Handspring Visor Prism

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Pros

  • High-quality 16-bit colour TFT screen
  • 33MHz processor.

Cons

  • Slightly bulkier and heavier than previous Visors
  • OS is upgradeable via Springboard modules or patches rather than Flash ROM.

Handspring's flagship Palm OS device is the Visor Prism, which features an impressive 16-bit colour TFT display, 8MB of RAM and, of course, the all-important Springboard expansion slot, for which there is an increasing amount of third-party support.

Handspring has taken the Palm format and given it much-needed expansion capability via the Springboard slot. In doing so, and in undercutting the prices of Palm's own offerings, Handspring has captured a significant slice of the handheld market in a relatively short space of time.

On the cobalt-blue Prism (the only available colour), the USB-based HotSync connection and Li-ion battery recharger are combined in a neat desktop cradle. The AC adapter that supplies the recharger plugs into a port built into the USB connector. Apart from a slight increase in thickness and the migration of the power button to the right-hand side, the Prism looks very similar to its monochrome siblings.

Rumours about the Visor Prism's poor battery life were not supported in our tests: the initial power up took an hour after a full discharge, and subsequent recharges took around 20 minutes. Playing SimCity (in colour) continuously drained the battery in 5 hours and 30 minutes -- slightly less than the claimed 6 hours, but not worryingly so.

As far as Springboard modules are concerned, Handspring's Backup Module, which costs £34.99 (inc. VAT) from www.widget.co.uk, will be a worthwhile purchase for many users. For email access and Web browsing, Xircom's Springport Modem 56 GlobalACCESS is available for £114.99 (inc. VAT). This 56Kbit/s GSM-capable modem is powered by three AAA batteries and so doesn't drain the Prism's own power supply.

In use, the Visor Prism is a delight. Driven by a 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ processor supported by 8MB of RAM, its 65,536-colour TFT screen is bright and easily viewed from most angles. Whereas Palm's colour device, the IIIc, seems sluggish under its 20MHz Dragonball EZ processor, the Visor Prism is not noticeably slowed by its colour screen.

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One gripe is the supplied Outlook synchronisation software, Chapura's PocketMirror. Only the standard version is supplied, but unless you upgrade to the Professional version, the Outlook conduits are at best unpredictable and at worst a non-operational nightmare. Technical support over the Internet is on a 24-hour turnaround, and despite valiant efforts they failed to cure our persistent Outlook problems. The upgrade, which costs $24.95 from www.chapura.com ($32.90 if you want the CD as well), did the trick.

If you're looking for a lightweight mobile office that has real expansion potential, Handspring's Visor Prism is today's 'must have' handheld.

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