Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Handspring’s new fast and colorful devices


By Claire Pieterek

Just in time for the end-of-the-year gift-giving season, Handspring has released its two newest models: the Visor Prism and Visor Platinum.

"Buckle up, the Visor Platinum is fast."

The Visor Prism, pictured in Figure A, is Handspring's first color model.


Color your world with the Visor Prism. (click for larger image)

The Visor Platinum has a new, sleek, silver case and is extremely fast. It's pictured in Figure B.


Buckle up, the Visor Platinum is fast. (click for larger image)

The operating system

Both the Visor Prism and Visor Platinum run Palm OS 3.5.2H, Handspring's enhanced version of the Palm OS, which continues to offer some nice improvements over Palm's version, such as an enhanced Date Book, an enhanced Calculator, and World Clock. For more information about Handspring's enhancements to the Palm OS, see my article, "A first look at Handspring's Visor," in the October 1999 issue of PalmPower at

The best new operating system feature I found on the Visor Prism and Visor Platinum is the much-improved Calculator. Calculator offers a number of different modes to suit just about anyone from a financier to a rocket scientist, or someone who just needs to convert from English to metric. And you can still hit the buttons with your fingertips, just like the original, as you can see in Figure C.


The enhanced Calculator offers a number of different modes.

Other than Calculator, I didn't find any major differences in Handspring's version of Palm OS 3.5. For more information on Palm OS 3.5, you can read my article on Palm's color device, "The colorful Palm IIIc," in the March 2000 issue of PalmPower at

Handspring is still holding firm on its ROM versus flash stance. Both of the new Handspring models use Palm OS patches that reside in RAM but can't accept full version upgrades that reside in most Palm models' flash memory. Both the Visor Prism and Visor Platinum are about the same size and shape as the other Handspring models. This is good, as whatever case you're using with your current Visor should work with the new models. I carried the Visor Prism in a standard Coach Compact Case (nominally for Palm III-series devices) with no problem.

The Visor Prism

The Visor Prism weighs in at 7 ounces even, 0.2 ounces heavier than the Palm IIIc. The extra weight might be accounted for by all the extra colors. The Visor Prism can display 65,536 vibrant colors, 65,280 more than the Palm IIIc. Like the Palm IIIc, the Visor Prism is powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. However, Handspring has taken a slightly different tack in terms of the form factor. The back of the unit is sculpted, so that the Visor Prism has a much better feel in the hand. Of course, these two points also obviate the need for yet another cradle, one that can both fit and charge the Visor Prism. The Visor Platinum, however, is compatible with other Visor cradles. Although the resolution hasn't changed--it's still the Palm OS standard 160x160--the Visor Prism's display just doesn't seem as pixilated to me as does the Palm IIIc's display.