The world is full of folks who are addicted to 3Com's pen-based Palm organizers. But some of us are just keyboard people at heart -- and that's what makes Psion's new Revo palmtop an intriguing alternative. A sleeker cousin of Psion's fine Series 5mx handheld, the US$399 Revo is remarkably compact given its usable QWERTY keyboard and desktoplike software. I tested a shipping unit.
Almost as pocketable as a Palm -- you can carry it in your jacket -- the attractive, navy blue and silver Revo measures 6.2 by 3.1 by 0.6 inches when closed. Once my fingers got acclimated to the keyboard's small size, I tapped out text reasonably quickly and accurately. The Revo also provides a pen stylus for navigating around and between its apps.
The Revo's keyboard isn't the only feature reminiscent of a tiny notebook computer. With the EPOC OS, this palmtop packs powerful, Windows-like applications, including a capable calendar, address book, word processor and spreadsheet. You also get a PC docking station and PsiWin 2.3, an application that synchronizes the Revo's calendar and address book with desktop personal information managers such as Lotus Organizer and Microsoft Outlook, and it will convert documents from such programs as Microsoft Word and Excel.
The Revo does sacrifice some features to achieve its trim size and low price.
For instance, there's no internal modem (an external model is a $199 option).
The device also lacks a slot for memory upgrades, though its standard 8M bytes should prove adequate for most users. And while the 480-by-160-resolution monochrome display looks crisp and clear in good lighting, it is one of the few palmtop screens without a backlight. You'll miss it in low-light situations such as restaurants or in transit, where you can't count on having a constant, direct light. That omission does help stretch battery life, however: Psion estimates that the Revo will run for about two weeks on a single charge.
Demanding users will want to consider Psion's beefier, costlier Series 5mx or one of the new Series 7, a near-notebook-size system. Those after powerful Windows CE-based units may look at Hewlett-Packard's even larger and pricier Jornada 680 and 690. But the affordable, portable Revo is a good fit for palmtop newcomers who find the keyboard mightier than the pen.
PRO: Compact PDA with a usable keyboard and fine software.
CON: No backlit screen, memory not expandable.
VALUE: Elegant, economical palmtop for those who prefer a keyboard to a stylus.
List price: $399
PRODUCT INFO NO. 691