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-- by Jim Forbes
The Psion Series 5, based on a non-Windows CE proprietary design, provides the functionality, tools and Windows connectivity required to handle the custom applications typically deployed by corporate mobile work forces. It's worthy of comparison to Windows CE Handheld PCs.
The beta unit we tested measures 0.9 by 6.7 by 3.5 inches and weighs 12.5 ounces with its two AA batteries (included). The backlit 640x240-pixel screen is readable under normal room lighting, although screen contrast is a shortcoming. Depending on how frequently you use the backlighting, a pair of batteries should last between 22 and 31 hours, on a par with most Windows CE machines.
The unit uses a 32-bit ARM 710 RISC processor and its own 32-bit operating system; it is at least as fast, if not slightly faster, than a Philips Velo 1 4MB Rechargeable HPC (see review above)
As with Windows CE machines, the Psion's interface employs a combination of touch-screen and keyboard input. You can jump from application to application by tapping the screen with a stylus. But the major surprise is the unit's keyboard, the best we've seen in any pocket computer.
The Psion, like the WinCE-based Philips Velo 1, can also be used to record and play back digital audio notes. Built-in applications include word processing, spreadsheet, database, pen-based drawing and a PIM. The PsiWin 2.0 data-transfer software adds a Psion icon to your desktop or notebook's My Computer folder, as well as in the Explorer view. Clicking on the icon reveals the Psion's folders and files. The spreadsheet and word processor aren't quite on a par with Windows CE's Pocket Word and Excel, but they are more than adequate. We transferred a 400KB Excel spreadsheet saved as CSV (comma-separated values) data in approximately 4 minutes, in line with the serial connector's 115,000bps maximum transfer rate. We also had little difficulty in synchronizing the unit's PIM with Schedule+ on our PCs. However, we were unable to test the prototype unit's e-mail capability.
The elegant Psion Series 5, with an intuitive interface and a great keyboard, offers basic functionality as good as, if not better than, that of most Windows CE machines.