The Edge feels much more like a 'me-too' product and lacks the ground-breaking innovation that was the calling card of the previous Visor models.
Handspring has been putting Palm under serious pressure in the budget handheld arena with its cheap but innovative Visor range which runs Palm's OS. In fact, it was this pressure that forced Palm into releasing its low-cost M100 range.
However, there's been nothing to really challenge Palm's super-slim Vx model, but that's all about to change with the launch of the Handspring Visor Edge. The Edge is being pitched directly against Palm's flagship product, but also offers some of the distinctive features that made the early Visor models so popular.
The Visor is definitely a lot slimmer and lighter than Handspring's previous offerings, but at 119 x 79 x 11mm (h x w x d) it's ever so slightly larger than the Palm Vx and just under an ounce heavier, although you wouldn't really notice it when holding it in your hand.
Where the two do differ is in looks. Whereas the Palm has smooth curves and an expensive looking metallic finish, the Edge is more angular, with a drab metallic grey casing. There is an option of a more eye-catching blue casing and a red cover for those who buy from Handspring's UK website, but the Palm is still more of a looker.
However, the Visor does use the latest 33Mhz version of the Dragonball VZ processor that is faster than any of Palm's current devices. Unfortunately, while the Edge uses the latest Palm OS, V3.5.2H2.0, Palm is soon to release V4.0. As the Edge doesn't have any Flash memory, you won't be able to upgrade to the new operating system.
What's really special about Handspring products is the Springboard expansion slot. The slot featured on earlier Visor products is too large for the Edge's slim form factor, so this time Handspring has supplied the Springboard slot as an add-on module that slides into a smaller connector on the top of the device. When connected, it is rather inelegant. Nevertheless, if you already own Visor add-on modules, you'll be able to use them.
In most other respects the Edge matches or surpasses the Palm Vx. It's got 8Mb of Ram for data storage and 2Mb of Rom to house the usual array of Palm applications, some of which have been enhanced slightly by Handspring.
The backlit black and white screen has the same resolution as the Vx at 160 x 160 pixels with 16 shades of grey. You'll find an infra-red port on the left-hand side, and the Visor also comes supplied with a USB docking bay.
But there are a couple of niggles that slightly spoil the experience. The stylus resembles an 18th century medical instrument rather than something you would actually want to use with a pen-driven device.
Also, rather than having it slot into the side of the case, it sits on an external clip on the right-hand side of the PDA. This means that it can't be replaced with another third-party stylus.
We weren't particularly keen on the metal protective flip cover, either. Bizarrely, Handspring has chosen to make the hinge out of plastic, which feels very flimsy for something that is going to have to endure a lot of wear and tear.
Also, the cover doesn't fold all the way back, but instead sits at an angle to the rear of the unit. When closed, it obscures the view of the LED, which is used for silent alarms.
When judged against the other handhelds currently available, the Edge is a winner. However, Palm's M500, which will have a similar feature set and price to the Edge, is just around the corner. Unless you already have add-ons for a Visor, our advice would be to wait and compare the two when the Palm M500 arrives.
CONTACT: Handspring 020 7309 0134
If this product had been released a year ago it might have been more exciting, but with the Palm M500 on the way, it's now a lot less appealing. Nevertheless, it may be a sensible upgrade for Visor owners who have already invested in some add-on modules.
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