Handspring Visor Platinum Review

Cranking up the speed on the handheld computer

The popularity of the personnel digital assistant (PDA) in today's professional work environment has become so prevalent, that it has become a symbol of working efficiently. Personnel digital assistant's allow a professional to carry around a device that fits into the palm of their hand, allowing them to enter data, sort through entire contact lists, be alerted to upcoming appointments, follow expense accounts, calculate complicated algorithms and send e-mail. This popularity has created a secondary market for accessories and hardware add-ons allowing the PDA to be turned into Global Positioning System (GPS), telephones, pagers, scanners, cameras, image projectors, and a wirelessly connection to the net. This new hardware has tested the PDA processing power and is pushing the limits of its abilities. To meet this new challenge, Handspring has introduced the Visor Platinum.

At first glance it doesn't look any different than any other Visor model, but if you lift the hood, the Visor Platinum is a Ferrari. The Visor Platinum features a 33 MHz Dragonball VZ CPU (the brain of your PDA), 8MB of RAM and runs Version 3.5 of the Palm OS. This is compared to the 16 MHz Dragonball EZ that was used in the older monochrome screen models or the 20 MHz Dragonball EZ used in the color models (both with 8MB of RAM and Version 3.1 of the Palm OS). What does all this mean? The platinum is roughly 50 % faster in its ability to process information. The new applications and hardware on the horizon will require this power. If you think your PDA can do neat things now, the future is going to be great.

The Visor Platinum comes complete with a Palm HotSync technology, using a Universal Serial Bus (USB) connection to connect to the desktop software, which comes with both Windows (Windows98/2000), and Mac OS (8.51+) versions. This Visor Platinum cradle is identical to the cradle used with the Visor and Visor Deluxe. Actually, the Visor Platinum and Visor Deluxe are quite similar in many ways. It has the same size and weight as the Visor Deluxe. It measures 121,9 mm x 76,2 mm x 17,8 mm (4.8" x 3.0" x 0.7") and it weighs 153 g (5.4 oz). It offers the same features, like 8 MB of RAM and a monochrome screen. It has the same buttons, infrared port on the side of case, microphone, Handspring's unique Springboard expansion slot, graphite snap cover and leather slipcase. It runs on two 2 AAA batteries, just like the earlier Visor models and should provide four to six weeks of performance with standard use. The two main differences: processor speed and Version 3.5 of the Palm OS.

There are some refinements to the basic software applications, which come with the platinum. The address book, to do list, and memo pad have enhanced detail. The Visor Platinum has some very distinguished features like the enhanced date book, advanced calculator and a world clock. The Visor Platinum like other Palm OS handheld PDA's is so easy to use you'll feel like you shouldn't even bother reading the instructions (It is suggested you do, to get the most out of your PDA). This is because the Palm OS has a graphical user interface that's very intuitive and feels very familiar (years of using Windows).

My overall impressions with the Visor Platinum is 100% Vroommmm. I loved the speed aspect of it and the future possibilities it can bring. The increased processing power along with Handspring's springboard expansion slot will make it easy to plug-and-play, you simply pop in a module and it works, no configuration required. Accessories and hardware add-ons within the medical field are limited but they are coming and this device will make it a snap to connect to them. Another thing I liked was the grayscale graphics. I found the screen to be crisper and clearer that my old Palm IIIe and the on screen slide bar adjustment is quite convenient for adjusting the shades on the screen.

What I didn't like about the Visor Platinum is it only comes in a metallic silver case. This is minor, I'm sure by next year they'll be every color under the sun. The biggest problem I found was that the device only comes with a USB connection to your PC. I know USB is easier to connect than serial port, but if you have an older computer such as I do, then you have to purchase a serial port cradle ($29.95 US) to run Palm HotSync technology. This is also the case if you are running Windows 95 Mac OS 7.5.3 and older versions. There is also no Unix or Linux support for this device, but I'm sure that will not last long.

To overcome my problem with the USB connection (and until I get a newer computer), I've discovered the Backup Module ($39.95 US). The Backup Module lets you back up your entire Handspring handheld with one tap on an icon. The module can then be removed and stored separately from your handheld. If you lose the data in your handheld (due to battery failure, hard reset etc.), you can easily restore it with the backup copy stored on the Backup Module. Insert the module into the springboard expansion slot and tap on the restore button that appears on your main screen. The Backup Module will then restore all the data that you last saved. This module is very easy to use and highly recommend, especially if you are away from your desktop and collecting a lot of new data.


Ian Galloway B.Sc. RRT


Editors Note:

Ian has given freely of his time and talents to advance the use of mobile computing in nursing. Ian has developed all of the RNpalm software that is currently available for Free download.

Ian is a RRT in Halifax Nova Scotia and is studying Computer Science at Dalhousie University.

Ian is married to Paula, an RN and MN candidate at Dalhousie University.

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