SAN FRANCISCO (03/06/2000) - Okay, I admit it: I love my sleek, chic Palm V organizer, but I covet the wireless communication capabilities of the Palm VII.
So I was excited to learn that OmniSky Corp., a nationwide wireless network, is bundling a Novatel Minstrel V wireless modem with software and network access that will allow the Palm V to use the same wireless Web applets as the Palm VII.
I tested a preproduction version of the OmniSky bundle. Apart from some nasty installation hassles (which the company says will be fixed in the shipping version), I found the wireless services--from POP3 e-mail to Palm-optimized Web Content--useful and easy to access. With the included AvantGo applet, I was able to browse any Web page--as long as I was willing to scroll a lot and had enough free RAM to hold the Content.
Unfortunately, this seCond requirement is a potential Problem. The OmniSky software uses 1MB of memory, but the Palm V has only 2MB. I had to remove several applications to make room for OmniSky. This would be less of a Problem with the Palm Vx, which is essentially an 8MB Palm V.
Other caveats: To access OmniSky service, you must be in an area served by its CDPD Protocol (check OmniSky's Web site for details). The Novatel Minstrel doubles the Palm V's weight and thickness, negating the slim-and-light form factor that made the V so appealing in the first place. And the modem costs $299, on top of the $329 you have to pay for the Palm V.
Fortunately, at an expected $40 per month, OmniSky's unlimited access is a better deal than the $40 limited plan you get from Palm.net (the service Palm VII owners must use). If you already own a Palm V and plan on using wireless Connections a lot, investing in OmniSky's bundle is worthwhile. But if you're still shopping for a handheld, and you're looking for wireless access, the $449 Palm VII is a better way to go.
--Michael S. Lasky
Pro: Convenient and reasonably priced wireless modem and service for the Palm V.
Con: Takes up half the Palm V's memory while doubling its weight and thickness.
Value: Worthwhile for heavy wireless users, especially if they already own a Palm V.
List price: $299 for modem; $40 estimated monthly fee for unlimited service plan.
Product info no. 638.