November 1, 1999
by David Pescovitz
(IDG) -- U.S. PalmPilot users, prepare for the next wave of Psion's palmtop PC line.
The U.K. handheld hotshot is hoping to take a bite out of the Palm OS and Windows CE markets with the Revo. With a sleek form similar to a flattened eyeglass case (6.2 by 3.1 by 0.6 inches), the Revo clamshell opens to reveal a scaled-down, 53-key QWERTY keyboard. You won't be typing the great American novel on it, but it's an appreciated alternative to the common handwriting-recognition interfaces.
Meanwhile, the 480-by-160 pixel screen is touch-sensitive – a stylus pops out of the device for menu navigation. Yet while the screen is crisp and the contrast is adjustable for low-light usage, the Revo stupidly lacks a backlight. The 8MB of memory in the Revo is loaded with standard PDA software – an address book, an agenda application and a Microsoft / Lotus/Novell / Corel -compatible word processor and spreadsheet – all of which run on Psion's EPOC operating system.
Never heard of EPOC? It was developed by Symbian as a joint venture among Psion, Motorola , Ericsson, Nokia and Matsushita. Indeed, 3Com is expected to announce a licensing agreement soon with Symbian. The EPOC operating system is intuitive and easily synchronized via a serial dock and Psion's PsiWin software for PCs. (Mac connectivity is on the way, the company promises.)
Another annoyance is that the device has no built-in modem, although the tiny battery-operated, 56Kbps travel modem (sold separately for $199) provides an infrared connection between the Revo and a landline or certain mobile phones. The included e-mail program and Web browser are absolutely usable, yet, as is typical with microbrowsers, the specially formatted sites accessible through the Psion.net portal look the best.
A total Revo revolution in the stateside handheld market seems unlikely, but the particular attributes of Psion's latest offering make it a valid choice for PDA shoppers.
The DetailsScore (1-5):
Est. Lifespan: One year (until Psion hopefully incorporates a wireless modem into a Revolike device)
System Requirements: 486 PC or higher, Windows 95/98 or NT 4.0, 16MB of RAM, 30MB available hard-disk space, CD-ROM drive
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