Now that we've gone over the expansion capabilities of the HandEra, let's look more at what it offers straight out of the box. Along the left-hand edge, you'll see two extra controls - a button, and a shuttle dial. The side button is programmable within PalmOS to operate as you see fit - It comes configured by default to cancel menu selections and also to work with the VoicePad application. Since the HandEra comes with a built-in microphone, you can use the HandEra to take voice memos and record them in WAV format. A nice feature of VoicePad is that it is capable of recording to RAM, CF, or SD. Unfortunately, since it records in WAV, your free space will likely fill up quickly. On-the-fly MP3 encoding would be nice (or some other compression codec), but with a 33MHz Dragonball processor, it's a slim-to-none proposition. Perhaps a newer, more powerful unit with a StrongARM processor would have this capability (once PalmOS 5 gets released).
The shuttle dial is also something we're seeing more of in PDAs recently. Other PDAs on the market to use the shuttle dial include the Kyocera SmartPhone QCP-6035 and the upper end Sony CLIÉ models. The shuttle dial is most useful for one-handed e-mail and message scrolling. You can also use it in the app menu to select an application, and push in on the dial to launch it. This, like the auxiliary button, is programmable (As are the other primary buttons).
One final feature to touch on is the HandEra's power system. The HandEra normally runs on four AAA batteries, and gets a decent amount of runtime. My general usage drained the batteries within a month, and that's with a few hour-long sessions of SubHunt. Since I didn't want to have to buy batteries every month, I went ahead and invested in the HandEra 330 rechargeable kit, which includes an AC adapter and a Lithium Ion battery pack. Installing the battery pack was less intuitive than I had hoped - I actually had to remove the battery contact assembly to install the pack. Personally, I think that was a bad choice - If I'm stranded out in the middle of nowhere and I run out of juice, it's nice to be able to pop in some batteries as backup, but you're out of luck if you didn't bring the battery terminals with you.