Handspring Visor Platinum

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  • Editors' rating
    8.2 Excellent

Pros

  • 33MHz processor
  • 8MB of RAM
  • Springboard expansion slot
  • smart silver case

Cons

  • Not noticeably faster in use than the cheaper Deluxe model
  • monochrome screen
  • moderate battery life.

If you want an expandable Palm OS pocket computer with the speed and power of Handspring's £340 (ex. VAT) Visor Prism, but you don't want colour, the new £212 (ex. VAT) Platinum is the model you'd pick.

The Platinum has the same 8MB of RAM, the same Springboard expansion slot, and the same 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ processor as the colour Prism. Unfortunately it doesn't have the same rechargeable battery.

Right now, it isn't obvious why you'd want the extra processor speed. Unless you're playing Sim City, it's hard to find an application that takes longer to respond on the Platinum than it does on the £169 (ex. VAT) Deluxe model with its 16MHz CPU. Some reviewers have claimed that the Graffiti handwriting recognition is quicker, but this wasn't visible here.

The downside of a fast processor and 8MB of memory is that battery life suffers, especially if you use applications like AvantGo, the offline Web clipping service. Reading the newspapers on a pocket computer may be cool, but it means you keep the machine on instead of just flipping it into life to look up a phone number or enter an appointment.

The problem is, if you use the standard AA alkali cells, you will spend a fortune. We found that we were getting through four a week, and it could easily have been more. On switching to rechargeables it turned out that NiCad rechargeables were virtually useless: they may save your pocket, but you'll be lucky to have a charge last 24 hours in the Platinum. And, of course, if you start plugging add-ons like MP3 players or cameras into the Springboard socket, battery life will become measurable in hours, not days.

Users of the colour Prism won't have a much different experience, because although the 16-bit colour display does use more power than the 4-bit greyscale Platinum screen, the rechargeable battery built into the Prism has altogether more power. The trap for Prism users is more subtle: since they keep their Visor in its cradle most of the day, it will always be pretty well fully charged, and they won't appreciate how quickly it runs out of power until they take it on a business trip -- without the charger.

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Otherwise, the Visor Prism works well: it is a silver colour, and it comes with a USB cradle -- which runs roughly four times as fast as the serial link that connects a Palm device to a PC. In normal use, this means you can expect to refresh five AvantGo channels in about five minutes from the Web, whereas a serial-interfaced Palm will take around a quarter of an hour.

All in all, the Platinum is a worthy evolutionary development from Handspring, although whether it's worth the extra £43 (ex. VAT) over the Deluxe model is open to question.

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