A cure for Palm envy at fraction of the cost of digital 0...

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December 07, 1998|By Michael Stroh Inexpensive joystick has programmable features

A cure for Palm envy at fraction of the cost of digital 0) organizers

Does a flash of jealousy sear your gut every time you see someone whip out an ultra-hip but pricey Palm Pilot or other hand-held digital organizer?

You're not alone. Millions suffer from Palm envy. Now there's an inexpensive cure: the daVinci Digital Organizer from Royal, the typewriter company.

The daVinci comes in two models: a basic $99 unit with 256 kilobytes of memory, and a $149 professional model, which has one megabyte of memory plus built-in e-mail and fax capability. (To use these features, you'll need to buy a PCMCIA card modem.)

From the outside, the daVinci appears very similar to other digital organizers. However, the daVinci's plastic case feels flimsy compared to the thick-skinned Palm Pilot's.

Under the cover, daVinci offers the same basic features as other personal digital assistants: an address book, to-do list, calendar planner, note pad and calculator. But, in many cases, the daVinci's offerings are cleaner-looking and more intuitive.

The to-do list, for instance, allows you to specify due dates. And the note pad doubles as a scratch pad, so you can doodle directly onto the screen.

The daVinci connects to your PC through a docking cradle, so you can swap addresses and other information. Entering data is also a snap: Just use the included stylus. The device recognizes VTC a lower-case cursive script. For an extra $30 you can get a fold-up keyboard, which makes for faster data entry, although it's a little too cramped for true touch typing.

The basic daVinci's 256 kilobytes of memory should be enough for casual users who carry around only a few hundred addresses. But hard-core road warriors might be better off with a daVinci Pro, Palm Pilot or Windows CE device.

The other potential minus: software support. Palm Pilot owners, for instance, have hundreds of useful - and, in many cases, free - applications available to them.

It's still unclear how many software developers will flock to latecomer daVinci's proprietary operating system.

Still, if all you need is an inexpensive pocket-sized digital organizer and some respect among your Pilot-toting friends, the daVinci is a good choice.

Gravis has always done a great job of providing high-end joystick and game pad features on more modestly priced products. They've scored another hit with Blackhawk Digital ($39.99), an extremely comfortable ergonomic joystick with 13 programmable features.

The Blackhawk has a contoured pistol grip, an eight-position "hat" switch, a knob throttle on the base and five fire buttons. One of the best features of the Blackhawk (and many other Gravis products) is the software. You can program all of the buttons on your stick using the Keyset Manager, a drag and drop interface that lets you assign functions to the buttons on the unit. There's a database of pre-sets for popular games, too.

Another cool feature of the Blackhawk is a built-in Y-cable that lets you connect another Gravis joystick or game pad for multi-player action. Gamers will also appreciate the weighted and slightly oversized base that sits securely in your lap or on the desktop.

You can spend $20-40 for a joystick with more bells and whistles, but you wouldn't necessarily get a better product. Most gamers would be thrilled to find the Blackhawk Digital under the tree this Christmas.

Information: 650-572-2700 or www.gravis.com

You can find full reviews of this and other gadgets at www.streettech.com.

Pub Date: 12/07/98

Gareth Branwyn

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