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Re-Printed From SLCentral

Handspring Visor Edge
Author: Tom Solinap
Date Posted: June 28th, 2001
URL: http://www.slcentral.com/reviews/hardware/pda/handspring/visoredge

Introduction

Just a few months ago I received the Visor Platinum for Christmas, and it really impressed me with all the features and expansion possibilities it had. Although it was a little more bulky than the sleek Palm Vs out there, it made up for that in functionality. Since then I've gotten a lot of use out the ol' Platinum, and even have a few cool Springboard modules. Even though I'm happy with my Platinum, a part of me wishes it was smaller, had a flip cover, and came in another color. Enter the Visor Edge. Pretty much all my prayers were answered a couple months later when Handspring introduced their latest addition to the Visor line of PDAs, the sleek Visor Edge. They basically took everything inside the Visor Platinum and scaled it down into a thinner aluminum body, added more colors, added a rechargeable battery, and finally added a flip cover. Along with these enhancements, Handspring increased the price to $399 from the Platinum's $299. So was the increase in price worth it? Not to those like myself with Visor Platinum's already. So I didn't exactly go out and get myself an Edge right away. I think Handspring noticed that their new baby wasn't going to be appealing to current Visor owners unless they added something else. Well it seems Handspring has continued its loyalty to the consumers by offering a promotion to upgrade to the Visor Edge. Basically, if you're a current Visor owner or PDA owner, you are eligible for a $100 off a new Visor Edge, bringing down the price to $299. Handspring suggests you donate your old PDA to a relative or friend. I think most people will have other things in mind, *cough* Ebay *cough*. So anyway, I decided to get myself a Visor Edge and "donate" my old Platinum to some needy person out there. Now that brings us to this review. Let's see if the Edge is really all it's cracked up to be.

Specifications

Handspring Visor Edge
Suggested Retail Price $399
Processor Technology 33 MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ
Memory 8 MB
Palm OS version 3.5.2H
Stores approximately
  • 12,000 Addresses
  • 10 Years of appointments (approx. 6,000)
  • 6,000 to do items
  • 6,000 memos
  • 400 email messages
Available colors Metallic Silver, Metallic Red and Metallic Blue
Cover Matching Metal Flip Cover
Size 4.7"(11.9cm) x 3.1(7.9cm)" x 0.44"(1.1cm)
Weight 4.8 oz. (136g)
IR Yes
Backlight Yes
Built-in microphone Yes
Battery Life 1 months
Charging Time 90 minutes from empty to full, just minutes per day to top it off

As you can see from the specifications, you get the standard Visor Platinum insides with a brand new outside. You get the 33 MHz Dragonball VZ, 8 MB of memory, IR, and backlight, which should all be the standard nowadays for Palm OS based PDAs. The Palm OS version on the Edge is the same as that of the Platinum, which means they are virtually identical when it comes to software. However, I suspect Handspring has probably changed a few things to fit everything a smaller package. In terms of outward appearances, it's a different story. The Edge comes in 3 available metallic colors, silver, red, and blue, with red only being available from Handspring directly. It's size has been reduced and instead of painted plastic, you get anodized aluminum. Handspring also added a metal flip cover, which I think has been long overdue, and a custom stylus as well. Another well needed addition is the built in rechargeable battery. Gone are the days of swapping out batteries and fumbling for new ones. So let's see what this baby is really like...

First Impressions

When I first received the Visor Edge in the mail I eagerly ripped open the packaging and checked out the contents. What's in the box? Well you get the Visor Edge unit itself, the Springboard attachment, the USB cradle and wall plug, and the documentation. I opted to get the metallic red colored Edge, which is only available from Handspring's site. When I saw the Edge for the first time, I was impressed by it's sleek metallic look. The platinum is painted to look metallic but having the actual metal there is definitely cooler. The Edge even feels more solid when you hold it in your hand. The cool feel of the aluminum casing gives the impression that the Edge isn't a toy. The platinum's plastic casing made it feel more like a gameboy than a state of the art PDA. The buttons on the Edge are also metal, and have their symbols engraved in them. They really complement the whole Edge design nicely. The Edge is definitely thinner than the Platinum, so it fits much better in my pocket. The metal flip cover is definitely a nice touch and it's been a long time coming. The flip cover can only flip to about 90 degrees back, so you can't flip it complete all the way behind the Edge. If you want to put your Edge inside a leather case, you can remove the flip cover and attach the included spacer to keep the connection in the back from being exposed.

Now let's move on to the Springboard module. The reason the Edge can be so thin is because Handspring decided to separate the Springboard connector and the actual Visor unit. Instead you have to remove the flip cover and attach the Springboard connector. It's kind of a pain if you want to quickly attach a module. Not to mention you have to carry the connector with you if you want to attach one at all. Also the flip cover doesn't fit when you have a Springboard module attached, which is unfortunate because I wanted to keep my screen protected while I had my MP3 player attached. I don't think it was the best way they could have done it. I'm sure maybe installing an additional clip to keep the cover attached wouldn't have been too hard. Unlike the Platinum, the Edge now has rechargeable batteries built in. You don't have to worry about running out and buying batteries constantly. I know that was one feature I really wanted from my Visor Platinum. I use lots of Springboard modules and they pretty much suck the life out of my Platinum. I have to buy fresh batteries almost every 2 weeks if I constantly use my Platinum. The Edge's USB cradle also serves as a charger. The USB cradle is a new design and isn't compatible with other existing Visor handhelds. The Edge also has a small LED on the power button that blinks while the unit is charging. It can also serve as a silent alarm when you don't want to draw attention to yourself.

With the new casing of the Edge, comes the custom stylus. It snaps onto a little holder on the right side of the Edge. The only concern I have with this is that I couldn't use my PDA Panache stylus from my Platinum since it doesn't have the holding mechanism. The stylus is also metal and is good quality for coming standard with the Edge. The only problem I have, is that it's a little hard sometimes to put back on the Edge. You have to align it with the holding mechanism, and sometimes it rotates in my hand so when I go to put back on, I have to rotate it back a little. I guess I'm used to just putting the stylus in the holder like the one in the Platinum without having to do anything special. The stylus also doesn't have the familiar reset pin that the other Visor Styli have. That means you'll have to find other means to reset your Edge if needed.

Trouble in Paradise?

Well, I did run into a slight problem once I started playing with the unit. The backlight failed to work, so I thought it might have been because I didn't recharge fully. However, after recharging the unit, it still didn't work. So, I emailed Handspring tech support and they suggested I just exchange my Edge for a new one. I called the support line and with in minutes I had a new Visor Edge on it's way to my doorstep. I really have to hand it (I know, I know stupid pun hehe) to Handspring's customer service, they made the exchange process a snap. The customer service representative told me that a new unit was coming my way within 3 to 5 business days. So I'm like cool, I can live that long without a backlight. To my surprise, the very next day I received a package on my doorstep. It was very surprising since I had only called the support line around 7 PM the night before. They also pay for shipping both ways, so I'm left happy with my fully working Visor Edge. Kudos to Handspring for really stepping up in the customer service department.

Software Installation

Now let's move on to the software installation. Since I already had a Visor Platinum, all I needed to do is restore all my data on the new Edge. Sounds simple right? Well in theory it is, but for some reason I had a few problems. I attached the new Hotsync cradle to a free USB port and Windows detected it and installed the software fine. After everything seemed ok, I proceeded to restore my data onto the Edge. That's when things went wrong. I'm not sure exactly what happened but I saw the dreaded blue screen of death. It might have been that the drivers were messed up somehow or maybe the system was unstable. I set everything back to the stock speed and it still happened again. After that I just decided to reinstall the Hotsync software. After a few minutes of installation, I was ready to try again. Fortunately everything worked fine this time around. I guess it's always better to start from scratch. Most of my information was in tact. However, I did lose some stuff like my pictures in eyecontact and FireViewer. No big deal. First thing I did was benchmark this sucker. It has the 33Mhz Dragonball VZ processor so it should be just as fast as the Platinum, if not faster.

I was very surprised with the scores I received. The Visor Edge scored 244% compared to the Platinum's 204% in the Quartus.net Benchmark 2.0. Despite the same Palm OS version and processor, the Edge still scored higher. I suspect Handspring must have done some tweaking to their circuitry to increase performance. So I guess the Edge isn't just a Visor Platinum in a sexier body. The software in the Visor Edge is pretty much the same as the Platinum. It has a couple new additions, however. The ability to use the silent alarm, and the fast lookup feature of the address book. Fast look up basically allows you to look through your address book without the need to take out your stylus. This is convenient if you just need to quickly look up a name. You have to get used to how it works though before you can really use it effectively. Other than that the Edge comes with your basic Handspring Palm OS software package.

Edge vs. Platinum

Well it had to come to this. The comparison to the Platinum has been obvious through out my review so far, so this section was bound to come up. Well from my benchmarks it's obvious the Edge has the "edge" over the Platinum in terms of processing speed (yea I know that was bad). The Edge is still 4-bit grayscale, but the screen on the Edge is a different color than the Platinum and looks better actually. The Platinum's screen is green while the Edge is more grayish. The metal case on the Edge definitely makes it look and feel more futuristic than the Platinum's painted plastic. The different colors that the Edge comes in is also a welcome addition. I can't tell you how much I wanted the Platinum to be available in other colors.

In terms of price, the Platinum is now only $250 and the Edge is at $299 with the trade-up promotion. That's not much of a difference, and I would definitely pay the extra $50 if I had a choice between the Platinum and the Edge. Does the Platinum have any advantages over the Edge? Well it's still easier to attach Springboard modules on the Platinum. Other than that I really don't see much reason to get the Platinum over the Edge other than price concerns. Even then, if you have an older PDA, the trade-up program makes the Edge the obvious choice. However, that offer ends July 1st, so you better decide soon. At the standard price of $399, the Edge is a little pricey if you're just getting into the PDA scene.

Edge vs. Palm

So how does the Edge compare to the current Palm offerings? Well you can't really compare it to the m505 because of the color difference. However, you can compare it to the m500 and Vx. Well compared to the m500, the Edge is pretty much on the level. They both have similar features. The m500 comes with native USB Hotsync and rechargeable battery. However, the Edge has the metal flip cover while the m500 has the leather one. The Edge and m500 both have 4-bit grayscale displays but I've heard that the backlights on the Palm PDAs are better than the Visors. The Edge's screen is still high quality. There is one area are where the Visor series will have the advantage, and that's expandability through the Springboard modules. The m500 has it's new expansion card slot and universal connector, but the products that can take advantage of those are not as abundant as the Springboard modules. Handspring has a nice base of currently available modules already so you don't have to wait. The m500 is just a tad smaller than the Edge and lighter as well, but the Edge has a more rugged feel and design to it.

They both cost the same but I'd take the Edge over the m500 just because of the expandability. Current Visor owners will probably be more inclined to upgrade to the Edge rather than a m500 because they probably have Springboard modules and the current promotion Handspring has going. The Edge also comes in more colors than the m500 so you can get one that really reflects your personality. The design of the Edge makes it fit into almost any setting, from corporate meetings to hiking in the woods. The Palm Vx is also a possible contender to the Edge but frankly, the Vx doesn't really have much going for it other than the small design and cheaper price. The Edge is faster and has better features. With the current promotion, the Edge is the same price as a Vx. It's pretty much a no-brainer from there. As with all of Visor's PDAs, the Palm OS software can't have a major upgrade because of the lack of Flash RAM. To many people, that's a big advantage that Palm's PDAs have over the Visor series. Personally, I would have liked to have OS upgrade capabilities, but I'm happy with everything the Edge has to offer.

Pros & Cons

Pros

The Visor Edge is definitely one of the best PDAs out there right now. Let's recap what we've learned so far:

  • Thin anodized aluminum casing
  • Comes in 3 colors: Metallic Blue, Metallic Red, Metallic Silver
  • Metal flip cover
  • Faster than the Visor Platinum
  • Built in rechargeable battery
  • Comes with USB cradle/charger
  • Better looking screen than the Platinum
  • Lower price with Handspring's trade-up program

Cons

As always no product is perfect, but they can always come really close. The Visor Edge doesn't have many flaws but here are some things that I thought needed to be addressed:

  • Installing Springboard modules is more complicated
  • Display is not color
  • Stylus can be difficult to slip back on
  • No reset pin
  • Price is still a bit steep for a non color unit

Conclusion

As you can see, the Edge is certainly a great performer. It's sleek and modern design really appeal to me. Handspring really has a winner here. They took all the things that the PDA consumers are looking for and packaged them into a sleek compact design. Adding a color screen would make this near perfect product even better, but that would probably raise the price over anything reasonable. Although the Edge is a great product, there are a couple things that I thought Handspring could have approached better. Not everything is perfect but the Edge really comes close. It's even faster than the already blazing Visor Platinum with the same processor. It's design is great for corporate users, and it will even impress the younger crowd as well. At the moment, the Visor Edge is the best value if you already have an existing PDA with Handspring's trade-up program. $100 is nothing to sneeze at. So if you're looking to upgrade, the Edge is a great choice. For new PDA owners it's still a good product but you'll have to pay the normal $399. Although that price is a bit high, you still get one really great product and Handspring's amazing customer service. As I retire my old Platinum and say hello to the young and hip Edge, I'm thinking of what lies in the future for PDAs. If Handspring and Palm keep going the route they've been going, I think we'll see some interesting products in the future. It can only get better folks...

Rating: 9.5/10 SystemLogistics

Re-Printed From SLCentral