Handspring Visor Edge Review

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Product Requirements:

Windows 98, ME or 2000; USB port (Win 95, NT can use
serial cradle: sold separately)
Macintosh Power PC; System 8.5 or later; USB port (System 7.5.3 or later can use
serial cradle: sold separately)

It’s that time of year again folks… Springtime… my favorite season of the
year… Ah, the flowers start blooming, the birds start singing… Wait a
minute, what am I talking about? Springtime is new PDA time. Forget the foliage
and wildlife, I want new gadgets! 🙂  And the first new PDA of the year is
the Handspring Visor Edge. This is
Handspring’s answer to the Palm V series device.
Like the very popular Palm V/Vx, the Edge is sexy, skinny, and a Gadgeteer’s eye
candy fest. But how does it compare to the Palm V/Vx? Let’s check it out.

Hardware Specs:

Operating System: Palm OS version 3.5.2H (Same as Prism)
Processor: 33 MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ (Same as Prism)
Memory: 8 MB
Display: 160×160 pixel, High-Res B&W, 4-bit (16 shades of gray)
Size: 4.7 x 3.1 x 0.44in (11.9 x 7.9 x 1.1cm) – size specs taken from Handspring
Weight: 4.8 oz. (136g)
IrDA port
Built-in Microphone (Enabled by Springboard modules)
New small Springboard Expansion connector 
Included Springboard adapter for compatibility with current Springboard modules
Battery: Internal Lithium Ion Rechargeable (Life is ~ 1 month); 90min recharge
time when empty
AC Adapter: Input: 100 – 240V ~ 50/60Hz 350mA Output: 5.9V 2000mA

From the specs you can see that the Edge is the same as the Visor Prism under
the hood. Same amount of memory (no Flash memory), same processor, and same OS
version. Of course, the Edge isn’t a color device (Yeah, I’m disappointed
too…) like the Prism.  

Now let’s look at the physical attributes of the Edge. My first impression
upon seeing the unit was that it reminded me of the new Apple PowerBook G4. It
too has a metal case and is very sleek. 

The Edge is made of an anodized aluminum sandwich. There is a top aluminum
shell, a bottom shell, and then in between is an translucent plastic body. The
aluminum shells have a brushed surface that resists fingerprints and just plain
feels nice to the touch. The Edge comes in 3 color variations. Silver Metallic,
Blue Metallic and Red Metallic. The Red version is only available for purchase
thru Handspring’s online store. I picked Silver just because I liked the bare
techno look of it. I really like the fact that there is very minimal printing on
the PDA itself. On the front there is just an embossed Handspring logo on the
left and the word Visor on the right. On the back of the PDA, there is another
embossed Handspring logo, a small Palm logo, and the embossed word RESET. That’s
all and I like it that way.

It has a really nice spring loaded metal flip cover that can flip 3/4ths of
the way around the PDA (sorry, it won’t lay flat behind the PDA).

Size-wise, the Edge is thin. It’s almost exactly as thin as the Palm V/Vx. It
is however .01in (.03cm) thicker as measured with my digital calipers. That’s
barely noticeable to me. The dimensions as measured with my digital calipers of
the Edge compared to the Palm V/Vx are:

Visor Edge (Without flip cover or stylus): 4.70 x 2.91 x 0.45in (11.94 x 7.39
x 1.14cm)
Visor Edge (With flip cover and stylus): 5.01 x 3.12 x 0.49in (12.73 x 7.92 x
Palm V/Vx (Without flip cover): 4.53 x 3.07 x 0.46in (11.51 x 7.80 x 1.16cm)

As you can see from the pictures below, the Palm V/Vx and the Edge (without
covers) are very comparable in size. The only real difference is that the Edge
is .17in (.43cm) longer. 

(Palm V on top of the Visor Edge)

Numbers are one thing, actually holding the PDA in your hand and feeling it,
is another. The Edge with its flip cover and stylus attached, feels larger in my
hand than my Palm V with no screen cover. It is also heavier. If I take off the
Edge flip cover and remove the stylus, it then feels very similar is size and
weight to the Palm V. Regardless though, the Edge feels good in my hand (even
with the stylus installed). It is nicely balanced and has smooth edges. The
whole unit feels very sturdy. It doesn’t creak or crack when you squeeze it in
your hand, and doesn’t seem to flex when I try to twist it. Note: I’m not trying
THAT hard to twist it. 🙂

The front of the PDA has 4 application buttons, up/down scroll button, power
button/alarm/charger LED, microphone and display. The application buttons are
made of polished metal and on top have an embossed symbol of the application
they represent. The up/down scroll button is one physical button that can be
pressed either up or down. All the buttons are dome shaped and have a nice
tactile feedback when you press them. You even hear a nice click.

The power button doubles as a silent alarm and battery charging indicator
LED. Pressing this button turns the Edge on. Holding the button in for more than
2 seconds, activates the backlight on the display. The LED behind this button
will flash green when the PDA is charging in the cradle. And will turn off when
charging is finished. This LED is also a nifty silent alarm indicator. You can
set your alarms in the datebook to be silent. When such an alarm goes off, the
speaker won’t sound, but the LED will blink on and off for several minutes. This
is great for those times when you don’t want to miss an alarm, but also don’t
want to hear the alarm go off. And since the plastic on that makes up the Edge
is translucent, you can still see the LED blink if the flip cover is closed. It glows
along the edge. This is the first Palm OS PDA to have this feature built in, and
all I can say, is "what took you so long?!" 

The speaker on the Edge seems really loud to me when set on HIGH. It is definitely
louder than my Prism and Palm m100.

The Edge display is pretty much identical to my Palm V in color and clarity.
It’s a great screen. It is sharp and crisp. It’s not color though (yeah, I’m
still disappointed….). But as far as a 16 level gray scale screen, it is top
notch. The screen is also glass smooth like my Palm V and has almost no bounce
to it. I’ve noticed that if I tap my Palm V screen, that I can see the screen
depress a tiny bit on impact. I don’t see this with the Edge screen. 

The overall screen dimensions are: 3.09 x 2.27in (7.85 x 5.77cm) which is
closer to the screen size of the Palm V/Vx than the screen size of the Prism.

The only thing that I don’t like about the screen other than the fact that it
isn’t color (ok, I’ll stop now…) is that the backlight is that horrendous
reverse type. And I was hoping that since the Sony
went back to the ‘good’ style backlight that maybe the Edge would also.
Oh well…

The left side of the Edge only has the IR port. I’ve never really liked the
location that Handspring picks for the IR ports on their devices. I really
prefer having the port on the top of the device. It makes it easier to beam
things to other users. 

As far as IR signal strength, I beamed several addresses back and forth
between the Edge and a Prism and found that the maximum reliable distance was
about 36-38inches.

The right side of the Edge has the stylus dock. This is the first Palm OS PDA
that doesn’t store the stylus inside the body of the PDA. Instead, the stylus
docks into the side. This is also the first Palm stylus that is completely metal
(except for the tip of course). How does the dock work? The stylus has a short
rail at the top that slides into a slot on the side of the PDA and then snaps
into place with a very satisfying click. The tip of the stylus rests in a
little holder at the bottom. To remove the stylus, you press a spring loaded
button at the top of the stylus which releases the catch. I will be nit-picky
and say that when the stylus is in the dock, it does rattle somewhat if you hold
the PDA and shake it. It’s not really bad, though and so far it’s not annoying

I’m not sure how secure the stylus would be if you happen to be a person that
carries their PDA in their pants pocket. I don’t think carrying it that way
would press the release button, but it’s possible that it might…


The actual stylus has a nice balance and heft to it. I like a heavy stylus.
The stylus is also more flat than round which to me makes it feel more
comfortable in my hand. The only thing that I would rather see is a different
colored stylus tip. The tip is black which I find somewhat hard to see. The tip
is smooth though and writing on the screen is effortless. There is one missing
feature to the stylus. It has no built in reset pin. It’s back to the days of
fishing for a paperclip or push pin when you need to do a reset.

I find the whole dock / stylus design to be very clever.  It is
functional, and looks really cool at the same time.

The back of the Edge is bare except for the reset hole and the Springboard
expansion slot. At first glance upon seeing an Edge, you might think that there
was no Springboard slot. It’s actually hidden by the metal flip cover. The flip
cover can be easily removed to reveal a small card connector. A small cover is
also included for those times when you don’t want to use the flip cover but
still want to protect the card connector.

This connector does not look at all like the connector in previous Visor
devices and is not compatible with them in this state. Supposedly, future
Springboard modules will be created especially for this new style of connector
(oh goodie, another Springboard spec…). In the mean time, what do you do if
you already have some Springboard modules, or you want to buy one for your new
Edge and there isn’t a new smaller version available? Well, as luck would have
it, Handspring included a nice full-size detachable Springboard slot with the
Edge. This adapter which is kind of a translucent deep blue color, slides on to
the back of the Edge and snaps in place. Then, your regular Springboard modules
slide into it. Modules that work with OS version 3.5 and later will work with
this adapter.

This adapter reminds me of the expansion sleeves for the Compaq
. But, thanks to Handspring for including it with the PDA instead of
making people buy it separately.

The adapter pretty much goofs up the ‘skinny’ PDA claim when it is installed.
It increases the thickness to .810in (2.06cm) which is pretty close to the
thickness of the Prism. I don’t use Springboard modules with my Visor’s so it
wouldn’t be a problem for me. If you do, then I think the detachable Springboard
adapter while nice, pretty much ruins the main attraction of the Edge… the
thin form factor. Also, when you’re using a Springboard module, the flip cover
must be removed. Blah. 

Time will tell if new smaller Springboards will be developed for the Edge.
Regular Springboards have taken their sweet time becoming available so at this
point, I wouldn’t hold my breath…

The back of the Edge also has the serial connector. And guess what, it’s not
the same as the other Visor serial connectors. Are you surprised? Me neither…
Ok, can I rant for a second? Why is it that every time someone comes out with a
brand new version of their PDA, they have to change the serial connector? Palm
did it with the Palm V/Vx, m100 (slightly) and the soon to be released m505. And
now Handspring is doing it with the Edge. Maybe I’m the only person that this
drives crazy… I don’t know… But, if you happen to be the owner of a previous
Visor model and you have cradles, cables and maybe even the Stowaway
folding keyboard
, you’re not going to be happy. Why? Because you won’t be
able to sync your Edge with your older Visor cradles and cables, and you won’t
be able to use your Stowaway or GoType keyboard
with it either.

Speaking of cradles, the new Edge cradle is a beauty. It is very small and
sexy and is the same translucent deep blue color that the detachable Springboard
slot is. The Edge slips into and out of the cradle very easily. The base of the
cradle is weighted so it stays in place on your desk. In my opinion, this is the
best PDA cradle yet.

On the software side of things, there are only 2 additions to the Edge. The
silent alarm feature and the Fast Lookup feature. 

A silent alarm can be set as a preference in the Datebook+ application. You
can turn all alarms to silent or sound. If set to silent, you can then choose
the length of time to blink the LED. Your choices are 1, 3, 5, 10, or 15mins.
It’s a shame that they didn’t add just a little more functionality to the alarm
prefs. For example, it would be nice to allow you to use both the LED and the


The other new software feature is the Fast Lookup feature. This one is really
nice. Fast Lookup is a new feature in the Address Book that allows a user to find a contact in Address Book without using the stylus. In this mode, the application buttons are remapped so you can spell the name of the contact by pressing the application
buttons. To get into the Fast Lookup mode, you just press the UP scroll button
while in the Address Book. Then the Date Book application button is mapped to
the letters A thru L, and the Address Book is mapped to the letters M-Z. For
example, if you wanted to look up someone with the last name of Smith, you would
press the Address Book button two times, then the Date Book button once, and
then the Address Book two more times. At that point, the list will filter out to
people that have that last name. If there are more people than desired, you can
then spell out the first name using the Task and Memo app buttons till you
finally get the only person it could match. Then that person’s entry pops up.
It’s really easier than it sounds and is quite fast.

The Edge is really a very cool PDA. It’s fast like a Prism, skinny and sexy
like a Palm V/Vx, and expandable like an iPAQ. It has some nifty new features
like the silent alarm LED and the Fast Lookup address finder. But, for all it’s
sexiness, I’m still disappointed that it isn’t color.

If you are torn between buying a Palm Vx or the Edge, I would tell you
to buy the Edge. At the moment, they are both the same price. The Edge
gives you a couple features that the Palm Vx doesn’t. The main feature is
the Springboard slot. You also get the silent alarm, Fast Lookup address
finder, enhanced Datebook application and nicer calculator.

Another thing to consider is that the new color Palm m505 is
less than a week away and I can’t help but think that the Handspring Edge might
just drop off the edge once it is released. Am I going to leave my iPAQ for the
Edge? Nope!

Price: $399 (Red version only available thru online
Handspring store)

Cool design
Silent alarm LED
Fast address lookup feature
Compact Hotsync cradle

Mono screen
No FLASH memory
Detachable Springboard adapter adds significant size to the device


Product Information

  • Cool design
  • Silent alarm LED
  • Fast address lookup feature
  • Compact Hotsync cradle
  • Mono screen
  • No FLASH memory
  • Detachable Springboard adapter adds significant size to the device
{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Mac December 21, 2010, 5:52 pm

    Found this article after unearthing my Visor Edge from the bowels of my desk and discovering that it still worked. The plastic pivot creaked and crack, but it powered up in all its monochrome glory. hard to believe this thing cost $400 in 2001 money.

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