Handspring’s Visor is the best personal digital-assistant to emerge since the Palm itself – not much of a surprise, since the team behind the original PalmPilot created this sleek, new shirt-pocket device.
Not only does the Visor mimic the Palm’s size and shape, but it’s based on the Palm operating system – so, right out of the box, it can run hundreds of Palm applications. On the pre-production unit I tested, I was able to HotSync my contacts, datebook, and other data, using the same IntelliSync software that works with my Palm IIIx.
Where the Visor differs from the Palm, is that it almost always outdoes its predecessor. The datebook offers three views the Palm doesn’t provide – weekly, annual, and appointment list – the calculator adds several advanced functions, and the HotSync cradle’s Universal Serial Bus (USB) connection moves data approximately four times faster than the Palm’s serial hook-up.
The Visor’s approach to expandability is impressively elegant: the back of the device comes off easily, exposing a small bay that accepts plug-in modules about two-thirds the size of a PC Card. By contrast, installing expansion cards on a Palm III or IIIx means fiddling with tiny screws.
Handspring itself will deliver memory, backup, and golf-game modules at product launch; other modules from Handspring and third-party vendors – including a music player, a wireless modem, and a global positioning system unit – will be available through Handspring’s Web site later.
Visors will be sold through Handspring’s Web site until the end of the year.
The Visor Solo is an outstanding deal for entry-level users. It costs $149 (about £99) with 2MB of memory, compared to $229 (£149) for the basic Palm IIIe, which doesn’t accept expansion cards. Another model, the Visor, comes with a USB cradle and 2MB of memory for $179 (£115). The $249 (£155) Visor Deluxe has 8MB of memory – like the slightly more expensive Palm IIIx. Its case comes in iMac-inspired, coloured-translucent plastic in addition to the basic charcoal grey. Happy Palm IIIx users have no cause to switch. But owners of earlier models may find Visor Deluxe a very versatile upgrade.