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
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).
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.
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
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
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