Handspring Visor Pro

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  • Editors' rating
    7.0 Very good

Pros

  • 16MB of RAM
  • rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • USB docking connection
  • Fast Lookup feature aids contact search
  • good price.

Cons

  • Unless you really need 16MB of internal memory, there are few advantages over a Visor Platinum or Deluxe.

Handspring has launched two new products into its Visor range of Palm OS handhelds -- the Neo and the Pro. The Visor Pro is the better-featured of the two newcomers, priced at £269 (inc. VAT, or £229 ex. VAT) -- the same as the ultra-thin Visor Edge. Only one Visor model costs more -- the colour-screened Prism.

The Visor Pro's design is pretty much the same as all other Visors except the aforementioned Edge, the main difference being casing colour -- the Pro is styled in silver. It comes with a smoked-grey plastic flip-off cover for the screen, but not the rather good slip case that accompanies most other Visors. Its application buttons, on-off switch and all-important Springboard slot remain in their now-familiar locations.

Inside too, there are few differences from earlier models. The operating system is Palm OS 3.5 with some additions from Handspring such as the inclusion of an advanced DateBook and a blinking alarm for occasions when an audible one is too intrusive. You also get the very clever Fast Lookup feature first introduced in the Visor Edge, which makes trawling through addresses for a particular contact easier than under standard Palm OS.

The general design of the touch-sensitive screen will also be familiar to anyone already acquainted with Visors or the Palm operating system in general. It supports 16 shades of grey, has a backlight and incorporates the Graffiti area for handwriting recognition. Power is supplied by a rechargeable Li-ion cell which, as is the convention, automatically charges while the Visor Pro is in its docking cradle. Connection to a host PC is via a USB cable attached to this cradle.

Handspring remains loyal to Motorola's Dragonball processors, and the Visor Pro's VZ chip runs at 33MHz -- the fastest available. The one real innovation of the Visor Pro is that it comes with 16MB of built-in RAM. When Palm launched its m500/505 range last March, the company was adamant that 8MB of memory was all that handhelds running Palm OS were likely to need. Palm did introduce support for external storage media at that time, providing a way of augmenting the built-in memory, but our understanding was that it was not keen on providing more than 8MB of internal storage.

Nothing Palm has done since changes that understanding, but Handspring clearly thinks differently -- at least as far as the Visor Pro is concerned. To accompany the Pro's launch, Handspring has also announced a 16MB Springboard backup module.

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Handspring is billing the Visor Pro as a device for power users and professionals. That makes sense. Its faster processor and augmented RAM certainly make it a better choice than some other Visors for this group of users. As to the upgrade path, though, it is only worth considering if you really need all that internal RAM.

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