September 12, 2000 -- by A.T. Hun
When I got my Handspring Visor Deluxe, I basically had two choices that I needed to make. First, did I want a PalmOS or Windows CE-based device? Second, once I had decided on PalmOS, did I want a Visor or a Palm product (the one I mainly looked at was the Palm IIIxe)? You know what I chose, now here's why I chose the way I did.
Visor over Windows CE
- Price This was probably the number one reason. WinCE devices are generally at least twice as expensive as my Visor Deluxe. And no, I didn't want to get one "free" in exchange for three years of slavery to the Microsoft Network Internet access.
- PalmOS Simplicity One thing I was very impressed with the PalmOS is that everything just seems to work. It's designed very simply and straightforward. I didn't have to go charging for my manual to figure anything out. I definitely do not want a hacked up version of Windows. That's more than a bit of overkill.
- Battery Life While most WinCE devices allow you to recharge in the cradle, I didn't want to be having to recharge my PDA several times over the course of a two-day conference. While I was on vacation I did a lot of reading on my Visor, including using the backlight at night, and it hardly put a dent in the batteries. The color and multimedia capabilities of WinCE PDAs are impressive, but they come at too high a cost for me.
- Less M$! Granted, this is the least important reason, but if I can find something that does a better job for me than a Microsoft product and it is cheaper to boot, I'm going to take it.
Visor over Palm
- Expandability One of the knocks against Visors is that the operating system is in ROM, not in flash memory. So OS patches would need to be in RAM and you wouldn't be able to use a hack to use the extra flash memory. I didn't consider the lack of flash memory to be a big issue. The Springboard slot made all the difference. The Springboard slot is a little slot in the back of a Visor, much like the slot on Gameboys for game cartridges. These allow things like modems, MP3 players, GPS systems, and just about anything to be added easily. The slot is truly plug-and-play and allows for hot-swapping. You can't beat that.
- USB Syncing Most Palm PDAs sync to the host computer using a serial port. Visors use USB which has the benefit of much faster syncing (a God-send when you are syncing ebooks or a lot of AvantGo pages--more on AvantGo in a future article), and plug-and-play installation. It is the first device I've used that really is plug-and-play. Plug it in, it asks for the driver disk, it's done. Very nice. Of course, if you don't have USB ports, serial cradles are available.
- Speed Handspring tweaked the PalmOS a little bit, removing some unnecessary wait states, etc. That makes Visors considerably faster than even Palms with slightly faster processors. Of course, Palm owners can get the same benefits by running Afterburner (an overclocking hack--more on that in a future article too), but I'm not sure how Palm feels about overclocking, especially if you would need a warranty repair.
Are you going to go wrong with another PDA other than a Handspring Visor Deluxe? Probably not, but it was the logical choice for me. I've really enjoyed having it because it has made me a lot more organized and efficient than I was before. In future articles I'll list some of the apps that I feel no PalmOS user should be without. Stay tuned!