressing the Hotsync button again, all applications were transferred over within a minute (after running through the Avantgo setup program, that is). Doing the same over a serial port connection would have easily taken over five times as long.
Considering that the mantra for Palm OS devices is their ease of use, it's no surprise that the Visor scored well in this regard. The graffiti handwriting recognition was a breeze to use (although a guide is included for those unfamiliar with it). Using the bundled applications was also very easy, as the majority of them are common to all Palm OS devices.

One of my favorite features is the infrared beaming of applications or an electronic business card. After entering my contact information, and setting it as my business card, sending to a Palm V organizer was effortless (and fairly fast too). Beaming of applications took a bit longer, but most still completed in under a minute. As with any IR based communication though, the devices must have a line of sight between the Infrared ports, or the connection will fail.

To gauge how well the Springboard module works, I used the 8MB Flash Module sold by Handspring ($39 US). Upon inserting the module, the Visor beeped, and a new icon appeared in the Application Launcher (File Mover). Clicking this new icon brought up a utility to transfer files to and from the flash module. Transfer speeds were fairly reasonable, although a bit slow for filling up the entire module. As with any Springboard module, removing the flash card unloaded the File Mover from memory.

One aspect I especially like about the Visor is its reverse backlighting system (also found on the newer Palms). Unlike traditional backlighting, which lights the background, the reverse backlighting highlights the text. I actually found this far more comfortable over extended periods of time, although your preference may vary.

At $249 (for the Visor Deluxe), Handspring has created a very useful PDA that easily beats the Palm IIIxe (it's closest competitor). Offering USB synchronization and the Springboard module for expansion, the Visor clearly goes where no Palm has gone before. Unless a super slim design or a color display is important, there is no denying that the Visor has what it takes to become a serious Palm competitor.

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Contents of Article: Handspring Visor Deluxe
 Pg 1.  Handspring Visor Deluxe PDA Review
 Pg 2.  — Springboard Modules

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