Inexpensive alternative to the PalmPilot RoughHandspring's...

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November 08, 1999

Inexpensive alternative to the PalmPilot Rough

Handspring's PalmPilot clone, the Visor, has created a monster buzz online and a shipping backlog for the new company. The Visor is not just any Palm clone, but one created by the original architects of the popular personal digital assistant (PDA). They wanted to create a PDA that used the highly regarded Palm operating system, was easily expandable through plug-in expansion cards and was cheaper than Palm Computing's products.

The basic Visor sells for $179, has 2 megabytes of RAM and comes in one color -- graphite. The Visor Deluxe ($249) has 8 megabytes of memory and is available in five colors. Both models use the Palm operating system, come with the typical personal information management applications (address book, calendar, note pad, expense recording, etc.), and have an expansion slot that can accept modems, game cards, pagers and memory cards. Only a Tiger Woods golf game and memory cards are available. The modem is slated for year's end.

The Visor looks and feels a lot like the PalmPilot and is clearly geared toward attracting late adopters who are looking for ease of use and a lower price of entry. The plug-in cards require no special drivers and launch as soon as they're plugged in, like a game cartridge. Setup of the Visor software for synchronizing data between your desktop computer and Visor is a snap. And good news for Mac fans: This PDA comes with Mac connectivity right out of the box (though you'll need third-party software for e-mail and expense-account syncing).

As much as there is to love about the Visor and its populist mission, there are a few snags. The plug-in cards are not compatible with the CompactFlash standard. You have to use products specifically designed for Visors (which are limited). There's a built-in microphone, but no headphone jack or audio output.

You'll also need a PC or Mac with a USB port, since there's not serial connectivity. Still, given the low price, ease of use, upgrade potential and access to hundreds of existing Palm OS programs, the Visor has a bright future.

Information: 650-230-5000 or the Web site www.handspring.com

-- Gareth Branwyn

Rough and tumble case

Recently, I set off on a quest to find the ideal case for my PalmPilot. I needed something I could throw in my bag without a care, and that would survive the abuse a Palm suffers in my hands. I found a fairly good solution in RhinoSkin's $35 ShockSuit.

The ShockSuit is made of dense foam about a quarter-inch thick, with a smooth nylon fabric coating that comes in black, gray or blue. It has a plastic exoskeleton and extra padding on the front and back. While it doesn't offer the same protection as some metal Palm cases, the ShockSuit is rugged. I dropped my Palm several times from a 4-foot height with no damage.

The major disadvantages of the the ShockSuit are its bulk, unattractive shape and sometimes thoughtless design.

Still, I've used the ShockSuit for about two months and find it to be a reliable product, although the nylon covering is fraying slightly. For the money, it's a good deal.

Information: 307-734-8833 or the Web site www.rhinoskin.com

-- Nate Heasley

For full reviews of these and other gadgets, point your Web browser to www.streettech.com.

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